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Angel of Death (Narrative for Kulae Ordo, Star Wars)

Introduction

This was written as a post-session narrative for a Star Wars: Edge of Empire game. This was the first time in gaming that an in-game event really affected me and would have deeply affected my character too. Our rag-tag group of fringers, visit web which had been basically annoying the Empire off and on between shipping jobs, had been basically forced by the Imperial Service Bureau agent, Captain Lynch, who was our long-time nemesis, to do some dirty work for him. We needed to kill this senator on Corusant. We programmed maintenance droids to roll up and then detonate under his landing pad when he arrived. (Yes, our Star Wars games tend to have a rather strong grey or dark streak to them. In war, desperate times call for desperate measures. =O ) When the droids should have detonated and destroyed the just his landing pad what happened instead was the entire tower came down and the news reported something like 45,000 dead. Our Dungeon Master (DM) did not tell us until the next week Captain Lynch’s response. This narrative was almost complete by the time our DM sent us the Captain’s message, which gave allowed me to modify it with the new news. I was going to space my character and start a new one. My character’s was Kulae Ordo – a human female roguish hacker running from an arranged marriage on her planet and who had an uncle she looked up to that was in the rebellion. She only wanted to stick it to the Empire and make her supposedly dead uncle proud. I won’t go over all of the characters or previous crazy events that led to this moment, but I will say that Jake was a droid character whose history was intertwined with hers and they were very good friends. This moment also allowed Jake to do some programming/skills changes too.

Narrative

Destruction of the High Rise (Day 1)

Kulae sat there peering through the rental car’s window, mouth agape and eyes wide, abject surprise and confusion ripping through her mind as she felt the rumble and crumbling of the high rise building even from all of the way up here. The brilliant flash of orange and yellow flames of the explosion bathed the inside of their rental car in angry light as they hovered above, hidden in the crowded traffic of the skyways of Coruscant. They could see the Senator’s three-floor penthouse quite a ways below them, as the entire building started to list slowly in the direction of the explosion. She could not believe what she saw. A terrible knot roiled in the pit of her stomach. Her face drained of color taking on a chalky pallor. She felt as if she might faint. Fear and shame replaced the confusion as it finally set in what was happening. She just knew that dark circles formed around her eyes as her soul died in that moment. Her shoulders began to slump and her head sagged as she was only able to find enough strength to keep her head from lolling around like a doll as the car moved slowly through sky traffic.

She could not even look at her companions, her co-conspirators in this horrible tragedy, this unplanned act of domestic terrorism. How did it all go wrong? She programmed the droid properly, Jake and Victor set up the droid with explosives properly, and she sent in the trouble tickets with the correct password, and even pre-assigned that specific droid to that task and time so that it could be there to detonate and kill Senator Alex Bishop of the Fenris System when he returned home in the evening and landed on his apartment’s personal landing pad. And it all went wrong. Somehow they used too much of the explosives. Somehow the maintenance droid ended up many floors below. It did not make any sense. They planned it as perfectly as they could. There should have been a warning of some sort. She could not believe it all. Her eyes were beginning to redden as tears began to form, and the world started to spin. She leaned back resting her head against the seat and closed her eyes, but the spinning refused to abate.

She did not understand how they all came to this. Were they all so lost that they were taking hit jobs … for the Empire? Has her zeal to support the rebellion and bring down the tyrannous Empire brought them to this dark place? Was this her fault? Did she screw up the programming? Has she failed and shamed herself and her uncle? She just knew that if there was a heaven that he was feeling the most shame that he had ever felt. Kulae lurched forward and puked all over the seat in front of her as this thought washed over her. She could not take it anymore. It was hard to think with her stomach a rabid, angry and knotted pit. She could swear she heard the masses of people scream as they plummeted to their deaths – the children, the teenagers, the mothers, the fathers… the innocent masses caught up in a covert war of ideals of freedom. The thought of her uncle being ashamed of her was the last haunting thought she had before she passed out. They all traveled in stunned silence all the way back to the docking bay. No eye contact was made by anyone. Not a word was said. None of them could believe it either. They all felt responsible.

Arriving at the Ship (Day 1)

She was not sure how she arrived into the ship or even came to her bed. She thought that she walked for some of the way, but she was just guessing. Perhaps Jake, her constant friend and companion, carried her. Yea, that is most likely what happened. Jake, her heavy metal shadow of comfort and protection. She felt ashamed that everyone saw her like this. Not only has she disappointed her uncle in the most horrible way imaginable, now the group has seen her shame too. Perhaps they believed that she is the one who screwed up? It definitely appeared that she felt that way. They must think that she was guilty. How can she ever face them again? As she laid face up in her bed, the world spun and spun, tears wet the side of her face in a salty wash. She could not answer those questions. Her stomach churned even more at the thought of the shame her friends felt toward her. She let them all down too. She let Jake down. The tears streamed down hard as her body lurched up and down sobbing.

After a while, when the tears stopped flowing, she sat up slowly, wiped the tears from her red and puffy eyes, and then feebly walked over to the door, step by step, each one a concentrated effort to not fall over at any moment. She locked the door to her room and slowly shuffled herself back to the bed, slow step by slow step, and then laid down again. After a few moments of resting on the bed, the world began to spin even more, like she was in an out-of-control carnival ride, spinning a death spiral down to the hells to which she will most likely end up. After a while, she decided that the spinning was not going to end. Carefully she rolled over and slid down from the bed to sit on the floor with her back against the side of the bed. She had to pause for a few moments to try to slow down the world and its angry desire to throw her against the walls or the ceiling. She dragged herself along the floor on her hands and knees, carefully trying to keep herself from falling face-first into the floor, salty tears again trickling slowly and dripping to the floor leaving a wet trail of shame. After long and slow moments Kulae eventually made her way into cool confines of the bathroom .

She concentrated hard to get her hand onto the toilet seat and then pulled it up. She thrust her head up over the cold rim while holding on with both hands, and then her body convulsed as she vomited. So many innocent people died because she screwed up. Her body convulsed a few more times as she puked into the toilet which now smelled horrible. Her body then convulsed in dry heaves as she tried to throw up again, as if she could vomit out the shame, guilt, and horror of what happened, but nothing would come out. He mouth was dry and tasted acrid and nasty, but she did not care. This must be what guilt and shame tasted like she dryly mused. She suffered in ways that she ever thought possible. This is more than all of those thousands of innocent people would ever experience again. She pulled herself down to the floor to rest a moment. Before she knew it she fell asleep right there on the cold bathroom floor.

The First Three Days (days 2-4)

She never left the confines of her room that first day. Despair and shame were her only companions, bitter reminders of what happened. She did not answer the door for anyone, not even Jake. How could she look him in the eyes again. The deaths of all of those innocent people was her fault. She could not bare these thoughts and truths any longer. She never really thought she would really truly understand the word despair, but she did now. Now she understood and it was the most horrible thing she has ever experienced. The holofeed said 45,000 died in the collapse of the high rise, whose explosion was attributed to a gas leak of some sort. The heavy weight of the names and faces of the dead floated around in her mind as she watched the vigil channel set up in memory of the dead. She saw the faces and heard their stories, and heard the sobbing and saw the tears of those who mourned the death of their loved ones. 45,000 people died and their friends and family will never see them again. They will never laugh or cry, smile or frown again and it is because of her.

The ghostly faces with names, the shame, the fear, and her guilt drenching and tormenting her soul. It was too much to bear. The failure…HER failure lead to the death of all of those innocent people, and nothing that she could ever do would be able to make up for that. Her mind raced with ideas and thoughts on how she could make up for what had happened. All of the thoughts from cloning to destroying both the Empire and the Rebellion to make sure that this sort of work would not need to be done raced through her mind. It was all so hopeless. She was powerless to do anything in her lifetime to heal these wounds, to bring back the dead, to make amends, to make up for what she did wrong. Hopelessness and despair saturated every fiber of her being. For a whole day she just sat there numb and despondent. Barely a mortal shell, empty of sentience. There was no hope, no commiseration, only the infinite emptiness of despair and hopelessness.

Kulae shook her head slowly, her face was dry with barely seeable streaks marking the passage of her tears. Her ducts were so worn that tears could not come no matter how much she wanted to cry and scream at the world. He body was spent, dehydrated, for she had barely eaten or drank anything over these few days. She would not accept anything from the companions who she unforgivably failed. She did not deserve it for what she had done. This should be the least of her punishment. There is no way to repair the damage, no way to fix things, no hope at all of releasing this burden from her consuming her soul. Her companions would be safer and the world a better place without her and then she would not have to live with the unbearable shame and guilt of the multitudes of the dead that fell eternally silent by her hand.

A finality and calm set in as that last thought filtered through her mind which had a sobering and calming effect on her. The decision was made. This was the end. The only justice that the dead could have and accept would be her own life for theirs and it would be dealt by her own hand, which seemed fitting for Kulae, an angel of death. At least the high rise people died together and suffered a collective fate. She would die alone in the dark and cold depths of space where there is no heaven, no hell, just a vast and lonely emptiness devoid of anything. Her punishment shall be an eternity of death in the icy cold solitude of space. She shook her head acknowledging that this is the only way. This is what will be done. This will make everything right again.

The Last Three Days (days 5-7)

The night before she slept an hour or two. Knowing what was going to lay ahead and that justice was going to be served allowed her to sleep a little. She cleared her mind, drank some water, and summoned Jake to bring her some food, and then promptly sent him away telling him that she will be ready in two or three days to come out for good, but she needed more time to grieve. Her hands trembled partially from fear and partially from being so very hungry. She ate slowly as she pulled forth her data pad and her slicer box, connected them, and then pulled up a special program that she had been working on for most of the years that she had known Jake. He had been her constant companion and she wanted to she give him something in thanks for his years of friendship and dedication, and for saving her life so many times. She has never forgotten that fateful day that she received that holorecorder that told of her family’s death, and then Jake, who she did know at the time, saved her from some ISB agents and escorted her onto the ship leaving the planet. And now he has taken her again in his cold arms and saved her from Coruscant. She had always wanted a way to show him how thankful she was for him, to give him a piece of herself in a true, deep, and soul-felt way.

She spent the day in a space of clarity that she had never known. The code just ran and ran from her mind and down her fingers into elegant lines and forms that were like poetry that came directly from the depths of her soul. Kulae had never programmed a computer so cleanly and efficiently in all her life. This was to be her finest work, and, hopefully, she would not screw this up. Jake did not deserve that. None of them deserved that. None of them. She barely slept at all, only sleeping when her body reached the limits of its endurance where she fell unconscious at the keyboard only to wake up 2 – 3 hours later with an imprint of the keyboard on her face. She would just rub her face, drink some water, and then continue with her work. She needed to get this done so that even with all of the horror and death that her hand has wrought that she could end it all with some form of peace, dignity, and some good could have been left in wake of her death. Two full days passed and the first and most important part was done. Her real gift to Jake.

The last 2 parts would come quicker, much quicker since they were much more straight forward. She pounded out the code one line at a time and did not stop. She winced through the pain which lanced through her hands and shoulders as she worked at a feverish pace. She did not care about the pain. It was truly going to be temporary. She needed to finish this today, so that tonight this could all be given to Jake and it could all be done. Her pain would be gone forever and some form of justice would be given to all of those people who died. A few tears trickled down her face as she thought about them again. The faces flew before her eyes. It was hard to see anything else, but she kept writing the code as she tried to see through the haunting and mangled faces of the ghosts of the dead. She was not sure if they were trying to thwart her work out of spite or if they were trying to get her to go faster so that she would join them faster to they could enact their revenge upon her. She did not care. She was almost done. At some point, the tears stopped and the spectral faces stopped, and she just coded. She was just a vessel through which her soul worked, not a person, just a mindless and empty vessel through which the code flowed. She finished every last line of code, and even had some time to do a code review. It was late, late into the night on the 7th day. She finished the code review and then made her last message in the holorecorder for her companions of their ship, the Cold Sun. Her last goodbye and apology to them for her failure.

The Last Night (day 7)

The last night was dark and the ship was quiet. She found some comfort and resolve in that. Victor and Skyyla were quietly sleeping, and X-23 was still rebooting and installing that ’98 patch update which has taken over a week with no direct end in sight, and Jake was left in charge of watching over the ship. He waited outside Kulae’s room as she had requested. Kulae looked upon the ship’s console which she had in the wall of her room. She initiated the protocol that would lock everyone’s rooms and only unlock them when this is all done. She then initiated the airlock routine too. The door to her room opened automatically as a part of that routine and Jake walked in. Kulae bawled as soon as she saw him. Tears streamed down her face as she jumped up and hugged Jake wishing that he could understand, wishing that he could forgive her, wishing that all of her companions and friends, her family here on the Cold Sun could forgive her for her absolute failure. She wished that Jake could hug her in the way that would really comfort her in this desperate time, and make all of the pain go away. He did what he could. He put his arm around her as he has seen other humans do in moments like this, not fully understanding what was going on with her, but only wanting to help her a best he could. His rifle was still in his hand like a permanent fixture of his chassis and hands, and extension of his being and will as an elite weapon of war.

After about 10 minutes of sobbing her breathing slowed and the tears finally stopped. She sat down on the bed and motioned for Jake to site as well. He did. She wiped away the tears and took a few moments to clear her voice. Her eyes were red and puffy from all of the crying.

My beloved Jake, I know you will not understand me now, but I promise you. I promise you, my rock, my apple pie, that you shall. Her eyes began to well up again when she said apple pie. This is something I need you to let me do. This is the only way to make things right, that their deaths can have any sort of justice or peace. It is the only way I can have peace. Everything is all set. All I have to do is to walk out there, open the door to the airlock, and everything will happen automatically. I will have peace. The dead of Coruscant will have peace. The doors are locked all around the ship and they will unlock once it is all done.

Jake sat there, rifle in hand, and listening intently for what he need to do to assist her or for some way to help fix her. Her emotional processor must be severely broken and needed a reboot or something. He knew humans could not do that, but that was the metaphor which helped him to make some sense of what she was experiencing. Her hands started to shake in fear even though she felt a sort of a solemn calm. Kulae walked slowly to her desk, paused for a long moment as she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, then she looked at both items that were sitting there. Jake thought she looked rather out of place in the Cold Sun jumper suit she was wearing. She never wore those, and he thought that she looked very out of place in them. Kulae’s arm extended slowly, her hand shaking a little, as she limply pointed to the first item – a rather large data chip.

I have spent most of my free time since you rescued me on our home planet working on this as a gift for you. I hope that you will find a piece of me in this and some peace with my passing in what is contained here. I am hoping to show you how much your companionship has meant to me over these years. In this chip are not commands, but requests, my last requests and offers to you. Use it when you are ready. I hope that you will find what I have done is something that will move you and drive you to save the rebellion and the Cold Sun from the dark side, that will help you to understand me and how much you have meant to me over these years.

Kulae then pointed to the second item – her holorecorder.

This contains the last recording of my family that I have received on the day you saved me for the first time and we left our planet. It also contains my last message to the group which I have recently finished recording. Please make sure they hear both of these so that they will understand, and, hopefully, they can find some way to forgive me.

Do you understand? Can you allow me this peace? Can you do this for me, Jake?

Jake was confused at exactly what was happening. He understood that she meant to enter the airlock and then open it up to allow herself to die in vacuum of space, but it did not compute as to why or what function this would serve. He nodded only wanting to obey and to make her happy again. If this is what she wanted then this is what he would make sure would happen.

Tabula Rasa (day 7)

Jake stood up with a measured pace and walked over to Kulae and looked down at the chip and then to the holorecorder, and then back to her. He slowly picked up the chip and then looked back to her, not sure what to make of it or what she intended, but she trusted her, completely. From his utility belt he pulled out a small set of tools, and quickly, with practiced hands, opened up his chest plate.

Kulae said, a little worried “You, you do not have to do this now. This will draw a lot of power from the ship and may wake people up. Jake!!

He kept disengaging and unfastening the appropriate pieces, moving wires as needed, and then recessed the large chip into place. In a blur of motion, he reversed the process and closed up his chestplate.

Kulae stepped back a little. She could hear a humming sound coming from his chassis and various mechanical parts chirping a little. A small antenna popped out of his right shoulder, and then the lights from the ship clicked off and on a few times, Jake’s head sagged and his lights went out as if he had been deactivated. “Jake??” The lights flickered off and on several more times. She could hear the life support ventilation resetting and the ships’ red emergency lights came on drawing a dull crimson pallor over everything. Moments passed of this flickering and Jake did not move. “Jake??” she said a little louder. Long moments passed.

Kulae panicked and popped open his chest plate, attached her datapad to check his diagnostics, and it all seemed ok. She unplugged, stepped back and prayed that her work was done well. More long minutes passed and no response from Jake. By this time the flickering lights stopped although the emergency lights stayed on, and some of the computers seem to be losing their connection to the main communications bank and she could hear some light static from the Cold Sun’s comms panel.

Jake??” she whispered quietly, hoping that he could hear her. “Jake??” she said a little louder. She was so afraid that she failed again. Maybe she screwed up the programming. She did perform the last bits quickly and in a sleep and food deprived yet clear haze. What did she do wrong? ‘Oh, please, Jake! No!Not you too! Please say I did not kill you too.’ she said to herself. Her heart began to race. “Please, gods above, let me do this one thing right!!’ She just watched for any sign of life, and she prayed. How long could the process take. She really was not sure. She could only hope that what she had done was enough. It was a miracle the last time when she corrected the programming which originally freed Jake from the Rodian and made him sentient. She barely knew what she was doing then , but now she… who was she kidding! “JAAKE!!” she yelled.

She pounded and pounded on his chest piece with her fists trying to physically shock his systems until her fists became sore and bruised. “JAAAKE!! JAAKE!! JAAKE!!” she cried in desperation as she pulled out the butt of her blaster rifle and started to slam that into his chassis. Heavy tears started to trickle down her cheeks as she slammed the rifle as hard as she could over and over again screaming “Jaaaake!!!“. She was barely able to see through her tear-blinded eyes. She just dropped the rifle to the floor with a loud clang when her muscles were to tired and sore from many minutes of clanging on Jake’s chassis.

She quickly hooked up her datapad to Jake and there was no power to him at all. Nothing. “I failed. I failed again.” she whispered, the weight of losing her best friend heavy on her soul. Kulae collapsed to the ground sobbing. She said ‘Jake. Jake. Jake.’ over and over while rocking like a desperate and lost child. Tears of loss streamed down. She really did not care now. There was nothing else left for her here. Kulae cried and cried. She did not know for how long. All that mattered is that it seemed like an eternity in her own personal self-created hell. In that tear-drenched delirium of despair and anger she thought should could hear his voice. What a beautiful torture he mind was playing on her. If only that was to be true. If only…

All of a sudden she found herself being foisted up from the ground by big metal arms and then she received the biggest, most human hug she had ever received. She could tell by the glow of the light reflecting onto his chassis that the color of the lights on Jake’s chassis and eyes had changed. She did not care. She just cried and cried and just melted into the embrace. She heard what could be identified as a whisper from Jake “I understand.” She cried even harder for many, many minutes while Jake just held her.

Chastising him she said “You stubborn metal bastard, you should have waited.” She shook her head as they separated. “You are going to feel funny for a while and then things will start to change. Your lights have changed color too, which I did not expect. I think you will be all right.

Into Eternity (day 7)

She turned and looked at the door for a few moments and then looked back at Jake still standing near the desk who was still processing while watching her. She smiled faintly and slowly walked out the door of her room. When she left the room Jake followed her, his metal foots steps a like a heavy echo behind her. She walked slowly through the ship towards the airlock, memories of her time with Skyyla, Victor, X-23 and Jake lazily danced in her mind: watching Victor and Jake work on the hyperdrive engine and listening to Victor curse; watching Skyyla look at the astrogation charts and galaxy maps talking about some of the interesting places she has been or pointing out interesting stop-over points for their trips; X-23’s complete lack of bedside manner, but yet perfectly professional manner while patching her up like a true pro. She remembered the feeling of abject fear as they performed a gravity assisted hot drop into Volgurt IV. The adrenaline rush from that lasted three days and she was not sure if she would ever recover from that. It was all so clear in her mind, vivid like it all happened yesterday. They were all more family to her than her real family, even the distant X-23. She knew she could count on him to be there and to fix her up again. She felt safe here with them and also felt appreciated.

Her hands started to tremble and her breathing quickened as she arrived at the door to the airlock. She was afraid, but still calm. She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her as her mind forcefully overcame her fight or flight instincts, but the adrenaline would not stop and her heart raced. She could hear that Jake was right behind her. When he stopped she turned around to look at him and then she looked back to the door. This was it. She walked over to him and hugged him one last time.

She closed her eyes and breathed in a deep breath and then said “Thank you for everything, my friend.“. She took a good long look at Jake as they separated so that she would always remember him. Kulae shifted slightly to the side of him, put her hand up on his cold metallic shoulder, took another deep breath and then looked at the airlock control panel. Jake looked at her, analyzed her movements, and her facial expression. He nodded affirmatively.

She hoped that this moment with Jake opening the door for her could help to absolve her of some guilt and fear, to help confirm that she was doing the right thing. Jake looked from her to the airlock control panel, then pressed the button. The airlock door hissed open. He looked at her and realized that was going to be the last time he was going to see her. He could feel a change in his neural pathways that he had never experienced before. After a few long moments of him looking at her, he looked back to his highly customized rifle which was still in his hand, but, at this moment felt strangely alien to him. He gently handed her it to her. Kulae smiled as a glistening trail of tears meandered down her cheeks as she thought that he may have started to really understand, in some way, what she wanted, which gave her some sort of comfort in what she was doing. She turned around and walked into the airlock. The door hissed shut behind her as she turned to face Jake for the last time. He looked at her. Kulae held back the fear as the tears streamed down her face, her heart raced. She waved a weak final goodbye to Jake and awaited for justice and the end to come.

A Cruel Twist of Fate (day 7)

Right as the airlock door shut Jake’s head cocked to the side as if he was listening to something. A small antennae popped out of his shoulder and then turned to face behind him. Kulae watched Jake as she listened to the airlock timer count down from 10 and she also listened to the automated warning that proper space suits must be worn inside an airlock to protect against the dangers of complete depressurization. These did not faze her. She just watched Jake in her last moments. She wanted her friend, Jake, to be her last thought and memory before justice was done and the pain was gone.

Jake’s comm sensors barely picked up staticky stream of angry communications from R2-DH. It took Jake a few moments to clean up the channel so he could pick out something sensible. When he did he heard R2-Dh raging about the complete disarray of the ship’s systems and requesting assistance in fixing it. He also mentioned a priority holo-message that needed to be delivered for at least the last 20 minutes, but the ship’s comms have been down and NO ONE WAS ANSWERING. Jake had never heard R2-DH this angry before. Jake shifted his focus and looked to Kulae for the last time and heard the countdown continue ‘5..4..”

Jake responded to R2-DH who sent some rather specific droid based expletives his way, then it sent a long list of areas where Jake could assist. Finally, it started to relay the holo-message to him, although it was going to take a little to force it through the static flooding the ship’s communications. A moment passed and Jake received it and began to view it internally. His head snapped up, eyes focused on Kulae. The countdown continued on ‘..1’.

Faster than she had ever seen him move, Jake’s hand slammed the airlock control, shattering it. She saw pieces of it flying across her view of the airlock door as its angry red maintenance light popped on. In a seeming protest to its rough treatment it angrily hissed opened as Jake yanked her like a ragdoll from the airlock by her arm, leaving a large bruise around her arm. The door started to close just as the external airlock opened. They could feel the slight venting of the internal atmosphere through the airlock to the outside as the door quickly shut. Kulae just stared at him, her face was red with anger and surprise. She was a fool for believing that he understood. She felt betrayed. She really thought he understood. She really, really thought he understood.

Jake concentrated a few moments prepping the holo-message for transfer and then he tapped the buttons on the holorecorder to set it up as a relay for the holo-message from his internal storage. After a moment the holorecorder played a new message which was from Captain Lynch. His upper torso and head appeared ephemeral in the air above the holorecorder. His face was calm, yet belied arrogance with an air of confident command and veiled disdain as he began to speak:

Can’t say your plan wasn’t a good one, but your small seismic charge would have done very little to that landing pad. Thought you could use something bigger. ” Captain Lynch smirked and then the message faded out.

Kulae never knew rage like this before. Her face was hot with anger. The veins on her forehead were pulsing in time with her heartbeat. Her fists were white from clenching them so hard she couldn’t even feel them now.

I will kill that frakking bantha stain myself if it is the last thing I do. There WILL be justice for the 45,000 innocent people HE murdered. Mark my words, Jake. Mark my frakking words.

She stomped off towards her room, her thudding steps echoed through the corridor as Victor and Skyyla hurried down the corridor towards her wondering what the hell was going on and why were the emergency lights were on and static was coming through the ship’s comms.

"Class 2i"

For those of my readers who care, see and I know that you do, psychiatrist there is some significant news in the internet web browser world. For many of you most of this will make absolutely no sense or you will not care in the slightest and this text will be a complete waste of space. For those of you who are technophiles or internet phreaks you may find the following an interesting and telling turn of events.

AOL is discontinuing development of their Netscape browser, apoplexy and Microsoft’s new browser to be, Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8), passes the Acid 2 test. What does this mean to you?

AOL is stopping development and suggests that its users move over to using the Firefox browser. I have been using Firefox since when it was in beta stages and known as Phoenix. Firefox is the browser of choice for serious web developers because it is standards compliant, and a lean and mean little browsers. Internet Explorer has been universally reviled by the developer community and some savvy users for many years and because of this Firefox has gained great traction and due to disaffected Internet Explorer users. With Netscape no longer there to split up developers and user base Firefox should gain more popularity and developers. Yea! This is good news all around I am thinking. If you do not have Firefox, then Get It!

I am going to bitch about Internet Explorer for a little bit so you can get some perspective on why the Internet Explorer news may be so significant. I am a web developer and I hate Internet Explorer with a passion. I am surprised that I have any hair left and that I have not killed someone yet. I can develop a page that is semantically correct, valid, and using proper design techniques and it will not work in Internet Explorer. Gaaahhhh!!! When I am doing web work I design something right, test it in Firefox, Opera, and then Safari, and then I wince when I look at it in Internet Explorer (IE). It takes hours and hours or hacking and coding – sometimes it even requires some scripting to correct the horrible mess that IE renders. IE is the worst part of designing web pages.

Ok, so you got it. IE sucks and web developers hate it. There are more reasons for their hate but I am not going to go into it. What is this Acid 2 test and why do I care? The Acid 2 test is a test created by the Web Standards Project that when rendered by a browser correctly will show compliance with some very important web standards. It is more complicated than this, but that is the gist of it. For many years IE has not been even close to this. IE 7 which is fairly new is close and is a great step. With IE 8, which is not out yet, compliant the developer community will rejoice, especially when all of their userbase upgrades.

Please do you self a favor, as well as the developers of your favorite sites, upgrade to IE 7 now if you are a IE user, and even if you are download Firefox and take that for a spin. If you are at work you may want to talk to your MIS peeps or your computer person to be sure that it is OK.

I do not know what my problem is, advice but for some reason since we have been back from our little stint in Cancun I have been having the urge to post a lot. I have posted so much that some of the posts are no longer on the front page. So if you want to fully experience this month of posting craziness you will need to check the archives for this month which is December in case you were wondering. =)

So we stand there in front of my new flat in Belize. I have just upgraded my Domicile Class Rating (DCr) to 5 and we moved to here from Austria. I speak English, disinfection
Austrian, malady
and, clinic strangely enough, Latin. In our times we are required to speak at least 3 languages and it is good for the mind and very good for such a globalized civilization. Schooling is free. Medical care is free. Basic travel is free to all around the world. Basic food access is free. Basic housing is free. World Web access is free and ubiquitous. Everyone has access to a Personal Communication Center (PCC) via a public terminal or most have a Personal Communication Device (PCD) of sorts. Basic PCD access is gained at Class Two or higher. I am a Standard Class 3 with a new DCr 5.

All people are granted a basic access to a shelter, food, clothes, schooling, and medical care at Class 1 Access and everyone in the world has Class 1 access. You do not have to work if you do not want to, but if you do something that provides a service or product of worth to society you can gain a class upgrade and and increase in access to better food, housing, and other things. Some people make living as writers, researchers, dockworkers, preachers, jewelers, teachers, manufacturers, artists and many other professions.

All the world is open and free. There are no longer national borders. Money as was known before does not exist. People now have Access Levels. The better a service or product you provide the more access you can earn, and depending on the demand for your service or product you may always have improved access. You may trade a Standard Access Increase for a specific access increase in a different area such as housing. I just gained a Standard Class Increase 4 to and traded it in for a Class 5 Domicile rating. After a long period of time I may gain the class 4 Standard Rating back, but it may be a long while. This Class Rating trade is something similar to what you would refer to the effect a loan would have. I give up an increase in general access to services and products of a certain level for a greater increase in another area.

Moving is easy. I just call the World Housing Authority and tell them that I no longer need my flat in Austria and I wish one in Belize. They make the arrangements and when I get there my flat was set up with clothes, food and so on in a very similar matter as I was set up in Austria. I do not always have the choice in flats that I want given my low level of access but I do have some choice. If I want my stuff moved from there to here I could have arranged for that as well. Life is good here on earth.

What do I do for a living you ask? Well, I am a Class 3 Dock Worker with a Class 2 Foreman Specialization in Small Commercial Aquatic Dock Facilities which upgrades me to a Class 4 Standard. I have primarily worked for small dock firms and am looking for work in a larger dock facility so I can upgrade my specialization to Large Dock Foreman which could mean a Standard Class Increase of two. That would be great. We are required to take tests to achieve rankings in a job, as well, of course, as experience doing the job. Once we apply for a class upgrade our peers are interviewed as well as are our bosses and then we are tested randomly and then we achieve our upgrade. Sometimes upgrades can be recommended from excellent performance. That is not common, but does happen to those that do really well at their job.

Patents no longer exist and research done is available to all of humanity and resources and man power are pooled to research things quickly and efficiently. Organizations that wish to work on research in radiation shielding let the World Research Department know their intent and they are hooked up with others that are doing the same. The newcomers discuss what their thoughts are and find out if that has already been done and where to go from there. They are told where the best and most available facilities are to start this research and what databases to log their information and results in so that the rest of the community may benefit from the fruits of their labor.

Advances in research and development are quickly disseminated throughout the world and old plants and products are upgraded or recycled. New upgrades are available to those with a higher level access and older products work their way down the access chain.

I have also worked hard and traded in quite a few Standard Class upgrades to achieve and Class 2i, which means that if I chose to not ever work again I will always have Class 2 access. It is sometimes referred to as Class 2 Infinity. It is sort of like prepping for what you would refer to as retirement.

"Orkjager: A New Beginning"

I wrote this as an introduction to a Play By Post game that I was in and it quickly died during March of 2005. I was inspired so I started to write, pancreatitis and this is much better than the Ceramic DM entries that posted earlier. At least I hope it is. There is a lot of DnD’isms that I am not going to explain, diagnosis but I may someday try to explain or add definitions to it.

The Story

The 9th of Sutar is a day like any other spring day in Vormarsch. The sun rises early, as it always does in the spring, and the sky is moderately clouded. The birds are singing and flying about on the cool breeze that carries the smell of spring tainted by dried fish, leather, horses and freshly cut wood. The sounds of creaking wagons, whinnying horses and the chattering voices of many people can be heard outside of the South Gate. The Markin Company’s caravan gathers outside and eager voices full of anticipation and a tense excitement fills the air. Small pavilions are setup for the caravan masters to answers questions and to decide on the logistics of their forthcoming journey.

A voice that reminds you of circus ringleader carries over the dim roar of talking and movement to announce “The time to start life in a new place is what living is all about, ladies and gentleman. Change!! Here is you once in a life time chance to start over…and the Markin Company’s caravan is your answer!! You…” The rest of what he says is drowned out as the crowd starts to clap and begins to talks amongst themselves.


Morgan’s form gracefully weaves his way through the crowd to a particular pavilion to register his family and wagon. He finishes this then quickly and quietly finds his way back to the wagon with his wife, son, and Phaelis. They appear somewhat distracted and nervous and try to use some small talk to break the tension. Phaelis is dressed very conservatively, not at all in the luxurious formfitting manner that she wore before. She now wears clothes that you would expect Endar to wear – muted, dull and not at all memorable. Her hair is pulled up and hidden in hood of her cloak, and not a trace of perfume to be found. This is an entirely different look for her, very different.


As the train starts out people are excited and talk about how starting life in Faule will change their lives and how it will make it better. Children playing in the wagons are soon chastised by their parents for fear of them breaking something. Lone travelers that happen to be within a conversation’s distance of someone offer a few moments of small talk and then gravitate into familiar groups. Settlers that see people they know arrange to change positions in the wagon train to maintain some sense of familiarity. As the day goes on the duration of the trip settles on everyone and a tense quiet hangs about the caravan. All that can be heard is the squeaking of wagon axles or the occasional whinnying and snorting of horses.

As you move farther and farther from Vormarsch the lands become rougher and more wild. The scenery moves from small rolling fields and small copses of bare trees to broad expanses of hilly plains and small forests full of bare trees. The roads become progressively worse as the distance increases from the capital city. A smooth hard-packed road becomes a rocky, muddy, jutted wagon path that has barely seen use. Your smooth ride becomes a bumpy and noisy and your butt becomes numb as you fidget to try to keep some feeling. Naked forests, devoid of leaves, seem to be alive and watch you curiously as you pass by hoping that you might bravely venture into their midst to an unknown fate.

The caravan stops several times to take care of problems that pop-up – a stuck wheel, a pet that becomes restless. In these moments caravaners take the time to adjust the order of wagons as some have requested and to give a small speech to pick up everyone’s spirits. The caravan guards help to quickly resolve problems and they watch everyone carefully looking for signs of trouble. Their wary eyes keep a careful watch on the surrounding lands for problems like the ever growing wolf population and ork raiders.

The sun wanders in and out of the clouds all day long giving you warmer and cooler moments.

It seems to take an eternity for it to travel across the sky to the western horizon. It feels as if it is intently watching the caravan, not wanting to miss anything that happens, trying delay the inevitable sunset. The sun finally relents as white clouds thicken above before it starts to dip below the horizon. When the sun starts to set the temperature drops sharply reminding you that winter has recently ended. A chill runs down your back making you desire to pull out warmer clothes to stave off this nights coming chill.

"Orkjager: An Introduction"

I wrote this as an introduction to a Play By Post game that I was in and it quickly died during March of 2005. I was inspired so I started to write, order and this is much better than the Ceramic DM entries that posted earlier. At least I hope it is. There is a lot of DnD’isms that I am not going to explain, capsule but I may someday try to explain or add definitions to it.

The Story

Morgan found the cool spring air refreshing as he stepped out of his house in the port city of Vormarsch. A breeze gently rustles his short, drugstore straight brown hair and cools an always cleanly shaven face that is commanding and strikingly handsome. Deep brown eyes take in everything and a keen mind that is not easily fooled keeps him safe and out of trouble. His strong and lithe body belies a surprising strength which is something that he has always used to his advantage. Morgan carries himself with a sure grace and presence that few common men will start a problem with. From his time growing up on the streets and his time in the militia he has seen a lot and not much surprises him. Today, however, he had a feeling that this all will change.

The sun has been out for almost a ten-day melting the snow that has accumulated on rooftops from a rather harsh and deep winter. The temperature has been wavering around the ice point keeping the snow around for longer than he wished. Morgan found the sun comforting and breeze gentle. The streets are wet and muddied from the melting rooftop snow. Ships bound from all over the known world have been bringing cargo sporadically for a little more than four ten-days in preparation for a new season of trade. The birds were singing and it was almost warm enough to wear a short sleeved-shirt. Morgan took a deep breath and slowly exhaled enjoying the scent of spring in the air. Life is picking up here in the capital city.

The town criers and the Fleeters were out and about doing their work. A dark blue tunic with the livery of a golden winged boot hails the coming and goings of the Fleeters and one just happened to be passing by. Morgan waved and said “Good morning, Faranis!”

“Hi Morgan! Happy sunshine!” the Fleeter responded and never lost stride to continue on about his delivery. Morgan smiled at this. A sense of familiarity and loss crept into his thoughts.

It is often said that Fleeters are the true harbinger of spring and trade and not the birds. The migrating birds have been early and late, or decide to settle elsewhere, but the Fleeters always seem to know when it is safe to start business for the season. They deliver packages and messages all around the city, or even to other cites if the price is right.

Morgan is one of the best Fleeters around. He knows how to handle himself and can swing a sword pretty well. Morgan carries and equips himself well enough that he does not have many problems, and if he does, he can take care of it. As the most senior member he is hailed by most Fleeters as almost a legend.

Endar hired him 4 years ago, during the first 2 months of Fleeter operation, after he saved one of his couriers from doom at the hand of one of Praga’s thugs. He is sad to see his prize Fleeter go, but the thought of expanding his business to other regions made him giddy and annoyed at the same time. In their time working together they have become friends of sorts, not close friends, but friends nonetheless. Endar respects Morgan’s common sense and clarity, while Morgan respects Endar’s business sense and influence. They have worked well together to build the Fleeters to what it has become today, and Morgan leaving is a great loss to Endar personally and professionally.

Saerra, Morgan’s wife, had just given birth to their baby boy, Shraen, a ten-day ago at the season’s first sunshine. He has talked it over with her and they have decided to make for Faule when the roads open for trade again. In preparation for this journey Morgan has saved some money and has purchased a wagon, begrudgingly, from Saerra’s parents. When the time comes they will pack up all of their belongings and head off for Faule to start a new life. He has made an arrangement with Endar to start a group of Fleeters in Faule, and then try to open a semi-safe route to Vormarsch. Besides, no matter what happens there it will be more than worth the trouble to get away from his in-laws.

Saerra’s parents do not approve of his occupation because he does not manufacture anything. Her father is a carpenter and carpentry has been in their family for generations. He can go around the city and show where his family has had a hand at helping to build the city. He says that “You will never be able to do that. You will not have anything to pass on to your children. No legacy! You will never have anything to show for your work At the end of a day you have nothing. Nothing.” her father says. “ I have a well provided for family, what more do I need to show for my work?” is what I say. Whenever I see them, which is not very often, they always look at me with eyes that are searching for news of a job change. They also worry because I take some of the more dangerous jobs. “Why not? Better pay and I am damn good at it!” Our home is in a better part of Griffon Ward than theirs and I think that contributes to their disapproval as well.

“Ack!!” A startled Morgan shouts, as he is yanked from his thoughts, as a smiling Fleeter appears in front of him. “Moooorgan!” croons the long haired blonde half-elven beauty that he has had not so innocent thoughts about. “Luria! It is good to see you!!” They both smile wide, obviously enjoying the untold knowledge of their mutual feelings. Her face shifts to a pout. “Endar told me to tell you that Vormarsch will announce that the roads will soon open for trade to Faule.”

“Great news! Thank you, Luria.” Morgan smiles warmly to her.

“You are crazy for leaving us… To Faule?.” Her pout grows deeper hoping that her concern will convince him to stay, but fully knowing otherwise.

“I know, but my family’s future is in Faule.” He smiles with a hint of playful regret.

Luria defiantly sticks her tongue out at him so hard that her eyes close in a wrinkled mass and then she gallops off out of sight. Morgan smiles, sighs, and then heads off to see Endar to prepare for his journey to Faule.

The streets of the Griffon Ward where Morgan lives are fairly clean, free of undesirables, and is lightly bustling with activity. People shopping for various supplies and seeking various services re scattered about the streets. The seasonal shops and businesses are gearing up for traders and travelers that frequent this city in transit to other destinations. His destination, the Fleeter Center, was on the other side of the Griffon Ward. The Fleeter Center was located at a very convenient spot – at the intersection of the Scepter, Griffon, and Candle Wards which are the areas from which most business is garnered. These three wards have modest prices for delivery and the prices to the other wards are a little higher, as is the risk.

The Fleeter Center is a busy building of people coming in and Fleeters running out. It is made of a dark unfinished drab wood and two double doors; one is used for entering and one is used for exiting. There is a double side-door for employees and cargo to be brought in. The double doors are rough and unfinished like the exterior, yet functional. The walls are thick and reinforced to prevent ‘trans-loctation’ magics from working. There are two magically reinforced windows in the building. A Fleeter talks behind one pane in the lobby and there is another pain in a client waiting room.

There are Fleeter guards milling about appearing to be not so vigilant, but their eyes and ears are always seeking for trouble. There is a single sign adorning the side of the Fleeter Center. It is of a modest size bearing a dark blue field with a golden winged boot in the center – the coat of arms for prompt and safe delivery. We Fleeters pride ourselves on the prompt secure delivery of our charge and proudly bear this as our coat-of-arms.

Morgan enters the building from the side door. The guards nod to him and clap him on the back welcoming him. He passes by several Fleeters which greet him and shake his hand. He sees that Endar is waiting for him as his corpulent midsection is the first thing Morgan sees as he rounds the corner to Endar’s office. Endar’s clothes are drab and functional just like his building. Made to not stand out and to just do its job. His short, straight black hair appears almost greasy and possibly combed. His face is chubby and wide, his fingers short and stubby, bearing but one gold band on his left pinkie.

Endar’s office is the size of a very large closet. Shelves line the walls are cluttered with papers and ledgers. An overflowing garbage is to the side of his desk and smells faintly of rotting food. Sitting not so comfortably in the chair next to his desk is an attractive female with long fine golden waves of well groomed hair. She wear is wearing a long, form fitting, red dress that compliments her voluptuous physique and she smells faintly of perfume. Definitely not Griffon Warder, most likely she is from the Scepter Ward. Morgan smiles and nods to the lady whose return smile is of a pleading polite nature, and then he nods to Endar.

“Morgan, welcome!” Endar smiles broadly and affectionately! Not wasting any time he motions to the lady. “This is Lady Phaelis.” and then he motions to Morgan. “Lady Phaelis, this is Morgan.” ‘This’ caught Morgan’s attention. He looks at Endar with confused and concerned eyes.

“As…we have agreed, Endar, at the first moment that roads become open to Faule I will be free to prepare for my journey.”

“Ye..Yes. Yes, of course my friend. My prize Fleeter.”

“He is perhaps the best Fleeter I have.” Smiling again hoping to appease Morgan’s fears. Endar clears his throat and a look of caution and hope cover his face.

“Morgan, we have an offer for you. One last job and you will not regret it!” Endar smiles broadly hoping that Morgan will play along and not make a scene.

“Oh, no! I will be transporting my family! I am not going to agree to anything that could endanger them! The last time you looked like this I was creeping around the Carrion Ward delivering a small unmarked package to an undisclosed location. I had to take a month off to recuperate from dispatching some of Praga’s thugs.” Morgan’s sarcastic smile made Endar scowl. Phaelis’ smile turned to surprised approval.

Praga is an infamous mafia boss trafficking in black-market goods and general thuggery. His code is brutal and so are his thugs. He is not a man to be trifled with unless you enjoy pain, suffering, and death. Fortunately, Endar smoothed that whole situation over so as to not start a war between the two organizations. Endar has tried hard to maintain his business as a solid neutral party so that everyone will feel safe using his service. Having Praga’s thugs following or accosting your delivery members or clients would not be good for business. “Taking care of it is just good business sense.” Endar said, and for that I am thankful.

Phaelis caught the moment of uncomfortable silence and began to speak to Morgan. “Mr. Ashfall. All I need is to be escorted to Faule. I do not, in any way, expect problems. I have lead a modest and quiet life as have my family. There should be nothing that you should have to worry about. I will ride on a horse separate from your family’s wagon if you are concerned. I will just feel… better… if someone is watching over me. A woman of my station does not travel alone, and it is hard to put a price on peace of mind, don’t you think?” Definitely a Scepter Warder, her tongue silvered probably from practice at court. Morgan scrutinized her looking for any form of deception….. None to be found.

“Why, in the name of all that is holy, are you going there? I could not imagine a reason that a ‘woman of your station’ could find anything in that frontier town.” Morgan’s look of distrust and scrutiny did not phase the woman in the slightest. Her face remained calm and unmoving. It then melted into sadness and despair, her eyes begin to tear up. Phaelis is quiet for a moment and then slowly her face begins to return to a practiced calm. The tears that welled up in the corners of her eyes are the only thing that betray her now serene face.

Phaelis’ voice cracks a bit as she starts to speak “My little brother has run away to relatives in Faule. I seek to bring him back where it is safe. We have family there that will escort us back. Please Mr. Ashfall!! Please!!” Seeing such a beautiful woman in such pain caused Morgan’s stalwart walls to break down. Even through the suspicion his mind caved in and that very moment irritated him This feeling was plainly shown his face. Phaelis smiles pleadingly and thankfully with a look of hope in her eyes.

“Promise me that he was not kidnapped. Promise me!!” His eyes were stern and seeking any untruth in her following words. A wide and very relieved smile washes over her and she says “I promise you! You have my word.” She sighs and takes a few breaths. “Thank you!! I will give you the full two thousand gold pieces now, Mr. Ashfall!! I know that I can trust you.” She hands Morgan a dark velvet jingling pouch. He looks into it and sees 3 smaller pouches containing gems, platinum, and gold and silver respectively.

She lightly courtsies and then quietly begins to leave, a trail of delicately sweet perfume dances in her wake. She stops at the door and then turns to Morgan “I have made the arrangements for us to join a caravan leaving to Faule in a fortnight. We will be leaving with the Markin Company’s caravan. I will seek you out the night before.” She smiles again, nods good-bye, and then leaves.

Morgan looks to Endar. “If anything happens to my family. I will hunt you down and……” He let that thought trail off. Shaking his head, he turns and leaves. “What have I done?” He asks himself quietly… Saerra is not going to be happy.”


The night sky is clear and full of stars. All is quiet in Griffon Ward except for the lone sound of a horse cantering on the cobblestone street. A brisk breeze pulls at the rider’s hooded cloak which is pulled tightly about its body and face keeping the cold night air at bay. The rider goes on for quite a while and stops at a tavern, tethers the horse, goes inside and melts into the boisterous crowd. After a while it melts back into the street seeming not quite the same as it did before it entered the tavern, somehow smaller and its clothes have changed colors and style. The figure walks down the street into the night leaving the sounds of talking, drinking, and the clanging of glasses in the distance. The path it follows weaves and wanders in a seemingly random path throughout the Griffon Ward sometimes crossing back on itself. The meandering trip finds its end at a familiar home, the home of Morgan and Saerra Ashfall. The figure cautiously looks around and knocks on the door.

As the door opens the figure’s form, melts into something more familiar, to that of a taller, well-dressed, blonde haired, perfumed, noble woman named Phaelis. Morgan opens the door to see the familiar sight of Phaelis and in a nonchalant manner says “Come in.” There is a tension visible in the air as she slowly enters. Phaelis smiles, nods and then brightly says “Greetings Saerra!” who looks up from tending to the baby. She looks at the baby laying quietly in its crib and says “How beautiful!! Congratulations.” Saerra smiles proudly and affectionately says “Yes. Yes, he is.” Out of the corner of her eye, Saerra spots Morgan cautiously looking out of the window. After a few moments of that he seems to be satisfied that there is no trouble following and returns to stand before Phaelis.

“Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Would you like something to drink? We have water, a little bit of honey ale, or Black River Tea?”

Phaelis’ friendly smile turns to something more sinister and arrogant. Saerra and Morgan let out a muffled yelp as short blades quietly sheathe themselves into the flesh of their backs. A look of shock and utter horror fills their faces as they look to each other and then to their new born son, their life slowly fading from them. The bodies of Saerra an Morgan slump quietly to the floor to reveal two figures enshrouded in shadows behind them with bloodied blades in hand. They soundlessly sheathe the blades and their forms shift to that of Morgan and Saerra. They pickup the two bodies and lay them in bed covering them in blankets. Their movements making not a sound. When they finish with that they return to the main room and all three surround the baby, Shraen, laying wide-eyed in his crib. Soundless moments pass as the three do not move, their eyes fixed on Shraen. Phaelis passes a hand over the quietly cooing child and it falls asleep.

"Ascension"

I wrote this for for the first round of what is called a Ceramic DM’ contest via ENWorld from August of 2007. A Ceramic DM contest is where the judges give all contestants the same 3 or so pictures with which they have to write a story around, no rx and then are judged on writing content and style as well as our use the pictures in the story. There is 72 hours from the time the pictures are posted in a round until the stories are due. Pertinent Links: Original Story Posted; links to pictures are included in the text. I left the judges comments at the bottom and I agree with pretty much everything they said. I wrote a lot for 72 hours.

The Story

And the answer was right in front of me the whole time.’ Anton thinks to himself as he looks at the mural in the lobby of his uncle’s office building. ‘How could I have been so blind. He is so arrogant.‘ as he continues his internal monologue. ‘I am, rehabilitation now, not surprised that he has not removed this archaic art as most everyone else has – vying instead for holographic banners and art.

The mural depicted the villagers of our great, great, great, great grandparent’s hometown to meet the priest who came as ‘angels’ descended from the sky to supposedly consecrate the horrible burning of his great, great, great, great grandparents alive for crimes against the church which included witchcraft and heresy. That’s what the history books say. Just below the mural were supposedly the last condemning words of the priest “By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.”

Our family history paints a slightly different image. The local priest desired Anton’s great, great, great, great grandmother, Dorus’, recipe for her spiced kelp balls and she would not acquiesce a treasured family secret. Her rebuffing naturally earned the priest’s ire and then he condemned the pair to death for it. An annoying part of their family history, but that year marked the beginning of their family’s success and rise to riches. Shortly after Anton’s great, great, great, great grandparents’ immolation the spiced kelp balls started to sell like wild-fire and the money started to rolling in. The family has been rolling-in-the-spiced-green ever since.

This building has been in Anton’s family for a little over 2000 years and has had quite the history of violence, war, and disaster but yet it still remains standing in one form or another. Part of the building has been burned down to the ground in a freak candle fire. It has been bombarded by cannon fire during a civil war. It has been the home of human and halfling sacrificing religious sect that killed their members in a group pixie juice suicide. The family has kept this as their seat of power in spite of the many problems that it has had. Someone in the family has always owned it either personally or by a business that they controlled.

Anton is abruptly brought out of his thoughts as his shoulder is not so gently shoved forward. Behind him looms the chimpanzee brothers who look like two very tall, strong, dark haired, West Virginia, back-hill, inbred hillbillies with large ears, slightly protruding forehead, large mouth, and wild eyes that scream ‘I am my own Grandpa.‘. If you know what I mean? The not so bright and not so occasionally drooling half-ogre brothers that are errand boys for my uncle have bent sent to bring to Anton at his whim. His uncle is comforted in knowing that he receives a tax break for their full time employment.

The brothers shoved Anton from his thoughts about the mural and into the magic suppressing elevator a few feet away . Once they were inside the simian brothers looked at him and then at each other, furled their brows, and then grunted in unison. Brother number 1’s big hands mashed the controls for the elevator and they started to ascend to the top floor. Brother number 2 snapped out his stun baton and played with it menacingly behind Anton. He could hear the its quiet hum as well as the smell the ozone in its wake. He felt very naked without the charge pistol that they confiscated from him during his impressment.

Anton tapped his left arm a few times trying readjust the servos back into place. His cybernetic arm has been recently damage in a ‘misunderstanding‘ and he need to have it adjusted. The arm suffers from occasional spasms or ticks that have caused him to break a few peoples noses. It is the strangest thing. The random ion pulses discharging has not helped his case either.

Anton’s uncle is the current patriarch of the Seven Swords family and all of its estates. It is hard not to admire and loathe his rich and successful uncle. He has never met the man and as far as he has heard no one can remember seeing or meeting him either. As it is often said the rich are often eccentric, especially with our family. It is hard to argue when their leadership is so profitable.

The Elven Clan of the Seven Swords was very keen to keep their bloodline pure and looked unkindly upon the genetic stain that Anton was. The family was above having Anton killed or neglected outright as he is literally the red headed half-elven step child of this family. It is difficult to find a place in the various businesses that his family owns or is involved in so he am usually moved from place to place and business to business as problems occur due to his bastard origin.

As the elevator came to a stop and doors opened Anton looked quickly back trying to hide a smirk as he remembered that he broke brother number one’s arm as he left an elevator once. Brother number one squinted his eyes, grunted, and shoved the half-elf from the elevator and into the foyer.

The foyer room’s walls and ceiling was composed of a dark and shiny blue marble. It was an immaculately clean room that contained a small stand with the Xcentar 2000 Bionetic Verifier and the door. The X2BV appears more like a 4-person game controller because the manufacturer’s original chassis was destroyed in a freak fire storm at their factory and they conveniently found a rather strange and convenient replacement in the game controller that the owner’s son used for his virtual science simulations.

The X2BV is made for high capacity bionetic security points identifying 4 people at a time via a hemoscan, thermoscan, as well as a electro-resonant brain scan. The three of them approached the device and grabbed a hold of the handle and spoke out their names. Following the slight prick into their palms and the line of light that passed over their bodies quickly the light on the top of Anton’s handle lit up green and the other two lit up red.

The chimpanzee brothers scowled and walked their seemingly simian gait back to the elevator, mashed the buttons, and then disappeared as the doors closed and the elevator descended. As they left Anton began to feel really anxious and alone. He had never met the head of the family and he really had no weapons with himself. ‘You never can be too careful.‘ He had no idea what to expect, but assumed that it had something to do with his snooping around their family’s history and private archives, as well as asking meaningless questions about a long lost past. ‘Perhaps, my moment of reckoning had come.‘ he thought to himself as he tried to suppress a smile.

Once the the elevator had left this floor the light above the door that led to where the patriarch lay turned green. He could hear the heavy ‘chunk’ of presumably metal locks opening. The double doors quietly slid open little bit so that a dim light could be seen emanating from with in. Quiet sounds of microfans and, most likely, the glow of computer monitors seeped from the room beyond. Anton stood their and tried to slow his breathing and to keep his pulse from racing as this could be the moment when all is righted.

Anton walked slowly forward while nervously running his left hand through his hair. He used his right hand to open the doors and look into the room to try to assess the situation. Whether he should run or whether he should get ready for the showdown.

The half-elf walked slowly into the darkened room and he looked at the sole occupant in the room a woman not too much older than him – 24. She had long brown hair with delicate pale skin. Her eyes were wide, confident, and full of concern and fear as she sat in a bed with the covers pulled up to her bent knees. Anton was shocked. ‘This is no patriarch. But everything made sense in light of it.

The window was open behind her and the curtains were laying still with no breeze coming in. There was not a lot of light here as it was night time and the only light that was available was from the picture of the family crest on the wall screen behind him. His keen partially-elven eyes allowed him to see well enough and he stared at her. She stared at him as did her black cat who sat quietly at the foot of the bed and indifferently looked at him and then looked away at something obviously more interesting. The darkly wooded bed was contrasted by the statue of three scowling bulldogs’ heads with wide eyes that was made out of a light marble at the foot of the bed.

It was an all together surreal moment and it is nothing like he would have imagined. He expected to find a man here, his uncle who bore the family secret, but instead, he found the family secret. He imagined an epic battle to the death with thunder, lightening, storms of acid and hell-wrent flames. But there is only this. This moment looking at each other. Rather anticlimactic after a few years of searching for the truth, and for the right of ascension.

Anton cleared his throat and began to speak in an ancient tongue that has long been forgotten. “In the name of the fathers of Auld I command you, Dorus Seven Swords, heir to the patriarchy and secrets of the Seven Swords of the Fathers, and to the fabled recipe of the Spicey Kelp Balls to abdicate you throne at the head of Family.”

At that moment a great wind blew the curtains opened and it started to rain. Thunder and lightening ripped across the sky as the flash wrent the magics in the room. The cat bore the antlers of a hell-bound servant and the three dog-headed statue at the foot of the betrayed something more insidious – a Beyhound with swirling red enthralling eyes that beckon you to doze and relax. Its greenish skinned tentacles and toothy maw lashed out from under the bed and poised to strike.

‘This was more like it.” he thought as he readied the appropriate spell and incantation to take his place as the head of the family. The Beyhound’s eyes called his attention and assaulted his will. The hellbound cat glowered at me with a vicious and uncaring indifference while its horns pulsed and throbbed with electricity that lanced out toward Anton seeking his flesh.

The electricity arched to him and found itself drained by latent protective magical field that emanated from his cybernetic arm. Anton smiled and pulled out a black sapphire the size of a human fist and presented it as he continued “In the name of the Elders and the heirs of the Seven Swords I command you to relinquish.” The Beyhounds tentacles lashed out to him but he was not there, at least not physically there to extradimensional creatures as they were.

The wind howled and blew hard and lightening struck not too far away outside. The woman smiled and said “Thank you, my love. I am ready.” The black sapphire flashed and the room was empty of all creatures save himself. He could still smell the aroma of her perfume on the now still air. His heart sank.

The room was quiet and the tousled bed was wet from rain coming in from the open window. He could still see the impression on the bed from where the woman sat. He whispered to himself “By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.” He sighed in sadness and a longing that no one else could ever understand, but this is necessary for the family line to continue appropriately. The surface of the Black Sapphire was warm to the touch and seemed to flare at small moments like flame was trying to free itself from within.

The mural at the entrance to the building fade slowly away and all that remained the phrase ‘By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.‘ below was a clean blank wall.

Judges Comments

This is an interesting story. The circular use of the mural works quite well. When I first saw a picture used as a picture I went, “uh oh,” but you made it work. The other picture use is adequate, but nothing really knocked my socks off. Also, unfortunately, I am a grammar freak, and you have again broken my cardinal tense changing rule. Several times. The most obvious time was:
“Anton tapped his left arm a few times trying readjust the servos back into place. His cybernetic arm has been recently damage in a ‘misunderstanding'” Tapped, trying and has do not agree. His arm had been damaged. I hate to sound like a broken record, but a good story will only get you so far. Writing is a craft, and as such has rules. You have a great imagination and some really fun ideas, but the mistakes really pull me right out of the story. It also has a meandering quality which can work under some circumstances, but not in a story where you’re trying to build suspense. The payoff, the protagonist getting trapped, is great, but the suspense got diluted. I really got jarred by the story going from first to third person or maybe I was just never clear who was telling the story… and I don’t think I ever quite recovered.

The warhammer has been humming something that resembles a cross between an 80’s hair band anthem type song and the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but is now revving up to its keening scream. I’ll be glad when this competition is over. My poor old dog is in the very back room of my house howling, and the ancient cat is hiding under the bed. The hammer is only happy when it’s reducing someone to jelly. Sorry, FreeXenon, but you’re the flavor of the night. Squish.

FreeXenon’s story had a little more emotion to it. There seemed to be a little depth to the main character, and some sense of a greater story. The writing was very uneven, though, and it could have used another pass to clean up some of the more obvious shifts in tense and what have you. The McGuffin was a little off-putting, too — the frivolity of ‘spiced kelp balls’ seemed out of place with the rest of the tale. (At least they weren’t ‘Schwetty salty balls’ though), The descriptions were very good, though, and the pacing was tight and consistent. Picture use was pretty weak. The painting as a mural skirts way too close to the edge, and the others seemed merely descriptive and not essential to the tale.

"Children of the Henge"

I wrote this for for the first round of what is called a Ceramic DM’ contest via ENWorld from August of 2007. A Ceramic DM contest is where the judges give all contestants the same 3 or so pictures with which they have to write a story around, no rx and then are judged on writing content and style as well as our use the pictures in the story. There is 72 hours from the time the pictures are posted in a round until the stories are due. Pertinent Links: Original Story Posted; links to pictures are included in the text. I left the judges comments at the bottom and I agree with pretty much everything they said. I wrote a lot for 72 hours.

Prologue

The time has far past when pixies, neuropathologist dwarves, physician elves, and dragons dwelt upon the lands. Everything magical has passed from the world for long last leaving but humans, and the animals, and the plants. Magical things that were a part of the very fabric of life are no longer, and relegated to parts of bedtime stories read to children before they go to sleep. Magic was a spell that brought flames, or allowed one to travel great distances in a mere thought, to cause the one person to fall in love with another, or bring a kingdom to its knees. Now magic is but silly slight of hand. True Magic has left the world.

The gods had come to pass as well in these times. There were but a few that remember the influence and worship of the gods, and even they do not speak of them for fear of being labeled a witch or demon speaker. These are godless and fearful times, yet innocence and purity can still be found. There is still the spark of good to be found in humanity, yet one must still be careful.

The power and strength of the sword is what rules humanity now. Kingdoms and fiefdoms are conquered and controlled by the trickery or those with a hefty sword arm. We will now set our story outside of the small agrarian village of Dunmare.

The Henge

Sleeping

She slept there in a small clearing in the middle of a haunted wood – alone and serene. The grass was soft and full. There was a break in the canopy of the forest’s trees here where the twinkling stars far above could be seen in the clear night sky. The air was cool, but not too much so as to be uncomfortable or to chill the skin. The fresh scent of roses and a fresh dew was in the air and is a idyllic setting for a summer night.

The young lady, barely of 16 winters, slept. Her long, golden hair was splayed out above her, and her pink courtly dress seemed rather out of place with the dirt on her face and leaves in her hair. To those who knew not better might think that by the way the roses and the plants have come to embrace her that she has been sleeping there for many years. A crown of roses grows carefully about her head. A few roses and vines have grown about her as if they wish to caress her or watch over her. The soft pink of the delicate rose petals accents her dress and the slight blush of her cheeks.

This little clearing was surrounded by large rough stone pillars 5 men high by 2 wide – and there were 6 of these pillars arranged in a perfect circle. The stones were old – far older than any living creature may remember, and far older that any historian may have written about. Know one remembers for what they would have been placed here for even if they could find it. This was a holy place to some, and a place of evil and fear to others.

She begins to rouse from a deep sleep as the plants, crown and all, move slowly away from her and back to where they belong, as if they were never there about her. The roses went back to climbing the stone pillars and the vines as well. The young lady’s head moved to the other side and then her arms moved closer together to rest on her stomach. She slowly opened her bright green eyes to look into the stars above. She smiles happily and contentedly while breathing in fresh air.

Uncle Sarris

The young lady looks about the stone pillars and her eyes search about as if she is looking for something. She carefully stands up so as to not stain her dress and then she brushes the what grass and dirt remained. “So, why is it that only my Uncle Sarris can find me here and no one else?” she questions seemingly to no one in particular as a darkly clothed man walks from behind one of the stone pillars.

His cloak and clothes were black as the night and the silvery hilt of a sword poked out like a single star against the dark night of his clothes. He had short dark brown hair and piercing icy blue eyes. His strong jaw and muscular frame gave him and air of authority and presence that few would question. He had the strength and prowess of warrior and the wisdom of a priest.

He smiles affectionately to her as he walks forward to her and says “Perhaps a better question is ‘Why can you and I find this place at all and no one else can?’.”

“Now I know that you are not my real uncle and those people that I call family are not my real family, so why do they insist on calling me their daughter?” she continued.

“Why do you insist on remembering that they are not your blood-kin?” he stated as he smiles wryly enjoying this game.

She was rather use to this process, but has always hoped that he would relent and actually answer a question with something of meaning and substance instead of his fancy question-answers. “Why do people not like us and treat us differently, Uncle?”

He smiled remembering the path that she will walk in a few hours. “People fear us because they do not understand us. We are different. We see the world differently than they. We know things that they do not know.”

“Why are we different and what is there to not understand? Do we not bleed and breathe as they do? Do we not need food and water? Do we not think and feel as they also do?” she countered knowing full well that she may as well have been speaking to herself.

“Why can we find the this place as no others can?” was the circular answer that told her that there were to be no more questions and that he was definitely not going to entertain the idea of pseudo-answers anymore. Sarris was more like a father to her. He helped her to understand and put into words that which her ‘family’ could not.

Sarris sighed. “We are the same, Delia, You and I. We are but one in a couple of generations. We see and understand things that others do not and that is our place in life – to be misunderstood and to know that which they cannot. To act in moments that none can see the right action. We are here to work the gods’ will amongst the mortals even though they are no longer”

“The gods have long since past but there are places where their energies linger and hold on to very fabric of existence. We are their children and this is their place. Do you not feel at home here?”

Delia frowned in frustration as she does not really understand. “I know that is what you keep telling me but it does not make sense. No one worships the gods anymore. They do not exist. No one even remembers them. They do not matter to people.”

“The gods of auld may not matter to them, but you matter to them.” He walked over and embraced her. Delia hugged him back but she was still no closer to understanding her place in all of this.

“My dear Delia, you need to go back to town now. Your village needs you.”

“Uh-huh” she says sarcastically. He smiled enjoying her attitude.

Dunmare

Dunmare was a fell miles away from the henge and Delia walked quietly and nonchalantly through the forest towards home with her thoughts lost into her uncle’s ‘answers’ to her questions. The path to the henge was not worn or even bore a hint of passage no matter how many times in her life that she has traveled it. Uncle Sarris has been here countless times and no one at the village can remember a time without him. He was always been there in one form or another. Since he showed her how to find the path to it she has been traveling there herself as she desired. She would go there when she needed time to think or a place to win at hide-and-go seek.

Dunmare was a small agrarian village of about 60 people. Most farmed and few hunted, but everyone had there place in the village’s survival. Everyone, that is, except for Sarris and her. Sarris was only about when he chose to be and no one questioned him and pretty much no one even talked to him unless he spoke to them first. The people seemed somewhat flighty and frightened around him.

She came and went as she pleased. She helped with farming or hunting as she pleased and no one said anything to her about earning her keep. She had two ‘brothers’ and a ‘sister’ who were always busy doing something around their little farm and the parents were quite insistent about them doing their chores and schooling and such. The raising of Delia was left to Sarris and the rest of the time filled in by them. He was definitely more gone then around but he handed out lessons as needed to keep her on the straight path, so they hoped that is what their infrequent time together was. She was a well behaved young girl, but odd – very odd and blessed, but they knew not by who or what.

As she approached the village center she found the village meeting building (which no one remembers was a former temple dedicated to the gods) with lights ablaze on the inside and she heard plenty of murmuring and shouting coming from inside. Many a saddled horse is tethered outside which was a rare occurrence as most horses are draft horses and used for wagons or plowing and not so much for riding. It appears that the town has gathered to discuss something and there are visitors involved.

The Temple

The temple is a tall stone building with murals on all the walls above where any man’s extended arm could touch. The walls were probably 3 men in height and the murals were of natural scenes and of divine beings lost to time. Deep blue skies, crisp green trees and bright white sheep as well as others were found in this mural. As she has been taught the creatures and beings depicted represent the natural cycle and the ascendance of the divine and her guardians. The history and story of this mural is complex and long and they have not gotten far into it yet.

She approached the temple door and allowed her eyes adjust to the light and the sound of the people talking. There was a throng of people here many of which she knew and many that she did not on the far side raised podium and a small raised dais that were the only dominate item typically present here. On the near side there were many of the young ladies of the village all dressed up in their finest dresses sitting down and preening themselves.

The Neereman

Delia listened a little bit and it appears as though they village is attempting to marry off their daughters to wealthy noblemen that is passing through. A Neereman noble – dark skinned and of a painted face of blue, purple, white and black markings. The higher status a Neereman the more painted his face was and this man’s face was full and bore feline qualities. Neereman were very uncommon about these parts and she has never see one herself.

They were a tribal and cast people. They had nobles who ruled there tribes and the tribes swore fealty to a a king who ruled them all. They had peoples that were serfs and destined to not be more than that, and the those that were destined for all of the finest things in life. Breaking through the cast system was not impossible, but very rare. Neereman nobles lived well and usually had a lot of land and serfs. They were a kind but stern people. Neereman Criminals, no matter what there previous status, were generally reduced to serfs and left to a serfs life. In rare cases the offender was made a slave to the offended party. Non-Neereman were sometimes made serfs or many times they were exiled without anything to survive on. Most died within a day or two of exile.

The villagers were all about as the women went up there one by one and there family members went up with them to tell and display of the virtues of their daughters. This was a moment for these families that meant that their daughter might be given a life of splendor and riches the likes of which that they, themselves, will never see. The Neereman brought gold, furs and other sundry items to pay for the daughters hand. They were a generous people when they had it. Generous with their dowries and generous to their serfs.

The noble man was surrounded by 6 other Neereman warriors who kept the villagers at bay as they hawked their daughters on the dais. The warriors were strong and significantly less painted. The sides of their faces were covered bore paint and that is it. They wielded spears and had longs swords by their sides, and chaimail for armor.

Delia entered the room and the villagers after a few moments quieted down a little and they looked at her. She looked at everyone else not sure what she was doing exactly. She walked into the room, passing daughters that were waiting there turn, and right up onto the dais with a father who was previously testifying to the virtuous qualities that his daughter had.

She looked hard at the noble man for a few long moments and he looked back to her – never moving or responding in any way. She reached down deep into herself and brought out ancient words “Erigthiena Thslisthan”. The power of the elder words filled the room and everything was dead silent. Now, before her, in place of the dark skinned Neeremen were bipedal Yak men. Dark furred, broad horned, dark eyed, strong men whose furred faces are painted. She saw this and no one else did for the ancient words worked only for those who utter it.

She smiled at the Neereman noble knowing that he knew that she knew the truth, and for the first time, the Neereman smiled. He then said matter-of-factly “I will take her.” The whole crowd of villagers gasped and started to murmur. None of them were quite sure what to do.

“If that is what you and your family will, they so let it be done.” were the words that were emitted from him even though his yak lips could not actually mouth the words. His ensorcelled disguise could not fool the power that she could channel, yet it was very competently woven about him and his minions.

Judges Comments

Technical Writing(4/10):
You jump continually between past and present tense, sometimes even in the same sentence. You miss some words, and misuse some phrases (as … as, etc). You also use the wrong words in places (their turn, not there turn).
Creative Writing(6/10):
The story had an interesting premise – I liked some of the central ideas. I was left with some questions, though. More info about the young lady and uncle Sarris would have been nice. The community was established pretty well. The ending confused me a bit. The visitors were…actually yaks? Sent by whom? And who made them look like people and able to talk? And why?
Picture Use(8/10):
Young lady(8/10): Central character and opening scene. Well done – good description and led into the story. Could have used the crown of flowers or dress more, but good job.
Temple(9/10): Central location and scene. Good description, lead-in and use. Great job!
Painted Face(7/10): Supporting character. Nice description, though a bit more about the face-paint and design would have helped I think.
Total: 1/2(4) + 6 + 8 = 2 + 6 + 8 = 16/25

Comments – Combined:
freeXenon’s story had interesting ideas, but was a bit difficult to read due to grammatical errors, and left a lot of questions and holes. Great picture use! I don’t think the story was too long, but some parts were drawn out (the discussion between the girl and uncle) without much point, and some parts needed more flshing out. Round goes to freeXenon by default.

"Spawn"

I am not going to go through and explain all of the phrases that non-players (and non Forgotten Realms players) may not understand right now. Maybe later I will come back and add in definitions. This is the beginning of a large base of writing I would like to do for Arion (Sir’ra would be here common name; Sr’tar’an Ka’tor’al Antu would be her true name). This is the beginning to her history which I have in my mind, visit this but do not have the skill to put eloquently to paper. I do not like that way the demon lord is portrayed here and will need to go back and repair that some day. I wrote this a long time ago during the second edition days.

The Story

Gently she padded dry the bath water from her milk white skin. Her vibrant green eyes glanced over the strong, more about handsome, shop half-elven male lying fast asleep in the bed near-by. Smugly she noted how easy it is to tempt them. The same routine every time.

“Brin” she called softly. “Brin” her delicate elven voice lilted quietly. Fast asleep from a night of passion that only she could induce. She carefully glanced about the room ensuring all was in order. She picked up her bloodpearl and ruby bracelet from the worn nightstand and gently closed the clasp. She pointed her finger at Brin and a green ray lashed forth and engulfed the sleeping noble and then disappeared.

Saer’ren placed her finishing kiss lightly upon his cheek as her innocent yet demure beauty shifted to her natural form. Vibrant green eyes became milky white. Short, golden brown hair became a coarse, long, and dark brown. Vestigial horns and large bat like wings burst forth. She unfolded and flexed her bat like wings while letting out a smug chuckle. How she loved her job. The sleeping Waterdehavian noble roused as Saer’ren shifted back to the Abyss where her master awaits.

As one of the most practiced and successful succubus’ in Esrutar’s harem, Saer’ren had the privilege of arriving in the center of the courtroom vice the outskirts of his onyx citadel. When the dark red, purple and sickly brown mists typical of her shifting dissipated she approached the throne. Her approach caused the 6 lumbering polearm wielding guards to part revealing the massive winged lord sitting upon his onyx and bone throne, scepter at side and Prissian on shoulder. Prissian was a chaos imp, the favored one. Their presence always made her uncomfortable, especially when dealing with the tempermental mortals. Upon reaching the top step leading to Lord Esrutar’s throne she bowed low and before she could say anything He spoke.

“Prissan tells me all went well”. His deep, resonant and layered voice echoed throughout the cavernous throne room seeming to come from everywhere. His pitch black, almost iridescent, eyes leveled to her. His crimson skin rippled as his corded muscles shifted to a more comfortable position.

“You expected less” she teased. The imp quietly cackled. Saer’ren snarled at Prissian baring her fangs. Prissian promptly scampered away fearing her wrath. Saer’ren’s temper towards the imps had cost Esrutar many of his best spies. If any other had even looked at his imp’s wrong they would immediately be chained down and thrown into the larva pits to be devoured alive.

“My plan is in motion” he stated to no one in particular. “Go, my love, to the Pit of Despair and touch one or a hundred if you like.” Sar’ren new what that meant. ‘Leave me. I have work to do.’ That was the only time she was not at his side. She left feeling insulted as usual at not being involved. The sound of a mortal scream followed by cruel laughter washed it all away.

Esrutar waved and Car’thran, an Arcanoloth, came forth dispelling his seclusion magic. Esrutar was anxious for this meeting to end for he did not trust Car’thran or any of his kind. They are the vultures of the Blood War, playing whatever side will give them the most profit. They had their uses, however limited.

“Her spawn is marked. You divine well Arcanoloth. She will bear it within the week and then you shall have all of what is yours. Half now – half later” “As was agreed”, Car’thran rasped, “a marked half breed for your part of Lord Sh’thracs True Name. A small price don’t you think.” Weary of Sh’Thrac’s antics and continuous disobedience, Esrutar was happy to give ‘them’ what ‘they’ desired hoping ‘they’ would deal with him so he did not have to. You never know who the Loths will deal with. It may be a demi-god or a lowly goblin. It will be whoever has the best price.

“of course!” Esrutar handed the Arcanonloth a sealed scroll case. Car’thran barely touched it and it disappeared. If it could smile, Esrutar could feel the Loth was. Car’thran, trusting in their pact, bowed low and vanished. Some how after dealing with the Loth’s he felt tainted, dirty – as if a Paladin had been in his midst.

A large cast iron vat was lowered from the upper chambers and set before the scheming lord. “Ahh! Snack time. ” he said to himself. Lemures, the unfortunate souls of those who made it here, writhed an squirmed in the vat. They were not tasty by any means, kind of like crunchy gruel if you could imagine that, but they always cheered him up. He grasped 2 of the 4′ lemures and paused a moment before tossing them in his mouth. He snickered. The mindless lemure knew not what was about to befall. He tossed them casually into his mouth and began munching. Their energy surged through his very being; he reveled as the flashes of every step of their short pathetic lives washed by. Every step that led them to come here. Every evil or slightly malign action they had ever done ran vividly through his mind. This was one of the redeeming factors being the lord of your own realm. He sighed and mused “I’m a soul man!”

The following week passed by uneventfully as Sar’ren’s stomach grew and grew from the alu-demon growing within. ‘The heat, the pressure!! Why can’t I move. I, I can’t see…..”, silent scream. The demonling began to shift and Saer’ren became uncomfortable. The thought of having a mortal thing within her did not make her happy either. “Get it out!!” Saer’ren screamed as the demonling moved. Her now seemingly frail 5’9″ body heaved with the pain of carrying a nearly fully formed alu-demon. Saer’ren appeared like a mortal women with an extra 200 lbs of fleshy stuff added to her stomach. A bloated unmoving women thing that spawns evil. The thought made Esrutar smile with pleasure. “Very well!” Esrutar chuckled sinisterly. When his iron corded fist hit her above her massively bloated stomach she flew across the room. Her scream was abrupt as she hit the floor. The pain blinded her to the instant the child hit the floor with a sickening wet smack. Amniotic ichor coated the entire floor making every step Esrutar took evident by the distinct sound of crunch-suck.

Saer’ren hated the next part. It was the same every time. It happened every time and there was nothing she could do about it. She crawled near the alu-demon and then it started. “Sr’tar’an Ka’tor’al Antu” she whispered. The true name of the child was carried wordlessly away by The Wind of Souls to be heard by none, yet deeply ingrained in the psyche of the newborn. “Sir’ra, I shall call her.” It was the same every time. True Name, Name, and then the four words. It was different for all sucubbi. But this was her birth ritual.

The sticky lump of alu-demon in fetal position lay unmoving on the floor seeming almost encased in a shell of her bat like wings. It reeked of rancid ichor. Saer’ren telepathically sensed for life and found that Sir’ra was alive. Esrutar roughly picked up Saer’ren and handed her to his guards. “Get her cleaned up.” Saer’ren, exhausted, stayed limp and said nothing. “Take the half-breed to the lemure pits until she recovers. Bring a pack of lemures to get this cleaned up”

A deluge of senses struck Sir’ra at once. The heat, the stench of sulpher and brimstone, death and decay, and the dull warmth of the rock she lay upon. The sounds of screams and cruel laughter, bubbling lava, and roaring, sputtering flames. The unintelligent lemures scattered as Sir’ra heaved up for her first breath of the dry, hot and acrid abyssal air. Gasp after gasp she clutched her head as she tried to sort it all out. After a while her breathing settled as each sight, sound, taste, scent and feeling became distinct and coherent. She lay rocking slightly on the ground in a pit with one entrance. She tried to get up but the pain searing though the left side of her body soon halted any movement. The dizziness set in and then the world began to swirl. She tried to focus to stop the world from spinning around and around and around. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, helping to clear her mind and to reduce the pain to a dull yet powerful throbbing through her entire body eyes and all. She knew something bad was about to happen but she did not know how or why, but she did.

She slowly stood up, careful to not make it any more painful than necessary. She warily stood up to face it what ever it was. A pack of pudgy doughboy looking things lumbered towards her hands extended from the only opening in the pit. “Let me be” she sent knowing she could not beat the two score of lemure. “Friends!” she sent, hands extended, desperate for a response. The lemure seemed to not notice as they pressed their ominous advance. Determined to not go down with out a fight she lunged at one hitting it twice solidly. The lemure was dead before it hit the ground, dull phosphorescent eyes glowing no more. The sudden surge of energy that coursed though her body from each hit startled her but served to accentuate their revitalizing energies. That moment allowed the rest of the pack to tackle her and bludgeon her unhindered. Her last conscious thought was wishing to be on the ledge of the pit that she could so clearly see in her mind.

"Of Books and Blades"

This little short story is written as part of a background for a character I played while I was in the Navy (~1995), epidemic named Jaerle Blackmaine. He was a Human Male Paladin dedicated to the St. George in the DM’s game world where Mages very commonly summon demons and other vile creatures to do their bidding. For those of you who are not familiar with D&D I will provide a brief summary of the things that you may not be familiar with at then end of the story. This was a Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition game. I have not really touched this up since then. It definitely needs work but there it is.

Chapter I – Prologue

There have been many a warrior to impart to me their wisdom on the subject of books. They have said “Books are useless! Books are for girls and cowardly wizards! When will a book deflect a steel blade! How did book smarts protect that merchant last week?” There was a time when my studies gave me a split second and saved my life.

Every week I delve further and further into the Cannon of St. George. Every week I find myself needing a library to research references made, points that were unclear or vague, or conclusions that interested me. My studies at the time brought me to an interesting point. Demons warp, if ever so imperceptibly, the area around them. A telltale shift in temperature, a slight distorting or slowing of senses, or uneasiness in animals, that feeling that you are being watched or are not alone. These are all things that if you are not looking for or actively monitoring for you will most definitely miss. Woe unto you my friend.

I had just finished my little venture into Kilaran’s Tomb. Worn and ragged from my battle with the undead thing formerly known as Kilaran. Charred by his spell flames, bludgeoned and lanced by his force spells, I was finally victorious. I fought until his lifeless body twitched no more. Exhausted from my climb down from his mountain aerie and stumbling through the treacherous Steel Spire mountains. Tired and hungered from lack of sleep and food. After three days of travel I finally emerged from the mountains to greet a deep red sunset and a cool breeze of the fast approaching night. The mountain trail I followed led me to the main road between the border-towns of Belgian and Melodeon. I dropped what I was left of my charred pack and sat down for a moment to celebrate leaving the mountains.

Chapter 2 – Entrance

Off in the distance I heard horses and wagons over the hill. Hoping at every moment for something friendly, anything friendly. Bandits in this area were cunning and very present. With my hand resting on the hilt of my sheathed sword, body poised to hide in the mountain pass, I waited as the first wagon cleared the hill. Strange looking wagon. Almost boxlike. Then I hear the music and singing. Happy and lilting voices that sounded strangely familiar. By the glory of St. George!! Gypsies!! Thankfully the gypsy’s patron was Kyrie – She who holds knowledge in the darkness of a night sky. Those who worship her hope to pierce the darkness to see the light. So they say. They are a harmless, eccentric lot. Anxiously I shouldered my pack and walked slowly towards the small, now 3 wagon, gypsy train. Fortunately, as I have read, gypsies tend to be very friendly and welcome travelers to their camp to share in the food and fun.

As I drew near, the wagon pulled off to the side of the road, probably to set camp seeming as it was dusk. The three stocky wagons pulled into a circle and upon arriving I found they had a fire burning. An older gentleman came out to greet me as I approached. A bright red scarf adorned his balding head. A loose silk shirt and baggy pant draped on his robust lean frame. A few rings and a golden necklace glinted in the falling sun’s dying rays. I was met with a firm handshake and a very thick accented “Vvelcome – you enjoy camp vith us?” I smiled, and with a sigh of relief, I nodded yes. He chuckled heartily, clapped me on the back, and escorted me into camp. He barked some words in their gypsy tongue and a lean young boy and two voluptuous ladies came over to relieve me of my burden. They fed me, mended my equipment, cleaned my clothes and bathed me.

Long flowing black tresses of hair cascaded down their backs and long eyelashes teased as they tended to me. Sliva and Avriel had the voluptuous curves that only young women can. The kind that beckoned you to bed , but yet kept you at your distance. Their bright green eyes had a mischievous sparkle in the moonlight that spoke of a naive, playful innocence. Silva’s low cut halter and split skirt did not leave much to the imagination. Avriel was a bit more conservative. She wore a form fitting tunic and pant. Both wore an assortment of necklaces, bracelets and rings. Silva wore gold that would attract attention to her. Gold grabs you attention and invites you to gaze. Avriel wore less and more conservative jewelry. They were definitely sisters. Some one is most definitely watching over me tonight.

The boy was young and restless, full of questions about my adventures and equipment. He was young maybe 12 or 13. Avriel and Silva, while kneading out my shoulders, shooed the boy away several times to let me relax. He always came back stick in hand fighting off imagined hordes of demons, undead and mages. The fathers music and the kneading of my aching shoulders, drowned out the boy. Kari, I think, he said his name was.

In the morning, refreshed from a restful and much needed night of sleep, I roused from my slumber to see Kari sitting there, my breakfast in hand. “You’ll make someone a good squire someday.” I said. His face lit up and he ran to his sisters and father jabbering away. They all smiled, chuckled, and sent him on his away. I now noticed two other wagons had joined our camp and filled in the circle. Next to me I found my equipment repaired and cleaned. I began to dress and gather my things wondering how wonderful it would be to live their happy carefree life. Free of worries and fear just day to day contentment.

I asked if they would mind if I escorted them to the next town. They accepted happily and rather relieved. Gypsies tend to be easy targets for bandits and any protection is welcome. The two new wagons had several horses tied to it as well as various trinkets. Several of the men were struggling with one of the horses. This black horse was well muscled and had a wild eyes. The gypsies are renown for horse taming. They seem to have some sort of bond, or empathy with horses. After about 10 minutes they quieted the animal down. In the process the horse nearly trampled them but their agile movements saved them. I was going to ask if they would like help but they asked me to keep back. After all they did this for a living. As I watched I noticed something in the animal’s eyes – an intense desire to unleash a hidden rage, something primal – not fear, it seemed too proud for that.

Chapter 3 – Clash

That’s when I noticed it. That feeling that something was watching and ready to pounce. I snapped ‘Reaver’ from it’s sheath. The blade thrummed with lust for the impending battle. I could feel the sword begging for the taste of demon’s blood. Before I had a chance to have ‘Reaver’ search for the creature I was batted aside by an unseen assailant. A demon appeared from no where – clawed, ugly and wingless. Damn mages!! The creature reached out and slashed Silva to rivens. Blood spilling forth like a fountain. splattering the ground with a crimson pool. Her lifeless body slumped to the ground. The carefree beauty drained from her body like a fly sucked dry from a spider. I strode forward, ‘Reaver’ in hand, and slashed at the creature with all my strength. That’s when the fire erupted all around engulfing half of the campsite. The charred remnants of the gypsies and their wagons smoked in the wake of the spell flames. The air stunk of burned flesh and smoke tinged with sulfur. Damned Mages!! Where you find demons you find mages. Never fails. I’m not sure which is more dangerous spell hurling buffoons or the vile creatures they summon.

The remaining gypsies through rocks at the wizard which now showed himself. He wore black robes adorned with crimson runes of the Ithar, the elder tongue of scholars. He bore a goatee and a golden circlet peeked from underneath the hood of his cloak. The wizards spell was fortunately disrupted by the rocks the gypsies were throwing. Arrogance shall be his downfall. He is definitely too close for his own good. The demon roared as ‘Reaver’ tore into it’s flesh. The slash went straight across its chest down to the bone. A brackish black ichor oozed from the wounds. I immediately gained it’s full attention. We brawled around for several moment knocking over one of the two remaining wagons and spilling equipment everywhere. I dodged the creatures powerful claws and slashed to no avail. The demon made a wild swing knocking ‘Reaver’ from my hand. I grew very pale at that moment. My spear, ‘Soul Seeker’, was nowhere in sight. The demon sneered in confidence, knowing that it could tear me apart now that I am unarmed.

It went to finish me off when Kari jumped in front of me brandishing a pitchfork and snarling like a pregnant owlbear. I cringed at the grating sound. Kari poked at the creature once. Three rivulets of ichor meandered down it’s scaly brown-red skin. It looked down at the pathetic morsel named Kari, chuckled, and raised to it’s full height. It’s unholy and inhuman roar crescendoed as its noticed the the child drew blood. It readied to decimate the child. With the creatures attention shifted in search for a weapon of some sort – anything. Several horses bolted this way and that as another explosion erupted. I could feel the pressure wave blow past me. One lone horse trotted through the smoke and skidded to a halt kicking up equipment. In the shards of equipment scattered I found ‘Soul Seeker’ at my feet.

I shoved Kari out of the way, picked up the spear and set it butt first to the ground. The demon blindly brought its claws down. It stopped abruptly as ‘Seeker’ slid into its head from underneath it’s jaw stopping as it hit the creatures skull. The demons massive claws raked both of my arms sending pain coursing through them. Ichor oozed quickly down the length of the spear shaft coating it in a sulfurous black ooze. The demon didn’t move after that. Bless St. George.!!

I dove, tumbled, and pick up my crossbow as an arrow of roiling acid whizzed by burning a lock of hair. The acrid scent of acid and burnt hair nearly knocked me to the ground. Adrenalin pumping I popped up to one knee and searched for where I thought the arrow came from. Wizards have a knack for being not seen. An annoyance I have tried to learned to deal with. I fired where I thought the acid arrow came from and missed. Damn!!! I ran over to remove ‘Soul Seeker’ from it’s resting place. It’s shaft was hot and slick with demon ichor. I fumbled and dropped it to the ground. The demon body dropped to the ground. AAhhh!!! I yelped. I heard the acid splash and sizzle, and I smelled it burning through my armor. I dropped to the ground clenching my shoulder from the searing pain. I, again, dove for my spear, popped up and carefully aimed for where I thought the wizard was. Thud!! Thud!! Thud!! Magical waves of energy plowed into me nearly taking my balance. I staggered underneath the force of the spell. I spotted the wizard for a moment as he disappeared again. I launched ‘Seeker’ and it found it’s target. The wizard screamed and, in an invisible death throw, dropped slowly to the ground.

Chapter 4 – New Beginnings….

All is still. I hear only the sound of my breathing and the burning of the wagons and gear. I take a moment and survey the carnage that magic has wrought. The only survivors of this massacre are me, Kari, and a horse, the proud horse. The burning contorted bodies of the gypsies stood out of the from the charred remnants of the wagons and equipment. A happy, harmless gypsy band slaughtered for what reason?? Probably for the wizards amusement or maybe he needed slaves. You never can tell.

Exhausted and severely wounded I plopped to the ground. Kari walked over and bore a look of shock, fear, and disbelief. Eyes wide and mouth open he look around. He looked to the carnage, back to me and back to the remnants of his life and family. Tears started to flow down his face. I felt sorry for and pitied the boy. I understood how he was feeling. I lost my family to battle as well. I looked around and back to Kari who was now looking at me. Now more tears fell. His face was calm and had a look of understanding. Like he knew what has just happened and understood that his life will never be the same.

His voice crackled “Need a squire?” I do not need an extra person hanging around to protect. I can barely keep my self alive. An extra mouth to feed and then I will need to train him. Besides…..I looked back to him and I saw a little of myself in him. I then remembered my word to him “Some day you will make someone a great squire.” I broke and I nodded yes. He smiled and settled the the ground sobbing.

If someone tries to tell you that studying will never help you. Only a trusty blade will give you respect and allow you to survive. Recount this tale and laugh at them. If I would not have recognized the signs I may have been crushed by the demons first attack as readily as the beautiful and innocent Silva was. Fortunately I was prepared and knew what to look for. Arm your self not only in steel but also in knowledge.

Definitions

Demons
As you would expect – foul creatures from another evil plane of existence.
Owlbear
A large creature with and ursine (bear like) body and an owls head and fore claws. These creatures have a nasty temperament and generally attack things on sight. They are thought to have been the byproduct of magical experimentation.
Paladin
A warrior dedicated to specific divine patron. Paladins are generally the elite military arm of a religion.
‘Reaver’
A magical bastard sword that was forged to hunt and destroy demons.
Undead
Creatures such as zombies, ghouls, and skeletons that are unliving.
‘Soul Seeker’
A magical and very accurate spear.