Friday, June 29, 2018

What You Missed Photo Edition - Rhiassa Presents: The Gilded Lion Summer Festival IV


The Heroes of the Realms are welcomed to Midgard by Jarl Thorafin.

Invited by the Jarl to play games and meet his people,
the heroes engaged in board games such as Crokinole...

Skill games such as Kubb...

And Combat games such as Bjargleggja, challenging the Jarl's subjects at
these different contests.

Delicious wings and ribs were provided by their gracious hosts along with
herb-buttered roasted corn and fresh fried chips.

As usual, Loki attempted to lend his cryptic aid with the "Loki Chests".

Very popular was the traditional Viking game, Knattleikr.

More puzzles to by solved for the "Loki Chests".

Among the festivities, Aros, pries of Mimir, attempted to convey messages from
his god, informing the heroes of the need for Ragnarok to occur.

Captured, Aros was shortly thereafter executed for treason as an enraged Thorfain
closed the Vanfrost and banished the heroes from Norlund.

Back in Rhiassa, the heroes were treated to a custom burrito bar for dinner.

People eagerly await for dessert, the grand opening of Cold Springs Creamery
amongst the wide array of ice cream mix-ins.

Gwen and Aeston mix ice cream together for their guests.




Thursday, June 28, 2018

What You Missed: Gilded Lion Summer Festival IV

by Ryan "Orion" Welch

After Action Report
Events of 24 June 1018 (B.M.R.)
Midgard Summer Festival

Upon crossing the Bifrost and arriving in Midgard, we were greeted by Jarl Thorafin and his people. They had pitched several tents adorned with their brown banners under the damp gray sky. Strung between the canopies, earth-toned ribbons set against the muted clouds spoke truly of the shadow cast across this dying world. The Jarl introduced himself to the gathered adventurers and again spoke of his goal to rebuild his land instead of destroying it in Ragnarok. As promised in his letter to us, he invited us to celebrate his people’s culture with food and games. In my experience, the adventurers of the Realms will never turn down a free meal, so we settled in for the day.

Most of the provided entertainment took the form of cultural board and field games, most of which were based on a common theme of throwing small projectiles to score points. In typical Realms fashion, the adventurers immediately ignored the real (and admittedly difficult) names and started using (simpler) nicknames of their own invention. Knifey-Spoony was a crowd favorite, so named for the woven basket on the end of long sticks--the spoons--which a few team members used to throw a ball across the field towards the goal zone of the opposing team, and the blades wielded by other teammates to cut a path towards the goal. This particular game ended in a tie after all of the so-called spoons had broken and the ball was lost in the dense flora that bordered the field.

Other games included Kub (throw heavy sticks to knock down wooden blocks), “Bones” (throw sticks and try to stack them in a pile), “Boulder Ball” (run a boulder across a field and throw it across a line), and something which required the players to slide wooden disks towards the center of a round board. Despite their characteristically foreign names and odd obsession with challenges of dexterity, these games were enjoyable and our hosts were civil. We had even been gifted with a large bowl full of wooden tokens which we could use to make wagers with our opponents. Jarl Thorafin claimed that the trinkets had no other use or value to his people, however…

Just beneath the surface of the festival, tensions were running high. The Jarl openly and unquestionably opposed our party’s mission to save Ragnarok. He was likely the one using the Bedlam lab in Hel before we destroyed it. The small group of Norlanders we met seemed to follow the Jarl, but the majority of other Norlanders we have met in the past have wished to see Ragnarok refresh their world. Furthermore, we discovered that the “worthless trinkets” which we had been using as betting chips were in fact scrying implements which had been plundered from the temple in a nearby village; this information came from a priest of that temple who was now disguising himself as one of Thorafin’s followers. Although he did his best to discreetly pass us information throughout the day, he was discovered in the late afternoon and subsequently executed as a “traitor”. Immediately after that, the Jarl closed the Bifrost and all of the adventurers were kicked back to Rhiassa, where we passed the rest of the evening with a burrito dinner, special Cold Springs mashed ice cream, and discussion of our next moves.

Conclusions:

The problems which plague the Nine Worlds are physically, magically, and socially complex. In many ways, the adventurers of the Realms bear a great deal of responsibility for causing these problems--of that there is no question. But after this encounter with Jarl Thorafin, we are left with more questions than answers about the role we should (or must) play in the resolution of these troubles.

---
In Service to the Realms,
Captain Orion Mars, Chimeron Militia
---


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

No Better Life - Chapter 9

by Gerry "Gray" Chartier


****

Not for the first time, Gray found himself in the featureless mist.

He walked forward.  There were no points of reference, so he simply followed his sense for where he was supposed to go.

The outline of a figure appeared in the distance.  Little by little, it became more distinct as they approached each other through the haze.  A tall man, powerfully built, with a bit of a hitch in his step.  Chain mail armor, a sword at his hip, a simple cap helmet on his head, a wolf pelt draped across his shoulders.  By the time Gray could make out the bushy black beard and the twinkling blue eyes, he knew who it was.

“Father!” Gray breathed.

His father’s smile started as a crinkling around the eyes and spread from there as he opened his arms to Gray.  “Come here, son!”

Gray’s eyes stung as he embraced his father.  “I wasn’t sure you’d be here to meet me.”

His father held him out and grinned.  “Nothing could have stopped me.  And I’m not the only one here, either.”

Gray looked over his father’s shoulder to see another figure emerge from the mist – a big, sturdy woman in fighting leathers carrying a battleaxe, her graying blond braids bouncing as she trotted up to the pair.

“Grandma Ingfrid!” Gray cried out.

She beamed at him.  “You’ve gotten too big to bounce on my knee, but my arms aren’t too small to give you a hug!”

Gray laughed as his grandmother squeezed him hard enough to make his ribs ache, even as more and more figures came out of the mist – two of his brothers, one of his sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all clustering around him, welcoming him.

One more figure loomed out of the mist, a stern, mail-clad warrior towering above even Gray and his family, gazing at them out of one stern blue eye, the other covered with a patch that crisscrossed the row of scars that traveled from the bridge of his nose and disappeared into his iron-gray hair.

Ingfrid’s jocularity dampened to a respectful smile.  “Father.  I didn’t think you’d come.”

He scrutinized at Gray.  “So.  Still shit with a sword, eh boy?”

Gray imagined he literally shrank under Great Grandfather Alrek’s glare, the familiar terror of his disapproval twisting in his stomach.  He had to force himself to stand tall and look straight into his one good eye.  “Yes, Greatfather, I’m afraid so.”

Greatfather Alrek glanced at Gray’s father.  “He’s got some backbone at least.”

Gray’s father nodded.  “He does at that.”

Alrek looked back at Gray, his eyebrow raising over his ruined eye.  “I once said no man who casts spells instead of swinging a sword was worth a bucket of warm spit.”  He paused, looked away, sighed.  “I may have been wrong.”

Gray scarcely dared to breathe.  “Then…I have a place with you?”

Alrek glanced at Gray and nodded.

Gray thought he might burst from the pride swelling within him, as his family clustered around him, clapping him on the shoulders, embracing him, congratulating him with a few good-natured insults thrown in as they returned to the mist one by one.

“Gray,” a voice whispered, distinct from the tumult of his kin.

“Gray,” it repeated as his grandmother and his father returned to the mist, leaving him alone with Alrek, “Come back to us.”

Alrek beckoned Gray to come with him, but the sorcerer hesitated, looked back over his shoulder.  “Gray,” the mist behind him murmured, “We need you!”

He turned back to Alrek.   “Did you hear that?”

His great-grandfather shook his head.  “No, lad, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.”

Torn, Gray chewed on his lower lip.  “Greatfather, I…I…”

Alrek’s smile was barely a deepening of the creases around his eyes, but it was there.  “Go on, lad.   You wouldn’t be the first who turned back when his comrades called.  Your place with us will still be here when you decide it’s time.”

Gray opened his mouth to say something, but words wouldn’t come, so he closed it again, settling for a nod.  Alrek turned and disappeared into the mist once more.  Gray pivoted, and began walking back the way he came.

Gray opened his eyes to brilliant sunshine, Stormseeker’s deck swaying under his back.  Squinting, he lifted his head and looked around. Charwindle sat next to him, her back propped up against the gunnel, poring over a tome of some kind.

“What’s that?” he croaked.

She glanced up at him.  “Oh, you’re awake!”  She turned the book around so he could see the jumble of unfamiliar letters.  “It’s one of Herr Fessler’s journals.  They seem to be written in some sort of code.  I’m trying to decipher it.”

Gray grunted as he sat up.  “Good luck with that!  Did he have anything that could help?”

Charwindle shrugged.  “I’m not sure.  Besides his journals and notes, the only other thing in his bag was this.”  She reached into the satchel and fished out a pendant – the Mayerling double-headed dragon, silver, on a chain of the same metal.  “Did he tell you anything about this?”

Gray shook his head.  “We were a little pressed for time.”

Charwindle returned the pendant to Fessler’s bag.  “Well, its meaning will reveal itself with time, Creator willing.”

“Let’s just hope it reveals itself in time,” Gray quipped, “How long was I out?”

“A day and a half,” Charwindle replied, “Kamilla hasn’t left the helm since you turned the ship over to her.”

“I guess I’d better relieve her before she passes out,” Gray said, rising to his feet.

“I’m sure she’d appreciate that,” Charwindle agreed.

Gray made his way aft, accepting the well-wishing of the members of Mayerling as he went.  He grabbed a half-loaf of bread and a bottle of mead on the way..

The elf looked exhausted, slouching instead of standing in her usually rigid posture, her eyes cloudy with fatigue.  Gray looked her over, then glanced back at the length of his ship.  “Well.  You didn’t run Stormseeker into anything.  I suppose you did an adequate job.”

Kamilla straightened, her chin lifting as she sniffed at him.  “I’ll have you know I not only returned us to the open sea, I also have us on course back for home!”

Judging from the position of the sun and the distant shoreline sliding by off the port side, the elf was correct.  Gray grinned.  “Well, since you’ve done such a good job, I’ll let you sail my ship again, but I expect you’d like a chance to rest a while.”

She nodded.  “Thank you, Gray.”

He tore his bread into roughly equal chunks and passed one to Kamilla.  She huddled next to where he stood as he took over the steering oar and wolfed the bread down, barely pausing to take swigs of the mead when Gray passed her the bottle.  She then wrapped herself in her cloak, and was asleep in moments.

Gray leaned against the sternpost, his hand light on the tiller, Stormseeker gliding through the undulating waves.  His red-clad companions stirred here and there about the ship, fussing over rations, maintaining weapons, repairing armor, mending garb.

He smiled.  His kin may await him in the afterlife, but his comrades were here among the living, aboard his ship, underway on the open sea.  For Gray, there could be no better life.

The End

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

WIWTG: G.O.F.E.R. Three

by Lani "Gwen" Jones

Although this event has already reached cap, it is well worth my time to highlight some of the amazing things that G.O.F.E.R. Three is going to feature this coming weekend. Having attended a previous event in this series, I can say first hand that this event team knows what they are doing in terms of running an event that is both immersive and a whole lot of fun. The premise of this “hardest recovery ever executed” involves adventuring into the ruins of Ravensloft to trigger a series of contingency plans that were set to avoid some very dangerous things from escaping. In order to accomplish this stealth mission, each of the three adventuring parties must successfully reach their individual goals in a timed mission.

Players at this event can expect a high quality series of traps and challenges that will be both physically and mentally engaging. By adding a time limit for each of the quests, the staff has really managed to make each questing party feel the pressure. The stakes are high, but if successful, the players will not only get to pillage the vault, but help some dragons in the process.

The EH team has also added a new component to this questing series by offering an in-character town that will be running all day. In this town, players can eat, drink, and gather intel. What sets this questing series apart in my mind is the depth to which the EH’s have gone to ensure that every player is engaged at every point of the quest. The layers of rich story are paired with engaging mechanics, and the very real prizes at the end of the quest (should the PCs be successful) help to keep everyone immersed throughout the entire day. I am genuinely bummed that I will be missing this event, but I’m glad some of my fellow Rhiassans will be going so they can keep me in the loop about what I missed, because I’m sure there will be a lot of great stories that come out of this weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The View Retrospective - Getting Involved



Scanned by Jeremy Grayson
Originally published in The View from Valehaven, 2nd Edition, Volume 3, Issue 5; June 2006

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ask the Editor - Fun at Feasts


I love eating at feast events but I feel like sometimes there isn't as much to do at them, especially because I'm not great at being social. How can I fill my day with more fun at a feast event?

****

The best feasts I have been to for over- all enjoyment have not been what the feast provided, but the company I kept.  I learned early on by this that “making your own fun” and the expectation you bring to an event like that is almost more important than anything the staff may provide beyond good food.

Also keep in mind that a good event will try to provide you with opportunities  for engagement and fun, but if you are not in the right place in your mind, you may miss those opportunities.

That being said, bring some easy to transport games  ( I tend to carry dice or a deck of cards).  Start a round of songs with friends.  Bring crafts and make hand puppets.    Create some questions you IC or OOC would like to have people answer, then interview people (and possibly publish a View article about the answers).  Worst case, ask staff about things to do, or ask others if they know about things to do.  Sometimes random plots and “intrigues” will be started.  It does not hurt to ask around.

-Steven “Therian” Matuelwicz

****

This question is tough for me, because I almost always find my way into the kitchen at a feast event, and that is certainly my favorite way to stay entertained for the day. So I guess I’ll start with, if you want to know where the real fun happens, it is often behind the scenes. If you can’t cook or prep, there is always a need for someone who can wash dishes, or run food, or even clear plates. This gets you meeting new people because you can’t work quietly in a kitchen, and also gives you something to do. If you are planning on staying outside the kitchen doors (what madness is that?) I can tell you most feasts feature quite a bit of entertainment these days. From gambling, to light questing, to tournaments, there is usually plenty of stuff to get involved with if you can muster up the social energy. If you are bored and shy, try whipping out your spellbook and playing a game of hangman or something. I always keep a deck of cards in my pouch so that I am never bored, so if you want to play some cribbage sometime, hit me up. As a last ditch effort, consider talking to the people next to you at your table. We all have things in common in the Realms, so starting a conversation about latest plot you’ve been a part of or the standings in the Stacked Deck tournament is a great way to stay in-character and enjoy yourself.

-Lani “Gwen” Jones

****

I relate to this question on a personal level. Feasts can be challenging for me, and it’s not because I don’t have an appreciation for them, but rather because I’m not super talkative, and generally speaking, I don’t gamble.

So what do I do at Feasts?

The answer is usually, business. Honestly I can’t remember the last time I was bored at a feast because of it. And it’s all made up business, whether it’s plot related, like say I need to get into an argument with Torolf about Ragnarok, or its about something to do with one of my knighthoods, or generally the Kingdom of Blackwood, I tend to find that I don’t have much time to sit around and eat at Feasts.

I’m just busy. That being said you might be saying to yourself that that’s all well and good, but maybe you’re not part of a Knighthood, or you’re not part of a kingdom, and you’re not involved in a plot. Well that’s fine, I’m sure your character has goals that they need to work on too. Like maybe you want to learn the secrets of Beast Runes, and you need to talk to someone about that in order to progress your understanding.

I, personally, find I’m a lot less shy about things when I’m working on a project or towards a goal. It works for me. And if you need help figuring out who to ask, come find me, and I’ll do my best to direct you.

-Keith “Saegan” Cronyn

****

I tend to follow Gwen on this one, in that more often than not you will find me in the kitchen at a feast - that’s where I have the most fun, helping to prep and cook all the delicious food and bring the feast-o-crat or EH’s culinary vision to life. In the kitchen, I find that I am usually never bored, as there’s always something that needs doing to help the event run smoothly. Not only do I find staffing in kitchens enjoyable, but it’s also one of the ways in which I can give back to the Realms community. If you’re a newer player (or even an older one) looking for something to do at a feast, reach out to the feast-o-crat or EH and offer your services! You never know when they need an extra pair of hands. Plus, this gives you a great behind-the-scenes look at how the food portion of feasts run.

If that’s not your thing, though, fear not. Most feasts will offer plenty of other things to do. Board games, bear pits, fighting tournaments, non-combat tournaments such as drawing or bardics, casinos and gambling (and gambling tourneys), auctions or raffles, side quests, carnival games, in-character shops and vendors - and of course, eating! Even if you’re not the most social person, you can still participate in all of these activities, as well as socialize with your friends at your table. So when in doubt, find an activity that’s going on that looks interesting and jump in!

-Jen “Areni” DeNardis-Rosa


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WIWTG Rhiassa Presents: The Gilded Lion Summer Festival IV



by Keith "Saegan" Cronyn


Why do I want to go to the Gilded Lion? Because it’s a Ragnarok event. If you don’t know, then you probably haven’t been paying attention to me. Which is fine, I’m happy to explain.

The Echoes of Ragnarok plot series has been amazing. For the last few years we have been moving through the Norlund, with the singular goal of trying to jump start Ragnarok. Well some of us. I, Keith, find this to be an interesting twist on the Quests we players are usually given. Wherein we must save the world, or worlds, by causing their destruction. That’s really not something that happens in a traditional story. But it fits with the Norse Lore. It creates a fun series of quests, that apply to the destructive nature of the realms in general, and generally it’s just an elegant way to make for an interesting story. 

I, Saegan, cannot fathom this. There simply must be a better way. You may or may not know my buddy Torolf, but he’s from these lands, and thus had dived right on into the backstory of Ragnarok being the good cause. With me following along behind him constantly arguing “Why though?” Taking this stance has not been easy, because it makes my interacting with the quests sometimes odd. For example, how does Saegan participate in something he finds to be morally...unlikely.  In Helheim, I opted to not take any honor from my dying foes, and I tried not to engage them in combat either, saying that I was just there to make sure my friends got out okay. Until I was forced to fight by the overwhelming undead facing us.  It has, for me, created interesting character interactions that have bled into many other events, and practices. And I love it. 

That’s that background, but what about Gilded Lion itself? Well, since I’ve been barking about the moral need to save the world from Ragnarok, this event is awesome because we see the leader of the other side of things. The leader of the team trying to prevent Ragnarok. Thorafin, Jarl of the Western Peninsula. As someone who has been defending the potential morality of this unknown leader for what seems like years, I can say yes, I am excited to put a face to the name. I’m excited to find out if he’ll betray my ideals and I’ll have to join Torolf, and smite him. I’m excited to be right that the worlds can be saved. I’m excited to have a new and different standpoint. 

I guess I’m just immersed. 

But what about you friends that haven’t fallen  into the thick of it yet, or haven’t taken a side? Honestly the Echoes of Ragnarok team is going to represent. They do this consistently, and unerringly, and if you haven’t given them the chance yet, have some faith and give it a shot. 

As an editor of the view, I get some perks. I get to ask event holders what secrets they want the world to know about their events, and they usually tell me. So I got a hint of the menu at this event, and I was promised ribs, and wings. I was promised a burrito bar. For dessert, I was promised the allure of ice cream. What does this mean for me? That I’m going to eat well. I like all those foods, and I know that Lani is in the kitchen doing what she loves. If for some reason you didn’t know, Lani is the champion in the kitchens at Leviathan, and I’m told the hero of many others.

Now this event promises to be light hearted and fun. Which might sound weird considering I’ve been gushing over world ending encounters, and war. But I mean, we all have different ideas of whats light hearted, and fun, right? Seriously though, this is supposed to be a festival atmosphere, with relevant content, and just generally a good time. 

So come play with me, I’ve literally been excited for this for months, and there are a few slots left to be had. 

 See you on the field,


 Keith “Saegan” Cronyn

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

No Better Life - Chapter 8



by Gerry "Gray" Chartier

[Editor's note: click to read Chapter 1; Chapter 2; Chapter 3; Chapter 4; Chapter 5; Chapter 6; Chapter 7]

****
“It’s definitely a way out onto the street.  I don’t know quite where, but it’s a way out.”

Swift’s report ended a tense, silent wait in the dark.  Gray conjured up a light as Charwindle nodded.  “Good,” she said, “Let’s get to the surface.”

They followed Swift up a half-collapsed flight of stairs into building that was mostly intact but uninhabited, with dried leaves piled up in the corners.  They crept out to a street barely less dark than the catacombs they’d left behind, dense black clouds having slid over the moon during their time underground.

“This doesn’t look like anything Gray or I saw,” Darvan said.

Gray sniffed the air and pointed into the wind.  “I smell water that way.  Probably the river.”

Charwindle turned to Swift.  “Scout ahead.  We’ll be just a few minutes behind you.”

Swift dashed off the way Gray pointed.  Charwindle turned to Gray.  “I think it best if you douse your light.”

Gray nodded and let the magic dissipate, the glowing orb in his hand vanishing.  His eyes strained to pick out ambient light.  After a few moments, he discerned a dull red glow in the opposite direction from where Swift went.

“Creator’s grace!” Kamilla gasped, “Is the city on fire?”

“It could just be the palace,” Eoin suggested.

Darvan stared at the crimson radiance.  “Even if it is, that is a big fire.  I don’t think there’s anything to keep it from spreading.”

“There’s nothing we can do about that now,” Charwindle stated, “We have to go.”

Charwindle led the way following Swift’s path.  They wound their way through empty streets, the residents either ignorant of the danger the conflagration presented, or hiding from the forces that had caused it.

They caught up with Swift at a shore lined with wooden docks of varying ages and states of repair, a plethora of small boats tied up to them.  The scout pointed downriver.  “The pier is down that way, about a quarter mile.  There’s a couple guys guarding it.”

“The Dock Rats?” Charwindle asked, “Or werekin?”

Swift shook his head.  “Didn’t get close enough to find out.”

A howl from the way they came truncated the discussion.  Charwindle glanced in its direction.  “We’re running out of time.  Everybody run, and form up twenty yards from the pier!”

It was a strain, but Gray managed to keep up, skidding to a halt behind the Mayerling soldiers just as they were forming a skirmish line, barely avoiding barreling into Soft.  Charwindle spared them only a brief look over her shoulder before lowering her visor.  “Mayerling, advance!”

Gray mused that the small squad was probably the most impressive martial display Broken Bridge had seen for as long as the ancient city had been called that name.  Darvan, Eoin, Charwindle, Swift, and Kamilla marched as one, faces concealed by their helmets, their heads pivoting back and forth as they scanned for threats.

The pair guarding the pier didn’t notice them at first.  They gazed at the lambent aura of the distant fire, anxiety writ large on their faces until one finally noticed the approaching soldiers.  He did a double take before slapping his companion on the arm, the pair of them casting wary eyes on the seven of them.

Charwindle held up her hand, her flankers halting at the gesture.  She stepped forward, shield at the ready, hand on the hilt of her sword.  “Have you seen anyone?  Has anyone tried to get to the ship?”

The pair looked at each other.  The shorter of the two looked back to Charwindle and shook his head.

Charwindle gave him a curt nod.  “Good.  You men should take yourselves elsewhere.  Trouble follows in our footsteps.”

As if in confirmation, another howl sounded, closer than the last one.

The two Dock Rats needed no more prodding, the pair scrambling away without further encouragements.  For once, the others followed Gray as the sorcerer took the lead, pounding down the dock to Stormseeker.  He leapt aboard, his footing sure as he sprang to the tiller.  “Cast off the lines!” he shouted.

Eoin began unwinding the line around the bollard to Stormseeker’s stern, but Kamilla cut the process short by slashing through the rope with her sword.  Darvan followed her example with the line securing the bow.  Gray did a quick head count, confirming everyone was aboard before gripping the tiller.  The oars slid out in response to Gray’s will, nudging the ship away from the pier before dipping into the water, rowing backwards and turning the prow to point downriver.

Thunder rumbled overhead as Stormseeker began drawing away from the pier.  Gray whipped his head around at the sound of a howl right behind them.  A pair of werewolves stood on the length of pier Stormseeker just vacated.  He thought they might try to leap the growing gap, but instead they pointed their snouts in the air, howling in unison.

Swift waved to the werewolves.  “Au revoir, fleabags!  Next time try being faster!”

More howls rang out from upstream.  A lot of howls.

“Buggery-fuck!” Gray cursed, “They’re guarding the river bend!”

Charwindle dropped her shield and began stringing her bow.  “Mayerling!  Make ready for action!”

The warriors readied themselves to shoot, nocking arrows and lining up on Stormseeker’s port side.  Gray steered starboard, to bring the ship as close to the far shore as he dared, earning him a nod of approval from Char.  He liked their chances in the coming engagement – until howls rang out from the far shore as well.

Kamilla whirled around, drawing her sword.  “Come face us, you abominations!” she cried, brandishing her blade in the air.

Gray hated to take a warrior away from battle, but he grabbed Kamilla’s shoulder and pulled her to the stern.

“Gray, what are you doing?” Kamilla demanded.

He pulled her hand to the tiller, willing Stormseeker to respond to the elf.  “I need you to take over here.”

She jerked her hand away.  “But I have to stand with my comrades!”

He yanked her hand right back.  “One more sword isn’t going to carry the day!”

She scowled at him, but nodded, so he turned and scrambled to the bow, jumping up onto the gunnels, hanging onto the carved stempost for stability.  He wasn’t able to see far in the moonless night, but a sudden flash of lightning enabled him to pick out swimmers in the water off both sides of the bow, at least a dozen – too many for him to take with his own powers.

Letting go of the stempost, Gray reached into his belt pouch for the flask he kept there with one hand, and into one of his pockets for a copper drinking cup.  Unstoppering the flask, he poured amber liquid into the cup.  He dropped the flask to the deck behind him and produced a heel of bread from his pocket. Holding his offerings out before him, he began to chant.

“To any gods who may give a damn – to my friends’ Creator, if you’re listening
 – we are beset and far from home.  In their time of need, I offer the sacrifice of bread and mead, and in return beg your divine aid!”

He dropped the bread into the water, pouring the mead after it.  At first, nothing seemed to happen.  Gray was about to curse the Creator for his indifference when lightning streaked across the clouds directly overhead – once, twice, over and over.  Understanding dawned on Gray.  Grinning, he tossed the cup over his shoulder and he reached to the clouds, pulling at the power churning within them.

Lightning blazed down from clouds – not a brief flash, but a continuous stream, writhing like a snake pinned at both ends.  Gray roared in ecstasy as his flesh began to blacken and burn, drawing more magic into him than he’d ever channeled before.  When he thought he’d be atomized if he took in one mote more, he thrust his arms out and released the power, letting it shoot from his fingertips, its tongues lashing out to the werewolves.

Caught in the water, there was nowhere the werewolves could hide, electricity searing them like moths drawn to flame.  They burst into fire despite being immersed, their fur vaporizing, their flesh charring, their forms twisting and writhing.  By the time the last of the lightning had streaked from Gray’s hands, there was little left of the werekin but cinders drifting in the current.

“Hah!” Gray croaked, smoke puffing from his scorched lungs, “Regenerate from that!”

The strength fled from Gray’s legs.  He toppled backwards towards the deck.  Blackness took him before he reached it.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Ask the Editors - Summer Garb

I know it's going to be hot this summer and it's hard not to want to wear shorts or other hot-weather clothing in order to not be uncomfortable at events. How can I stay cool but not look like I'm disregarding garb standards?
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I have one word for you: Linen. It is more expensive. You need to ask the maker if the linen is pre- shrunk/ what the cleaning procedure is. But I have worn black linen in 90+ degree weather with little additional issues.
You can also look into garb that have warm weather alterations. Examples are “wrap”/ “idiot” pants. They wrap around your legs and hold together rin boots, but because the sides are slit, you can ties them or change the wrap to be above the knee. There are also “skirt hikes” to tie up skits or even 
robes…. There are options. -Steven “Therian” Matuelwicz
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My go to summer look is leggings and my armored cloak, which is made of lightweight cotton and usually makes the heat a little more bearable. I pair this look with sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water. Skirts or kilts are a popular summer choice and definitely allow for a nice breeze, but beware of ticks please, otherwise you might end up pairing your summer with some doxycycline and plenty of shade. Ultimately, looking for lightweight fabrics is a great idea and it’s certainly worth checking with your local merchant to put together a summer outfit that you can pull out when the weather is right. Try to avoid street clothes including sneakers and clearly anachronistic sandals and people shouldn’t give you too much grief. And ultimately, it helps me to remember that it is summer and I’ve chosen to spend the day sweating my butt off outside. Don’t stress about the sweat--you aren’t the only one that smells bad.
-Lani “Gwen” Jones
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How can you dress for summer without disregarding garb? Personally, garb doesn’t make the game for me. I enjoy costumes, and I enjoy the people that put effort into them, but I don’t find it necessary for me to have fun. 
I just don’t. 
That being said, I can put in some effort here or there, and some garb can get hot. A medieval answer might be: Go naked. But I’m sure you can see how that may not be considered appropriate, depending on the event. So what can you do? 
There are other answers, lightweight fabrics, kilts, or skirts. But I say: “Be creative” and invent an outfit for your character. This is a fantasy setting after all, while we are generally medieval, I can’t put claim to know what the elves or orcs were wearing back then. So long as it reasonably looks the part, people will know you’re trying--and I think generally speaking, that’s what matters. 
Keith “Saegan” Cronyn
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Realms vendors are always a good first choice when looking for period garb, and summer garb should be no exception. I’ve seen plenty of short sleeve tunics and chemises at many a merchant’s table, and these make a great base for a good summer outfit. Bottoms can be a bit more tricky - longer skirts can get in the way of fighting so you’d want to go with something shorter, and I haven’t seen a lot of shorts for sale (as these can be tricky to make) although you could probably score a pair of pantaloons or even a pair of wrap pants - with open sides, these allow for a good amount of ventilation. I personally wear leggings all summer even when it’s hot, as I’m always worried about bugs, ticks, and sunburns. But you’d need to find what works best for you. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you can most likely get away with wearing some street clothes - specifically bottoms - as long as you are careful and follow some ground rules. Absolutely NO logos of any kind is the cardinal rule in my opinion. Look for something in a dark or neutral solid color without any type of modern accent such as side stripes or other detail. Try to avoid mesh “basketball shorts” and other fabrics like these. You could even get a pair of cotton pants, cut them into shorts, and get a crafty friend to finish the leg holes with some bias tape to make them more period-looking. 
In terms of footwear, I’m going to say that it doesn’t bother me to see people wearing sneakers while keeping the rest of their garb as period/in-character as possible. As someone with foot and ankle problems, I need the support that sneakers give me while running and fighting over terrain that isn’t always flat, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone else the same.
- Jennifer “Areni” DeNardis-Rosa

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What You Missed


A Journey to the First Tomb of Rathkeale, Party of Chaos: A Tale of Monsters, Mead, and Mayhem

By Cal “Lord Syruss” O’Leary


**Zip Splat Splort Portal Sound*** A Blue Portal appears out of nowhere in lands that resemble Rathkeale. We join Lord Syruss and his fellow Neden boys Priest Z, Sir Sarrix, Darkin, Jayce and Jean Baptiste.

“O Man…. I had no idea how claustrophobic I was!” Sarrix exclaimed.

Claustrophobic meaning fear of tight spaces or in this instance a certain Neden boys fear of being trapped in the Castle with the madman Sir Naj forcing everyone to party non-stop for the past….four days?...a week? Time seems to be foggy, it has been, to say, the least been a bit rough.

“Where are we exactly?” Darkin inquired after giving out a long exhausting stretch.

“Sir Naj thought Neden could use some training exercises, and thought it be a great weekend to lead you guys around, test out myself as Lord, and give him time to tidy up the castle ‘which is perfectly fine’ he kept saying,” I told the men with a mixture of excitement and concern in my voice.

Excitement for the task ahead, concern for the Naj antics being left behind.

“Ooooo a DUCK!” exclaimed Jean Baptiste as he proceeded to walk away from the rest of us.

“Should we take care of that?” Dresen inquired “I mean he just keeps on walking.”

Priest Z quickly interjected with an important announcement: “ I have an Important announcement!”

We all stared at him blankly. “Go onnnnnnn.” I drew out in a long sigh.

“I am going to meditate for about 24 hours to charge up my magic for tomorrow's battle. I received an image of Syruss being in trouble and possibly being sent to the All. The images are scattered and nonlinear. But because of the non-stop partying I have not had a chance to charge or prepare any spells. Plus I am getting grouchy, Papa needs his beauty sleep.” Priest Z lectured mysteriously and with that and a ball of green smoke he was gone.

We were soon met by Hayden or at least someone who resembles Hayden in every way, this was clearly a Shade. We in Neden have a good deal of knowledge when dealing with shades. You see one of our members is King Shadow, King of all the Shades, a long and very different story. But, the sum of it is we can tell if a Shade is trustworthy and for the most part this one was. He soon told us that this Friday night would be filled with combat and peril. Who doesn’t love a good peril? You see Peril flows through the Realms like a River to the Sea. Every other week there is some sort of Peril! New Villian on the rise; certain Peril. High Stakes Tournament, don’t forget your Peril, BRAND NEW BAKERY OPENING IN A CUTE SPOT DOWNTOWN...you guessed it, Peril.

We would be taking on plenty of undead coupled with finding these crystals to power this crazy portal thing. If they only ask Sir Naj I am sure he could have powered this up, heck if they gave me a crack at it I am sure Naj’s portal crash courses could have allowed me to figure something out. But no, they wanted Power Gems and Undead Massacres.

The night went swimmingly. Jayce was doing his things pickpocketing undead and getting us crystals all with our friend Karmha's help. Me and Darkin swirled around the fields like a Tornado of Destruction dolling out butt whoopins' galore.

*Smash crack!* Darkin swung his sword and marn with vigor. “Syruss I am slain!” he screamed magically as he fell to the ground. I was watching his body being mutilated from across the field and as I sprinted I knew I would be too late. As the final blow landed on his corpse I felt my own body betraying me. I felt my legs give way, my organs beginning to fail, the same magic that bound us in life would also bind us in death. As a Prophet of the All and Dark One's favorite, I am awarded certain privileges. One is watching souls escape the body and return to them all.

Darkin and my soul was being lifted over the battlefield. There I could see Dresden throwing his lightning bolt with newfound precision after practicing with Sir Naj and Sir Quayloth in the offseason. Jayce was working with a group of people to figure out how to defeat a Shade Sagean and Jean Baptiste was intensely following a duck.

Right before Darkin and I were taken to the warm embrace of the All where he would be consumed and I would take my rightful place by the Dark One's side we were transported elsewhere.

I lost track of Darkin but I found myself in front of the large banquet table and an even larger green deity of some sort. Well not one to be rude or to turn my nose up at a good spread I quickly sat myself down.

“Why helllloooooo Mortal!” the Giant Green Blob maniacally said in a long drawn out weird way. “My name is NURGLE, um yessss the Nurgle and I have been watching you.”

“I hope not between the hours of 11pm-1am, them's Syruss Hours,” I said with both shock and disdain.

“HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA ahem hee hee!” Nurgle laughed “No no my dear Demon Lord, I have been watching your Chaotic Exploits for quite some time. It is rather a Shame that the Dark One scooped up your soul so young, you have the potential to be a great agent of chaos.”

“Let’s not close any doors just yet big guy,” I said, noticeably intrigued. “I am open to lines of work, I mean you, me, the good gods, the bad gods, and everything in between goes to the All in the end. What’s a little Chaos in the meantime?”

Nurgle looked me over as almost peering into my very soul. He sniffed me with his long anteater-like nose, the hot breath from his gaping mouth smellimg of fish and stew.

“OK my Neden friend.” Nurgle started to speak as a creepy smile crept across his face. “Let’s see how much Raw Chaotic Potential you have, mayhaps you are the chosen one, mayhaps you’ll bring balance to us all or mayhaps you’ll be my next meal. Just go through these lands as carefree as you do life, wish for everything, expect anything and know that nothing is impossible!”

“Wait what was that about a meal?” I stumbled to ask…

“Never mind that...BYyyyyyyyYEEeeeeee.” His voice trailed off as a bright flash of light zapped me back into my body.

My eyes opened first, I hate when they are the first to come back. I could feel my organs reforming finally the lungs were done, a gasp of air could be heard across the field.

During our time as goo both Jayce and Nahdala were busy at work. Nahdala of Grimloch became I believe the First Official Chaos Scout. Chaos Scout Purple and she was on the job. With her boons in the Chaos land she gave Jayce the needed bump to take out Saegan with mundane means.

With the regeneration process complete both Darkin and I were back in our bodies and we raced to find the rest of the Neden crew. This led us back to where we began fighting off undead as the questing party made a hasty retreat to the tavern. I could only assume they had what we needed for the portal. When we arrived back to the tavern we were once again greeted by Shayden who said we would have to wait till tomorrow to attempt to navigate the perils of the portal….Always Perils.

We as a questing group decided a Night of Libations were in order to celebrate a successful night's work. We defeated a fake Saegan, we retrieved the power crystals, we solved the puzzles and we stomped some undead back into the ground. This was certainly a call for some spirits to raise our spirits.

The night went well with food and singing and friendship, stuff gets fuzzy and then that restless sleep sets in. I awoke to a Jayce ready and raring to go finish what we started.

“This is the situation boss,” Jayce stated as he started to make me aware of things I must have slept through.

Jayce had a game plan for what we needed to do. Basically this Shayden was going to run us through simulation trails after we visited his Rathkeale village.

It was at this village that I acquired Syruss's War Mule, the Realms most Stubborn Ass . Which came into play because several adventurers were trading away limbs which left them unable to heal them for quite some time.

During the time my good friend King Sir K (He is my good friend, I don’t know if those feelings reciprocate, but guess what people I like most of you.) He let me know we were not in the Rathkeale but rather ‘a’ Rathkeale, one of many in a Multiverse of worlds.

In one world you never took that assassination contract and lived a peaceful life, or perhaps you did take that contract and never messed up, or maybe even you were the one the contract was for!!! AHhhhh too scary. But you get it an infinite possible worlds means infinite possibilities of “What if."

This was no different from the time we went through a Slider portal and ended up in the world where Darklore took over. That might have been my favorite place ever and to this day regret leaving. So with no more fear of lingering consequences we decided to make King Sir K the Emperor of the Realms with me, Lord Sir Syruss, as his Warden of the North. And as luck would have it that just so happened to be the world we have landed in, that or the people of the village wanted new leadership so badly that we were met with zero resistance.

This whole wacky scheme somehow led to Sir K becoming a Chaos Scout. Chaos Scout Green was on the case. His name was fitting as I was now green with envy that he got access to Chaos powers and a super cool color to boot. I mean that big Green Guy told me to go nuts and let my inner Chaos run free. Well if I didn’t have access to the Chaos magic through normal means I would use the next best thing: MONEY. There was a vendor selling chaos potions for a random price depending on your luck and favor with the Chaos elements in the lands. This worked out well for me as I was this new Divining Rod of Chaos magic. Each challenge I won and potion sold at a song.

Chaos potion after Chaos potion I kept cracking those cold ones with the boys just to see the world burn….More accurately to see what they did...cause CHAOS.

We lost limbs, whole hours of time, we can heads, scales and special abilities, some lost the ability to talk and me personally lost my abilities to do Vaudeville for a year and a day...drats.

Thoril from Voraniss was having no luck with the Chaos gods and I could tell this was upsetting to him. He asked if he could borrow my innate luck to try and get one of those wacky potions for a song. I agreed to do it for a favor to be named later.

After we navigated the village, convinced them King Sir K was Emperor Sir K and I was Warden of the North, we proceeded to the Graveyard for reasons.

There Neden went right to work. Jayce was busy picking the locks ahead and disarming traps. Dresden was behind me and Darkin as we used our Bonded Blood and newfound ability to get each other back up upon our death to squash through the undead.

As much as I like to give Dresden a ration of caca from time to time, I have to admit he did this old Lord proud. He was on point with his healing, needing to be yelled at very little and more so he was upfront swinging a sword throwing magic and holding his own...Good job lad. Unlike that Sarrix who was nowhere to be seen and even more untimely that BatSyruss menace showed up. People often confuse me and him and I don’t know why, but, boom, proof is in the pudding we were right next to each other so there is no way we can be the same guy. Anyway that BatSyruss was being a nut with a scared sentient sword but together they managed to take down a lot of undead.

*Slash swing!* BatSyruss's sword cut through undead like insult cut through my fragile ego… BatSyruss was a force to be reckoned with just as deadly as they say, in fact without his help we surely would have joined the dead in the Cemetery of Rathkeale.

The day was getting long and the heat began to rise in the air like balloons escaping a careless child's hand. The heat was all around us and the undead feeling little of this effect took advantage and pressed us hard. The cemetery took longer than expected as Jinx and Jayce were working on this number puzzle that had no lie a million different combinations...probably.

Not only that but we were fighting with Sir Bones.. Well there were two Sir Bones and we were fighting one of them. Once we were sure who was the real Sir Bones and who was Sir Prosthetic we quickly put down the imposter….To which we may have been wrong.

Sir Nos took this opportunity to use a Chaos Boon to teleport A-BONES, not sure which one, to see the Gods of the Chaos pantheon. Kohrne was there being a jerk, Tzeentch was there, Arioch of course, Nurgle, and many more.

“How did you see all that if Nos disappeared and you were in the cemetery?” You may ask.

Because for a brief moment I too was there surrounding the circle with the rest of the gods. Just another piece of evidence that I am either A) a god myself or B) just that badass. Arioch who was in no mood to see me however quickly ported me away.

Back to the cemetery. The questing party had finally finished the puzzle and we got the real Bones back so win win. Bones and Jinx had merged as Chaos Scouts Bones I believe for the wacky fighting and Clone thing and Jinx because of her Chaotic Numbers skills probably. Either way to recap we have thus far:

Nhadala: Chaos Scout Purple

Sir K:  Chaos Scout Green

Sir Bones: Chaos Scout Black

Sir/Lady Jinx (she’s a knight ok whatever she picks): Chaos Scout Blue.

We went on to fight and fight and fight some more and when we thought we were outclassed a hero emerged: the fifth Chaos Scout. Aryss had shown up and was all the Rage..no seriously she was full of Rage her fighting was flawless as she moved through the field striking down brainless undead. Her patterns were chaotic in nature and seemingly only controlled by her unbridled rage. Chaos Scout Red had taken the playing field.

But where does this leave me? I pondered, as I demanded Chaos boots from the gods, yes that’s right I wanted chaotic footwear. As the scouts were calling for their Boons and I was calling for my Boots a voice appeared in my head.

“Keep up the good work Chaos Scout Death..Or Silver...I am not sure if we were supposed to just do a color thing...you know what, whatever makes you happy champ.” Nurgle’s creepy voice could be heard. “Seek out Shayden as soon as you kill all these undead chumps."

After the cemetery was an exercise in defeating Shayden's top guard; a Shade version of my good friend Vuel. After a fun fight with Fuel, to which he was slain, I became the new Top Guard and the REALMS BAMF...kids ask your parents what that means. Once that was said and done and I got my official belt buckle we were on our way.

More Undead plagued us and we thought we had reached our limit...we were wrong, so very wrong.

We would have traded what we were about to face with a hundred thousand more undead. We would have all rathered slept in a pile of Dresden's dirty laundry for a week or listened to a million more of Gumbo’s anecdotes than have to step up to the plate against this creature made from nightmares.

There before us in the field stood a thirty foot chaos creature, with millions of eyes and tentacles and razor-sharp teeth.

“If you have seen enough Teng Huanese puppet shows as I have you know this is going to get gross and awful real fast.” Sarrix’s voice could be heard. But again he was nowhere to be seen. BatSyruss, however, was busy hacking off limbs, but for every limb taken two more grew. Darkin had the bright idea to try and stab the creature's heart, which on paper is not a bad idea, but he attempted to get the heart from the inside. So boldly he stormed the creature, leaped into the air and was swallowed whole. I could feel our bodies being digested because of our link so I knew I didn't have much time. Something needed to be done quickly.

Thankfully as Sir K was striking down two fierce undead he called to his Fellow Chaos Scouts.

“Chaos Scouts ASSEMBLE!” Sir K Bellowed.

Out of nowhere and with newfound acrobatics Chaos Scouts came flying and flipping through the air all landing side by side.

“Chaos Scout Purple reporting for duty,” Nhadala said as she landed a triple backflip from out of nowhere.

“Chaos Scout Black!” Sir Bones said flying from the shadows.

“Chaos Scout Blue here and ready to fight!” shouted Jinx and she back-handspringed into action.

“Chaos Scout Red!” Aryss gleamed as she slaughtered one last undead for show

“Chaos Scout Green ready to finish this Foe!” Sir K echoed as his fellow Scouts landed by his side ready to fight.

“And Syruss for some reason” I stated as I was once again magically transported where I was needed most.

With our combined power a massive white lightning-like energy started to form all around us. As they all put their wands in the air and me my club the energy left our body and struck the beast.

*Crack KABOOM!* The energy strike was immense and a large screech could be heard from our foe. The creature tried to muster a few more steps at us, maybe out of defiance, maybe muscles refusing to die, but then suddenly and all at once the creature slumped to the ground.

“Congratulations my five Chaos Scouts….Erhem, six Chaos Scouts because of Syruss for some reason.” A gurgled disembodied voice could be heard. “ON to the next task.”

“We did it fellow scouts!” I exclaimed in joy to my compatriots.

“GOD DAMMIT” Sarrix's voice could once more be heard in the distance.

We were quickly escorted by Shayden to the next encounter. A Capture the Flag with a twist where all the undead would attack the Flag Carrier. After a small mishap where Darkin took the Flag for about a half a day in the wrong direction we were then back on track.

Sir Nos had a brilliant plan to use the flag as a trap luring Undead in one at a time and it worked. We were quickly through that room and onto the next encounter.

One last push and one last skirmish with undead. Jayce was busy at work with Karhma utilizing this magic lasso we got to finish the puzzle and open this mysterious tomb.

While Nhadala and I both used one more Chaos boon to bypass the highly enhanced CoP security. The Chaos gods attempted to pay her with coin and me with her personal Scout Wand of Justice to which I refused...she did not as her pockets were soon lined with chaotic gold.

The Mummy sprang into action and we went to work on this undead. It was super strong however and dispatched most of the Chaos Scouts. Luckily I had the power of the BAMF buckle and could bypass him. I grabbed one of his loose wrappings and gave Jayce and Dresden a wink and a nod. They knew what to do, quickly Dresden threw a lightning bolt at the foe *NO EFFECT* then Jayce jump in the air and slapped the taste out of the mummies mouth. Like a really good open hand slap-a-rooski. This worked! This enraged the mummy as it chased them around the field not noticing me firming anchored to the ground grasping at one of its wraps.

Smaller and smaller the creature got till it was no bigger than Darkin’s boot line and with a sinister grin, Darkin brought down that boot and ended the threat.

“Congratulations you guys have won…” Shayden was cut short by a violent explosion. Parts of him went flying everywhere and bits of his shade went in my mouth, I mean come on I was standing right there mouth open Chaos Gods what the hell.

“What the, where the, why am I here..Syruss?” The real Hayden was now there confused and pantless.

Sir K and I explained the situation as we walked Hayden back to the small keep on the hill.

“Well we are supposed to be in Rathkeale for the party I am throwing,” Hayden said frantically and confused.

“I got that covered.” I stated and I pushed my Naj Position System Button summoning a portal to Rathkeale.

There we were met by tons of our friends missing from the adventure. Mathies was there, and Zarine and Kira, heck Shandar brought tons of his Crew, Saegan was there and so wasn’t a few more friendly faces. Heck we even ran back into Jean Baptiste who was covered in way more blood than a duck could have produced.

We celebrated the weekend's victory with a feast of epic proportions. There was pulled pork and Mac and Cheese, meatball subs and much much more.

During court, Neden was given an opportunity to speak to which I thanked Hayden for the amazing time and presented our Petitioner Darkin with his N making him a full member of Neden.

Hayden gave a title to Adam so that he may govern Rathkeale in his absence.

After court the true party began. Neden dominated Beruit almost completely uncontested, the songs and poetry session was amazing, and we sang and drank the night away.

In the morning as we were sobering up Naj started kidnapping us back to Neden castle one by one so we can continue this insane drinking conquest he has us on...I wonder if he is trying to distract us from something.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

No Better Life - Chapter 7

by Gerry "Gray" Chartier
[Editor's note: click to read Chapter 1; Chapter 2; Chapter 3; Chapter 4; Chapter 5; Chapter 6]


Gray slogged after Eoin as he trotted down corridor after corridor. the younger man barely hesitated every time they hit an intersection, sometimes running straight through, other times turning His choices seemed random to Gray, but the sorcerer was fairly certain they never wound up in the same place twice.

“Hey, Gray,” Eoin asked over his shoulder, “What would you have done if Fessler hadn’t gotten that door open and we had to fight it out?”

“I was hoping to get taken by the berserker rage,” Gray panted, “What was your plan?”

A distant howl drifted to them from the way they’d come.  Both of them stopped and stared down the dark corridors.

“Think they’re following us?” Eoin asked.

Gray gave him a shove forward.  “Let’s not stick around to find out.”

They ran down more corridors, an occasional howl keeping them from slacking their pace.  Despite a pace the sorcerer could barely sustain, the howls gradually got louder and more frequent.

“That’s definitely closer!” Eoin said.

Gray nodded.  “I’m slowing you down.  Get going on your own.  I’ll hold them off.”

“No one but you can sail your ship,” Eoin protested.

“Stormseeker won’t do anyone a lick of good anyway if no one gets out of here,” Gray retorted, “You’re faster than me, so you’re the one who gets to bring Fessler’s notes to Charwindle.”

Anguish was plain on Eoin’s face.  “You’re going to buy me time with your life?”

Gray pulled a length of plain white rope from his pocket and arranged it in a circle on the stone floor.  “Believe me boy, I’m not going to sell it cheap.”  He willed another light into being and handed it to the younger man. “Now take this and skedaddle!”

Eoin hesitated, but took the orb of green light and resumed running, disappearing in moments now that he didn’t have to hold back so Gray could keep up.  The sorcerer watched the direction he went till he could no longer make out the light, then turned to face the directions of the howls.

“By my will, I empower this circle versus magic.”

Energy flowed through Gray into the circle of rope, a barrier springing forth from floor to ceiling.  He stepped into it and waited.

He had to wait long enough to regret not putting the circle next to the wall so he could lean against it, but the howls grew louder, and eventually he could hear breathing just outside the illumination his light was shedding.

He began drawing energy into himself.  “Come for a taste of what your packmates got?”

“Already took your best shot, sorcerer,” came the reply, “We regenerated from it.”

“If that’s the case, step out into the light,” Gray said, “I’ll hit you again, make your hair stick out all funny.  I’m sure it’ll look hysterical.”

Silence, for a moment.  “Where’s your friend?”

Gray glanced back, hoping Eoin found the others alive and safe.  “Got tired of running.  Sent him ahead.  Where’s Karayan?”

“She followed the elf,” the voice replied, “I volunteered to track you to get some payback.  Now, here you are!”

Gray beckoned to the unseen werewolf.  “Well, come on and get it then.”

“I’m not the one cowering in a circle of protection,” the voice taunted.

“I’m not the one hiding in the shadows,” Gray retorted.

“Your circle doesn’t block the corridor, Gray,” the voice pointed out, “You can’t stop us all from getting by.”

Gray grinned.  “Maybe.  But I can make damned sure the first one of you who tries dies in the attempt.”  He slid his silver dagger an inch out of its sheathe, letting the blade gleam in his light.  “Whatever I cut off with this isn’t growing back.”  He slid the dagger back down into its sheathe.  “So, how about it?  Who wants to go first?”

There was silence, then shuffling, then growling and snarling like a pack of dogs fighting over a carcass.  Then, bipedal lupine figures began stepping into the light, two abreast, then another two behind them.  Killer scrambled up to his shoulder, screaming in rage.

When Gray didn’t immediately let loose, they bounded forward, rushing him as a pack.  Gray held back until the four of them were about to reach him before cutting loose.  Power surged from him through his outstretched arms, the jagged bolt of lightning illuminating the dark corridor like a moment of pure sunlight.  It lanced through the two werewolves on the left, scorching fur and searing flesh, sending them hurtling back down the corridor.

The next werewolf tried to squeeze between Gray’s circle and the stone wall on the right.  Gray surprised him by stepping out of the circle and shoving his head into it, the werewolf’s skull bouncing off it like it was solid rock.  Killer leapt onto it, latching onto its ear and savaging with his teeth.  It staggered back, stunned, but the one behind it took its place, its claws lashing out at Gray’s torso.

Gray’s ensorcelled cloak held, turning razor-sharp claws like a breastplate.  The sorcerer danced back into his circle, drawing his silvered dagger and launching a ball of scintillating energy at the werewolf’s face.  It raised its arm, the magic missile burning into its limb instead of its face.  Gray lashed out with his dagger, drawing blood across the werewolf’s midsection, but only a superficial cut, not an incapacitating wound.

There was a surge of magic, and Gray’s circle of protection abruptly faded.  A grinning man stepped into the light.  “His circle is down!” he shouted, “Get him now!”

The two werewolves exchanged a look before pouncing as one, the one with Killer still latched onto its ear.  Gray stepped into the attack of Killer’s foe, feigning a shot to the throat before launching a magic missile at its groin.  Its snarl became an agonized yelp, and it dropped to its knees, clutching ruined genitals.

Gray plunged his blade into the crippled werewolf’s throat, the backlash energy of its death washing over his personal wards.  Killer bounded onto its fallen form, screeching in triumph.

Howling in rage, its partner lashed out, its claws slashing through the sorcerer’s upper arm. Gray cried out, clutching his crippled limb to his chest, but slashed with his dagger, the blade cutting deep into his assailant’s forearm.  Its cry was almost human, and it recoiled from the deadly silver in Gray’s good hand.

Its hesitation gave Gray enough time to rattle off his healing chant, but as he restored his limb, he saw the two werewolves he’d struck with his lightning stir and begin to rise again, and the abjurer who’d disrupted his circle begin to transform.

He began drawing in the power he would need to once again channel lightning, but his current opponent pressed his attack, forcing him to launch less powerful magic missiles.  The werewolf ripped one apart with its claws in midair, but Gray managed to sneak another past his defense and hit a leg.  The werewolf stumbled back, only to be joined by three more of his kin.

“Gray!  Hit the deck!”

Gray didn’t hesitate a moment, dropping belly-first, a flock of arrows whistling over him before he’d even hit the floor.  In the narrow corridor, the projectiles couldn’t fail to hit, the flight of arrows staggering the werewolves back.

As they tried to turn and retreat, the sorcerer blasted the leg out from under one, jumping on top of it as it fell and driving his dagger between its ribs from behind.  The fight went out of the werewolf when his blade punctured its lung.  Gray withdrew it and stabbed it through the back of its neck, right at the base of its skull.

He barely noticed the backlash deflected by his wards, wrenching his blade out of werewolf’s spine with a snarl barely less animalistic than the werewolves’.  He rose to his feet, paying no heed to the arrows whistling past him as he advanced at their retreating forms, drawing power into him, Killer dashing up to his shoulder as he stalked forward.

A pair of arms wrapped around him from behind.  He shrugged them off, lashing out with lightning at the fleeing werewolves.  The arms returned, joined by another pair, holding him back from pursuing the shapeshifters into the darkness.

“Gray, no!” Eoin cried, “We don’t have time for this!”

“They’re all over the place, Gray!” Darvan shouted, “We have to go!”

Gray turned to Eoin, then Darvan, wrestling his anger back under control.  He relaxed in their grip and nodded.  Killer screeched in disappointment, but the pair released him.

Eoin clapped Gray’s shoulder.  “You weren’t joking about the berserker rage, were you?”

Gray shook his head.  “I wasn’t berserk, just angry.”

Charwindle stepped into the light.  “I pray we never see what occasions your frenzy then.  Now, if you would like to join us, we’re leaving these catacombs.”

Gray rested his right hand over his heart.  “Thank you for coming back for me.”

Charwindle grinned.  “Repay me by getting us safely home.”