The Bend

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Jeffrey Alan Love

A little background. I was running a Pathfinder game for some friends a few months ago. A neophyte-friendly, short campaign to introduce a bunch of youngsters to the hoary arts of dice rollin’. 

I got busy, and they got busy — and is all too often the case, we never got to the end of the story.

This weekend, out of the blue, one of the players emailed me. Warming the cockles of my wintry aorta — they asked how the story was going to end.

I stared at the email on my phone and mouthed the words, “How am I supposed to know?”

Maybe I’m a bad storyteller, or a bad DM – but my brain doesn’t operate the way. I can only see so far ahead of the players, just one bend ahead. That’s half the excitement for me — finding the story. Getting little glimpses of the horizon. Broken snippets, and flashes of moments, and vague ideas that will only fall into place when the time is right.

I mean, I generally know the end. The big events, the major developments — but the steps that link these, the tiny choices, human moments that connect them? Who knows?

And this, of course, made me think about Spell/Sword.

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CASUAL SEGUE.

Because I do know the end of that story. And it’s horrible. The adventures of Jonas and Rime do not end well. Their tale ends in shadow.

Maybe that’s why I’m so excited to tell their story. I know where they end, but I don’t know how they got there. And as long as I don’t know, then it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it doesn’t have to happen?

It does have to happen.

But they will shine before the end. That’s all that I ask. For the book, for this dimension, for everything. Because everything ends. The sum total of human expression: the light we emit before nightfall.

Running away from the end, running away from maturity. This is a feat that I am familiar with — maybe I can help them run faster than I did?

Well, this turned maudlin.

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RETROGRADE SEGUE

I was staring at my phone, at the email — wondering what to tell the player. Then I knew, I knew what to tell him. I turned the bend, and there was the answer like I had always known it, like I had outlined it carefully on graph paper in my head. Fortunately for this story, it’s not a true ending — more of a End of the Beginning. The end of their first adventure, and a hook into the next. 

Here’s what I told him.

The Heroes of Riddlewood [you guys] would have explored the ominous manor of the Count, encountering many strange things and perils in their search for the kidnapped adventurer, Martin Wise. They would have located the prisoner behind a secret wall that lead to a high tower. Under the cover of night, the party attempts a daring rescue mission, only to do battle with the supernatural minions of the count – undead primarily, along with a couple of lycanthropes. They break out Martin and race back through the manor to escape, where they are caught by the Count himself. The Count attacks, revealing several dark powers, that seem to emanate from a gauntlet that he wears. The young heroes are overwhelmed by the assault — until reinforcements arrive in the form of the elder adventurer, Dennis Wise and the local magical instructor, Vurbane and his Mouse Brigade. The two old men work together to seal part of the Count’s dark power, allowing the party to fight back on even ground. The final blow falls and the dark gauntlet shatters — a phantom erupts from the Count’s body, and shrieks promises of revenge into the abyss.

The Count awakes, and thanks the heroes from saving him from the spirit that had possessed him for many months. The source of the possession was obviously the gauntlet, but the Count shares disquieting news…the gauntlet comes from a larger suit of armor unearthed from his family crypt. He had terrible nightmares about the armor for weeks, until he felt compelled to put on the gauntlet. He has no reliable memory of his time under the dark spirit’s control — but he has a terrible feeling that he spent some time sending pieces of the armor all throughout the land….

Another story leading off into the unknown, a story with no end — just a beginning. 

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