Bad Idea

The adventurers stood around in stunned silence, as the illusory image of the Red Wizard faded from view. The strange machine chuffed quietly, working it’s unknown program through the pipes and gears that extended into the stone ceiling out of view. The simple glass decanter sat on the desk, a third full of a blue liquid that glowed slightly – a shade of blue that no one could ever remember seeing before.

The words of Korthan Zul seemed to hang in the air, repeated in the stunned memory of the Lodestar crew.

“My disciples, how glad am I that you have made your way to my inner sanctum. Only

Artist – Killian Eng

you have proven worthy to glimpse the greatest expression of my power — my mastery over Time Itself.

I stand now on the brink of total domination of the world. The Scepter is in my hands, my armies are strong and vicious, and the pitiful forces of Good are a spineless rabble. But…there is always a but. Even I cannot plan for all the strange storms of the Future, so here I have prepared a doorway into the calm seas of the Past.

If the worst should occur, and I should fall – take this liquid that you see behind you. I have built a machine, that distills the very essence of Time. Drops stolen from the river. One swallow will take you anywhere in Time you choose. Go. Go back before the moment of my defeat, and bring the knowledge I will need to triumph.

Do not fail me. Evil never forgets. It Begins Again – It Endures Forever”

The loris, Mr. Wuzzles crawled down from his place on Carbunkle’s shoulder and wrapped himself around the gnome, pinning his arms with fuzzy insistence.

“Do. Not. Touch.” the loris said sternly


[Spoiler Alert: I’m a giant nerd. I’ve been running a Pathfinder campaign for the past two years, and I’m starting to work on the next one. All of my new players are relative neophytes to the game, and I put together this rough breakdown to guide them through choosing a proper character class for their style. One of my players really liked it, and suggested I put it up on my blog for use by nerds throughout the land — and since I’m lazy, and going to be away for a week — WISH GRANTED, Mr. Yellow Devil.

Any other tabletop nerds out there? I’d love any feedback or suggestions you have on this chart.]

Here’s a rough break-down of the nineteen character classes available. Think of this as a very rough overview, to give you some idea for further discussion with me and the other players. I’ve also included links to further descriptions of each class — it’s very technical, but there’s a good overview of each through the link, enough to give you more idea of what each class can do.

Arcane Divine Martial Skilled Natural Synthesis

Nineteen Ways To Die

CLASS Description Best at… Examples
Alchemist “I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensaring the senses … I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death..” S.Snape Making themselves more powerful; influencing enemies and the battlefield in unexpected ways. Severus Snape
Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde
Barbarian Fueled by rage, they destroy all who oppose them. Doing lots of damage. Conan
Khal Drogo
Bard Their songs are magical, their wit and knowledge deadly. Making the party more effective.
Gathering information
Tom o’Sevens
Cavalier Noble knights, they ride into battle leading the way to victory. Mounted combat.
Unique Ability: Tactics
Jaime Lannister
Sturm Brightblade
Barristan Selmy
Cleric True servant of their faith, they shield the world from evil. Healing.
Making the party more effective.
Thoros of Myr
Druid The raw forces of nature are theirs to command. Elemental magic.
Tim the Druid
Beast Boy
Cold Hands
Fighter In the press of battle, there are none more rightfully feared. Doing damage.
Most adaptable class.
Garet Jax
Gunslinger The smell of gunsmoke and black powder, hard-knuckle death dealers. Doing a lot of damage.
Unique ability: Grit
Roland Deschain
Matthew Quigley
Chow Yun Fat
Inquisitor Their god commands them to bring the unfaithful to judgement. Weakening enemies.
Unique ability: Judgement
Simon Belmont
Inquisitor Glokta
Magus Pure magical energy, channeled into the sharp edge of a blade. Doing a lot of damage.
[I honestly can’t think of an example — the cast spells through their weapons, it’s ridiculous.]
Monk A combatant armed only with wisdom. Mobility, and damage. Tempi
Drunken Master
Son Goku
Wong Fei Hung
Oracle Their power is a mystery, even to themselves. Healing.
Unique Ability: Mystery
Paladin A divine warrior, they bring hope and courage to all. Healing/Combat Hybrid.
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Ranger A fierce combatant, a skilled traveller of the wilderness. Ranged Combat.
Tracking, Wilderness Survival.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn
Rogue A thief, a trickster, cunning wanderer of the night. Stealth, Trapfinding and Lockpicking.
Sneak Attack damage.
Locke Lamora
Arya Stark
Tasselhoff Burrfoot
Sorcerer Magic flows in their blood, and bends to their will. Spellcasting.
Knowing less spells than a Wizard, but can cast more often.
Kelsier the Survivor
Summoner They create a powerful beast, the Eidolon from pure thought and desire. Well, summoning.
Perfect if you really want to play a Monster.
The Incredible Hulk
Lyra Silvertongue
Witch Their power flows from spirits unknown. Spellcasting.
Freaking people out.
Unique ablity: Hexes
Baba Yaga
Wizard Their mastery of magic comes from long study and mental excellence. Spellcasting.
Most varied, and adaptable spellcasters.
Harry Dresden
Albus Dumbledore

Simple Complicated
Barbarian Fighter Ranger Monk Cleric Wizard
Paladin Oracle Witch Summoner
Gunslinger Inquisitor Sorcerer
Cavalier Druid Alchemist

If you want to do damage: Barbarian, Magus, Monk, Gunslinger
If you want to hurt things with magic: Wizard, Sorcerer, Magus, Witch
If you want to heal things: Cleric, Oracle
If you want to be a leader: Cavalier, Paladin, Cleric, Bard
Sneaky, stabby type: Rogue, Ranger, Inquisitor

*It’s tough to pin Kvothe down to one class. Bard/Assassin/Wizard/Fighter/Rogue would just about cover it.

Blowing the dust off…

Let me just knock some of the cobwebs off  here.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he is most displeased at my lackadaisical posting schedule of late.

But I was editing, black and white photo soldier guy, who I hope is not some sort of war criminal! I can see that ceremonial dagger on your belt, and I’m sure you’d like to dispense some pre-Internet justice, but hear me out.

In between normal life errata and work neccesity, my creative-time has been in short supply. Lodestar has taken a turn for the awesome as we rocket towards the conclusion – and I’m determined to deliver on the storytelling and gameplay promise of the campaign and not leave my players disappointed when it wraps up in September. On top of that I’m running a short side-game for some neophyte nerds in the neighborhood, plus planning for my Top Secret Next Campaign. Compounded with time rolling in the floor with the new puppy, and other general puttering about – I’ve been swamped.

I finished the rough draft of Spell/Sword back in April, then put it away for as long as possible before diving into editing. I made it a full four weeks, which was torturous indeed.

True editing began in May, here was my process:

1. Print out the draft, and read through it. Making only absolutely necessary notes in the margins.

2. Cry.

3. Read through it again, making nit-picky grammar notes.

4. Take all of the comments/edits from the paper version and add them to my Google Doc. “No argument” edits were implemented immediately. [Grammar fixes, word choice, spelling mistakes, erotic centaurs scene] More complicated edits requiring more thought or massive chapter-spanning revision entered as Comments onto the G-Doc.

5. Man, there’s a lot of these Comments. [63 total, only 17 of which were related to petticoat description. ALWAYS NEED MORE DESCRIPTION OF THE COURTLY LADY DRESSES]

6. Worked in fits and starts on the larger edits. The easy ones first, picking at the edges — then finally dived into the more serious ones in June.

7. Anxiety Quicksand. Edits seem to be making book worse. Every thing I read seems to be terrible, even if not explicitly marked for revision. I hate the book, and spend a lot of time polishing a terrible, shiny thought. Writing this draft was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — a goal in my life that I never imagined I would accomplish. To have made it this far is nothing short of miraculous — but the book still might not be any good.  Effort does not equal excellence in writing, or any art.  I might have a completely unusable draft, rotten to the core.  I might have written a book and still not have a book.

8. Kept editing.

9. Started to lose the feeling of forward momentum, so I engaged the Saving Grace of Art. A deadline. Contacted my Alpha Readers, and let them know that I would be printing the draft the first of July to send them copies for review. I embrace that deadline, and editing redoubles in ferocity.

10. I like the book a little better. Well, let’s be serious — I love the book, but understand that I have lost any objectivity. I’ve read it too many times, I’m way too close.  I finish up major edits, with the salve that I’m going to go through this whole process again once my Alphas have a crack at it. Only they can tell me whether or not my child is a Goofus or a Gallant.

Highlights reference! These always bothered me. Maybe Goofus’ friends needed a little “tough love”, and who’s to say Gallant even liked oranges? Look at that smug S.O.B. — he probably poisoned that fruit. Yes, I was a child concerned with logical fallacies, move along.

11. I have one last brainstorm for my editing before releasing it to the Alphas. I read the entire draft out loud in one sitting. I catch innumerable grammar, tense, spelling, and logic errors in the process. Best thing I’ve done, next time around I’m planning on doing this much, much earlier. I also record me reading it [TECHNOLOGY!] for further review.

12. I like the book.

13. I send the draft to be printed for Alpha Readers. I feel a sense of pride that my closest friends and advisors will soon know how fucking clever I am.

14. I listen to the recording, and immediately catch a dozen glaring syntax and logic problems.

This sand is filled with irony!

15. Cry a little bit. But you know, in a badass way, like Chow Yun Fat in The Killer.


I  know I’m not unique in my process, or in my reactions — I know my colleagues and associates are sick of my talking about these things like I invented Author Malaise. But, you’re my blog and this is my first time up this thorny path — so get prepared for some serious whining and navel-gazing.

Also, some ruminations on various literary and genre concepts. I’ve been struggling to put my novel in context with others in the genre, and I’ve had some thoughts. SOME THOUGHTS, I SAY.

I’m also thinking about pulling my old weekend STORY ON DEMAND out of mothballs, now that I have a little more brainspace to spare.

What do you think, Corporal Steely Breadcrumbs?

I’m just here for the ladies. And the oppression of the Proletariat.


A small village,  directly in the center of Riddlewood. Human settlers were first drawn to the ancient forest

Retreat by Andreas Rocha

by an accidental discovery. A traveler was camping underneath one of the ancient elms, boiling some water for soup when an acorn fell into the open pot. The traveler didn’t notice right away, and by the time he did the water had turned a brilliant shade of green. History does not tell us much about this traveler but one thing is clear – – he either had an overgrown sense of adventure, or a serious deathwish. For no apparent reason he decided to give the concoction a taste. He poured off a tiny draught of the green liquid into a dented tin tankard, and tossed it back.

He woke up several hours later, his teeth stained the color of the leaves.

This unknown traveler had just discovered the remarkable soporific effects of the Riddlewood Elm. Folk tradition contends that he spent the next several weeks finishing the emerald concoction, one sip at a time — but regardless, at some point he stumbled back to civilization and somehow convinced one of the larger merchant families to invest in his new scheme. A team of brewers, apothecaries, and loggers would make their way into the heart of Riddlewood. They would harvest the amazing acorns, determine the best way to render them safely potable and marketable, and the other, lesser trees could be cut down to make casks and barrels for the new concoction. A troop of soldiers were also included to protect against the mysterious and sly wood elves that lived in the forest.

For the first few weeks, the newly christened “Barreltown” hummed with activity. Acorns were gathered, brewed and tested. Hundreds of trees were felled to make barracks, fences, and a multitude of barrels — the saw mill ran day and night. The soldiers quickly grew bored as the wildlife of Riddlewood gave the new town a wide berth, and the wood elves were nowhere to be seen.  With nothing else to do, they joined in the construction of the town, their first project a suitable saloon.

Reports vary on the events that followed, but the central theme is agreed upon by most accounts. A young soldier took to wandering the green halls of Riddlewood out of sheer boredom and restlessness. She was the youngest member of the troop, though well-trained in the ways of sword and shield.

The soldier came upon a clearing where a large red tiger lay dying, caught underneath the trunk of an oak tree that a careless logger had felled, then abandoned. Without stopping to consider the danger, she ran over to the creature and with a great cry flung herself under the tree. Arms and legs straining she pushed the felled oak up far enough that the red tiger could just barely wriggle out.

She dropped the tree in exhaustion – only then realizing that she had dropped her weapon at the clearing’s edge, and stood completely defenseless against the wounded animal.

To her surprise, the red tiger rose wearily to its feet and made no move to attack.  It looked at her curiously, then padded off into the forest.

The soldier returned to Barreltown and told all who would listen about her amazing experience. A few believed her, but she was met with more than a few mocking japes. She became obsessed with proving her story, and spent much of the next few days prowling through the forest looking for tiger tracks.

Tigers, like most cats, appear when they please.

By Rui Tenreiro.

The young soldier was keeping the late watch one night, when she felt her eyes beginning to droop. She stomped her feet, and put pebbles in her shoe, but weariness stole over her.  With a start, she awoke at moonfall, a bare hour before dawn, to find the red tiger sitting quite calmly on a felled tree trunk in front of her.

The red tiger stood, and walked a few paces before turning back to look at her. The intention clear, the soldier gripped the hilt of her sword closely and followed.

Through quiet clearing, and silent tree, through moon and leaf-rustle night. The guttering torchlight of Barreltown vanished behind the young soldier, and yet she continued on.

At last, the tiger stopped and turned to face her. The wind blew, and the tiger changed. A beautiful young wood elf, with hair as red as the tiger’s.

Without speaking a word, he knelt before a ragged stump of a tree and placed both hands upon it. He sang quietly, and the soldier was surprised to find tears running down her face.

Between the palms of the wood elf, and guided by his song the tree trunk began to grow. Forming and changing, shaped by his will as a potter turns the clay. A tiny barrel formed, sound and true — then with a sharp twist he broke it free and pushed it into her hands. The soldier held it up to the rising sun, and saw how well it was crafted. Sound and true, with nary a crack — better than any one in Barreltown could hope of making.

“Why would you take, what the forest would happily give?” the wood elf asked.

The soldier had no answer.

Time passed. The soldier and the wood elf spent much time in each other’s company.  Love was given and returned, and the two hatched a plan.

Early one morning, the soldier and the wood elf walked into Barreltown hand in hand. They marched directly into the mess hall where all the loggers, apothecaries, brewmasters, tradesmen and soldiers ate their meals. The soldier cleared off a table and called everyone’s attention, and the wood elf plead most eloquently for the forest of Riddlewood. He finished his speech, then showed the gathered crowed how wood could be shaped and sung from the living trees, without harm.

And the people listened. They understood. And they agreed.

To the vast shock of historians throughout the world, the people of Barreltown agreed that it was a great

By Annemarie Rysz

idea. This incident is hotly contested in many scholarly circles, as it goes counter to entire schools of socio-political thought. Some even go so far as to claim the story is completely fabricated, a convenient fiction crafted by the wildly successful Riddlewood Brewing Guild.

Regardless, two hundred years later the village still remains. Barton is a reasonably prosperous hamlet, most of the residents splitting their time between farming and the seasonal work on the factory floor, brewing and bottling the various ales and liquors distilled from the trees of the forest — great casks filled to brim, tight and sound made from living wood. Only the very oldest buildings in the town show the sign of an axe or saw, the rest are all formed carefully and beautifully by the druids of Barton.

The village is roughly split between human and elven populaces, with intermarriage common.  The sigil of Barton is a red tiger with a green acorn in his jaws.  The village is led by Count Pel Marlowe, his family owns controlling interest in the Riddlewood Brewing Guild.


Beach Blanket Bingo

The sand was hot, but the pineapple ice slush that The Vagabonder had concocted was glacial on the tongue. The waves lapped sedately against the white sands of The Island.

Talitha and Sinoe worked on opposite ends of a massive sand castle. The east wing was floppy, drooping towers of wet sand dribbled. The west was rigidly square, careful blocks compacted and stacked in stone-mason precision. Talitha’s skin had turned nut-brown under her blonde hair, her twin’s was still pale under purple tresses.

Carbunkle snored with ridiculous abandon, his head pillowed on a pile of books, two empty glasses lolling near his open hand. Scarlet pushed her glasses up and smiled at the snoring gnome, then went back to the massive tome she was reading. Advanced Hyper-Calculus for Fun and Profit. The two gnomes lay close together under a wide red umbrella.

The paladin gently picked up the empty glasses next to the snoring gnome, and tucked them into the crook of his arm. Haskeer was wearing a short blue loincloth and armed with a spatula. He sat the glasses down on a flat stone, and returned to tending the haunch of island boar he had been patiently smoking since mid-morning. His tusked face split in a wide grin as he peeled back the banana leaves on the smoker he had built from a discarded drum of Seafoam lubricant that Corben had found somewhere.

Thinking of his friend, he glanced across the crystal blue waves in time to see another massive splash. Corben and Dayjen had rigged up a crude sea skimmer, powered by a spare aerolith cell from the destroyed Agros fleet. The two young men pulled themselves laughing out of the water onto the contraption , arguing good-naturedly about the best way to fix the ’steering issue. ’

Agnar sweated and strained, iron bar gripped tight in his fists. A bucket was suspended from either end, filled to the brim with rocks. Through a pineapple haze the barbarian tried to remember what obscure bet he was trying to win. The sea-elf had said something and then laughed in his face, that part he could remember. The exact reason he now stood, muscles bulging were unclear.

Echo took a long slurp from her drink, and pointed imperiously at another pile of rocks. Alice laughed hysterically, her nose and cheeks red with sunburn and drink.

Crackers and Fin tumbled in the sand. The dwarf was determined to master the ancient fighting style of the Blink Dogs, but the young dog kept cheating by licking his bald head, breaking his concentration. Fin cocked an eyebrow as if to say, Perhaps that is the key to the technique. I will study this closely.

Further up the beach, under the shade of the palm trees, Martin and Thorn sat silent in wicker chairs. In the weeks since Kythera, the former cleric seemed most comfortable in the company of the old ranger. Martin held out a bowl of tel-nuts, the red haired woman waved them politely away. The bowl was intercepted by a wicked grinning monkey wearing a red bandanna. The ranger glowered but let it pass. Thorn smiled and rose to go clear the massive wooden table, still piled with the absurdly massive white cake. Despite the best efforts of all assembled, she could still read:Happy 10th Birthday, Tali——-

A breeze blew across the crew of the Lodestar, on the beach of their island. Far above, the Floating Island of Agros hung, as carefree as another cloud in the sky. A long cable hung down, and was bolted to a large granite slab on the edge of the beach.

Echo took another long slurp of her pineapple-slush, then pushed herself unsteadily to her feet. The concoction caused a serious brain freeze, but the alcoholic kick was within spitting distance of paint thinner. She began to totter in the direction of a refill, when her she felt a splitting pain in the center of her head. It was far too early for any sort of hangover — and looking across the beach she saw the rest of the crew grab their temples with similar expressions of pain.

Then the three-headed shark behemoth appeared.

Dayjen and Corben were caught completely unawares, their tiny skiff buffeted far out to sea by the titanic eruption of water. They went spinning out of sight around the edge of the cape to the west.

The sea-creature was massive, mouths thirty feet wide — Echo blinked and saw the tell-tale purple tentacles ripple out of the sea and slap and lash at the edge of the sand.

The pain in each person’s head intensified, as the creature savaged their mind with a telepathic roar. The words were not in Common, but each mind definitely got the gist.

It is I, Thousandteeth Dodecapus! I have come to wage battle with the true princess of the Dolphin Tribe. Come puny mortal, bring your pitiful land-tribe and let our prophesied time of reckoning begin!

Talitha looked across the sand castle to her adopted sister, and whispered. “Best. Birthday. Ever.”

Some press for Spell/Sword!

Sean Polite, a scientific diagram.

I was interviewed recently by the irredeemable Demon of the Sea, Sean Polite. It’s for his “Movers and Shakers Project” nominally exploring people of cultural resonance in/and around Athens, GA.

Nominally I say, as my interview is a long, rambling discussion of storytelling, video games, classic anime, Dungeons and Dragons, and other avant garde nerdery. If these topics interest you, or you’re just curious what I sound like — click and be whelmed.

Click to be info-tained!

Be warned, there are some naughty, naughty words. The interview is available as a free download, or to stream online.



Here is Sean’s writeup — I blush, I blush!

There is a story in everything we do, in each action we undertake, and even in the hesitancy that keeps us rejecting other actions.


Today’s guest, Derek Adams, a bard amongst men, sees the plethora of lore and legend in the grand and mundane things in life, and his insight has yielded creative results with a role-playing twist and a growing footing in the literary world.


A student of role-playing games (a.k.a. RPGs)  and an advocate of the art of collaboration, he’s created a series known as Lodestar.  With an eye for talent, he’s recruited a group of friends with unreal writing ability, to craft an ongoing tale of adventure, magic, betrayal, battle, and endless interaction.  While he will admit that his own experiences with the RPG system are an influence, Lodestar is not exclusively defined within the categories of the typical role playing game.  You create the adventure and he oversees it!  He breaks down a good portion of the standard role playing terminology also.


The total flight hours of Lodestar: 500,000 words in a year and a half which equals a staggering amount of novels as you’ll hear.


This experiment in adventure has been a massive success, and has lead to a journey into the world of information age publishing.   At the current time, the players have created a new story, set 15 years prior to the events of “Lodestar.”  Derek is compiling these stories into a book, a massive volume called “Spell/Sword.”  While the history of the characters,  and motivations are a budding foundation for the journey to the past, no prior knowledge is required.


While he is a versatile masterful Mover and Shaker, he’s taking the plunge for the first time into the mind-numbing world of manuscript editing and confessing to the challenge of it.  You can take a peek into “Spell/Sword” by going to


There is a link between every role playing game and the anime series “Record of Lodoss War.”  Stick with the interview, and you’ll find out what it is.


A link we share is our mutual participation in the activities of the oldest continually running community theatre in Georgia, Athens Community Theater—home to the Town & Gown Players.  We discuss his introduction to and ongoing involvement with the volunteer organization, and his transition from acting to contributing behind the scenes with stories well known and unknown—culminating at the high helm of the director’s chair.  I’ve gotten to collaborate with him in some of the shows, and true to the community theater experience, it’s been a wondrous fulfillment.  You’ll hear about how you can contribute to the arts scene with a simple step towards the 60 year old coven behind the big white house on Prince Avenue.


Causing a stir in the cultural bowels of the Classic City are The Shadeaux Brothers, an enigmatic pop duo with a knack for songwriting at the maddening line between obvious parody for laughs and intense seriousness.  Fresh off of creating the anthem of your summer that you never knew could be known to, Derek breaks down their history with a sensitivity to their abhorrence of any forms of the beast that is celebrity promotion.  We go into their pioneering act of creating the medium of music known to the naked eye as ELF ROCK.  Few are the talents who’ve been enlisted to aid in their sonic sojourn of Christmas albums, but distinguished are they all.


The language is vivid (some profanity in good fun), and it is undone by the luminescence of the pop culture spectrum which Mr. Adams keeps at his bay of knowledge.  Subjects are deftly switched at supersonic pace, from video games to Dungeons and Dragons, Doctor Who, social media/blogging sites (tumblr, WordPress) and the like.  Even people who walk in on the interview are seamlessly woven into the conversation/interview.  His super fast wit inspires a lightning round at the end of this segment, and the commentary is enlightening and humorous—as this whole interview is.


The link to my interview with Derek is below, and this writing is only a hint of the fun behind the story of Derek Adams, a fresh new addition to the Movers and Shakers Project!

A diagram for the Lodestar series. While we generally use pictures of the interviewees, in this case, the grandeur of the story takes precedence before the storyteller.


Link to Interview:


Extra Info Links:

Shadeaux Bros. Facebook Page:

Shadeaux Bros. Reverb Nation Page:


[An adventure log for Lodestar, my tabletop campaign. All you nerds out there recognize this sort of thing — a recap of the adventure told journal-style, from the perspective of one of the characters. Part of my experiment with putting longer content up here on the blog. This was written fresh today, so I’m sure there’s some pesky typos and such — but let me know what you think about the readability and content.]

19th of Handspan, 1179.

Better do something to keep myself awake — and you’re always saying that I should write more in my journal, so here goes. I really think you just make me write in here to give yourself some humorous reading on the toilet. Or maybe to just give you more opportunity to roll your eyes, and look disappointed?

Almost finished with work on the Crucible — just have to wait on the truesilver to cool. I’ll have those two un-cursed and de-porcupined by dawn, as long as I don’t fall face first on the anvil and start snoring. I mean, that’s weird right? I’ve seen people transformed into strange things before – frogs, statues, a loaf of Piccan cheesebread — but two guys morphed into a two-headed porcupine? You see something new every day, I guess. No stranger than the 200 foot metal colossus outside, fueled by captured souls and dark magics from a forgotten age.

Wait — I’m getting ahead of myself. I know you hate when I do that. Sorry.

So, I’ve been working in Pennytown for a couple of months, working off my debt from that thing in Meraldspire. It’s a quite a  town, I’ve really enjoyed just relaxing – doing simple and clean work at the forge. Horseshoes, gates, a whole batch of nails — ooh, I fixed the copper wiring in a busted clock about a week ago. Yup, just good, clean work and then early to bed for your favorite cleric.

Yesterday, travellers came to town. There were a bunch of them, but one of them is this amazing gunslinger — redhead, loooooong legs and an amazing — wait, I can see your eyes rolling. Sorry.

Anyway, they had gotten cursed and banged up on their way into town, so I patched them up as best I could — but then they were a little hesitant about plunking down the cash for the Crucible. The Master Trader was gouging them — but what were they going to do, just leave their friends as a two-headed porcupine? Drover gave them a deal — me and the two of them that were fit for travel would run an errand for him, then he’d give them a discount. Check in on his brother’s store at a nearby village, his weekly delivery was late. The beautiful gunslinger, Mara and a duelist named Quintus agreed to the deal.

I strapped on the armor you helped me craft, and we headed up the New Road to Hemmerfell.

I’ve been to Hemmerfell a few times, I’m the best healer in the area. I had to deliver a baby there the week after I arrived, and it turned out to be triplets! It’s a dirt-poor mining town, but the people there are good folk — quick with a joke, or a round of ale.

They weren’t joking when we got there. Most of the old folk and children were just standing in the middle of the street, and staring into space.  We called to them, shook them by the shoulders – but they barely reacted, like they were drugged or sleeping. But their eyes were wide open — I looked through the windows of their eyes, and there was no soul inside. They were empty husks, breathing out of habit — less alive than daffodils. It scared me, Nomus. Shook me right to the core — that a soul could be plucked out of a man’s body easier than removing the core from an apple.

Oh, I perfected a new type of apple corer — remind me to show you the next time I see you.

We moved quickly through the streets of Hemmerfell, past more and more of the poor, empty townsfolk. There were signs of a battle, broken weapons, gouges in the earth, and more than a little blood spilled in the dirt. And then we found a dark marvel.

A cube — thirty feet on each side, made from dozens of different metals hammered and wrought. Endlessly intricate, but also strangely organic — it reminded me of the iron sculptures we saw in Bard’s Gate that time, how the dwarves shaped each piece with their hands, allowing their instincts to override geometric design. But this thing wasn’t beautiful — it was terrifying, Master. The way that a cage is terrifying. I whispered a prayer to you, and continued on with my companions.

As we approached the store, we found more and more of the townsfolk clustered around it. I approached the front door, and they swarmed close — uttering almost in unison a guttural “No.” A few faces were familiar, but empty — I pushed through the blank-eyed gauntlet. Clearly what had caused this horrible effect was somewhere inside the store.

Inside we were found the store empty — except for a rusty suit of armor, out of place and quiet. It turned out to be a sort of shield guardian, like that one we made for King Flaubert. I tried to inspect it, but it pushed me away. Some rudeness in the design there. It was powered by some green energy — something I’d never encountered before, it made me feel a little pukey just to be near it.

Just then, Bostwick came down the stairs. He’s sort of a friend, I’ve -drank- talked to him a few times since I’ve moved here — he’s the courier that runs between Hemmerfell and Pennytown.

But something had changed him. He talked about changing the world, about how the people of Hemmerfell were the first step, tools for his master and fuel for his grand device. I knew right away he was talking about the cube. The swordsman, Quintus — oh, I didn’t describe him,  you’d like him Nomus, quick with his blade and quicker with his mind — asked Bostwick some penetrating questions about his purpose and who his master was. I missed some of it, because Mara happened to do that hair-flippy thing that girls do right in the corner of my vision.

What? It was distracting!

To make the world one. He said. The power of life, the control of a living being’s essence.—Vitaemancy.

Something was controlling Bostwick, or had changed him. I couldn’t get him to listen — and he commanded the guardian to attack — it surged to life, moving with the grace and skill of a knight of old. The construct answered to the name of Rülf, and summoned more constructs to face us. These new constructs were clearly much newer than Rülf, formed from adamantine and steel. I recognized the maker’s hand at once — whoever had built the cube had also made these soldier-constructs.

The fight was short and brutal. Quintus’ blades pierced and punctured, shining with a holy fire. Mara’s rifle blazed, cutting through the constructs and decimating the shambling horde of townsfolk that had me…temporarily pinned. I was impressed that she took the care to use non-lethal ammunition against the poor husks.

The swordsman’s final foe was the guardian, Rülf. The construct surrendered with nobility, and Quintus accepted, whispering a few words to the metal knight. Bostwick joined the fray as well, bolts of lightning at his beck and call. He was no wizard, master — I have no explanation for how he could do these things — my mind went slantways trying to put the pieces together. Sadly, Bostwick was felled by a carefully placed shot by the gunslinger — and I only had time to say a quick prayer for his soul.

I don’t know if I’ve ever asked before — how do you gods feel about that? I don’t know who Bostwick worshipped, or even IF he worshipped — but would it anger them to have one of your clerics give a benediction? If you get some grief about it, please let the appropriate deity know that I’m sorry.

We rushed upstairs, and through a shattered window saw that the grand cube had dissappeared — a summoning glyph still smoking in the earth. A gray-haired man smiled knowingly, and vanished before our eyes. Could this be the one who had brought this strange magic – the one that Rülf and Bostwick had called Mancer?

Yup, it was. And we had a serious problem. Mara pulled me away from the window — I  noticed she paints her nails, a lovely shade of purple.

“All of the able-bodied men are gone, this Mancer must be controlling them — the tracks that we found heading out of town, we should follow them now.” she said.

She’s smart, too!

We moved quickly in pursuit — leaving the poor people of Hemmerfell for the moment. As the miles and hours passed, the sun went down. And so did my hopes — the trail lead us back south down the Old Road – right back to Pennytown.

——Whoops! Nodded off for a second, and the truesilver almost spilled. I still say we should use a cauldron with a higher lip. Stop furrowing your brow — I know that your holy specifications are very exact, but you shouldn’t shut out innovation. Look, just consider it — think it over in the shower a few times, that’s all I’m asking.

Pennytown was madness. The simple traders and workers were doing their best to fend off the attacks of the Vitaemancer and his machines. Most horrible of which, the cube had reshaped itselft into a colossus, gleaming with soul-light and crushing everything in its path, while its smaller soldier-brothers savaged the populace. All the while, Mancer watched over all with a look of confidence on his face. While I watched he — I’m not sure you’ll believe me — he pulled the soul right out of one of the warehouse foremen. Green light flowing from the poor man’s body into Mancer’s hands — then reshaped into another soldier — using the material from my forge!

I know you often caution me against impulsive acts — or giving into the whirlwind of anger. I’ve prayed to you about it many times. But when I saw your forge being desecrated, to build a machine of pain and death. Well, I lost it, Master. I brought your power down to protect the people of Pennytown, and I turned my hands to smiting this soul thief.

I was amazed watching Mara and Quintus fight their way to the Gargantuan. (Oh– we found out later that the Mancer called it that.) On the road, the two of them bantered and quibbled like two old matrons at tea — but on the battlefield? Whoa.

Silent and smooth, well-oiled and vicious — never looking to check on the other’s work, each knowing that their companion would be bringing confident obliteration to their foes. I used your blessings to give their feet wings — but they scarcely needed it. My main job was just to keep up, and repair their wounds as quickly as I could.

The Mancer barred our way with an iron wall, and threw his constructs at us — but for the Ghosts their metal was paper.

Quintus tore through the metal soldiers seeking their master. The gunslinger’s rifle stunned the Vitaemancer with a vicious strike to his face, leaving him helpless. Before I barely had time to surmount the wall — Mancer lay dead in the grass. His constructs mounted a feeble defense that was soon quelled, and the Gargantuan stood still as a stone.

Now, this part is embarrassing. The giant thing was still brimful of hundreds of people’s soul energy — and — well, it started to TICK. So, doing the sensible thing ….we ran through the streets screaming “GET OUT, GET OUT, IT’S GONNA BLOW!!!!!”

An hour or so later, surrounded by the grateful (but hungry and grumpy) populace of Pennytown, we decided that perhaps we had overreacted. We made our way gingerly back to the collosus’ side, and soon discovered a hatch in the things right foot. Up a spiral staircase surrounded by gears and pistons, every surface lit by bizarre cylinders burning with the green fire of souls. Any admiration I could feel for the craft displayed was throttled by my total revulsion for the purpose of this device. A cage for souls! Could there be anything more horrible?

At the top of the stairs we found a control room of sorts — but the technology, and even language used was far beyond my experience or comprehension. Clearly this room controlled the Gargantuan, but we were at a loss to understand the smallest part of its operation. The best we could do was find the source of the ticking — a display showing characters in an unknown language, that seems to be counting down. I did some estimation, and I’m fairly sure that the countdown will end in four or five days. Whether the thing will explode then, or release all of the souls inside – I have no idea. I pray to you that once the soul energy is released, it will naturally find its way back to the proper vessel – the people of Hemmerfell, and the few townsfolk here that were afflicted.

I won’t lie — I’m afraid, Master. That a man’s soul can be ripped from under his heart, and forced to serve in a cage of magic and steel. I didn’t know such things were possible — did you?

Okay — I guess that’s about it. The truesilver is sufficiently purified, and I can finish what I need to complete my work. To complete your work, that is. I’ll write more later if I get a chance — you were right (you usually are), it did help to lay everything out, like tools on the bench before you set to the anvil. I know you can read these words even as a write them, so I would be most grateful for any guidance you could send — I’ll check the mail on the next STC ship that stops, it should be here in a couple of days.

Blessed Nomus, thank you for bringing me through these trials — I pray that I will continue to be a worthy tool in Your hands — the better to build and the better to learn more of your Infinite Order. Please forgive the imperfections in my mettle, as I continue to purify in the crucible of your forge.

And as always I pray, that the days will be short before I am at your side again. Ooh — next time, I learned this fabulous bread recipe from — someone — it’ll go great with the mutton and beer.
Kelvin Mason
Servant of Nomus