Monday, December 31, 2012

From the Journal of Former Lord Watcher Templeton Granger (Session VII)

7 Rova, 4707 AR
Arrived in Vigil unmolested. My companion known as Prank reminded our group of Vigil’s strict rules about safety which Tasilon attempted to reason his way out of. Prank showed us the shield insignia tattoo on his palm, mark of the Vigilant. Tasilon asked if he could receive one from me, but seeing as I am no longer a Lord Watcher of Vigil, I could not oblige, a fact which Prank brought to their attention somewhat hastily.
We approached the gate guard of Vigil and discovered that similar happenings that occurred near Woods Edge were happening near at hand, and were making a potential journey to Fik’s monastery treacherous. Given our previous experiences, we suggested to the guard that we might be able to shed some light on the situation of the falling rocks from the sky. He promised to send word up the chain of command so that we could speak with the appropriate authority.
We made our way to the local chapter of the Pathfinders and spoke with the head of the chapter, a fortune teller that cast an augury on our trek to the Monastery of Irori. She spoke of death and fire, a mentioned the head of the order trapped in a temple. I have little time for fortunes. I ventured into town to see what there was, keeping a low profile. It would not do to have people recognize me before they were ready… but news of my arrival had already reached the ears of the public.
After this discovery, I hastened to leave the streets. I collected Quill and rejoined my companions with the current Lord Watcher. I know not whether he believed my claim to the name Templeton Granger, but as noted before, it matters not if he believed me.
In exchange for our knowledge of the fallen meteors of Woods Edge, he told us what we needed to know for the pilgrimage to Fik’s monastery, promising recent maps of the area. A promise which was fulfilled the following morning. However, in the meantime, I finished a pilgrimage of my own, and visited my grave. It was… disappointing. I did receive a signet ring for my trouble, but beyond that, it was fruitless.
The next morn, we departed. We traveled without incident until nightfall, when we happened upon a small village. The village was being visited by a traveling circus. Tasilon was rightfully paranoid of assassins, but I was curious. As it turns out, the ringmaster possessed an accordion that controlled zombies, which he used as his performers. I will speak with the ringmaster in the morning and warn him of the dangerous enterprise he has embarked upon, and of the evils of using the undead in such a frivolous manner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From the Journal of Templeton Granger (Session VI)

“Take a long, hard look at what you have become. Tell me it is what you intended to be.” If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would have to say I don’t like what I am. On the streets, you learned quickly that you can only rely on yourself. You don’t have to answer to anybody, except maybe the authorities if they catch you. You tell yourself it’s only illegal if you get caught. So don’t get caught, and it’s all good. But since I’ve been with these people, my mind has slowly begun to change….
If I had a father, I would like to think the quote above is something he would have said to me.
Where does that leave me? I got married. I know Tasilon thinks he tricked me into it, but I could have gotten out of it. I didn’t.
Then someone tried to kill Tasilon and very nearly killed Chen in the process. I don’t care for children, but seeing his broken, deluded little body on the ground… something in me stirred. We found the assassin. I killed her. Cold-blood, calculated, even flippant. Same thing I did to Dundas. But somehow, it bothered me. Bothers me.
I met my “son.” Swore to Iomedae (a goddess I don’t believe in) that I would preserve the memory of his father (something I never intended to do) by spreading hope to a hopeless people (and I don’t even believe in hope). And you know what? I believed it. Every godsdamn word.
Also, we met a crazy person. She seems to be haunted by the ghosts we’ve left in our wake. She’s a bit, well… strange.
But we made it to Lastwall. Now I get to visit my tomb.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

From the Journal of Templeton Granger (Session V)

I have had a change of heart. You might even say I have been reborn. Allow me to explain. Ultimately, we decided to travel north via the river from Wood’s Edge toward Lastwall, so that Fik could find out why his monastery had not been heard from in some inexplicable timeframe. Once that was done, we would journey back across the big lake (skirting very carefully around the Isle of Terror, seriously, who names these things?) and then northward for our final approach to the World Wound. En route, we stopped in an elven trading town called Greengold. There, a young half-elven lad named Jareth found me, looking for Lord Templeton Granger of Varisia. I had been working hard to spread the word and reputation of our group (whom I have decided to call the Wayfinders), so I immediately identified myself as the man. He begged me to return to his village, claiming to have been sent by the village elder (as it turns out an aged and senile half-elf named Fenris) in search of the oathbound Templeton Granger. I am not oathbound, but the name is my own.
After convincing my companions to join me on this venture utilizing each their own vices, we began our journey. Jareth recounted tales of derring-do that I had never done… much to my chagrin. It became clear that the man he was searching for was not me, but some other man who bore my name in days of yor. The night prior to our arrival in the boy’s village, I got the boy drunk so that he would sleep the sleep of the dead and na├»ve and bared my soul: I told my companions the truth of my nature. I am not, in fact, a Varisian noble but an urchin from the streets of Absolom. I chose the name for “Templeton” is a common Varisian name, and “Granger” is that of a noble house from Varisia. It never occurred to me that there might be another man who bore that name, let alone a famous hero.
I explained that once we arrived in the village that I would be taking on the guise of this man: A man of virtue and goodness is not hard to emulate, really. Especially once you’ve seen it from the other side.
We were received as heroes, and I went before Fenris who, somewhat haltingly told us of the town’s troubles (something about ogres eating the elven young) and recounted tales of his life with the REAL Templeton Granger, which I played along with… until he revealed that his sister still awaited the oathbound’s return. This would not concern me if the woman were as old and senile as Fenris, save that she was fully elven… and the seventy-five years that had passed in Fenris’ mind would be but the blink of an eye to her. I avowed then and there to stay away from her, but as we returned to our wagon from meeting with Fenris, there she was. And she knew.
I impressed upon her that while I may not have been the Templeton Granger of her memory, I was still Templeton Granger… and I was there when the village needed a hero. She agreed not to tell anyone, but impressed that I should pass an item, a silver holy symbol belonging to the original Templeton Granger, to her dear brother upon our return. I solemnly agreed.
For Tasilon and me, the evening was spent in revelry, he in the arms of as many elven maidens he could see, and I in the bosom of Fenris’ sister. It was that night that my idea occurred to me, but more on that later. Fik and Prank did whatever it is they do when the rest of us are wenching.
The next morn we departed, once again following the guidance of young Jareth. In a meadow not far from the village we spotted the ogres. Two of them, each uglier than the other, roasting up some elf-flank on a spit, with five more children in a cage nearby. I was about to leap into verbal action with my words as strong as steel, but Tasilon suggested ACTUAL steel in this case.
The fighting was brief, I got off one good shot with my pistol, but ultimately Tas, Wonky, and Fik got the upper hand on the monstrous creatures. We freed the children and returned the bones of the dead to their families. I gave the holy symbol to Fenris as I was bade, which seemed to make him extremely happy… until he fell asleep. In the remote chance that I might live so long as to die of old age, remind me to put a bullet to my brain before I get that bad.
But therein lies my stroke of genius. Are you prepared?
It was no accident that Jareth found me, for I am the reincarnated spirit of Lord Templeton Granger, Oathbound of Varisia. Fenris, his old adventuring companion, believes it is so, and his sister, Granger’s lady love, has fallen as quickly into my bed. It is a truth that I am forced to face… even if it is not the truth at all. This is an opportunity for greatness that I cannot pass up. I shall begin by spreading rumors that Lord Templeton Granger, Oathbound has returned to Golarion…

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From the Journal of Templeton Granger (Session IV)

I fear due to time constraints I must be painfully brief. My lot has not improved since last I left this journal…. We traveled “that way” in the general direction of where the “flying rock from the heavens” had fallen with the warning of Stormbeard ringing in our ears: “Watch out fer zombies and any of the rock-worshippers that might have escaped.” A needless warning as I was acutely aware of the zombies at all times.
I “renovated” Prank’s wagon to be better suited to stave off a zombie attack and good ole Wonky pulled the thing. Prank managed to do something he called “triangulation” to figure more precisely where the rock had landed. En route, we ran afoul of a wretched coven of goblins (lit them on fire) and proved the zombie curse could be spread by consumption of tainted meat (by feeding him the zombified leg of one of his comrades).
Further, we ran across none other than Dundas Montgomery, Loomis and Kellis, the leader of the skyrock rebellion and his lieutenants. They were… less than pleased to see me. But after Prank greased the ground so that their horses fell, we were able to get Dundas to… believe that we were out to get him. So nothing really changed. But he turned his back on me at a vulnerable moment, so I cut his throat, then convinced Loomis to work for me, and Kellis that I would start a rebellion somewhere at some point soonish. I really felt good about that save that it trampled on the sensibilities of my good friend Fik… I’m not happy about that. I mean, I’m not sad that I killed an evil man, and nor is he, but he was a little perturbed that the man was a) unarmed, and b) had surrendered.
Still… We eventually found the skyrock. It had created a deep tunnel, and the zombies were bringing scraps of metal to the hole. We eventually snuck in to discover this crazy spider thing creating a portal to another world… where there were MORE crazy spider things. The others dealt with the fighting part while I dealt with the portal… using black powder cartridges and oil-soaked string as a makeshift clusterbomb.
In the end, it worked and with the passing of the spider and the destruction of the portal, the zombie invasion was put to a stop. Not a bad day’s work!
Now, we are on our way back to Wood’s Edge to collect our reward and be recognized as the brave heroes that we are!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

From the Journal of Templeton Granger (Session III)

I have been very productive the past few days. On the trek to Wood’s Edge, we happened upon several very unkempt fields of grain, of which we availed ourselves, netting two bushels in total. While we gathered, we were approached by Stormbeard and Prank, a dwarf and gnome respectively. It bears noting that Prank at the time was encapsulated within an eight-foot-tall mechanical monster he referred to as “Wonky.”
It seems the zombie infestation was not as aimless as we thought. The zombies were preceeded by a comet – a comet that was the source of worship to a rebellious faction within Wood’s Edge who controlled the city to the west of the river that bifurcates the town. Stormbeard mentioned that the zombies seemed to have specific purpose in their shamblings… something I had not observed, but he had been dealing with than longer than we had, so I was willing to take his word for it. When Stormbeard inquired as to our business in Wood’s Edge, a merchant named Chevon piped up that he had a shipment of coffee for one Dundas Montgomery. But more on that later…
Once safely within the walls of the zombie-beseiged city (via a tunnel under the wall), we set up for business in town, offering the zombie refugee discount – 5% above cost. Curious about the revolution, Stormbeard dressed us up as zealots and brought myself, Fik, and Prank to a “political rally” featuring none other than the leader of the superstitious mob, Dundas Montgomery. (On the trip across the river, I noted an abandoned temple of Abadar on an island in the middle of the water… this will be relevant later.) Montgomery mentioned that their blacksmith, a Steelbeard (what is it with dwarves and their obsession with facial hair?) had been working long hours creating firearms and they were just waiting on a shipment of black powder that was due to arrive any day. After that, they could take the other half of the city with impunity.
It seems Montgomery had had a great many beans prior to his rally, as some poorly time flatulence took the wind out of his sails, but all the same afterward, his lieutenants took folk from the crowd to eat at his table. After spotting a comely young woman in his direct employ, I managed to flirt my way to Montgomery’s table… and possibly a marriage proposal, though I do not think I will go through with it unless there is a dowry involved… and if she’s still alive… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
When Montgomery made his requisite appearance at the feast, I slipped him a note informing him that I was aware of why his shipment was delayed and that we could discuss it outside the gates of his home after the feat. Once there, I met with Montgomery and his personal valet, and uncouth, unpleasant-looking man named Loomis. I informed him that we managed to get his shipment into the east side of the city but could not deliver it due to the involvement of the counter-revolutionaries. If he wanted his goods, he would have to empty the abandoned temple of Abadar of anything hostile with a penchant for tasty brains and I would leave the goods for his use. He agreed to this conditionally: If we could give him a demonstration of the goods to prove that we were on the up and up. We agreed to meet at dawn on the North Bridge.
I immediately returned to my companions and we traversed the river, wherein I went to the caravan and found Chevon. With Fik as his generally intimidating self, we got Chevon to admit that he was not in fact carrying coffee across country borders, but black powder. This offense is punishable by hanging, so I gave him the option: Allow me to confiscate his powder and live, or be hanged and then I confiscate his black powder. He made the wise choice, and was then arrested by Surefoot.
From the black powder, the gnome Prank devised two gnomish fireworks, and I bartered a direct exchange from Tasilon: Three kegs of black powder for three kegs of coffee. I got the lesser end of that deal by far, but my respect for Tasilon is such that I do not much mind. I did manage to retain two kegs of black powder for my own uses.
I then set three trusted caravan denizens to work grinding the coffee beans to a similar consistency to the black powder and headed off to the North Bridge with Prank and Fik. Prank was positioned just to the west of the North Bridge with one of his fireworks, and I took the other with Fik and myself. We met with Motgomery and Loomis and after Prank set off his firework for the revolutionary’s benefit, we agreed upon the plan. They would take three days to empty the temple, I would deliver the goods. I also required a writ of passage for myself, Fik, Prank, and Tasilon to walk on the west side of the river unmolested by his followers. I offered him the other firework to signal us that the work was done.
With these terms agreed upon, we parted ways. The next three days were a busy time. Fik did some research at his local temple, I readied the kegs of “powder” for shipment, and I spent some time on the west side spreading a little rumor… that the attack on the heretical east-siders was imminent, so that Montgomery would find his hand somewhat forced in the matter of overtaking the nonbelievers, perhaps causing him to treat his shipment with a touch less scrutiny that he would otherwise attend.
I also spoke with Stormbeard about Kimbote and learned some interesting details about their visit to the World Wound. Evidently, Kimbote the Elder and Kimbote the Younger, his squire, pushed on ahead into the World Wound, not waiting for his companions. There was some kind of collapse, and Kimbote the Younger pulled his brother out of the proverbial fire. Stormbeard said he believed Kimbote the Younger walked a little taller that day… and without his telltale limp. He always suspected that the young man had his eyes set on greater things than squiring for his elder brother, but being Kimbote the Elder’s bosom friend, he would not speak ill of the man’s family.
After, Prank and I crossed the river to speak with Steelbeard the blacksmith on the matter of Kimbote the Elder’s infirmity. He told a similar story, confirming what Stormbeard hinted at. That Kimbote the Younger definitely experienced a change in the World Wound, with the added detail that the young man smelt of sulfur long after they had left the vicinity of the Wound…
While speaking with Steelbeard, Prank began to engage the dwarf in conversation about the twin cannons in the shop, and I, in the interests of quelling the revolution of course, divested him of some of his firearm stock, netting 3 blunderbusses, 2 muskets, and 10 pistols. We returned to the east side of the river and I gifted Stormbeard with one of the blunderbusses… in exchange for his fealty.
And on the third day, I finished my gold-threaded rope, and waited. When the firework came, we were not long about it: Fik, Prank and I made our way to the temple where we deposited the kegs of “powder.” While there, we searched for a couple of items needed for a special project put to me by Tasilon, which we found: A gold-plated embosser of the priest of Abadar, and 3 sheets of vellum.
And then we returned to the east side of the river to watch the fur fly. We did not have to wait long. The very next day, the battle was met. It turns out that the revolutionaries had a trebuchet, but Prank, Fik and I sneaked across the river and a well-placed summon of a fire elemental thanks to Prank made short work of the siege engine.
In the end, the revolution was short and bloody and over. Coffee does not a catalyst make, and Stormbeard’s forces were more than a match for the surprised revolutionaries. We managed to scavenge 2 more blunderbusses, 2 more muskets, and 10 more pistols, as well as 200 balls from the battlefield.
While Stormbeard was grateful for our assistance, he begged one more favor of us, offering full membership into his little club. He believed the comet was the harbinger of the zombie attack, and he asked us to investigate the landing site. He assigned Prank and Wonky to join us by way of assistance. I like Prank well enough, but given our history with the shambling dead, I am uncertain how useful he will be. Wonky, on the other hand….

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Day of Mourning

        The final crest of the hill reveals the Cyran countryside several miles hence: Rolling fields of verdant green and gold, ancient land oblivious to the horrors of a century of warfare. Amazing how a land soaked in blood can hide its scars so well. So close to home, fragrant winds rustle the sparse stands of oak and yew dotting the landscape.

        It happens quickly. A brilliant flash; a soft sound like a discarded boot dropping on the wooden floor above; followed by a rush of wind from deep within Cyre. This is not the fragrant wind of antiquity: This smells of blood, death, tears, and silent screams. The sky darkens and turns a florid, deep shade of violet like the bruising surrounding an untended wound. High in the sky above what would be the middle of Cyre, clouds form rapidly, spreading outward as young spiders from the egg-sac, creeping across the sky.

        Sickly green lightning leaps from cloud to cloud, but instead of thunder all that is heard is a low, constant, ominous rumbling that inexorably grows louder… and louder… and louder…. Soon the rumbling becomes felt as the ground begins to shake violently. The lightning has grown in brutality, arcing to the ground, trees, the road, igniting incendiary and white-hot flames wherever it strikes.

        Over the horizon, a black mass tumbles forward, running, stumbling; leaping, crawling, falling over anything in its way: A horde of animals, people, carts, wagons; all flee from some great, unseen foe. Their screams and bleats and baying are eclipsed by the horrible rumbling. Lightning devastates many, but they do not slow; massive crevices open up and swallow entire families, but still they do not slow; until finally with all the violence and suddenness of a blade through riven flesh, a solid wall of dead gray mist dominates the horizon. Faster than man, faster than beast, it swallows indiscriminately: The men, the women, the children, the creatures, the trees, the rolling fields are gone in an instant, swallowed by the horrible mist.

        The rumbling ceases with the swiftness that it began, and for one horrific moment, all that can be heard is screaming.

        And then there is silence.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Narrative Historical Recounting of the Fall of Cyre

         History is always written by the victor. The question becomes, when there is no clear and decisive victory, who writes the history then? Sages have an answer: Everyone but the loser. And on 20 Olarune, 994 YK, Cyre lost more than a few battles, more than the war, more than some dots on a map. On that date four years ago, Cyre lost everything. Its land, i’s people, but most importantly, its spirit.
         Nearly a thousand years ago, a human named Galifar ir’Wynarn I conquered the last remnants of the goblinoid nations and united the continent of Khorvaire under one banner: His. The reign of Galifar is long considered a golden age of progress and prosperity, but again: History is written by those who have hanged heroes.
         During the first year of his reign, King Galifar appointed his five children, Auindair, Brey, Cyre, Karrn, and Thrane, governorship over large swaths of land, covering the entirety of Khorvaire. In 32 YK, those regions took the names of their rulers, and on King Galifar’s death in 53 YK, he was succeeded by King Cyre. King Galifar was 98 at the time of his death.
         Years passed, bloodlines mingled, politicians lied and the only things that remained constant were death and taxes. For eight hundred years, the Kingdom of Galifar lived in peace, exchanging sovereignty peaceably through that time. Until the death of King Jarot in 894 YK. At that time, Governor-Princess Mishann of Cyre was to take the throne, but Governor-Sovereigns Thalin of Thrane, Kaius I of Karrnath, and Wroann of Breland opposed her. Only Governor-Prince Wrogar of Auindair supported Mishann’s right to the throne, but this was not sufficient to stem the tide of war.
         This became the hundred-years long conflict known as the Last War, at the end of which there was no decisive victor: Only one clear loser. Cyre, geographically located at the center of the Five Nations, was pounded on all fronts by her neighbors as treaties and alliances were created, broken, and reformed dozens of times throughout the course of the long conflict. If not for the unofficial support of the dragonmarked House Cannith and their invention of the metal-and-magic warriors called the warforged, Cyre would have fallen a score of times, but as of 20 Olarune, 994 YK, Cyre was still holding, if only by the skin of her proverbial teeth.
         And then Mourning came. A maelstrom of magic, fire, and death rained from the heavens, extending to the very borders of Cyre, killing anything and everything in its path without discrimination or mercy. There are no words.
         Nobody outside of Cyran patriotism knows what happened. Every Cyran who survived knows exactly what happened. The trouble is, none of them agree. This brought the war machine to a screeching halt the way no political machinations or diplomatic means could ever hope to have done.
         Two years later, a treaty was signed… one that did not include the displaced Cyrans. The King of the Valenar elves moved that they be disinvited to the talks as they did not possess any sovereign land, and the movement was seconded by Queen Aurala ir’Wynarn of Auindair. Obviously this did not sit well with the existing Cyran population, but to make matters worse, lands that had once been former Cyran territory were granted to their current occupants: Valenar was granted to the elves, and Darguun was granted to the goblinoids. And warforged, arguably the children of Cyre, were granted sovereignty and amnesty in whichever country to which they were loyal. This was an affront that the Cyran people cannot bear.
         The Cyran refugees are a broken people, but still proud. Every Cyran knows precisely where they were and what they were doing when the first heard about the Mourning. “Tomorrow in Cyre” has become an expression of bittersweet hope for the Cyran people.
         But what is left? Very little. With their nation destroyed and their countrymen scattered, Cyrans tend to be uniquely aware of their treacherous position in what remains of the Five Nations. They have no status, save the gift of a ruin granted to them by Brelish King Boranel ir’Wynarn. They are a dour lot, full of piss and vinegar as the old-timers would say. Some have tried to blend in with whatever country they happened to be in at the time of Mourning, but none of the have ever forgotten their heritage. Blood is thicker than water, and while a country’s spirit can be crushed, its memory lives on in the hearts and minds of those who survive it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Devil's Own

        Maxwell Drake twitched. Pain flooded his everything, from the scruff on his face to the deep down depths of his feet. He opened an eye, and then closed it again. It was bright, and that was bad.
        “So this is sober,” he muttered into the sand. “Don’t much care fer it.”
        The sounds of surf assailed his ears. The cries of the gulls, water pounding sand, and the angry percussionist in his chest pounding out a rhythm in his abused ears. He quickly took stock of the situation. He was lying face down in the sand on some unknown beach in the middle of what he assumed was nowhere. He was naked. He’d been there for some time, judging from the vaguely cooked feelings emanating from his back and backside. He knew his name, had a distant memory of how many fingers and toes he had, and the barest trace of how old he was. The rest of it, unimportant details such as how he came to be in this rather unusual predicament, were gone. They were just plain not there.
        He pushed himself to a sitting position, ignoring the screams of agony from his joints and skin, and only dared open his eyes once he was upright. Less than five feet from where he had been lying, a crate stamped “Devil’s Own Rum” lay, cracked open. Most of its contents appeared in tact, eight lovely bottles of beautiful bliss. He leaned forward, grabbed a bottle and smashed the neck against the crate and took a hearty swig.
        “Slap me sister and call her Jezabelle,” he said with a contented sigh. “At least I’m not lonely.”
        “Ya know it be bad luck ta drink by yer lonesome,” a gruff voice informed him. Drake didn’t turn. He knew that voice.
        “‘Tis worse luck ta drink with you,” Drake returned, and put the rum to his lips once again. As he drained the rest of the bottle, the other trudged around him and reached into the crate, removing a bottle and opening it in a similar fashion. Once Drake had drained the first, the man handed him the second, then hunkered down on the crate as Drake partook in the proffered beverage.
        The man was about as tall as Drake, but heavier set, with wide shoulders, a good-sized drinking belly, a bright red bulbous nose, thick reddish-gold beard and twinkling black eyes. He wore the vestments of a captain in good standing with the Guild of the Gentlemen of Good Fortune; a deep blue long coat with whalebone toggles and matching vest, white shirt and collar, canvas breeches matching his coat and vest, soft-soled leather boots, and, oddly enough, wire-rimmed spectacles. His hat was massive, feathered, and festooned with musket balls, he wore a cutlass on his left hip, and a bandolier of pistols over each shoulder. His left hand was missing and replaced by a wicked-looking three-pronged fork with bladed tines. His boots didn’t fit him quite right and shifted around as he walked, and the back side of his breeches had been cut to make room for the vestigial tail that hung down a foot or so behind him.
        Drake knew him as Jak Severstring, but he also knew that this was not his real name.
        “That’s one more ye owe me, Drake,” Jak rasped. Drake didn’t answer. He was halfway through the second bottle and he’d be damned if he was going to talk to Severstring sober. “I make that ta be four times I hauled ye out of the deep.”
        “Who’s counting?” Drake said weakly. Jak’s soulless black eyes twinkled.
        “The deal was fer three,” Jak growled, gesturing with the three-pronged fork that was his hand. “That means we need to renegotiate our deal.”
        “Ya didn’t have to pull me out,” Drake muttered into the bottle. Jak’s smile widened.
        “I suppose I didnae… I’ll just throw ye back then,” the big man’s right hand shot out and grabbed Drake by the throat. Drake sprayed rum all over the other sailor as Jak stood and began to drag him toward the ocean.
        “Gragglesplork!” Drake managed to squeak. Jak slowed, loosening his grip on Drake’s windpipe.
        “What’s that?”
        “I’ll renegotiate!” Drake translated passionately. Jak dropped him and walked back the crate, leaving Drake gasping. Eventually, Drake pulled himself to his feet, hefting the rum bottle (which he had clung to for dear life when Jak had grabbed him) and wet his whistle with the wine of the seas. Then, he resumed his sitting in supplication before the crate of rum.
        “So what do you want?” Drake said. “My soul?”
        Jak shook his head with a grin, the great feathers swaying in counterpoint to the great mangy beard. “Nay. I’ve already got that.”
        Drake took another swallow. “Oh right. What then?”
        “Yer gonna’ work for me, Drake,” Jak’s smile widened to a grin. Drake felt distinctly like he was looking into the maw of a particularly hungry shark with really bad breath.
        “Work for you?”
        “Aye,” Severstring said softly. “Yer a good cap’n, in spite of yer tendency ta sink, and people trust ya. Fer some reason they’re uncomfortable around me.”
        “I can’t imagine why,” Drake polished off the second bottle and accepted a third from Jak.
        “So here’s wot I’ll do fer ya,” Jak informed him as Drake took a swig. “I’ll clothe ya, feed ya, get ye off this God forsaken rock,” Severstring’s smile turned vicious at this, “and give ye one of me ships. In return, ye’ll get me souls.”
        “How many?” Drake asked. Severstring shrugged.
        “One thousand.”
        Drake shook his head. “One hundred at the most.”
        Severstring guffawed. “Fer savin’ yer skin and given ye me ship? Five hundred minimum.”
        Drake’s head was swimming from drink and from sun… just the way he liked it. He tried a different tactic. “Ye must need these souls pert-badly if’n yer commandeering me services… King Phillip’s Inquisition starting ta take its toll?”
        Jak’s face darkened. “Aye. Nobody can beat a conversion out of a sinner like the Spanish.”
        “So ye’ll be needin’ a lot of souls very quickly less’n ye lose this cosmic bet of yorn?”
        Jak’s eyes narrowed, trying to see what Drake was playing at.
        “I’ll make ye a deal. A wager, if you like.” Drake said smoothly, taking a dainty ship from the bottle. Jak’s eyes brightened. He’d never been able to pass up a bet.
        “The stakes?” he asked, scratching his beard with his forked hand.
        “Feed me, clothe me, give me yer ship,” Drake stated. “And if I can’t roust you one hundred souls inside of a month, I’ll stay on for five-hundred.”
        Jak shook his head. “Any one can convert one hundred souls in a month. For this ta be a fair bet for a man of yer talents, one hundred souls in a week, minimum.”
        “Three weeks,” Drake murmured.
        “Ten days,” Jak countered.
        “Tell you what… two weeks, one hundred and fifty souls, and I get to keep yer ship when I’m done,” Drake threw out.
        Jak’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. “Yer terms are acceptable, but if ye fail, ye’ll stay on fer a thousand, and I leave ya right were I found ya.”
        “We have an accord,” Drake said, offering his hand. Jak went to shake it but found instead he was holding the empty bottle of rum. Drake sprang to his feet. “Right!” he exclaimed. “Where’s me ship?”
        Jak stood, and gestured. To the east, the skies over the ocean darkened into a fast moving storm, and soon it was pouring rain. Out of the storm’s ferocious maw, a ship spewed forth, and Jak’s voice rang in Drake’s ears.
        “This be the Ragewind. Ya have two weeks. Fourteen days ta get me one hundred and fifty souls. Yer time starts now.”
        Drake glanced around for Jak Severstring, and was not surprised to find him gone. He was surprised and dismayed to find that the rapscallion had made off with the rum. He sighed.
        “So this is sober…”

Friday, October 5, 2012

Miyamoto Musashi

There is a tale that is told in the islands in the east where the sun rises. It is a tale based on truth, but it is as shrouded in myth and mystery as any creature that haunts our dreams. It is a tale about Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest swordsman who ever lived and died under the mortal sun.

The tale tells of Miyamoto’s duel with Sasaki Kojiro on the small island now called Ganryujima, centuries ago. Kojiro issued the challenge, to Miyamoto, offering time and place and eternal glory for the man who walked away. Kojiro, known as the Demon of the West for his fearsome prowess with the blade, would arrive early and await Miyamoto with his back to the setting sun.

It is said that Miyamoto was not impressed with Kojiro, though many of his friends and family warned him that overconfidence leads to arrogance which in turn leads to failure and in this case, inevitably death. But Miyamoto went anyway, unwashed and unkempt, wrapped in a towel and just drunk enough that he forgot his blade.

And when he arrived, he was already late, and the sun was low in the western sky. Mistaking his instructions, Miyamoto approached from the west, landing his boat behind Kojiro. Miyamoto climbed out of his boat and approached his opponent with the knowledge that his reputation alone would save him…

And promptly beat Kojiro to death with an oar.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

13 Olarune, 992 YK

13 Olarune, 992 YK

        The fire of defiance still burned in his eyes. He sat quietly, slouched like a young man defeated, the rags of his clothes draped over his body like a burial shroud. Everything in his form suggests defeat, except for his eyes. He resembles a young human man, brown hair tinged with sun-highlighted blond streaks, strong chin and slightly pointed nose that gave him a sharp, intelligent look. The unshaved makings of a beard only enhance the rakish nature of his appearance, and his limbs are strong and corded with the lean muscle of a man who exercises regularly. But he could be so much more.
        Oargev watched him as the light shone in the youth’s face. The youth knew someone was there, but he knew not who it was. Oargev’s finger traced the magic rune on the object at the table before him, which glowed slightly and spidery whispers tingled the vestige of his consciousness as the spell became active.
        “Let us start with your name,” Oargev said, deepening his voice to a low rumble. The man hardly reacted save to slide his gaze toward the owner of the voice. Oargev could not be seen, not with the light shining in the young man’s eyes, but even still he felt he was being studied.
        “I say we start with yours,” he murmured. His tone was light, flippant even. “Don’t bother to disguise your voice. I can tell you are doing it.” He blinked as he said those words, as if surprised he uttered them. Then his head dropped in realization. “You’ve cast zone of truth on me,” he murmured. Oargev was surprised. What little he knew of the youth had indicated that he was raised on the streets. Your average street urchin knew little of magic beyond the day-to-day workings of Sharn, let alone the name of the spell that would cause him to utter only the truth.
        “You are in no position to ask questions.” Oargev replied, giving up the pretense of disguise.
        “Why not?” the man replied. “The worst thing you can do is have me tortured until I die.” His resignation to that fate made Oargev’s blood run cold.
        “Let us just start with answering some questions,” Oargev said, keeping his tone even. Good as the youth was, Oargev was a master at keeping his emotions in check, and the young man was not the wiser. “And save the torture for later.”
        The young man sighed. “I don’t have a name.” Oargev blinked.
        “Everyone has a name,” he said. “What did your parents call you?”
The young man snorted. “I didn’t have any parents.” He leaned forward. “You really want to know all this?”
        “Desperately,” Oargev said, somewhat ironically. The young man’s entire demeanor shifted. The defiance which had only been in his eyes enveloped his entire body, but he spoke anyway. Not because Oargev had asked him to, but because he had decided he wanted to.
        “You asked for it, Ambassador,” he said. Oargev was disturbed but not surprised that the young man knew who he was. “So you’re going to get it.”
        And he began to tell his story.

        “I was born underneath Sharn. And I mean UNDERNEATH Sharn. Not to the Cogs, I wasn’t that unlucky, but deep. Deep enough that I didn’t see the sun until I was eight years old. I remember there was a sizeable pipe that opened up close the hole where I sometimes slept that went deeper still. I would hear things from below, sometimes. Noises. Terrible sounds, mechanical and deep but somehow alive. I dream about them sometimes. Like Sharn is a massive ticking clock and I still stuck here when time runs out. Anyhow…
        “I have no idea who my parents were, or even if they are still alive. It doesn’t much matter. I am not sure how I survived my infancy: My memory doesn’t extend that far back. I have vague memories of an old beggar woman who took care of me and taught me how to survive, but I must have been three or four at that point. She had a whole brood of us. Orphans and refugees without parents, taught us how to pick pockets, how to forage, how to keep warm when nights got cold and how to keep cool when days got hot. How to live. Never learned what happened to her. One day she was just… gone. I must have been about five at the time. Not the oldest, not the youngest, but definitely the smartest.
        “I ran my first confidence job not long after she died. Without the old woman’s tutilege, some of the younger children were starving. Had to do something. It was a modified Antique Violin job with just a hint of Bagman’s Gambit. It did not go well.”
        Oargev had no notion what the Antique Violin or the Bagman’s Gambit were, but he made no sound. He just listened.
        “I didn’t give up though. Couldn’t, not really. Just revised and tried again. And again. And by the time I was seven, we were living like kings. Or at least, we thought we were. I know better now. But either way, we were living big enough that we caught the attention of one of the goblin gangs down below. We worked a job in their territory and they didn’t like it much, so they cried foul. We declared war. Can you imagine? A horde of kids under ten preparing for war… playing at war, more like. We didn’t know what war was. I experienced my first massacre before I even knew what that word was.
        “They slaughtered us wholesale. Every last one, even the youngest Milo, who was three and, if I recall, wielding a broken broom handle.
        “I only survived because I discovered something about myself that I never knew… and became like the thing that was killing us.”
Oargev shifted in his seat. “You changed your shape for the first time?”
The youth nodded. “And became a goblin. I know that was the only thing that saved me. I had picked up the language while living down there, even Milo could hurl a few goblin insults. It served me well. I just claimed to be Grobber’s cousin, every goblin has a cousin named Grobber, just so you know. They took me back to their camp, and I lived with them for the better part of a year.”
        “With the goblins?” Oargev was incredulous.
        “You would be surprised how easy it was. Their lives weren’t so different than ours, really. Those who fall behind get left.”
        “No honor amongst thieves?” Oargev prompted. The youth just gave him a look that could wither orchids.
        “Anyhow, I lived with them for about ten months, just waiting for my moment. I knew I would know it when it happened and I did. I was foraging for food closer to the surface when I heard a beggar tell a thief that the Sharn Watch were delving deeper than they ever had before because their superiors were offering a gold piece for every left goblin ear. So I stopped looking for food and started looking for a certain mushroom that grows beneath Sharn. It will make a human violently ill, but it will pretty much outright kill a goblin.”
        “I thought goblins could stomach anything,” Oargev mused. The youth smiled mirthlessly.
        “That is mostly true. The old woman who raised me knew some things about poisons, and what she knew she imparted to me. Mostly so I wouldn’t accidentally eat them. She called the fungus dreckmal. It probably has another name, but I don’t know it. I found a whole field of dreckmal before too long and picked enough to feed the whole clan. Every night they cooked a kind of stew filled with the various things the young goblins foraged during the course of the day, while the elder goblins did big important things. Nobody questioned it when I put the mushrooms. It was no big thing for me to pretend to eat while they all ate their fill. By morning, they were all dead. Well, almost.”
        Oargev was staring, horrified. “How old were you?”
        “About eight.”
        “And you just… poisoned an entire clan of goblins… who you had been living with for ten months.”
        “What did you expect? They had killed the closest thing to a family I ever had. I killed them right back. It is the law of Down Below, Ambassador.”
        “You said they were almost all dead?” Oargev prompted him to continue. The youth shrugged.
        “The chief of the clan proved either smarter or more resilient than his clan members. When he realized I was behind it, he was a bit annoyed. We fought. I won.”
        “You were eight,” Oargev said. “How did you win?”
        “I changed my shape to resemble his daughter who lay dead no more than a few yards away,” the young man said flatly. “He couldn’t bring himself to hurt me, and when he turned his back and slit his throat.”
Oargev bit his lip but said nothing. The youth continued.
        “I spent the next few hours cutting off all of their ears.”
        “Just the left one.” Oargev stated, but the youth shook his head.
        “Both. I took their right ears and put it in one bag, and put the left ears in another bag, keeping one in my pocket. I hid the bags in different spots and headed for the surface.
        “It was the first time in my life I had seen the sun. I had heard about it, of course, but I had never seen it. It was much brighter than I had anticipated, but I was still lower than most sun reaches, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I approached the first group of Sharn Watchmen I found, resembling a young human, styling my features to appear similar to their leader, but smaller. He treated me well, saying I reminded him of his daughter. I played my part and told them about the clan of dead goblins. I led them right to it, but when they discovered their ears were missing, they got mad. I produced the left ear and informed them I would tell them where the other ears were if they paid me half their worth in gold.”
        “I bet they didn’t like that,” Oargev mused softly.
        “They did not. They threatened, they cajoled, the leader even tried to spank me, but I stood firm. Before long, they were counting goblins and then gold. Forty-two goblins was twenty-one gold. I gave them the ear I had and told them where I hid the ears. Then, before they found the bag, I fled.”
        “Because you had told them where the right ears were, not the left ones,” Oargev guessed.
        “Exactly. I fled to where I had hidden the bag of left ears, minus one, and ran all the way back to where they would have brought the bag, had the found the correct one. I was awarded forty-one gold for my troubles and was gone long before they made it back to discover what I had done.”
        “Sixty-three gold in one job,” Oargev smiled in spite of the grotesqueness of the young man’s actions. “Not too shabby. What did you do with your spoils?”
        “Hoarded it,” he replied. “I still have most of it. I bought some new clothes, something that was less dungeon-y, and began working confidence jobs all the way up the political ladder.”
        “Yes, I have the list,” Oargev said, shuffling pieces of paper on the table in front of him. “It says here that you had more than a few run-ins with that particular Sharn Watch lieutenant in those intervening years…”
        “I didn’t like him,” the young man stated. “He tried to spank me.”
        “You managed to make a fool of him time and again, but somehow always letting him know that it was you. You eventually got him discharged from the Watch and publicly humiliated. But when I look through these files, I see a number of opportunities where you could have easily gotten him killed. And yet you refrained. Why?”
        “Because he didn’t try to kill me,” the youth said simply. “I just did what he did to me: Threatened, cajoled, and humiliated.”
        “I see,” Oargev murmured. “Let’s move on to how you came to be here today.”
        “You already know all that.”
        Oargev waved a hand. “Indulge me.” The youth shrugged.
        “We had heard about the war, even down below. Sometimes veterans would turn up down there. People who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit into ‘civilized’ society anymore, because they were scarred. Physically, mentally, both, neither… once, when I was still young, I met a man who had fled down below because the Brelish government thought he was a Cyran sympathizer. It seems his father’s father had been from Cyre and he still had living relatives there. He had brought his family down below to avoid arrest.”
        “What happened to him?” Oargev asked.
        “His wife and two daughters were eaten by ghouls while he was out searching for food. He came back and his mind snapped. I know he killed himself, but I didn’t see it. Some people say he hung himself, others say he cut out his own heart. My favorite version is that he tracked down the ghouls and died fighting for revenge.”
        “You like that one?”
        The youth grinned, showing teeth. “I love a good revenge story. So during one of my jobs, I learned that his family name had been cleared. Until that point, I had been playing the part of merchants and visiting dignitaries, never quite able to break into high society, so when I heard that his family name had been cleared, I saw my chance. I remembered what he looked like, so I became him. I emerged from the depths bittersweet and triumphant. I told the truth, most of it: That my wife and daughters had been eaten by ghouls and that I had avenged them. And I was in.”
        “The trouble was,” Oargev began, “that he really was a Cyran spy.”
        “That was an unforeseen circumstance, yes,” the young man said. “The King’s Citadel had only cleared his name to draw him out. As soon as I had established myself and proved that I was indeed him, the Dark Lanterns came and arrested me.”
        “And when Cyran nationalists staged a rescue, they found you instead of the man they hoped you were. Which is why you were brought here to me.” It was Oargev’s turn to smile.
        “They were not happy about that,” the young man said. His unflappability was disconcerting. “Though if one of them had not been a changeling himself, I might have convinced them as well.”
Oargev nodded. “Imi has proved invaluable over the years. He is actually the queen’s seneschal.”
        The young man shrugged again. “So he’d have you believe. My question is, now that you have me, what will you do with me?”
Oargev pondered this. “That is a good question. If I mistreat you and you escape, I can only have the same mistreatment visited upon me to look forward to. If I were to order you killed and you escaped, I could only see my own assassination in the future. This is how you operate, is it not?”
        The youth just stared at him.
        “How about if I offer you a job?” Oargev asked. The young man blinked, his stoic impacability cracking a fraction.
        “A job?”
        “You work for me, you do what I ask you to do, and I will pay you for doing what you do best. And handsomely.”
        The young man pondered this for a long time, his eyes on the table before Oargev. Then, he looked up, right into Oargev’s face even though Oargev was still reasonably certain that he could not be seen.
        “When do I start?”

19 Lharvion, 998 YK

        Abernathy stared hard at Oargev, his black eyes containing a mixture of amazement and revulsion. “No,” he said, shaking his head. As he did so, his shape subtly changed from that of Abernathy Govern, overweight, middle-aged advisor of Oargev ir’Wynarn, to a slender, gray-skinned, flat-featured, white haired changeling who had no name. “I cannot do that.”
        “You must,” Oargev said softly. “There is no other option.”
        “No,” the changeling shook his head more fiercely. Oargev marveled at him. He had not seen the changeling’s true form for several years. Gone was the arrogant young man he had questioned before wars end, here was a fully grown adult, with lines alongside his eyes and mouth. The last six years had taken their toll on his trusted confidante. The have taken their toll on us all, Oargev thought.
        “You know this is the only way. You said it yourself.”
        “Only because I did not think you fool enough to take me up on it!” the changeling growled. “You are the rightful heir, NOT that… woman.”
        “She is your queen,” Oargev said softly.
        “She is an imposter! A changeling! Queen Dannel ir'Wynarn died in the Mourningblast!”
        “I know this already, Abernathy,” Oargev’s tone was still even and calm. “But you lack sufficient proof to expose her to her followers… and in doing so, you would expose yourself for the imposter that you are.”
        “Which I would do a thousand times over if it would dissuade you from this course of action!”
        “You know better than that. If you reveal yourself like that, it would destroy any credibility the name Abernathy Govern might have had. How many bargains, deals, understandings and promises would fall apart as a direct result of that action?”
        The changeling was silent.
        “This is the only way. Our people are divided, perhaps fatally so. If we cannot unite them, the Cyran nation will cease to be. She is royal, I am not. The choice is clear, especially to you.”
        “But she is NOT royal,” the changeling protested in a whisper. “She was the queens seneschal…”
        “As you are mine. What would you do, if you were in her position?”
        The changeling was silent again, but his silence spoke volumes.
        “It is my belief after meeting her, that whoever she is, her intention is only the best for the people. And they need hope, Abernathy. Which is something I cannot give, no matter how hard I try. Your duty is to me, Abernathy, and I have given you your orders. Please carry them out.”
        “You understand what that will mean, correct?” the changeling asked. “It cannot just be you. It must be your wife as well. And your children. As long as your line continues, the loyal will cling to them. The only way to be sure is to cut the line.”
        Oargev swallowed. He had known what it meant, but hearing it spoken out loud was difficult. He tried to speak, but could not. Instead, he nodded.
        The changeling shifted his guise to appear as Abernathy Govern once again. And he left the room.

21 Lharvion, 998 YK
        The Korranburg Chronicle put out a special edition of their periodical. The headline was written in bold text and enchanted to be understood by elves, dwarves, humans, orcs, and halflings who could read, though it was written in the language of the gnomes in which the entire periodical was written.
        The related article goes on to explain that Oargev, his wife, and his family were discovered dead at their dinner table by the dignitary’s seneschal, a man named Abernathy Govern. Investigation reveals that the poison originated from the Mournland, and the assassination is believed to be a plot of the enigmatic and legendary Lord of Blades, in retaliation for Oargev’s many plans to repopulate the Mournland with the Cyran people.
        The recently returned Queen Dannel ir'Wynarn made a statement that though Oargev was her political rival, he was a dear friend of the family and he would be mourned by all the remaining peoples of Cyre. Oargev and his family were given a state funeral in Wroat, Breland and King Boranel, Oargev’s cousin, swore he would not rest until Oargev’s murderer were found and punished. Several Brelish military units have been moved to the border of Breland and the Mournland, but more of that will be reported in subsequent issues.
        As a footnote, really no more than an afterthought, it is noted that Queen Dannel offered Abernathy Govern a place in her court. An offer which Govern declined.

Monday, September 24, 2012

From the Journal of Lord Templeton Granger (Session II)

I am drenched in shame (and honey).
We continued upriver and discovered en route the druidic half-elf who introduced himself as Crux, another companion of the party, and the last one I had yet to meet. When we arrived in the very next town, I found myself quite busy with my shipboard duties and Tasilon evidently botched negotiations for our peaceable entrance. No blood was shed, however he was forced to pay far more than he should have had to. I blame myself…
After catching up with Tasilon, he asked if I could procure some Andoran Trade Company missives for him, and given our somewhat fluctuating futures, I decided that I should secure one for myself. I purchased some supplies in town and spent an hour or so at my ease. Then, craving the crush of humanity (and to sample some of the local fare), I collected some silken rope and gold filigree to create the Wicked Rope of my people, took some fine wine (excellent vintage, but tasted more of vinegar than anything palatable), and simply watched the dwarf drink an impressive amount of ale.
We continued come nightfall, but I was awoken from my rest by the wretched warning bell (which I will replace with a cow at our next port of call). A flaming tree was drifting down river. As we prepared to pole our way around it, we were suddenly beset by bugbears!
One of them seemed intent on eating the child Sigmund, a troublesome rapscallion with the caravan. I am not of a heroic type, but I do have a soft spot for delicious children, so I intervened the only way I knew how: With wit and skill rather than steel. I successfully distracted it to avail the others an opportunity to kill it, but it dropped into the water still clutching the bothersome boy. I cut myself free of the creature and snagged the child by the scruff, but the creature would not release him.
In the end, I shook the creature off and the both of us were dragged to safety. I spent the next few hours in drink, mostly in an effort to drown my stupidity.
The next morning, I was forced to let one of the crewmen go. According to the holy knight, he was touched by evil. I also questioned Sigmund about the bugbears, and may have convinced him that bugbears hunt children that troubled caravans.
Further upriver, that same day, Crux informed me that things were too quiet… and when I sent a lookout aloft to see what it is, he cried all stop. Smoke, he cried, fire. Again, ringing that wretched bell.
Positioning the ship for a quick getaway, five of us went ashore to investigate and found a barricade of Andoran naval vessels all aflame and the smoldering corpses not quite as restful as they ought.
I was nearly eaten, but we were victorious against the first two of the shambling dead. When  the other corpses showed signs of unlife, however, we opted that discretion was the better part of valor… and made a tactical retreat to the ship.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dragonblood Knighthood: Dragons, Bullies, and Cowards

[This was a commissioned work by several students that I work with. They wanted a story written about them that had them as knights fighting dragons. This is the result, and I'm rather pleased with it.]

        Nothing can hurt a dragon. Everybody knows that. People try and sometimes they can scare a dragon so badly that they will hide for a while, but they always come back; because a dragon also lives forever. It is because of this that a lot of people will not even try to go against them, but there are a small group of men and women who learn how to scare a dragon from a very young age. This group is called the Dragonblood Knighthood. This is a story about four of these knights.
        And like all good stories, this one begins with Once Upon a Time…

        There was a young knight by the name of Sir Robert of Allendale. He was strong and fearless, and he wore a suit of green armor that was the same color as the summer leaves of the forest. On his shield was a fearsome green griffin, a creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
        There was his good friend, Sir Leo the Lion. He was tall, handsome, and brave, his shining gold armor gleamed in the sun, and matched his blond hair. He had a shield with a shining golden lion’s head on the front of it.
        There was also their close friend Sir Nathan the Bull, whose broad shoulders and stubborn grin earned him that nickname. He wore brilliant red armor, complete with a shield that had a scarlet bull on it.
        And then there was Sir William the Wise, the oldest (though only by a year) of the four. William wore armor that was as orange as a pumpkin, and had a shield that carried the symbol of a bright orange dragon.
        In the early part of autumn, the leader of the Dragonblood Knighthood, an old knight by the name of Sir Adam the Tattooed Bear, gathered the four friends together in his castle at the top of the hill. They arrived together, each on the back of a horse who was the same color as their armor, and were brought to their leader right away.
        “My friends,” the Tattooed Bear said, “I have very important news. In the frozen lands to the north, a great dragon has broken out of his prison of ice and snow and is terrifying the barbarian townsfolk of that area. As you know most dragons have only one color of scales. This dragon has three different colors: Red, blue, and green.”
        “But Sir Adam,” Sir Robert said, “the color of a dragon’s scales tells us what kind of breath it has!”
        “Correct,” the Tattooed Bear replied. “Red dragons breathe fire; blue dragons breathe ice; and green dragons breathe acid. But since this dragon has three different kinds of scales, I do not know WHAT it breathes!”
        “I guess you want us to go find out,” said Sir William the Wise, living up to his name.
        “That is exactly right,” Sir Adam replied. “And since this is a very strange thing, I will allow each of you to take one thing from my magical pirate chest. But choose well: This dragon will no doubt be the biggest, most terrifying dragon any of you have faced.”
        The Tattooed Bear held open his magical pirate chest and each knight stepped forward in turn to take an item. Sir Robert took a magical ring that would make it so he could not be harmed by acid. Sir Leo took an amulet of the kind that you wore around your neck that would make it so he could not be hurt by ice. Sir Nathan took a bracelet that would make it so you were immune to fire, and Sir William took a helmet that made it so you could never be tricked by or afraid of a dragon. And without any delay, the four friends started their long trip to the northern kingdom.

        It was a long journey to the northern kingdom, and as Sir Adam the Tattooed Bear mentioned, it was very cold. Ice and snow covered the hills, trees, and mountains; the lakes and rivers were frozen almost all year around, except for one week in July that was summertime. Then it warmed up to a very nice 43 degrees. Soon, the four friends found proof that the evil dragon had been there: There were no animals in the forest.
        “The animals are the first to leave,” Sir Robert said. “Dragons eat animals and most animals do not like being eaten.”
        “Do you know of an animal that likes to be eaten?” asked Sir Nathan. Sir Robert thought about this for a minute.
        The friends all laughed. Their voices sounded strange in the quiet of the snow-covered woods, and carried far and wide. In his cave, far away, but not so far away that he could not hear, the dragon perked up his ears.
        “Mmm,” he said, licking his chops. “Dinner.”

         Before long, the four knights found their way into a village. The people there were unfriendly and scared. They tried to stay away from the knights, but the knights went to an inn to stay for the night. The inn was the only place in the village where people could gather and enjoy each other’s company in the warmth of the innkeeper’s fire. When they walked in, all the villagers stopped talking, because all they were talking about were the four knights who had just come to their village. Sir Leo went to the innkeeper.
        “Tell me good sir,” he asked, “of the dragon that has you and your friends so scared.”
        The innkeeper was an old man with a big belly, scruffy silver beard and one good eye that gleamed in the firelight. He smelled like woodsmoke and rotten apples, and his smile was almost as frightening as a dragon’s.
        “We call him the Thursday Dragon,” he said in a gruff voice. The four knights all looked at one another.
        “Why do you call him that?” asked Sir Nathan.
        “Because on Monday, he comes out of his cave a-breathin’ stinking clouds of acid through his nose,” said one of the villagers in a whisper.
        “Tuesday, he breathes out crystals of ice and cold, colder than it is outside in the middle of winter!” exclaimed another.
        “Wednesday, he sets the forest a-fire with his spit,” said a third, spitting on the floor as if to prove a point.
        “And Thursday,” the innkeeper gruffed, “Thursday is the worst of all. Thursday, he tricks you into thinking he is something that will not hurt you, like a bunny or a squirrel… and then, when you least expect it… BOO!”
        All the villagers jumped when the innkeeper yelled. The four knights did not. “He becomes a terrifying dragon and scares the living daylights right out of your eyes!” The innkeeper pointed to his bad eye, covered with a black eyepatch like a pirate. “What do you think happened to me eye, laddies?” He laughed, but it did not sound like a good laugh.
        “That’s why we call him the Thursday Dragon,” whispered the first villager. The four knights looked at each other.
        “Tomorrow is Monday,” said Sir William. The other three nodded.
        “I will go out and face him tomorrow!” Sir Robert exclaimed. His three friends thumped their chests with their armored fists, but all the villagers stayed quiet.
        “Do not go, laddie!” the innkeeper said with a sly smile. “The dragon will stew you in his acid and then gobble you up!”
        Sir Robert just smiled. “Four rooms for my friends and I!” he said. “My friends will have dinner, but I must go to rest. I have a busy day tomorrow.”
        The innkeeper did as he was told, but did not do so happily.

        The next morning (which was also the first day of summer as well as Monday), Sir Robert put on his green armor, strapped on his shield with the green griffin, ate a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs (one should never go dragon hunting without first eating breakfast) and ventured out into the forest. He did not wander through the snowy trees long before the dragon, looking quite terrifying with its green, blue, and red scales and with one large eye in the middle of his forehead, appeared out of the blowing snow like a ghost from a grave.
        “You silly little knight!” the dragon roared. “With your four friends, you might have had a chance, but all alone you are mine to stew and eat at my ease!”
        Sir Robert was curious. “Do you always have to stew your food before you eat it?” he asked.
        “Only on Mondays!” the dragon exclaimed.
        “So if you cannot stew me, you cannot eat me. Is that right?” Sir Robert continued.
        “Yech! Who would want to eat non-stewed food on a Monday?”
        “All right,” Sir Robert nodded. “Go ahead and stew me.”
        The dragon exhaled the stinky acid cloud from his nose, and the cloud surrounded Sir Robert completely. The dragon waited eagerly for the cloud to blow away so he could eat freshly stewed knight, but when the cloud did blow away in the gentle breeze, Sir Robert was sitting on his shield on the forest floor.
        “I do not understand!” the dragon exclaimed. Sir Robert got up and brushed the snow from his armor.
        “Would you like to try again?” he asked.
        The dragon did not answer. He only responded by breathing more acid out of his nose. But, when minutes passed and the cloud went away, Sir Robert was still there. The dragon roared in anger, but could not eat a raw knight without the proper stewing.
        “Go back to your village and send me one of your friends tomorrow!” the dragon snarled.
        “As you wish,” Sir Robert replied, picked up his shield and walked back to the village. Once he had returned to the inn, he told his three friends everything that had happened. He held up the ring that protected him against the dragon’s acid and smiled.
        “Tomorrow is Tuesday,” Sir Leo said. “I will go out and face him in the morning!”
        While the others ate their dinner, Sir Leo headed upstairs. He had a big day ahead of him! As he walked upstairs, the innkeeper gave him a mean look with his good eye.
        “Do not go, laddie,” he grumbled. “The dragon will freeze you with his icy breath and gobble you up!”
        Sir Leo went to bed.

        The next morning (which was also the second day of summer as well as Tuesday), Sir Leo put on his gold armor, strapped on his shield with the yellow lion, ate a huge breakfast of pancakes and syrup (one should never go dragon hunting without first eating breakfast) and ventured out into the forest. He did not wander through the snowy trees long before the dragon, looking quite terrifying with its blue, red, and green scales and with one large eye in the middle of his forehead, appeared from behind a large oak tree like a giant from a story about a beanstalk.
        “You silly little knight!” the dragon roared. “With your four friends, you might have had a chance, but all alone you are mine to freeze and eat at my convenience!”
        Sir Leo never blinked. “Do you always have to freeze your food before you eat it?” he asked.
        “Only on Tuesdays!” the dragon exclaimed.
        “So if you cannot freeze me, you cannot eat me. Is that right?” Sir Leo continued.
        “Yech! Who would want to eat non-frozen food on a Tuesday?”
        “All right,” Sir Leo said. “Go ahead and freeze me.”
        The dragon breathed out frigid cold between his lips, a frosty cloud that covered Sir Leo from head to toe. The dragon waited eagerly for Sir Leo to freeze, but after a few minutes, Sir Leo simply brushed the ice crystals off of his armor, completely unhurt.
        “I do not understand!” the dragon exclaimed.
        “Would you like to try again?” Sir Leo asked.
        “Yes!” the dragon cried, and did so. It still did not work. The dragon roared in anger, but could not eat a raw knight without the proper freezing.
        “Go back to your village and send me one of your friends tomorrow!” the dragon snarled.
        “As you wish,” Sir Leo replied, picked up his shield and walked back to the village. Once he had returned to the inn, he told his three friends everything that had happened. He held up the amulet that protected him against the dragon’s freezing breath and grinned.
        “Tomorrow is Wednesday,” Sir Nathan said. “I will go out and face him in the morning!”
        While the others ate their dinner, Sir Nathan headed upstairs. He had a big day ahead of him! As he walked upstairs, the innkeeper gave him an angry look with his good eye.
        “Do not go, laddie!” he growled. “The dragon will cook you with his fiery spit and gobble you up!”
        Sir Nathan went to bed.

        The next morning (which was also the third day of summer as well as Wednesday), Sir Nathan put on his red armor, strapped on his shield with the scarlet bull, ate a huge breakfast of biscuits and gravy (one should never go dragon hunting without first eating breakfast) and ventured out into the forest. He did not wander through the snowy trees long before the dragon, looking quite terrifying with its red, green, and blue scales and with one large eye in the middle of his forehead, flew from the sky like a vampire bat.
        “You silly little knight!” the dragon roared. “With your four friends, you might have had a chance, but all alone you are mine to cook and eat at my leisure!”
        Sir Nathan had heard this twice before. “Do you always have to cook your food before you eat it?” he asked.
        “Only on Wednesdays!” the dragon exclaimed.
        “So if you cannot cook me, you cannot eat me. Is that right?” Sir Nathan continued.
        “Yech! Who would want to eat non-cooked food on a Wednesday?”
        “All right,” Sir Nathan said. “Go ahead and cook me.”
        The dragon breathed back all of his snot from his great long nose and spat out a flaming wad of phlegm at Sir Nathan. As soon as it touched him, the boogers burst into flame, but after they burned down, Sir Nathan was disgusted, but otherwise unhurt.
        “I do not understand!” the dragon exclaimed.
        “Would you like to try again?” Sir Nathan asked.
        Again, the dragon breathed back its snot, drawing boogers from all the way down to its toes up to its brain. The dragon unleashed a torrential lugie that covered Sir Nathan from helmet to plated boots and burst instantly into flame, but it was no use. The dragon roared in anger, but could not eat a raw knight without the proper cooking.
        “Go back to your village and send me one of your friends tomorrow!” the dragon snarled.
        “As you wish,” Sir Nathan replied, picked up his shield and walked back to the village. Once he had returned to the inn, he told his three friends everything that had happened. He held up the bracelet that protected him against the dragon’s fiery spit and laughed.
        By this time, the innkeeper had caught on that they had protection from the dragon’s powers, and his one good eye looked over Sir William.
        “And what of you, laddie?” he asked. “Tomorrow is Thursday: The dragon will not try to stew, freeze, or cook you, but scare you to death. What protection do you have?”
        Sir William picked up the helmet he had taken from Sir Adam’s pirate chest and placed it in front of the innkeeper. “Take this. I will not need it.”
        And he went upstairs to sleep while his friends ate their dinner. He had a busy day ahead of him!

        Morning arrived, but Sir William never came out of his room. He did not come out for lunch either. By this time, his three friends were getting worried. They sent Sir Nathan up to check on him. Sir Nathan knocked on his door, but there was no answer. Sir Nathan tried the handle and found the door to be unlocked, but when he opened the door, Sir William was gone. He ran downstairs to ask the innkeeper if he had seen Sir William leave, but the innkeeper was gone too.

         Sir William had stayed at the inn all three days his friends had each on their own gone into the woods to face the dragon. And on all three days, he had seen that the innkeeper would leave not long after. On the first day, he had asked one of the villagers where he might be going to, and the man said the innkeeper might be going to the well deep in the woods to get more water.
        On the second day after Sir Leo and the innkeeper had both left, Sir William had walked into the woods to find the well. He did find the well easily enough, but did not find the innkeeper there.
        On the third day when Sir Nathan returned and told his story, so similar to the other two stories but just different enough to keep things interesting, Sir William paid attention to all of the small details. One thing in particular… the dragon was a cyclops, which meant it only had one eye. So when it was his turn to face the dragon, he knew exactly what he must do.
        He gave the innkeeper his helmet and went up to bed, but immediately took off the rest of his armor and climbed out the room’s one window. He climbed down the drainpipe and watched through the window as his friends finished their dinners and went to bed. Then he watched the innkeeper until the innkeeper said goodnight to the last villager and locked the doors. The innkeeper cleaned up the common room a little before blowing out the candles that served as light and going up to his bedroom on the second floor at the back of the inn.
        Sir William walked around to the back and stood under the window that was the innkeeper’s bedroom. A few moments later, the window opened silently and out flew something very big. Sir William had seen exactly what he knew he would see. He went to the stables and curled up in the hay with his horse, burying himself deep so that the stable boy would not see him when he came to feed the animals in the morning.
        When morning came, he woke up early and walked across the street, hiding from sight of the front door. Not long after he would have left for his turn to face the dragon, the innkeeper left the inn, his arms empty. Sir William followed him.
        He followed him out of the village and into the woods, deeper and deeper until the innkeeper stopped at the mouth of a large cave. He stretched, but when a person stretches their arms stop extending at a certain point. The innkeeper’s did not. He kept on going, and grew and grew until Sir William saw the dragon standing where the innkeeper had been. Sir William had seen enough.
        He stepped out of his hiding place and walked toward the dragon. The dragon saw him immediately with his huge eye. His scales were still all three colors, but somehow more faded than Sir William had imagined based on his friend’s descriptions. Perhaps because it was Thursday, and not Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.
        “You silly little knight!” exclaimed the dragon, but Sir William stopped him by holding up his hand.
        “You can stop now. I know everything. You are no dragon,” Sir William paused. “You are nothing but a bully and a coward.”
        The dragon slumped over. “What makes you say that?” it asked.
        “I paid attention to the details,” Sir William said in reply. “And your details do not add up to dragon: They add up to wizard.”
        The dragon shrank back down to innkeeper size, but not innkeeper shape. Standing in front of Sir William was another old man, but this one was skinny as a stick, wore faded blue robes and a silly pointed hat that wizards are partial to. He had a long white beard that was braided in places, and long white hair that was snarled and messy. He leaned very heavily on a staff made out of wood and some kind of metal that Sir William did not know.
        “How did you know?” asked the wizard again, his voice less dragon-y and now a little bit whiny.
        “I knew you were not telling the truth,” Sir William said. “But I did not think you were the dragon until last night when you left the inn. And then I did not think that you were NOT the dragon until just now: A dragon that can turn into a man is not as crazy an idea as you might think, but a man that can turn into a dragon is far more likely. If you had been a real dragon, you would have brought the helmet I left with you. A dragon always has a hoard, and a neat magical item like that would be just the thing for a true dragon.”
        The wizard frowned. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked. Sir William thought about this.
        “That depends,” he said. “Have you been killing and eating people?”
        The wizard made a face. “Yech! No, of course not. I have just been scaring people into dropping their valuables and running away.”
        “But you meant to kill my friends and I,” Sir William continued. The wizard shrugged.
        “But I did not,” he said. It was Sir William’s turn to frown.
        “You could not,” Sir William informed him. “There is a difference. I am going to arrest you and take you back to the Dragonblood Knighthood. Sir Adam the Tattooed Bear can deal with you as he feels like.”
        “What if I had been a dragon?” the wizard asked as Sir William put him in shackles and began marching him back to the village. “What if I had brought the helmet to add to my hoard and you were alone out here with me without protection?”
        Sir William smiled. “Dragons, bullies, and cowards all have one thing in common, Mr. Wizard.”
        The wizard looked puzzled. “What is that?” he asked.
        “They are all afraid of things that are not afraid of them.” Sir William leaned close for the last part. “And I am not afraid of you.”

        He brought the wizard back to the village and the four friends brought him back to the Dragonblood Knighthood where he was put on trial for his crimes. He was found guilty on many counts of scaring the living daylights out of peoples’ eyes and was locked away in a tower for the rest of his life.

The End