Friday, 28 November 2014

The Week that Was


The Realms on parade

Thief, Mage, Cleric, and Ranger. Oh, and Demon.

Getting ready to write.

The tools of the trade

DM's Station

Gaming Table

First Hex Done

Waste Weird


Refuse Ray

Frog/Hobbit. Froggit? Hrog? I like Hrog myself.

Ragged Tooth Shark


Bo and the Beast Part Five

V. Of Black Stones and Forgotten Buddhas. The Beast Comes. Courage and Rectitude. 
In the morning the sky was baleful; skittish clouds and orange thunderheads stacked up on the horizon. Kaidan and Bo stood at the smouldering remains of the inn. Charred beams, like tossed yarrow sticks, lay criss-crossed over one another, resembling the I-Ching’s symbol for loss. The cloying smell of burnt hair and flesh was everywhere.
“What happened here?” asked Bo.
A young man, part of a gathering crowd of onlookers, stepped forward and said,” The beast came again. It ripped the doors off the walls then slew all that it found inside... I think a lantern was knocked over. Had it not been for that rain storm, the entire town would have gone up in flames. I saw the whole thing from across the road.” The man pointed with his thumb over his shoulder.
“What do you see, Bo?” asked Kaidan.
“Death,” said Bo quietly, overturning a broken sword with his boot. There were several smoking corpses gathered around where the bar would have been. He wondered which one of them was the man with the top-knot.
The beast had done him one favour though, a much unanticipated one; it had taken care of his competition for him. Bo was now on his own, whether he liked it or not.
“And did you see the beast?” Bo asked the man.
He shook his head. “No, but I heard it... it, bellowed. Like a bull.”
 Kaidan stood leaning on his staff as Bo walked the muddy perimeter of the inn looking for something, anything to tell him more about the beast that had caused this destruction. He bent to pick up a blackened lantern and was rewarded by the sight of an unusual footprint beneath it.
“I think I have something here,” shouted Bo.
“What is it?”
“A footprint, and a big one at that; it’s clawed like a bear’s, but more angular towards the heel, human almost,” said Bo kneeling, examining the mark more closely. He was excited; at last he had something to work with. Bo carried the lantern absentmindedly as he followed the trail down the street and up the small path that passed by the smithy. The footprints went all the way up the hill through the standing stones, under the ancient tree, stopping beneath a large jagged stone twice Bo’s size that reminded him of a shark’s tooth. Bo ran his hand over the flaking black rock slick with dew. He felt a strange sensation; as if he were standing in a long corridor that whipsawed under his feet throwing him from side to side. He felt buffeted by a strong wind that blew through the imaginary passageway in his mind. The feeling he got was that it led to a dead place, a place of ancient dreams that were as dry and dusty as the scrolls housed in the Temple of Light. Bo wasn’t sure what it was, but it stopped the moment he let go of the damp stone. A crow sounded its disgust at being disturbed; he watched it take flight into the overcast sky. Off to one side, almost as an afterthought, was a statue of Lord Buddha that Bo hadn’t spotted from the road. It felt out of place amongst such primal imagery.
“The footprints stop at the largest stone Kaidan, what kind of place is this anyway?” asked Bo wiping his wet hand on his legs.
“An old one,” said Kaidan. “My master said it was an ancient site of human sacrifice and best left alone. But when the new Daimyo came, he began executing prisoners here. It’s an awful place,” said Kaidan quietly, the discomfort audible in his voice. Kaidan pulled his robes around him and shivered, as if he were standing in a cold, harsh, wind.

“I need another favour from you, brother Kaidan,” said Bo.
“Anything, Bo. What can I do?”
“I need you to go door to door and tell the people to light no light tonight, nor make no sound. I need us to be the only ones making a racket. When you’re done, meet me back here; there is much work to be done.” He watched the monk walk down the hill with his robes catching in the wind. Bo and Kaidan spent the remainder of the day preparing for the clash that lay ahead. When done, they retired to the temple an hour before sunset.
“Will you have something to eat, Bo?” asked Kaidan, standing over a steaming pot.
“No thank you, I fight better on an empty stomach,” said Bo as he rubbed lamp-black on his hands and face and sword blade. He wore an old lamentation robe over his armour; now more grey than black, but it would help Bo remain undetected in the dark. Kaidan was dressed the same, but with a Biwa strung over his back instead of a massive two-handed sword. When they had finished their preparations, the two men walked slowly through the darkened town toward the hill. Their thoughts focused on way lay ahead.
“No matter what happens, I want you to stay in the tree, Kaidan, don’t come down, understand? Play only until the beast arrives, then no more.”
“Fear not, brother, I will be as silent as the grave...sorry, that’s a poor choice of words,” said Kaidan laughing, and slapping Bo on his armoured back in apology, “I’ll be as silent as I can.”
The sell-sword laughed too. He had come to enjoy Kaidan’s companionship, which was strange for Bo who had always been a loner. They walked up the path that led to the hill where Bo planned for this to play out, and hopefully, if the Kami were kind, in his and Kaidan’s favour.
They skirted the gallows tree, under which Bo had placed their trap. He had laid the fisherman’s net out on the bald spot beneath the noose. It was here that hanging victims kicked the earth as they were pulled up by the rope, then left to hang in the tree until dead.  He had concealed the net with grass, fallen leaves, and piles of dirt. The net was attached to ballast, and the ropes wound around the thickest branches of the tree. All Bo had to do was to wait until the beast reached its centre, before releasing the weight. The net would close, and the monster would be pulled up into the tree. Once there, Bo and Kaidan could dispatch the beast safely from below. That was his plan anyway, but Bo was seasoned enough to know that every plan goes awry after first contact with the enemy.
 They had stuck thirteen torches into the ground between the standing stones. As Kaidan climbed the tree, using his Ki to sense the world around him, Bo sat in front of the forgotten statue of Buddha and offered up a prayer.

“Know that I am Bo, and tonight I seek to rid this village of what ails it. Hear my words and guide my blade to restore the balance to this place.” He bowed courteously to the unseen host of Buddhas both past and present then stood, and lit the torches one by one. The flames were pulled horizontally by the breeze. He sat in the shadows beside the path to the village, with his naked blade across his legs.  Behind him, the village was dark and silent. No sound carried on the wind, except for the creaking of the ancient tree before him. He shouted to Kaidan to begin his playing as the moon rose languidly over the horizon; not yet full, but Bo was glad for the extra light that it afforded.

 Kaidan played and sang; his voice strong and sure, belying how he felt inside. Before long, Bo felt the hairs on his neck rise. They were not alone. Bo knew that to see things in the dark, you mustn’t stare straight at it, but to its side, so he focused on a spot just left of the black standing stone, and saw the darkness shift and swirl and give birth to a creature more fearsome than he imagined. Kaidan, sensing the arrival of the creature, stopped playing. His last note hung in the air like the screeching of a rutting tom-cat.
Bo watched as the beast took shape, transforming shadow into flesh. It stood tall and wide, and carried a huge hammer with a wooden head that was the size of a cask of rice-wine, and banded with iron spikes that caught the glare from the torches and threw them back at the night.
The beast tilted its horned head backward and sniffed the air. It held its fearsome weapon at the ready and walked forward cautiously into the ring of stones.

 It was an Oni...

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Wizard Yozz and the War-Pigs of Power

Toward the final moments of the Battle of Beltane, the Wizard Yozz saw which way the blood was flowing and the wind was blowing, so he did what any craven of his kind would do... he fled.
He dragged a passing cavalryman from his horse, and made all haste to his tower so that he might take several of his most valuable possessions with him, before fleeing the inevitable retribution. He packed only the essentials, his notebooks (kept in such tiny handwriting you needed a scry glass to read them), his spell books, and several crates containing his life’s ambition.
 All of this was loaded onto a wagon by the remaining four members of his house staff (the others he had experimented on), who were in turn set on fire for their troubles; in fact, when the Lord of Storms finally made his way through the darkened wood, to the glade of the fell Wizard, the bodies of the unfortunate henchmen were still roasting and spitting on the doorstep giving off the most frightful aroma.
But alas for the Lord and his men, for they were too late, the Wizard Yozz was safely ensconced below decks on a smuggler vessel called the Cracked Tusk, making its way across the choppy waters to what is known as Eilean Dubh, but called the Black Isle by those who dwell there.
Shortly after dusk of the following day, the boat made landfall at the harbour town known as Tenkar’s Landing. Here, the Wizard slipped ashore as quietly, and as deadly, as the ship’s rats that had brought the plague with them, all those years before. He cast a dweomer on his appearance so that none of the Lord’s spies might recognise him, and proceeded to blend into the local populace.
And so it went, for at least six months, and during this time the Wizard did nothing more wizardly than light his pipe with his finger! In fact, he spent most of his time, deep in his cups at a flavourful and favourite local establishment, called Tenkar’s Tavern. Run by a particularly grumpy dwarf, also called Tenkar, the Wizard found solace amongst the riff-raff and ruffians that frequented that place. It was a good place to lose yourself Yozz decided, so that’s what he did.
But he longed to get back to his work... it gnawed at him day and night, haunted his dreams, and chased him vigorously no matter where he went. On the seventh month, having decided there was nothing for it, he began again.
No one noticed at first.
Especially not the genial inhabitants of the Landing, no, they were too busy living life to see the darkness that blossomed among them. It was the children that disappeared first, the unloved, the orphans, the by-blows no one wanted. Then it was the sick and the elderly that went next. It was only a few weeks later when suspicions were aroused, and the local constabulary raided his dwelling. In the basement they found terrible things, unspeakable things, and it is not for me to tell you what it was exactly... but know only that it was unholy and defied the very gods themselves. But again, whatever foul deity the Wizard served must have been smiling down on him, as he was well beyond the Landing’s limits as armoured dwarves were kicking in his doors.
He journeyed for days, weeks, months, through hill and vale stopping only to eat, and gather more specimens. It was nearly another six-month later that he found himself at the heart of a foul and pestilent swamp just a few miles from a sheltered cove on the south-west side of the isle. It was perfect for his needs. Six miles at least, in any direction from anything even remotely resembling a town, here he could do what he wanted and no one would be any the wiser. The only problem was the lack of human subjects, but again the dark lord’s blessing fell into his lap, and he was gifted by a multitude of escaped pigs gone feral , called Razorbacks by the few locals.
Here he bred them, and attached them, and morphed them, and sewed them together with whatever else he could get his hands on...and eventually, after many years of foul sorceries and wyrd energies, he had finally created what he deemed worthy of his attentions...the War-Pigs.
Taller than any man, and nearly ten times as strong, these giant, walking Razorbacks, are now his personal army, and trained to carry out his commands without question. An unhealthy amalgamation of both man, and Razorback, they walk on human legs with pig’s feet at the end of them, and use their human arms to swing whatever weapons they have been given. Their heads and faces are those of the pig, but with tusks like a wild boar, and they possess the keenest sense of smell that allows them to sniff out their foes, be they hidden by shadow or sorcery.

Trained in armed combat from birth, they are fierce warriors and now number in their thousands. Tired of living in the backwaters of the  Black Isle, the Wizard has decided to march them north to Tenkar’s Landing to settle old scores, then commandeer a vessel for another assault on the mainland. Only time will tell what happens, but if the Wizard’s past is anything to go by, you can be assured that this time, fortune might just indeed favour the insane...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

G is for Gang... gang names for your hardscrabble city adventures.

            1)         The Crabs
2)          The Dead Unicorns
3)          The Scarlet Sceptres
4)          The 40 Thieves
5)          The Meat Hooks
6)          The Leaking Lepers
7)          The Dripping Dogs
8)          The Undead Uglies
9)          The Rancid Rats
10)      The Crow Roads
11)      The Butchers Aprons
12)      The Long-Odds
13)      The Peg Legs
14)      The Penitent Rascals
15)      The Leering Shadows
16)      The Pig Stickers
17)      The Beaten Path
18)      The Pall Bearers
19)      The Plague Rats
20)      The Swarm
21)      The Purple Tongues
22)      The Ravens Curse
23)      The Fleas of a 1000 Camels
24)      The Bashful Brawlers
25)      The Nosy Parkers
26)      The 1000 Lashes
27)      The Dungeon Dockers
28)      The Flies
29)      The Midden’s Salute
30)      The Busted Pustules
31)      The Poisoned Wells
32)      The Funeral Pyres
33)      The Pus Boys
34)      The Gutter Snipes
35)      The Stormy Seventy
36)      The Outhouse Heroes
37)      The Rotting Corpses
38)      The Phlegm Mongers
39)      The Rancid Heathens
40)      The Burning Crotches
41)      The Bad to the Bones
42)      The Yawning Abysses
43)      The Trolls Head Trawlers
44)      The Swollen Throats
45)      The Sticky Fingers
46)      The Splutter Butts
47)      The Grave Diggers
48)      The Spoiled Sausages
49)      The Vipers
50)      The Lead Bit
51)      The Saddle Sore
52)      The Piss Heads
53)      The Fey
54)      The Comrades
55)      The Infected
56)      The Bloody Fists
57)      The Flaming Knots
58)      The Grinning Deaths
59)      The Dagger Kids
60)      The Smiling Savages
61)      The Killing Kind
62)      The Sewerage Barrels
63)      The Spores
64)      The Pick-Pocket Delights
65)      The Witches’ Teats
66)      The Misfortunes
67)      The Swamp Breath Bastards
68)      The Deaths Head Boys
69)      The Massacres
70)      The Spawn Singers
71)      The Flotsam and Jetsams
72)      The Spiders Web
73)      The Goats Head Stompers
74)      The Hangman’s Helpers
75)      The Pay the Pipers
76)      The Axe Man’s  Associates
77)      The Golden Bones
78)      The Gambling Nuggets
79)      The Jugglers
80)      The Rusty Crowns
81)      The Ancient Mariners
82)      The Bleeding Gashes
83)      The Rictus Rovers
84)      The Piggery Plucks
85)      The Manacled Many
86)      The Chimney Sweepers
87)      The Devils Dozen
88)      The Power Slaves
89) The River’s Head Scoundrels
90)      The Heroes Lament
91)      The Nee’r do Wells
92)      The Ousted Brutes
93)      The Lucid Skulls
94)      The Brawny Weathers
95)      The Black Toothed Grins
96)      The Nursery Nightmares
97)      The Occult Riders
98)      The Rovers Biscuits
99)      The Rascals
100)  The Swollen Gums
101)  The Orcs Tooth Normals
102)  The Middlemen
103)  The Dwarf Hoppers
104)  The Melee
105)  The Looters
106)  The Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds
107)  The Liturgies of Hate
108)  The Headless Hollows
109)  The Flickers
110)  The Lazy Eyes
111)  The Iron Rations
112)  The Doom Sayers
113)  The Infernal Volk
114)  The Freebooters
115)  The Bootstrap Boys
116)  The Fare’ thee Wells
117)  The Flailing Men
118)  The Slaughter House Five
119)  The Lesser Parts o’ Valour
120)  The Hounds o’ Hell
121)  The Beasts from the East
122)  The Giblets
123)  The Hollow Men
124)  The Troll Booths
125)  The Beasts of Burden
126)  The Lantern Swifts
127)  The Roasted Hogs
128)  The Swaddled Runts
129)  The Buried Alives
130)  The Cracked Chapter
131)  The Wyrms
132)  The Zombies Lurch
133)  The Crooked Staffs
134)  The Blood Bath Brethren
135)  The Grudge Matches
136)  The Eyes o’ the Beholder
137)  The Bad-hat Badgers
138)  The Drunken Stupors
139)  The Hard Scrabbles
140)  The Coffin Kids
141)  The Death Dealers
142)  The Ferryman’s Few
143)  The Barbary Apes
144)  The Anarchy Eleven
145)  The Brewers Droop
146)  The Buckled Helms
147)  The Fool and his Monies
148)  The Marauders
149)  The Scowl
150)  The Back Alley Bouncers
151)  The Taxmen
152)  The Scarecrows
153)  The Fatted Calves
154)  The Chaos Elite
155)  The Sooth-Sayers
156)  To the Manor Borns
157)  The Shamans
158)  The Soliloquists
159)   The Seventh Sons of a Sevenths Son
160)  The Adders
161)  The Red-Faced Ruffians
162)  The Gale-Force Nines
163)  The Furies
164)  The Storm Cloud Lackeys
165)  The Tempests
166)  The Dockside Danglers
167)  The Merchants Miseries
168)  The Stone-Cold Curmudgeons
169)  The Prophets o’ Doom
170)  The Clap-clap Kids
171)  The Nemesis Knights
172)  The Vexed Vixens
173)  The Side-Street Sixty
174)  The Litch’s Lackeys
175)  The Mangy Mob
176)  The Surly Shields
177)  The Wine Dark Seas
178)  The Cravens Curse
179)  The Blood Brother Brigade
180)  The Lightning Lickers
181) The Locksmith Lynchers
182) The Men they Tried to Hang