Sunset Falls on the Weeping Gate

Edward Felspar

On Assignment

Vyle Tymes – 25th of Psydros, 2015

History sleeps all around us. In the stones of the roadway, in the iron of the rail, in the scars that lekpalios hide behind full flagons or a worker’s blue or a traveler’s cloak. As we walk the streets of Vyle we can hear the shuddering breath of the sleeper, feel its sighs on our backs as the Tagma march by. The clamor of the train is the heartbeat, slow and steady as History dreams. But we must walk with care, for we can never be sure of the days when History will wake and speak again in letters of fire.

ASH
ASH Insignia – From File

It was this reporter’s privilege to be present at the Weeping Gate of Smyrna bare hours ago, to watch the most perilous and remarkable Fey assault since Amarant Field be turned aside by a single unit of the Advance Special Hoplite: the Antichyros of Sunset. Details are few and far between at this heedless hour – but many eye witness accounts will soon fill the ears of every citizen of Vyle with what they saw that day. Let this be the first. The larger details of the account will certainly be forthcoming in these pages as time and diligence can locate them.

According to the ASH Desk, the ATC Sunset was dispatched to investigate a communication lapse at Fort Terra. They found the outpost empty except for a few soldiers recovering from a strange sickness. There they were set upon by a gigantic beast with a form similar to a fox that pursued them and the survivors even to the vast ironbane bastion of Smyrna, the Weeping Gate. After seeing to the care of the Fort’s survivors, the ATC Sunset were immediately dispatched by Tagma leadership to delay and distract the creature. From all reports it had gone mad with rage and pain and was throwing itself against the Gate itself. Tagma Silver officials insist that the city was in little danger and the damage to the gate was minimal, but this reporter and the many citizens who stood on the walls know the truth. The great fox’s eyes were not those of a beast and it’s aim was clear.  The Fey creature was well on the way to tearing the gates asunder and filling the streets of Smyrna with horror and fire.

How could any mortal hope to contend with such alien malice?

Then, as if struck by lightning, the great fox fell still. Its flesh began to tear and boil, bursting asunder like meat on the griddle. The beast fell apart into horrible droplets of violet viscera, like foul jelly scattered at the foot of the Weeping Gate. ASH Archon Nadia Soon – the White Rose of Vyle – spoke to reporters after the battle, relating the bizarre strategy employed to destroy the beast. The ATC Sunset had borrowed simple demolition charges from the station, then wrapped them with ironbane shrapnel found about the Smyrna Repair Yard. This makeshift device was then hurled into the center mass of the great fox and ignited by a well placed bolt of fire from Demiarchos Coram Lethane of ATC Sunset.

This brilliant tactical move was not the end of their work. The bits of remaining flesh still moved in attack -compelled by the dark will of a hooded figure that hovered on the battle’s edge, hurling fire at the brave soldiers. The citizens of Smyrna were as silent as the grave – too caught up in the plight of their defenders to cry out in either alarm or battle pride. In silence they watched the five members of the ATC Sunset do battle. The spells and ceaseless flashing camera of the bard Ansel, the vicious strikes of the knight Nora, the flames that ever flow from Lethane’s hands – hot as the sun, the brutal axe of the juggernaut Gish, the catlike grace and mortal blows of the monk Etrian. They bled in the engine yard, they cut the foul things down and sent their hooded master screaming into the wilderness whence it came.

They stood up from the battle, their own blood wet on their uniforms, and the golden sun sank behind them. At last the watchers on the wall could breathe, at last they could cry out, at last they could exclaim in jubilation for their saviors, their heroes.

This reporter was there, but did not cry out. Wide gaze on the sunset until it faded, the eyes of History falling closed. History sleeps again, but for how long? Not long would be this reporter’s estimation – History has a new tale to tell, and we are witness to the first lines.

 

 

 

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The Unquiet Streets and the Fear We Cannot Name

Edward Felspar

Crime Desk

Vyle Tymes – 15th of Psydros, 2015

We live in two cities. Though they share the same streets and the same names and the same buildings proud and tall. Cerulean street lights, crimson flags, the moonsilver steel of the Rail – all the same.  The city of Vyle: serene and shining, as clean as fresh clockwork.  Every citizen, no matter how mean, holds their head a little higher to count themselves a trueborn son or daughter of Vyle. We know our city, we love our city. But, of late, we all have begun to see a second city, a darker one, one that we do not recognize, one that we are not so proud to bear in our blood. One that we walk a little faster from to put lock and key between us and this second city, the hungry city that appears when the sun goes down.

The Constant Reader is familiar with the litany of crimes that have become common in the midnight streets of Vyle. The kidnapping of Haley Westermont this summer. The brutal pillaging of the Veritas Freight shipment. The invasion of homes for petty theft and larceny, the accosting of ladies after dark for nefarious purpose, the bodies found washed up in the harbor come dawn. Over these past many months the rate of crime has accelerated. The hungry city has streets made of teeth and there are few among us who have not felt the bite in our own families.

The question must be posed: why in the largest city on the continent, the home of

Tagma Brass HQ - Staff
Tagma Brass HQ – Staff

the most potent military force ever devised by the will of mortal men, has this quiet harvest of its citizens gone unchecked? This question has been posed, again and again, by this reporter and by many other frightened and concerned Vylians. Poliarchos Winston Gage of Tagma Brass has responded only with the most terse and unfulfilling of statements. “Patrols will be doubled during nighttime hours.” “Tagma Brass investigates every criminal report and does not rest until the guilty party is brought to justice.” “We have some reports of isolated incidents near Flux St. and the more unsavory corners of the city, but the vast majority of Vyle is completely safe at all hours.”

Safe where he lives, perhaps this is what Poliarchos Gage means.

Though there are no sources willing to go on record to the following information, the lapse in journalistic diligence can perhaps be forgiven. Most sources who have reliable information are terrified for their lives and livelihood, and what is proper to print here can safely, and sadly, be considered common knowledge to most citizens of Vyle below the rank of demiarchos. This increase in criminal activity and the furor and intensity that has been visited upon the citizens of Vyle can be tracked to one organization: the Black Cross Gang. Their base of operations is unknown, their full number is unknown, even the origin of their crude symbol and moniker remains under a deep cloud. What is known is their cruelty, their fierce despite for the law, and their unending avarice. Recognize them by the black bandannas they wear, and the all too often sign of a black cross or ‘X’ daubed on their clothes with coal or tar.

If you encounter them in the daylight city of Vyle, avoid if at all possible. If you encounter them in the midnight streets, only your own skill and the gods’ love walk with you as Tagma Brass will not stir to defend its citizens.

Whispers have also reached this reporter’s ears of the purported head of this vicious cadre of thieves and murderers, a person known only as ‘White Crown’.  No verifiable reports have been made of anyone seeing this person, it is not uncommon for criminal groups like this to create a fictional figurehead — a ‘boss’ figure that both lends to their mystique, and also allows for a ‘monster in the shadows’ to lean on as a negotiation or intimidation tactic.

This newspaper will continue to report as accurately and as fully as we can about these true events and fierce dangers that grow ever more present in our city. We live in two cities now, haunted by a Beast that we cannot see and we are not even given the privilege of calling by name. The fear that grips this reporter is: will there always be two cities? Or will we wake one morning to find the jaws of the midnight city has closed over our peaceful home forever, beyond all reclaiming?

E. Felspar is a staff writer for the Vyle Tymes. Communication may be sent to his box at the Vyle Tymes Offices with further reports and news of criminal activity.

Asteroid Made of Dragons – InkShares – Sword&Laser Publishing Contest

pow-hi

In a haze of stress neurons, I’ve done something rash. I’ve been lurking in the digital bushes around InkShares, a crowd-source publisher, for a few weeks now. I really like their model – if you meet your goal, the book gets published. Professionally edited, cover design, release in major markets, the works. But I was hesitating – partly because I wanted to wait until I had a little more open headspace – partly because I’m a little bit chickenshit.

But then I got an email about this contest.

In the words that I myself reverently uttered upon reading, ‘Bug Jesus.’

The top 5 sci-fi/fantasy novels in the contest get published. The five books with the most pre-orders by the end of May get published. Even if they don’t hit their funding goal. My book’s goal is 750 preorders for ebook / 1000 for paper – but it doesn’t matter. If I can get enough pre-orders to stay in the top five, I’m in. It’s just too good an opportunity to pass up. All I want is that 5th slot – Asteroid of Dragons in the finals with a bullet!

The grand prize is even better – being the first Sword and Laser Collection novel published by InkShares and getting interviewed on the podcast. Finally, Veronica and Tom will know the clever things I say about the month’s book that I’ve been saying in my car. [!]

So, now the hustle – which connotes the amount of work I need to put in, but also the slight tinge of a scam. I NEED people to pre-order the book before the deadline. I’m going to start by plowing through my Friends List, of course, but I’m not going to make it over the hump without – gulp – strangers.  I’m going to update the InkShares page regularly, I’m going to update here more, and be much more active on Twitter and FB. I’m going to be obnoxious. That is my vow. I have just over 45 days to convince as many people as possible to give me 9.99 – to extend faith in what I’ve written before, and take another leap in a book called Asteroid Made of Dragons.

Eep. Very eep.

https://www.inkshares.com/projects/asteroid-made-of-dragons

That’s the link – the starting line of this race. Help me win. Tell me how I can win. If you follow the link and don’t pre-order, come tell me why so I can FIX IT.

Much more to come. Just think, if this works – some responsible adult will be in charge of marketing and I’ll be left to write weird sonnets about sentient pickles. Won’t that be grand?

The Bellinora

She leaned on the Sword, breath ragged.

The place where she was rang hollow and empty, alone. An alone-place. It

by Rahmatozz
by Rahmatozz

would serve.

The Sword hummed and shook, but her grip was sure. Even in exhaustion, even at the edge of night, she would never let it go.

She fell on a stack of tiles, the ceramic crumpled underneath the weight. She folded her body around the Sword, rags falling over her thin form and ash-covered face. Sleep came just as her heart still beat – slowly, painfully, without the promise of rest. It was a thing that happened, easier and easier to ignore.

The Bellinora slept. But the Sword did not.


A group of children passed an empty house, it had been abandoned for several years. They had taken to throwing rocks at it in idle moments, but today the house seemed different. Peter lobbed a pebble absently while Dala and Wrench were clambering over the broken fence. His pebble shattered a snaggle-tooth window, as his bullets had a dozen times before – but something seemed different. A thrill went through his stomach, and Peter felt afraid. As if some great beast had made the abandoned house its lair.

Peter grabbed his friends and dragged them protesting away from the house. His mother had taught him well. ‘Humans can take no chances, Peter’ she had said. ‘Every hand is turned against us. You feel funny or worried, even if you can’t see the reason. You get as far away from it as possible.’

The three human children trotted away from the house, further into their neighborhood, the claptrap shanties and hovels that their race was bound to.

Peter did not mention the house or the feeling of fear. But he did not forget.

[Just a little bit I wrote for my Pathfinder campaign today. I liked it and I haven’t updated blog in a bit so HERE YOU GO.]

No Sound But the Rain

[A little writing I did for a D&D campaign I’m playing in. Always fun to play around with a new character voice. Putting this up here because the blog’s been super quiet lately, also to confirm that I haven’t forgotten how to type.]

Artist - Pavel Kolomeyets.
Artist – Pavel Kolomeyets.

I’ve carried this blank book with me for weeks meaning to begin a journal, but it never seemed like the right time. Now isn’t really a much better time, but I may have no time to do it later so let me begin my chronicle! The two clerics here, a father and daughter, were kind enough to lend me a quill and inkstone – it is one of the few things they have plenty of here, the food and water is quickly growing scarce.

But I’ll get to that in due time! When I come back and read this, I’m sure it will be less annoying if I tell the tale in its proper order. All apologies and contrition to my older self.

Hence the tale begins!

We traveled for weeks from a town of little repute and no particular name. As is common when travelling across the dangerous wilds I and some others bound ourselves into a road-pact. Surprisingly we encountered little danger on our way except rain, mud, and the less than friendly attitudes of my companions.

A quick list: Drake, a noble dragonborn blade. Bulloch, a dwarven adventurer. Lucas, still wearing the motley of his former trade. Rosemary, a young girl of startling arcane gifts.

I found them to be fine pact-friends, if a bit tight-lipped.

Arriving at last in Oldhaven, slogged down the hillside through the last of the muck, eager to dry ourselves in an inn of local repute, the Old Boar. Walking through the streets, something began to bother me. It was late by temple-reckoning, but the streets were completely abandoned and quiet. Nothing but the splash of the rain on the cobblestones. Pushing on into the inn, we were all keyed up for peril, though the danger could not be named.

Bulloch slipped into the inn first, then called us to join. We found tabled and chairs in disarray – signs of a rapid exit and some sort of conflict, but no clear cause. Again, is was Bulloch who shared a tale of another village called Perch that had been completely emptied by marauding goblins.

In short order we barricaded the main door for safety, and turned to a quick search of the premises for survivors or any slight thing that could tell us the tale of these strange happenings. We found several oddments left in the scramble, but no answers — until we found a mortally wounded child hiding on a rafter beam in the attic.

With the grace of Lady Onyx I was able to heal her wounds, and after a time of recovery she finally opened her eyes. I am grateful for the aid of Rosemary and Drake – the fighter’s bulk seemed a comfort to the child, and Rosemary’s young age gave her connection to the girl that also eased her fears. She told us as much as her terrified soul could allow. Her name was Leera, and ‘small, bad things’ attacked and took her family away.

We had more questions but she could not answer them for us. The answers appeared in the form of the sound of shattering glass coming from upstairs.

I had just looked outside the window, hearing another noise – and saw that all of our horses were dead! The culprits soon revealed themselves as filthy goblins poured down from the second floor waving brittle scimitars and gnashing horrible teeth.

In a short but brutal fight, my companions proved their mettle – laying waste to the flood of goblins pouring down into the common room. They bit deep into us, but we did not waver! At last the final goblin fell and I gave what aid I could to the wounded. We were all in agreement – we needed to keep moving.

Oh, I almost forgot! The goblins – they all were covered in blood. Matted in their hair, their lips and teeth caked with it. Goblins are foul creatures, there is no doubt, but this blood madness was beyond any tale I had heard of their savagery.

The rain stopped – perhaps a good omen? – and we moved as quickly through the streets of Oldhaven as vigilance would allow. Rosemary and Drake kept watchful eye on our young charge as we moved towards the only place of safety we could surmise – the Temple of Aventurine in the center of town. Any survivors would surely be there.

At last, we arrived. The stone doors and windows were tightly shut – a clear sign that people were within! I had to risk a true call to make my voice heard through the stone. If no one had been inside it surely would have lead goblins to us – but Onyx was watching over us and the stone door slid open revealing the blessed light of Day inside.

Ah, my eyes grow heavy! We have travelled far and faced great danger – with more to follow on the morrow. We will take what rest we can here in the Temple and pray that in its light we can find the strength to escape and avenge the ravage of Oldhaven.

(I have lost track of the date in our travels, and the clerics of Aventurine are too busy and kind to bother with such trifles, so for now I will date —)
First Night in Oldhaven
Nora Calamochnus

Sand & Tea

[Hit a big ‘end of disc’ moment in current Pathfinder campaign. Here’s the first little bit of the next story, and a fond adieu to some of the characters off on new adventures.]

Back in black I hit the sack
I been too long I’m glad to be back
Yes I am
Let loose from the noose
That’s kept me hanging about
I keep looking at the sky cause it’s gettin’ me high
Forget the hearse cause I’ll never die
I got nine lives cat’s eyes
Using every one of them and runnin’ wild
Cause I’m back
Yes I’m back well I’m back
Yes I’m back
Well I’m back back
Well I’m back in black
Yes I’m back in black
– Trollkin Drinking song, Traditional – Bard Unknown

The hounds and the thieves fell back into the world like a sack of potatoes tossed on the floor — all eyes and with a loud whump.

Several of the party coughed, as hot air and gritty sand blew into their mouths. They were surrounded on all sides by dunes made of yellow sand. They had landed in a small hollow between the dunes that gave some protection from the wind, but none from the heat. The wide face of the sun was well on its way to the far horizon, it would be night soon.

There was no sign of their quarry, the strange woman and her perilous sword. Only on the crest of a dune a few hundred paces to the west, a black discoloration could be seen in the sand.

Zed, or rather Bowman as it would soon become impossible to keep the Zeds straight without reverting to their Rainscour nicknames, shrugged the bound wizard, Janus, onto the sand as he stood up, putting a hand over his eyes to shade them.

rainscour“We didn’t see what we just saw. It’s preposterous. There’s no way we just saw the actual Sword of Ruin, right?” the notorious thief asked. “Someone please reassure me, just lie to me if you would be so kind.”

The other Zed, Dagger, laughed and hopped up as well. “If you like. It was just the Saber of Major Unpleasantness.”

The desert wind blew across the thieves and hounds alike, bearing with it the faintest smell of ash.

Somewhere Else

Lysander’s eyes popped open. For the first time in days his head felt clear – so frustrating to be in a wondrous place like Rainscour and then the starry void between worlds with a headache brought upon by dimensional distortion. The cleric sat up and looked around.

A few of his companions were nearby, most still unconscious from their escape from the shattering constellations. The only others awake were their savior, the steel-touched traveler Crim and and the tengu, Fletch. The magus Ozmen snored loudly against the bright blue tile of the plaza floor.

Lysander looked around – they were in a a plaza, not too dissimilar from the one they had sheltered in the strange streets of Rainscour. Where that city had been filled with rain, this place seemed to almost riot color and sunlight. The only water burbled joyously in the fountain, ringing against the sides of the marble with tranquil rhythm. Off in the distance, the cleric could make out the sound of construction – hammers on wood, hammers on stone, voices shouting instruction and derision as they went about their work.

From a nearby building with wide arched windows, a broad head topped with red hair furiously shout through with gray appeared. It appeared again at the next window, then the next, as if the person was making their way towards the entrance, but couldn’t resist looking out each window as he did.

At last, the short and stout figure of a dwarf appeared at the entrance, trotting with exuberance that belied his age towards the party. Crim stood up sorrowfully and waved, but most of his attention was focused on the shattered Jump-Node that he held in the crook of his elbow.

“Well, hellacious day, travelers!” the dwarf boomed as he approached. “You just made every doodad and scrying stone I have go bonkers. Hell of a leap you must’ve made from wherever you came from.”

Ozmen helped Fletch to his feet, both blinking their eyes at their strange new surroundings and the garrulous greeting party.

“Where is here?” Lysander’s mind reeled. “We’re from the world called Cynus, and we kind of jumped blind from the dimensional void. Is this Cynus, is this home?”

“Or could this be Turn?” Crim asked without hope. “I never met any dwarves there before but…

“Sorry, my new friends,” the dwarf smiled. “You’ve fallen victim to the Thief, I’m afraid. Our world is so greedy, it’s always plucking strays from all over the place. This is not your world, traveler – but we’ll do our best to make you feel at home. My name is Bragg – and while our world has many names, this city has but one. Welcome to Kythera! The City of Wonder left by the Precursors for us to explore. Now come on! You’ve got some stories to tell I imagine, and the tea just came to a boil before your portal got everything squawking at me back in the lab. They do have tea where you came from, I trust?”

Lysander felt himself smiling despite the strange situation. “Depends, do you have sugar here?”

“We do, lad. We do.” Bragg nodded sagely.

The lost travelers followed the dwarf to tea, and off into their own story which will find its own time to tell.

‘Gamer’ Has Never Been Enough

I’ve never liked the term ‘gamer’. It’s reductive and bland, all too obvious. A ‘gamer’- one who games, or plays games. Such a strange banner to throw up over our heads. I play most types – video, tabletop, mind, board, social, classic, etc, etc. etc. — but I’ve never been able to bend a proper term into shape for that identity. ‘Player’ sounds weird – and a little 90’s BET. ‘Gamester’ is lame and acronyms make the world yawn. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t that important of a question. Everyone plays games – all humans, everywhere, forever. There’s no need to draw a circle, no tribal totem to shake. 

But now this #gamergate nonsense.

These sweaty children smearing their foreheads with war paint and screaming across the digital savannah. Hatred and fear disguised as a righteous fury. They wrap their fingers around that empty little word ‘gamer’ and wield it like a cudgel.

You are using a meaningless word, which is appropriate for your drivel. Let me tell you a thing, let me whisper you one of the secrets of the clan you claim to represent.

‘Gamer’ is not enough. It is not enough name for who and what we are. We need more – more names. Mario. The Grey Warden. Dragonborn. Malrock the Magnificent. Lara Croft. Dogfish. Nathan Drake. Commander Shepherd. More names are needed, more ways to see the world. Terra. Samus Aran. Luigi. Wander. Sommerset the Stray-Dog,  Pac-Man. More names, groups, armies, comrades, unions. The Alliance. The Horde. Blue Team. The Lodestar Crew. The Turks. The Jedi Academy.

We are the dreamers, the walkers in strange lands. We are the people of Many Names, of Many Eyes, of Endless Lives. We are the point in the dark, the moving hand, the twist of the brain that learns and remembers. We learn, we grow, we return again and again.

This is who we are, this is who all humans are. And we who are so fortunate to play in strange worlds unnumbered are always eager for anyone who needs a new name. That’s all ‘gaming’ is really – another chance, another way to see the world, another chance to Get It Right.

So those of you hiding behind the word ‘gamer’ as an excuse for misogyny and intolerance – it’s time for a new name. It’s time to Try Again. You know how. It’s as close as the Reset button. If you are human, you play games. If you play games, you can learn. So learn. Do better. 

There is no banner. There is no tribe. Only you and your warped cadre bleeding and gibbering on the people who love what you love.