Humorous Work Horoscopes for February 2017

zodiac

I saw a funny horoscope online the other day and started thinking about how cool it would be to have a humorous horoscope of snarky one-liners that are quasi-business/work related.   Alright, “cool” probably isn’t the right word…please play along.

So, I have prepared a year’s worth and will be putting them out monthly (I hope). Here’s the first one for February – all set to be pinned to your cubicle wall.

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It is likely that this horoscope is as accurate as any out there, and this one is designed to make you smile.

You can download the PDF from here if that is more to your liking:  february-calendar

Enjoy!  If you liked that, check out my book, Business Rules – the Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords  

To the Gellesian Fields Part 8

warlock

Althalus…

“You promised her what?”  I couldn’t have been more furious.  I felt the power surge in my blood and it took all of my restraint to not unleash the full fury of my magic on that tree-kissing druid.

“The demon skull,” Theren replied.  I could see it in his face, he could feel my wrath coming. Instead of cowering from me as a sane person would – closed the distance between us.  “We needed it.  We are not wealthy men.  She wanted something consummate with the value of the message.  If it means anything Althalus, I am sorry.”

His pitiful apology was not nearly enough.  “It was not yours to bargain,” I replied, barely getting atop my rage.  “I had plans for that skull.”

“What kind of plans does a man have with a demon’s skull?” asked Arius.

Nothing a paladin would understand.  “Don’t worry, I assure you, they were beyond your comprehension.”  He hates it when I am evasive with him.  He could never fully fathom what power might lay in a skull born on one of the lower planes of Hell. Even I only understood the most basics…but I knew that skull would help me.

It told me so….

“We should go back, retrieve the skull, then make the exchange,” Bor said.  “The sooner we are off this accursed ground, the better.”

The others agreed.  This Lexa, if that really was her name, was trouble.  I knew it.  Turning over the skull to her was the kind of mistake that no one could comprehend.  Only a handful of people might have a use or need for a demon skull.  If her master would be interested in it, he could only be trouble…if not for us, than for others.  If I possessed it, at least I could control any power it might have.

We made our way back to the road and started south.  Two days into our journey, we heard the sound of someone coming down the road behind us.  We took to cover before they were upon us.  It was orcs, at least they nearly matched the drawings I have seen of them in my tomes of study.  Horrible creatures – deformed faces, and a stench that came to us as soon as they came into view.  They wore a patchwork of old armor, probably salvaged from the dead in the Gellesian Fields.  Their weapons caught my eyes.  Halberds.  Not crude weapons either.  These caught the sunlight and glistened.  They were freshly forged – and in good condition.  I pointed it out to Bor who agreed with me.

The four of them paused along the road, fanning out.  The way they were sniffing the air, they must have caught our scent on the wind.  Then they moved off the road right at us.  Such audacity for such dullard fighters.

One of the brutes rushed at Bor and swung his halberd down in a vicious chop.  If it had hit the warrior, it would have cleaved him nearly in half.  Nay, this swing missed so much that the orc buried the blade into his own foot.  Howling, he struggled to extract it.

Bor took the dwarven war hammer he had recovered from the ambush and swung it hard in an upper cut.  The lower jaw of the orc was crushed and driven up into its skull, and out of the top.  What was left of his body dropped.  I turned, but with difficulty, my half petrified thigh stung at my flesh as I tried to move.

I unleashed my eldritch blast on one of the creatures – the white-blue bolt of energy searing into its throat as sure as any dagger, dropping it instantly as its blackish blood squirted into the dirt.  Bor sprung at another one of the creatures, hitting it in the head with his war hammer and crushing its skull, littering the road with gore, bits of bone, and whatever counts as the brains of an orc.  The last one was felled by Arius after it stumbled.  We emerged from the fight without so much as a scratch.

“That hammer of yours,” I asked Bor.  “Does it have a name?”

He grinned.  “In Dwarven it says that it is Skull Ringer…well, that is the closest interpretation in our language.  Dwarven language has four words for skull, depending on the situation.”

“Well-named,” I responded.  Yes, you are keeping your prizes of battle – but I must give up my best prize – my demon skull.  Hardly fair.

“An orc patrol,” I observed.  “The fields are not patrolled, not by orcs anyway.  There is something amiss with this.”

Theren nodded.  “And those halberds…they are not the kind of weapon we would see with an orc.  Someone provided them with these weapons.”

“The Gellesian Fields have always been a place of dark magic. Now even Gray Riders are not safe here,” I replied.  “This points to something else – something more sinister I fear.”

We discussed it as we walked but could not arrive at any conclusions.  It was like having pieces of a Gnome’s puzzle-block, without knowing what it was you were trying to construct in the first place.  The pieces existed, and some could fit together, but we had no idea what they made.  It was frustrating and ominous at the same time.

The next day Arius spotting someone following us.  “It looked like a dwarf.  He faded into the brush before I got a good look.”

“Do you think it is one of Lexa’s thugs?” Theren asked.  I almost laughed.  There was more going on here than Theren could see.  The orc patrol on the road…now a stealthy dwarf following us.  A woman that would risk her life to kill a Gray Rider.  Circles within circles…

“She doesn’t trust us,” was all I replied. “Nor should we trust her.”

For once, Arius and I agreed.  “I will fall back with Bor, see if we can catch this shadow that stalks us.  The rest of you travel on and recover the skull.”  Good.  If the paladin wants to go over the stalker, let him.

We reached Cockatrice Hill and I was sent in to recover my beloved skull.  I half-hoped it wasn’t there.  When I found it in their nest, I toyed with lying to my blood-brothers about it.  Why should I have to surrender my prize?  My conscience got the better of me…that is something I am going to have to work on.

As we left I passed poor petrified Phillipe’, my horse.  It made me wonder if I would ever get a cure to the bite I had on my upper leg.  Poor little Phillipe’…

We started back up the road towards the Bailey Hills when we rendezvoused with Arius.  “It was a dwarf, he was following us.  He works for Lexa – as we suspected.” I saw a faint red mark on his lower neck that told me there was more to the story than he was relaying to us.

“’Works?’  I take it he is still alive?” I prodded.

“I do not wish to discuss it,” the Paladin said, rubbing the red mark on his neck.  I have to admit, it made me smile.

Two nights later Theren was on watch.  I was not sleeping well.  Nightmares plagued my slumber all night…I felt as if I had ants crawling on me.  I kept the knapsack with the skull close.  Losing it at this stage would prove to be treacherous.  The druid altered us that he had come across something, “unnatural.” That piqued my interest.

We saw it and I marveled at the image.  It was some sort of undead, a spectral skeleton knight mounted on a skeletal horse.  It wore armor of the older age, still in magnificent condition.  The entire apparition shimmered in a blueish light.  There was a dull crimson glow in its eyes.  This was no ordinary skeleton, that much I could ascertain.

Theren climbed into a tree as it advanced, a long war lance before the long-dead steed.  I was unafraid.  Arius moved in beside it.  “It is dead – we should kill it.”

I frowned.  Typical paladin – off dispatching evil when there was much to learn.  I used my powers to communicate without speaking.  It approached me slowly, the tip of the lance right before me.

“Are you good or evil?” I asked with my mind.

It only responded with by advancing another half-step.  The lance hovered in the air only a few hands from my face.  I did not cower.  The undead were to be avoided but I knew something of their nature.  Something in the back of my mind told me I had nothing to fear, and I have learned to trust that inner voice.

“What do you want?”  I pressed.

It did not respond.  Perhaps it could not.  The magics that enveloped it were strong…strong and dark.

“Move aside warlock,” Arius said through gritted teeth.  “I will send this creature back to the Hells it was born from.”

I held up my hand to hold the paladin at bay.  I looked at the skeletal rider, the glowing red eyes.  It understood me but could not respond.  Whatever was binding it to these fields held it tight in its grasp.  The magic energy seemed to flow from the ground into the ghostly image.

I kept trying to reach it, trying to find a way for it to respond.  I knew it could sense my thoughts, but responding was as far beyond it as was life itself.

The skeletal horseman reeled his spectral mount about, hovering just above the ground.  Then, without warning, it charged straight at me.  I braced for the impact – with my stone-stiff leg leaping was out of the question.  The lance should have pierced me but instead passed through me.  I expected it to feel cold, but it was the opposite – a burning sensation.  The phantom crashed into me as well, passing right through my body.  I held out my arms at my side, embracing it as its black energy passed through me.  It rose into the air and flew off, shimmering into the night like a fading star, then disappearing.

It had seen something as it passed through me, almost like when you remember a dream the next day.  Many of the details were obscured, but I could see the torment that this warrior was possessed of.  It could not leave the Fields, no matter how much it desired to do so.  It was trapped there, an eternal prison.  Perhaps Arius was right.  Destroying it might have given it release.  Now it was far too late.  It was gone.

“What was it?” Arius asked as he moved beside me.

“Something wondrous,” I replied.  They will never understand what I saw.

On the tenth day we arrived back at the five Bailey Hills.  The day was overcast and gloomy, perfect weather for our exchange.  Lexa Lyoncroft stood atop the largest of the hills, looking down at us.

“This could be a trap,” Bor offered.

I clutched my back pack before me.  “Let us go,” I managed to say out loud.  Before I change my mind.

We reached the top and she was there alone.  I had not seen her before.  She was beautiful, but there was something about her, a dangerous energy.  Not an aura, but you could sense her power.  And that sword of hers…it had a strange curve to it.  This was not some woman to be trifled with. That didn’t mean I wasn’t about to try.

“You came,” she said with a hint of surprise.

“We did,” Theren replied.  “How do you propose we do this exchange?”

“You come here with the skull.  I will hold the note and one of you can read it.”

I came up with a plan – one none of them could have guessed.  “I will do it,” I said.

“Are you sure?” Arius asked.  I bet he fears I will not fulfill our end of the commitment.

I closed my eyes for a moment and used my powers to connect our minds.  “Trust me.  I will relay the message to all of you.  We will get a complete version that way.”  The words were not spoken aloud, but projected into the minds of my companions.

Even the paladin smiled.  It would be the same as all of us reading the message.  No chance for anyone to forget something important.

I stepped forward and Lexa opened the Gray Rider’s pouch.  “No tricks,” she said, pausing for a moment.

“No tricks,” I communicated into her brain through my magic.

“Do not do that warlock,” she said bitterly.  “I know your ilk.  Don’t test my capabilities by entering my mind.”

“What do you mean?” I asked out loud. I gave her a little grin.

“You know what I mean,” she replied.  There was something in the tone of her voice that told me that she meant business…that and her free hand drifted to the hilt of her magnificent great sword.

I opened the back pack and removed the skull.  It was heavy, heavier than before.  It did not want me to let it go – I could feel that.  I hesitated, I admit that, then I handed it to her.

“Very well,” she said, taking out the message.  I could see the faint wax seal, already broken on the scroll.  I read it, and as I did, I sent it word for word to my blood-brothers.

To Lord Andrew Sklaver of Karn

My lord – two months ago the Order of the Fang marched to the north east in pursuit of a dark force that emerged from the Fangs of Kraylor.  The force numbered most of our garrison, 400 men and horse, almost our entire legion.  They road into the mountain pass at Sever and never emerged.   

We have sent parties in search of them but no trace has been found.  The Order is down to a mere 30 noble knights, nowhere near enough to protect the realms of men from what lies at the bottom of the gash. 

I beseech you to send us reinforcements – holy warriors that can help us defend this keep or can assist with finding what has become of the missing legion.  I ask you keep this information private.  If word were to get out of our plight, it might cause panic. 

This is our most desperate hour.  Any and all assistance is honored at our gates. 

Sir Karrick of the Silver Blade

Acting First Shield, Order of the Fang

She held the note long enough for me to read, then re-rolled it and put it in the pouch.  “We are done then.”  As if it weighed nothing in her hand, she put the skull in one of her saddle bags.  “I advise you to leave the Gellesian Fields farm boys.  This is no place for the uninitiated.”  She mounted her horse and departed.

Bor looked like he had seen something on her, something important.  His brow was furrowed, and that was usually a bad sign.  “What is it?” Theren asked.  “You look confused or angry.”

The fighter nodded once and tried to relax his brow, unsuccessfully.  “I may tell you later.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“We were wise to not cross her,” was all that Bor said in response.  One day I would have the power to take his thoughts from him, if all went as planned.  That was not the case this day.

We immediately compared notes, jotting down the words I had written before we forgot.  We all looked at the message.

“A missing legion…” Arius said in disbelief.  Being a holy knight, the thought of the most elite army of paladins being lost, possibly killed, hit him hard.  I would have offered pity, but I was still angry at having to surrender my precious demon skull.  I will get it back…I swear it.

“Thirty knights will not be able to hold the Fangs of Kraylor,” Bor offered grimly.  “Fortress or not, thirty warriors are not enough.”

Theren was shaken too.  “The legion was the most elite army I have heard of outside of the church’s fighting orders.  For them to have disappeared…what has that kind of power?”

The kind of power I want to know…and possess…

“What do we do now?” Galinndan asked.

What do we do next indeed…?

 

Thus ended the session…with our heroes recovering the message they were sent to find, but now facing even more challenges and choices.

I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am writing them up. Below are previous episodes:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

Review of Patriots Day

patriot-day

I can’t say this is a spoiler-free review.  The bombing of the Boston Marathon was just three years ago, though it seems like more time has passed.  This movie proves how fallible human memory is. There were so many things about those few fear filled days that I had forgotten about.

This movie is a powerful docudrama starring Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, and John Goodman.  There’s no glitzy Hollywood intro – from the start you are immersed in the prelude to the race.  The story is told from many perspectives, most of those through the eyes of the law enforcement officers involved with tracking down and capturing and killing the terrorists.

It is gripping and compelling.  No matter what you remember about the incidents tied to this horrific crime, you are sucked into the character stories.  It is a tense ride for the viewer, one where your emotions are torn and tugged at by the performances of the actors.

There were times I cried, times I wanted to cheer, and times I cringed and averted my eyes. The images of gore and ghastly human damage from the bombing are necessary, but still cringe-worthy.  Mark Wahlberg’s performance is top-notch, as is Kevin Bacon’s.  You are sucked into the story from the start and you cannot afford a bio-break during the movie, the pacing is so rigid.

I loved this movie, plain and simple.  It is one of the better film adaptions of historical events that I ‘ve seen since Sully.  You come away wiping away tears and remembering those hours where we were all Boston Strong – when we all stood behind law enforcement.  I know that doesn’t fit the current narrative that the media shoves down our throats; that police are racist murderers.  This film flies right in the face of that kind of story and does so with class, grace, and with honor.

I honestly can’t believe that this movie isn’t getting more press. Trust me, it is well worth your time to go see it.

No matter what you think you remember about those painful hours, I highly recommend this film.  Five out of five stars.

#PatriotsDay

Some questions from some BattleTech fans…

Exodus Road

Well these came in via Facebook so I thought I’d blog the answers out, in case others were interested.

Question:  A.  What kind of prompts and story elements were you given, if any, as touchstones for the novels? Like, did someone tell you that you needed to mention this or that specific event? B.  Or were you given free reign to write what you wanted? Also, how difficult is it to keep track of the timeline and planets and people? C.  How do you manage your writing time with research and checking already published canon?

Answer:  A.  That depends.  It has changed over the years.  With Surrender Your Dreams, I was told they wanted three short stories tied to when Fortress Republic went up.  I came up with the whack-a-doodle idea of linking the stories and telling them out of sequence.

Sometimes I’m told, “We need a Civil War story,” other times, especially with the MechWarrior books it was, “do something stand alone.”  Catalyst gives me some freedom, but with a well-defined leash.  It helps that Randal and Loren and I have been doing this for decades.

I like to write stories I’d like to read.  This last project, forthcoming shortly, is a real treat. I’m doing more with character arcs than ever before, the journey of the hero.  It is really fun to do.  The plots are not as important as the characters.  The more flawed, the better.  Ever wonder why Trent was so mutilated?  There’s always reasons for stuff I put in my books.  Sometimes that reason is to just mess with the readers…  

B.  You have free reign, as long as you get stuff approved. I draft a summary of the book for initial approval, then a chapter-by-chapter breakdown for final approval.  That way, I’m pretty set in writing the book (and I’ve thought through most of the details at that stage.)

C.  Keeping track of the BattleTech universe a constant challenge.  There are some covert secret documents, like for the Jihad, that show what units are where and when.  Those things are pretty scarce and rare.  Because my outlines are cleared in advance, I identify the units up-front.

I do a LOT of research and reading…thank God I’m a fan of the BattleTech universe.  It also helps to have written a lot of that source material.  For my upcoming novel, I had to reread two of my novels and a Stackpole book to get some the details fleshed out and accurate.

Question:  Did you and the other authors (pre vid conference tech/internet) ever get together in person and do a group game?

Answer:  We used to assemble once a year at GenCon for breakfast – to map out the events for the coming year and where books and products fit in.  We stopped doing that after a while.  It was fun, but we all have slightly different creative processes.

Question: Did you guys share knowledge of characters/plot points?

Answer:  Sure!  We offer tips to each other to make the books fit together too.

Question:  Have any disagreements with other writers that may have demonstrated itself via faction vs faction, character vs character as inspiration in your writing?

Answer:  Yes, we disagree.  Not in that bitter…I’m going to kick your ass…kind of way.  We just approach things different.  For example:  When we plotted the Twilight of the Clans, my original idea was a commando raid to seize a Clan warship and rip the map out of the databanks.  Mike suggested, correctly, that the Clans were smarter than that – that we should get it some other way.  Thus Trent the traitor was born.

We didn’t agree on the assault on Huntress either.  I’ve written about this before.  I worked with Bill Keith and came up with a rocking solution that got shot down.  I still think our way was much cooler, Bill did a great job with a very loose concept, but in the end, we aligned on a solution.  Alignment means we agree, but we might not be happy about it at the time.

I was less-than-enthusiastic as to how Mike Stackpole handled Trent.  It didn’t keep me up at night.  I got where he was coming from with Victor’s perspective – but Trent was never about the revenge.  That was probably the only time I felt a little grumpy about one of my characters in someone else’s novel.  I respect Mike enough that it isn’t a sore spot or anything.  You have to remember – this is not our universe.  Topps/Catalyst controls it.  We just take it out for a test drive now and then.

Question:  Who is your favorite House, Clan, Merc Unit, and Character(s)?

Answers:

Mercenary Unit:  Snord’s Irregulars.

House:  Cameron (I’m a traditionalist)

Clan:  Smoke Jaguars…for all of the right reasons.

Characters:  Archer Christifori appeals to me, mostly because of my age and some similarities we share.  Trent is also very important to me, because ultimately he is a man driven by pure honor.  We all face challenges every day, fight battles, where the right answer is the wrong answer.  Trent embodies that.

Question:  Who would you say was the character you least liked?

Answer:  Kai Freaking Allard.  I respect Mike Stackpole.  Allard drives me bonkers – and for no really good reason.  It’s just a preference.

My least favorite character I wrote about was Adam Steiner.  Taking the cartoon series character and making him fit well in the novel universe was challenging.  I’m not sure I hit the mark even today.  Fitting in “Information is ammunition!” just felt awkward.

 

 

 

 

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 7

druid

Theren Meliamne…

“You threw a flaming tent on us!” Arius spat, his face still covered with soot, his right eyebrow singed from the flames.

“By all that soars on the wind, you paladin’s always find fault with the world.  It wasn’t intentional.  My magic surges from the ground and air.  How it impacts the world, sometimes is beyond my control,” I responded.  So much for gratitude.  My eyesight was just barely coming back…blinded by some ring on her finger.

“Don’t yell at Theren,” Bor replied.  “You set me on fire before then,” he fired off at Arius.

“Let us move past this,” I offered.  “She got away even if her henchmen didn’t.”

“It’s worse than you thought,” Bor replied as he wiped the ashes out of his beard.  “She had the Gray Rider’s pouch.”

“Are you certain?”

“I admit, I was on fire which was a bit distracting,” Bor replied with a wry grin.  “But yes, I saw it.  She has the message we were sent to recover.”

“Curse her and the soil she treads upon,” I said.  I walked over to the unconscious form of Althalus.  “I suppose we should awaken them, if we can.”  There was a slight mumur of protest but I bent down and shook the warlock hard.  He snapped awake, as if in a deep dream, drew his blade and raised it to my throat, catching himself at the last moment.

I grinned, deliberately.  “Wake up sleepy…”

“What…what did I miss?”

“Everything,” Arius replied as Bor woke up Galinndan.  It took a few minutes to fill them in.  Whatever poison the female had used was potent.  They were wobbly on their feet still.

“We should go after her,” Bor said.

“We are in no shape for another confrontation with her,” I replied.  My comrades had the right spirit, but I could see the weariness on their faces.  “We can use their camp and tents tonight.”

My blood-brothers and I moved into the tents.  In one we found a small chest, iron-banded and locked.  Galinndan was thrilled.  “A locked chest, we have no idea what is in it.”

“You’re the rogue.  You have a pick in your tools – have at it.”  We all took a step back.  There are plenty of children’s stories about booby-trapped chests, enough that we exercised caution.

There was an audible click and Galinndan grinned.  “I’ve got it!”

“Maybe you should check for…” thook!  He opened lid and the small poisoned needle struck Galinndan in the right cheek.  “…for traps.”  Staggered by another dose of poison, he nearly dropped the chest.  Inside we found it filled with gemstones, all rough, but still worth a considerable fortune.  There was a scroll in there as well, for a spell of biting cold, and three potions that were horribly labeled.  I suggested caution.  Such potions could do anything.  There was a silver dagger with a ruby in the pommel.  While not much of a weapon against the living, it might come in handy against the dead.

Arius found a sack in the other remaining tent.  He checked to make sure it was not rigged with any devious device, the opened it.  A snake, brasshead, poisonous and deadly, lunged out at him, narrowly missing him and the already brain-muddled Galinndan.  “Maybe we should capture that snake?” he suggested.

“You can,” Arius said.  “I will have nothing to do with a poisonous snake.”  He dumped out the contents and found more gems.

“We’re rich!”  Galinndan said.

“I do not care for money.  I came for that Gray Rider’s message, and she took it with her.”

We camped in the bedrolls of our defeated enemies.  Bor said that was part of victory, but I felt no victory in hand.  That woman had made off with that pouch.

Before the break of dawn the next day, I proposed that I, Bor, and Arius set off after her.  The others would remain at the camp in case she circled back on us.  She had not concealed her trail.  After mile or so the brush and trees ended and we were in steep rolling plains of grass. We followed her horse’s hoof prints for a while.  I was not too worried about splitting up our party.

Hours later we came up over a rise and she was there, standing next to her horse, that incredible curved sword pointing down, her arms crossed on the pommel.

“I’m impressed you followed me this far,” she said with remarkable calm.  I turned and gestured that none of us needed to arm ourselves…yet.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Lexa Lyoncroft she replied casually.  “I am impressed with your talents.  You took out some of my best men that I had with me.  Good fighters are hard to find.”  I almost got the sense when she said her name that she expected that we would have heard of her.

“You were the ones that ambushed us,” I returned flatly.

“Indeed.  I brought down your fury on us.  A mistake I will not make again.  Not that I was concerned.  I could take you all out without even breaking a sweat.”  There was a creepy confidence in her voice.  She definitely believed her own words – this was no idle boast.

“What are you doing here in the fields?” I probed.

“My employer hired me to gather information, as well as rob those traveling the area,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Why?”

“There is an ill wind in the north…rumors of things that—well—are best left unmentioned.  My employer has his reasons.  Asking too many questions in my line of work can get someone killed.  Now then, why are you here?”

“We came,” Arius said, “For that pouch you have…the Gray Rider’s.  He showed up in our village and died.  We came to recover it – to complete his ride.”

She grinned and despite my vows, I swear, I could feel the energy come off of her.  “Well then, we seem to be at an impasse.”

“We have your treasure,” I offered.  “Perhaps an exchange is in order.”

“You wish to parlay with me?” she asked, as if she were intrigued that we would offer it…and perhaps disappointed we would not fight her.

“Yes,” I replied proudly.

“Very well, let us begin.  I cannot let you have that rider’s pouch or message.  Giving that to you would violate my agreement with my employer, and he is a man…uh, person, that one does not cross.”

“We have sworn to complete the rider’s mission,” I returned.

“What is your proposal then?”

“She is a dangerous foe, but we could take her,” Arius said in a low tone.

“You could try,” she replied.  “If you think because I am a woman I am easy prey sir knight, I assure you, I could filet you before you could draw my blood.”

I held my hands out to ease the tension.  “There is no need for swordplay or threats here.  We are in parlay.”  The problem with paladins – they always want some sort of justice.  “Perhaps we could merely read the note that that rider was carrying.”

Lexa paused.  “Interesting…that would allow me to honor my sworn oath to my employer.  What do you have to offer?”

“We could return your treasure,” I countered.

“And my pet snake Reggie,” she said.

“That bloody snake is gone,” Arius said.  “And good riddance.”

“That is disappointing…and I am afraid, not nearly enough.  I need to profit from this in order to justify my actions to my employer.”

“That is all that we have,” I returned.

She laughed, not a little laugh, but a belittling chuckle at my expense.  “You did not travel this far in the Gellesian Fields without finding something to line your pockets.  If you want to see this message, you have to offer me something more.  Otherwise this parlay is ended and we either part ways or shed blood.”

I paused, my mind racing for something we had that might entice her.  Then I remembered, there was one treasure we had found that might be worth something.

“What about a demon’s skull?”

“A demon’s skull?  Where did you get it?”

“We slew an ogre.  It was stuck on his club,” Arius replied.

“You slew Pot Head?”  Lexa seemed genuinely impressed and I stood a little taller at the compliment.

“Indeed we did,” I offered.  “I such a rare artifact worth something to you?”

That wicked and beautiful smile returned, like a snake coiled to strike.  “That may very well be of interest to my employer.   Bring it her and we can make the exchange.”

I paused and felt my face turn red.  “Well, we don’t have it with us.  We hid it several days ago.  We will have to go and retrieve it.”

She nodded.  “Very well.  We will meet in ten days atop the tallest of the Bailey Hills.  You bring my treasure and the skull, I will being the note.”

“Agreed.”

“This parlay is ended,” she said mounting her white horse.  “Do not attempt to cross me.  Better men have tried and died.”  Before I could assure her, she rode off.

Arius moved up next to me.  “I don’t trust her.”

“Nor do I,” I replied.  “But what choice do we have.  Besides, there are worse things.”

“Like what?” the paladin sneered.

One of us has to tell Althalus that we just used his precious demon skull as a bargaining chip.”

There was an audible moan.  Just then the remnants of our party arrived.  I cringed, knowing that telling the warlock he had lost that skull was going to bring about no end to his griping.  Frankly the rest of us were going to be glad to be rid of the thing.

I hope you’re enjoying the novelization of our current campaign.  I think the players are thus far.  Here’s links to the previous sections.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 6

fighters

Bor Boskin

After we slew the zombies once and for all we set out north along the road through the Fields.  It was as long trudge, with a cool drizzle coming down and the sky filled with clouds. There were not many sunny days in the Gellesian Fields – perhaps tied to the horrors that had fought there.

We arrived at five hills that made the road swing to the east.  I had heard of these – the Bailey Hills.  Two still had the massive oaks atop them.  After the long days of fighting, when the Black Banner was defeated – with many driven into the Fangs of Kraylor, the surviving leaders were brought here.  Taken up the rocky slopes, the war criminals were hung, one at a time.  Their bodies, if I remember the story correctly, were carried down and burned in a large pyre at the base of the largest hill.  This was a place where the end of the battle was cemented.  Evil had been driven away, for the time being.

As the road snaked along the farthest hill, we saw a statue, some forty-feet in height, mounted on a stone pedestal.  It was a warrior, bold, daring, in full armor, looking upward at the rain filled clouds. One hand of the old statue rested on the hilt of a giant stone sword, now broken into fragments at the base of the memorial.  We cleared away the moss and vines and read the words on the base.  “To commemorate the gallant that stood against the plague of darkness to save the world.  Rejoice in a victory won of bravery, blood and the power arcane!”

This is how I wish to be remembered!  Every swordsman wants to see such a monument to their valor and I am no exception.

We searched the base of the monument and Galinndan found one panel that seemed to conceal a door or opening.  I was going to suggest that we try and pry it off, but Althalus unleashed a bolt of his accursed magic, shattering the upper corner of the stone.  He lacks the subtlety that I do for such matters.  The last thing I wanted was to discrete such a monument.  I will have to talk to that warlock…

There was a narrow stone spiral staircase leading down. I could not see anything in the almost pitch dark, though my comrades assured me it was safe.  At the bottom, some dozen feet down, there was a seven by seven chamber.  In the center was a pedestal holding a stone urn.  This was no ordinary urn, I could sense that even if I could barely make it out.  The urn was as deep as my arm if not longer, and half that across.  Around the outside you could see the markings of weapons – arrows, swords, battle axes, pikes…decorating the urn. Inside the urn was a shimmering film of gold foil and it was filled with a pure liquid.

Arius put his sword in the water and it seemed to throb – vibrating for a few moments.  He pulled it out and boasted that it was light, almost as if it had no weight at all.  Theren put his quarterstaff in and the water rippled there around it.  Clearly some enchantment was happening here, but it was beyond me.  Galinndan tried his blade but nothing happened.  Disappointed, he dumped out his flask and filled it with the fluid.  “We will not give you anything to drink,” Theren warned…but the rogue ignored him.  Perhaps he knows something I do not.  Then I remembered, it is Gal – this is what he does…if only for the humor. “Rogues are a merry lot, laugh at you while they cut your purse,” as the bard’s song goes.

We started back on the road but found a trail, more recent, leading east.  There was something about it that didn’t seem right so we went to investigate. We moved through the brush and Gal at the front of the line stumbled into a snare trap.  He was dangling there of the trail, upside down.  The others worried about cutting him down.  I was concerned that we had alerted whoever had set the trap that we were on the trail.  I drew my weapon.  A fight was coming – and the others didn’t see it yet.  The benefits of my training is to spot it first.

We came to a clearing and there were three tents there.  The path led down the middle of them to where a woman stood, her hands bound behind her back, tied to a stake.  At her feet was a pile of kindling as if they planned on burning her alive.  Her shield lay against the pile as well.

To say she possessed beauty was an understatement. She was lean and strong – I could see that.  She wore light armor that pushed her ample bosoms out.  I saw that armor and knew it was not decorative.  It was designed for a true swordsman.

“Help me,” she said just above a whisper.  “They’ll be back any minute.”

“Who?” Arius asked.

“We don’t have time for this,” she beckoned.  Help me.”

“This does not feel right,” I offered.  Arius agreed.  The paladin was not being seduced by her breasts the way the others were.  Holy oaths come at a high price indeed.

We moved forward slowly and suddenly four warriors jumped out.  Two were a pair of identical barbarians, twins or some sort of illusion.  “Very well,” the girl sighed.  She stepped out and swung her untied hands out – with two hand-held crossbows.

She fired, not wildly, but with deadly accuracy.  One hit Althalus, toppling him instantly.  Poison!  It had to be.  The other hit Galinndan and he dropped.

My head roared like a storm as my blood boiled for battle!  Arius and I rushed the barbarians and I lost track of Theren in the chaos of the fight.  Arius summed his Searing Smite and his blade burned with a crackling holy fire.  He swung at one of the twins, missing him by six inches and hitting me as I hit the other.  My cloak caught on fire – in the middle of the battle.  I spun and tossed it off as I had trained to do.  I was hurt, but managed to dive on the barbarian with the large fine war hammer.  I drove my sword through his shoulder hard and deep and he fell hard.

Arius spun and swung again, missing his foe – instead hitting the nearby tent, sending it up in flames.

“It’s not my fault!” the paladin bemoaned as hit finally hit his target, spraying gore in the air.

“It’s not mine either,” I replied, joining him.

The last barbarian battled on against the two of us.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Theren moving behind us, on the other side of the burning tent.  The battlefield is burned in my mind even now.  We pressed our advantage and slew the last of the barbarians when there was a thunderous explosion behind us.

Theren! The druid had summoned the might of the soil and sky and unleash a thunderwave.  The arcane explosion knocked his foe down but also sent out a shockwave right at us.  The magic spell tore at the burning tent, tossing it on top of Arius and myself.  I spun to get out, half laughing in the process.  Arius had set me on fire and the tent, and now was ablaze from his own actions.  The gods have a sense of humor!

As he pulled the flaming shard of canvas off of himself, we spun only to see the female standing there, a brilliant curved longsword, the likes of which I have never seen, and a yellow and purple tower shield.  “Enough!” she howled, in a voice that sounded almost as if she had been in the military.  We looked at her.  “Let us end this.”  Some sort of brilliant flash went off.  I managed to avert my eyes but our druid was blinded, he shaded his eyes and staggered.

“We didn’t start this,” Theren said.  I muttered a prayer that he would not try and cast a spell while blinded.

“Let us smite her,” spat Arius, his face covered in his own soot.

“Yes,” I found myself saying through gritted teeth.  “We will end this.

She almost looked bored. Putting her fingers to her teeth she whistled and a white horse burst across the camp.  With perfect precision she jumped onto its back and charged away.

It was in that last moment I saw it – the Gray Rider’s saddle bag, hanging off of her saddle.  It was the very thing we had been sent to recover.

Curse that wench!

I hope you enjoyed this “novelization” of the party thus far.  Here are the previous episodes in case you missed them.  You can always subscribe to my blog too.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

 

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 5

geek

Sir Arius The Seeker…

We finished the last of the cockatrice and were winded from the fight.  Althalus was walking with a limp and I saw why.  The cockatrice had bitten him and he had a patch of flesh that had become petrified on his thigh – nearly twice the size of my sword hand.  He kept asking if it was permanent, as if any of us knew.  We’ve never faced these creatures before.  Looking at the statues around the base of what we came to call Cockatrice Hill, my assumption was that his condition was likely permanent.

I carefully cleaned the creature’s blood from my blade and we turned our attention to the den.  I do not know the properties of cockatrice blood – and have no desire to learn it firsthand.  Their den was nothing but a dank little hole in the ground at the base of the hill, carved out of the bones and stones.  White-gray cockatrice crap, baked in the sun, was like a foul concrete that killed everything it landed on all around the den.  And the stench!  There was little there that I would want to check.  “If you want to look for treasure in such a hell-hole, you are welcome to it.”

Our thief Galinndan, no stranger to foul stench (his cooking skills leave much to be desired), crawled in the musty hole and emerged with some booty.  Good and silver have allure to him.  With me it is only honor I seek.

He found a silver flask, encrusted with dung and filled with God only knows what.  There was a silver dagger with a ruby still in its pommel.  Eight silver pieces were all that the beasts had in their filthy little hole. I do not care for the treasure from such evil creatures.  Killing them only provided me with a trifling of honor.

We made camp – though I must admit, while that tall hill covered in the bones of the dead creatures of the Gellesian Fields provided us some cover on one flank, I could not sleep well that night.  The bones of the dead tend to stir men of my Order.  It was only my prayers that finally allowed me to get some sleep.

Althalus did surprise us all.  He said that he was leaving that accursed demon skull in the den of these creatures.  He muttered something about “…consulting with the skull…” then told us he intended to hide it there to recover at a later date.  As holy warrior it took all of my restraint not to smash it when he wasn’t looking.  He had not slept since prying that skull out of the ogre’s club.  Nothing good was going to come from that skull – the glowing crimson eyes were a warning – one up to now he had ignored.  Little did I realize the role that skull was destined to play in the days to come.

We proceeded onward, north along the road.  Traversing the Fields was unnerving.  It is hard to walk those lands and not think of the battles that tore up that ground so many years ago.  They say that not all of the Black Banner were driven into the gash – that there are places where the dead walk the fields. I heard the stories in my youth from my mother but laughed them off as I got older.  Now though, I can tell you, the stories are true!

In a cool drizzling rain we found ourselves assailed by four dead creatures.  Men and elves from what I could tell, adorned in rusted fragments of chainmail, I heard them at the same time I smelled the stench of rotting flesh.  They carried weapons and looked more dead than alive, but moved as if there was still fragment of life in their skulls.

I closed my eyes and summoned my holy energy – I could feel it flowing through my hand and into my sword.  My blade burned with holy power and I slashed, hitting one of the creatures.  Bor and I waded into these reeking dead men, sending bits of rotting flesh and rusted mail flying as we waded into them.

The battle raged all around us.  We would take these abominations down, only to have them rise again.  These lost souls were clearly soldiers that had fought here and had refused to die – even in death. Galinndan was bit on the lower neck and let go a howl that made my skin crawl.  Bor flailed off the arm of one of the elven monstrosities, sending it flailing in the air.  Althalus unleashed a blast of his accursed magic, missing the creatures but hitting poor Bor in the process – knocking him out of the fray.  I must admit, there are times I wonder about this warlock.  He keeps muttering about his need to fulfill a greater vision.  At what point will he turn against us to pursue his geas?  Is he doing that already?  Some of his misses make me wonder…

We would smite these walking corpses, only to have them rise back to their feet and come at us again.  It took us several minutes to hack them apart to the point where no ungodly power could hope to rise them against us.

I knelt at my sword and uttered a short prayer for Bor.  He had been hit by us more than these rotting horrors.  I came to realize that this was the least of the horrors we were destined to face in the Fields.

I hope you enjoyed this “novelization” of the party thus far.  Here are the previous episodes in case you missed them.

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-1-of-my-new-dd-campaign/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-2/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-3/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/to-the-gellesian-fields-part-4/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/my-new-dd-campaign-additional-character-background-stuff-that-you-can-use/

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/player-background-info-for-my-new-dd-campaign/