Thursday, April 30, 2015

Raised in the Realms

Can you imagine not just growing up on a farm, but growing up on one where most weekends crazy grown-ups in silly costumes invade with foam swords and tents for a weekend of make believe?  That was the case for Robbie "Master Robert" Maggie "Lady Maggie", and James "Master James the goblin slayer" Disbrow. Their father, Andy "Sir Shean O'Qunilinn" Disbrow talked with us about their Realms experience.
They each started coming to game around ages 2-3 and participating at 4-5.  With Robbie turning 22 in June, Maggie 19 in November, and James just turned 15 they have over 5 decades of Realms experiences between the

Robbie found his first Randy Gordon magic item, the Crown of Change, at age 4. James was also 4 when he found his first magic item. Maggie got a magic dagger off an NPC at approximately 10.   Sally, Andrew "Sir Sean's" wife, brought them in and out of events at young ages. Maggie marshaled “buckaroo” at a Feast of Creathorne back when they were the Costa Feast fundraisers and had to step in between an angry Curley and Celtrex.

According to Andy they, "all like questing over tournaments, but have said that they really enjoyed North/South War. It is one of their favorite events every year."  While all three said that questing is what they enjoy most, and James enjoys improving his martial skills, Maggie brought up that she, " once “liked Blacksmith until they f___ed it up, event holders need to stop messing with things especially spells because they are bored” . "most of your great changes are not good for players or the game we do not like it"

Andy feels that they've benefited from their participation. "They learned many things hand eye coordination, fighting styles, how to make many things out of nothing, independence, leadership skills and problem-solving to name a  VERY few.  A good amount of time they have learned when things are going to go horrifically wrong and how to maneuver away from it or when to jump in and fix things.  Things that in life away from realms is always good to know.  

I watched  Robbie come out of his shell and be much more independent and assertive.  In Robbie’s case he started throwing events at age 14, He was not the first under 18 year old to throw an event nor will he be the last. But because he was my kid a group of “adults” went after him as an event holder and tried to block not only his event that  people had fun at but ban all people under 18 from throwing events (it was his 2nd event). I watched a 15 year old gather information, get references and research things well beyond his years to prove his competency as an event holder and his ability to deal with aggressive adults as a child, something NO other event holder has ever had to do. He came up with the amendment that is currently in the omnibus requiring under 18 year olds to have a 18+ person on staff rather than they cannot throw events at all.  “I” think this helped him in the long run when he had to prepare for his Eagle Scout project and board of review, 2 years later. He graduates from College in May.

Maggie is a very strong independent young woman, who sticks up for herself.  She has watched and learned from many of the woman in realms some good and bad habits. But all in all I think a positive experience that I feel she has come away from realms with some skills that she would not have learned if she had not been part of realms.  She might be moving away from realms on an extended leave of absence due to college requirements in the fall.  Also some of the males currently in the game kind of “creep her out”.  This summer she and her boyfriend are going to be in England with relatives.

James is still very active and changing quite a bit every day.  He has expressed wanting to help throw an event possibly in the fall.  When He was 11 he was doing very well with Order of the List but 1 weekend he had a soccer tournament and missed 1 event that knocked him from top 14-20ish to 34th.. Point wise he and others did not have a huge point year … but to an 11 year old getting bumped that bad was pretty devastating..  I think he is doing something with Order of the List this year  or prepping up for next year."

In addition to the items mentioned above, he brought up some additional concerns/challenges.

"Adults in general need to be aware that kids are in this game and  that some jokes are not appropriate for kids to be around. The cost to bring a family is expensive, though many event holders do work with you on kids pricing, but some don’t which causes you to have to pick and choose.  Many events NOW are having age appropriate things and many players are realizing kids are out there at events.  It is sad when a 15 year old has to carry some one incapable of walking to their tent or when they walk up on people doing things at events that they should be doing at home, or NOT doing at all.   I have seen many things at events and it makes me wonder what my kids have seen. I do hear a good amount of things from them, but I often wonder knowing people in realms what did I not hear about."

As you talk to Realms parents you realize that they have, through the game, gained the tremendous gift of interacting with their child in an environment where they get to be a part of their children's "play", while at the same time watching them develop skills that lead to them not just being seen as peers but as leaders in our mixed age community.

When asked about favorite memories, Andy said:

"In relation to Robbie, I would have to say Feast of Blackwood when he and I were fighting in thy deep snow (in October). There was a big dracolitch. There were very cool fights and experiences that weekend.

With Maggie, watching her at a North/South War popping circles with her “skull puckie” familiar from clear across the field,  the smile on her face was priceless.    Also, one time when she was about thirteeen, we handed her a spear and a big shield and sent here out NPCing.the predator stuff. It was fun watching people run from a young girl with a shield too big for her to lift.

Wish James, I want to say a small quest at a Feast of Leviathan. The site was getting pounded by the NPC’s. Creathorne had 25+ players there. James took the entire team a safe way to the big badie… good leadership opportunity, good group comradely, and a good time was had by all.
  It is pretty hard to pick the most memorable though, I have had so many great memories with my kids. Many are with Realms".

Andy offered the following advice to other parents,  "I  trust my kids to know right and wrong.  I am not a Helicopter parent, I let them go off and do things, but I like to be close by.  So my kids stayed together when they made friends they stayed close to them.  The One rule was never be alone with anyone. Always stay in groups 3 or more.  At some point they will have learned who to not be to close to and who to avoid . If you trust YOUR parenting skills your kids will be fine. Some events are not appropriate for your kids to be away from you at.  I hear all the time such and such event is not something I would bring my kid to.. I disagree, most of the time it is you don’t want your kids to see you at that event.  Many times the kids will gravitate together, I remember one Tournaments of Creathorne when Robbie and an army of kids grouped up in a grand melee, and some adults were less than happy that they got beat down by 10+ kids.. Let your kids have some space and let them have some fun."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What You Missed - Feast of Chimeron (Photos)

[Editor's note: all photos by Jesse Gifford]

A mystical genie, the objective of the day quest

Shenanigans during the least it's not a "Kick Me" sign....

Court begins....the first word goes to the Crown

The two candidates in the Page Tourney, Edwin and Bludvin

Bludvin wins and is handed the shield of the king.

Lucas says a few words...and then a few more...and then a few more.

Janus is made a Magus of the Realms

Indana receives her Journeyman Spoon in the Order of the Spoon

Saka is appointed the Warlord of Chimeron

A proud sea of green.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Those Bedlam Days by Ethan "Jean Baptiste" Goldman

This song was heard by a lamenting apocalypse cultist who was lamenting the lack of apocalypsing currently happening to the realms.

Musical accompaniment:

Do you remember the good years in Bedlam?
The blood flowed endlessly cold
The fields were a patchwork of corpses
The questers were never too bold
We'd turn villages into graveyards together
And averything round us was fine

Now the fae are well and there
is joie de vivre everywhere
Et maintenant we drink a bitter wine

Those Bedlam days we used to know
Where have they gone, where did they go?
Eh bien, raise your berets
To those bedlam days

Do you remember those adventuring parties?
The questors turned Bedlam's cuisine
there ashen, trembling faces
The grayest the realms has seen
It's funny but since we lost Mad Jack
We've gone to the other extreme
No-one comes to kill us now
We couldn’t scalp them anyhow
I even find I'm missing those hero's screams

Those Bedlam days we used to know
Where have they gone, where did they go?
Eh bien, raise your berets
To those bedlam days

It's funny but since we lost Mad Jack
We've gone to the other extreme
Perhaps it’s not all that bad
Perhaps the Rising Army is just as mad
And soon we’ll hear those entertaining screams

Those Bedlam days we used to know
Where have they gone, where did they go?
Eh bien, raise your berets

To those bedlam days

Eh bien, raise your berets
To those Bedlam days​!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fresh Faces- Ethan "Jean Baptise" Goldman

How did you learn about Realms?
Photo by Jesse Gifford
Ethan is in the front

So earlier this October was my birthday. Coincidentally the larp group at U-Mass Lowell was doing a apple juice fund raiser. I think even the real stuff, not the kind you get in a juice box.

Because of the timing I got double the apple juice and felt it was only fair to pay my dues. However it took me a while to actually get to be able to make a event and so I only got to join mid November. Life is like that.

How many event have you been to?
Lets see, I played seven I think? Enough that I should complete the punch card soon.

Have you ever LARP’ed before?  If so tell us about it?
Nope! I did a bunch of tabletops but they don't help you learn how to swing a sword.

What is your character like?  Where are they from? What is their race? What is important to them?

Ah Jean Baptise, or Baptist as his northern spring certificate says. He's a slightly crazy chef but so far no one seems to mind. He also sells jerky. Fresh jerky, home made and harvested with meat fresh from the Realm's finest and most exotic dungeons and dwellings. Some might say it's a lot of work dehydrating a dream demon, but at Baptise Butchery we just care a little bit more.

If I had a logo, youd be seeing it right now. Trust me, it would be super cool and you'd totally buy some.

He's from a old temple that worships the god of food. Who exactly the god of food is didn't seem to matter to the lardinals however so Jean's on a quest to "Find god." He's currently petitioning for Neden, but their immigration and customs department is very high profile.

Who knew?

While he is human born and blue, he's currently a bit, preserved will be the appropiate word for it. Undead and all.

Jean cares only about a few things, the sancity of life and death not among them (do you KNOW what you do to make a sausage). One is the betterment of his abbility to enjoy existence, the other is the betterment of others to enjoy existence. This usually translates into perfecting and producing food or assisting people who aren't currently killing him.

What do you remember most about your first event?

Oh man okay you are in for a good one.
Most people get to take newbie quests like "Catch the butterfly" or "goblin punting" or something, I've heard there are newbie quests so I assume they exist.

I got "Invade the mine of lost souls and liberate gaia's spring to stop a soul devouring plague."

No pressure.

So on Wellspring our guide suggested we go on ahead. I was the only one who heard him and was ambushed by the mid boss and her flunky. I think I was to dead for it.

So I was then dragged off stage, where the npcs were confused and looking to the event handler because apperantly this never happened before.

So I got killed, scalped, and corrupted. Do you not know what corrupted is? Neither did I, all I knew is that when I drank the water of Gaia I exploded.

So succeeded in dying more then anyone has ever died before.

What things have helped to make you feel welcome in game?
When I was dead I got to go to the snack bar, That was pretty cool.

Also people actually laugh at my jokes, and I was invited to Neden, not in a fancy way that let me skip the legwork but it let me know I wasn't actively disliked.

What parts of the game do you find most challenging?
I've heard that this game gets you really tired, I never had to deal with that as I die so fast, so I need to work on that.

Also strangely every time I go to a event, I'm sick. Like, ​Raistlin. So serving with a migraine was weird.

Do you have any game related goals (as either a player or character)?
I want to set up a jerky stand, and I want to get into Neden, there are some other ideas I have to try to cement my characters existence (not necessarily into prominence but into thereness) one is to host a event. But the event stuff is in the near future, the jerky and neden stuff is things I can see happening in the foreseeable future.

What advice would you give other new players?

Okay so there is this guy in Blackwood with a jester hat. He takes that thing really seriously, do not talk about the hat.

Just trust me you don't want to get scalped over this.

What have you enjoyed most about the game so far?
We got great board games.

 Anything else you'd like to take the opportunity to put into print?

Many competitors have made claims about the nature of our buisiness. Saying that it's unethical, or diabolic, or even that it's made of human flesh.

I don't want to get into a shouting match with these fine folk, so I will just say this.

When the hordes of horror are barging on your doorstep in the Western front, sometimes it gets hard to remember why its all worth living through.

For that there is Baptise Butchery, made for you, from you.

We not only offer our own house blends for consumption but if you bring us ingredients you'd like to munch on while trekking through the haunted forest of unreasonable spookiness, we won't give you any questions.

But what we will give you, is delicious and quality product. That's our guarantee.

Baptise Butchery is not responsible for any Wendigo based curses that arise after eating our product. Consumer discretion advised.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Well Do You Know Chimeron??

1.  How many leaves are on the heraldry?

2.  How many reigning monarchs have there been?

3.  How many sub-nations CURRENTLY make up Chimeron (note, this is the groups themselves, not the lands on the map)?

4. How many lands are CURRENTLY beholden to the Crown of Chimeron?

5.  How many Avatars of Chimeron are there?

6.  How did the Kingdom of Chimeron historically come into existence?

7.  Who was the famous member of the Order of the Spoon that King Oberon himself stole away to create a sumptuous feast of no equal then or since (Feast of Chimeron X)?  Bonus: what were some of the dishes that they made?

8.  Why did the Chimeronian heraldry turn black with a white rowan leaf for a time?

9.  How many Knights of the Eternal Flame are CURRENTLY within Chimeron, and what are their names?

10.  Who are the King's Twelve, and how did they get that title?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Where Are They Now- Joe "Elwick" Piepiora

Joe "Elwick Dragonsburrow" Piepiora playing in 1995. His first event was Death Bunnies III. He played actively until about 2008, and then showed up intermittently until 2010.

Elwick started his Realms career as a fighter named Rebel, who then renamed himself. Joe stateed, "Elwick had been the intended name of the character, but at 15 years old when Dan Diamond (Baron Diamond Banecroft of Banecroft, mind you) asked me my name in character I panicked and blurted out a screen name I'd used on a local BBS at the time. It was my first truly in-character discussion and ultimately many who have known me since that time continued to use that name for a good, long while.

I joined Banecroft and enjoyed learning from and playing with the Baronials. I loved the Barony, and Dan trusted me a great deal. Later, partly due to teen angst and partly to convenient plotlines Elwick struck out on his own. In the end Elwick and Rel became joint-stewards of Tuath Fasach, a heavily plot-driven realm written by Carrie Dolph. It's assumed that Elwick still resides in Tuath Fasach, despite my absence from events.

Elwick didn't really care much for tournaments, so though there were some that he won, he never paid much attention to them. For Elwick he'd probably tell you that the most important things he'd done were helping rescue Rel that time and that other time, becoming a Kathrani of fire, earning the title of Champion of Tymora, freeing Amelia, earning Icicle, defending Tuath Fasach that time Wrake attacked and turning down a knighthood on the spot based on a curt shake of the head from Sir Callin. 

I also received a knighthood from the KOEF, but that didn't feel like an IC achievement as much as an OOC one."

When asked about his out of character achievements, he said, "From the word go in the game I began running events. My first full-fledged event took place when I was 18. It was a nightmare scenario with a horrid plot that only made sense to a few people, a drastic lack of NPCs and weather that was seriously lacking. Friday night had about 40 people, Sunday morning had about 12 or so.

Working with Buddy Wolfhope and the TF crew we put out the Victory Marks, backed by content delivered by the Adventurer's Guild. I can only claim credit for the idea, whatever success the AG had was on the backs of those that staffed and supported it.

I was particularly satisfied with the following events that I had a hand in throwing:

Death Night
Song of Illinar Series
Tempastros Educari
Summerfest III
Ace in the Hole Series

Here are some distilled moments that years and years later continue to stick with me.

Elwick accepting the tabard of Banecroft.

Elwick had just become Sir Callin's squire hoping to become a knight errant. Elwick stood there, holding Sir Callin's bastard sword and his greatsword. Elwick watched as Sir Callin held his son, Prince Roland, rocking and hushing him after Queen Meg departed to go under the hill.

The Milk Run. I doubt Makela ever forgave anyone who went.

Elwick stood in a field of dead adventurers, screaming at the Champion of the Erl King to cease the senseless slaughter and to face him. The Champion arrived, Elwick challenged him to a duel. If Elwick lost he would surrender himself to the forces of corruption for a year and a day. If Elwick won the Champion would lead his forces from the field. Elwick won.

Elwick watched as the Borderlanders finished scalping Nero, the heirophant of the church of the five ladies and then he attacked the Borderlands. He slew eleven before Lord Avendar and Dame Makela stepped in to aid him which ended the fight.

Elwick and others carried Bright's corpse from the field of Tuath Fasach after a hard-fought defense against Wrake's troops. 

Watching players play through a variety of scenes. Watching Sir Cecil crush a statue in a decrepit tombyard on the beach during Death Night. The discovery of the cursed man's wife being slowly dissected and healed eternally in Tempastros Educari. The look on the player's faces when they crested the hill and looked upon Morannon during Summerfest III. There are dozens more. Most of the joy I took from the game was in creating and running content.

Laughing non-stop with Matt D., Jason R., Ian P. and Tim B. while we ran in the Ace in the Hole series.

Hugging Dan Diamond after I was made a KOEF. It had been 12 years since I'd met the man, I'd slept on his couch, ate food with him and Karen, he'd helped me NPC and had essentially set the groundwork for who I'd become in the realms. He congratulated me with tears in his eyes. 

All this time since Dan I still can't thank you enough for the kindness you showed a gawky fifteen year old who forgot his name when asked. 

Joe currently lives in Aliso Viejo, CA.  (about ten minutes inland from Laguna Beach). He is married to Corrie Bergren Piepiora (she played Cosette during her stint in Realms). They have a one year old daughter named Isabelle.

Joe fulfilled a long term dream becoming the Lead Systems Designer at Carbine Studios. They launched Wildstar, the studios first game last year. He's been working professionally in game development since 2008 and says that "Wildstar has a few Realms characters that managed to slip in".

Joe says he, "runs D&D games as my remaining nerdy outlet while constantly playing a ton of different video games. Seriously, my steam list is stupid at this point". He is also a runner.

When asked on if he'd come back to the visit he said, "It's difficult to say. Being this far removed from New England makes things challenging. (Jason) Rosa has basically told me that if I wanted to come back and run something he would organize everything I could ever need. I do miss running events".

In closing Joe said,

"I mentioned my first event, Death Bunnies III. At fifteen years old I crested a hill to see a black plastic dungeon the size of two football fields side by side. It was a truly incredible event, and when I threw events I always kept that experience in mind. It became my benchmark and it drove me to push myself and what I thought was possible.

There are lots of ways to make an impact on people in the Realms community. In the end that's all I'd ever really wanted to do. I wanted to share that spark that Carrie and Dave had shared with me."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WIWTG Feast of Chimeron XXIII

Huh.  This event is older than a serious percentage of you.  That's distressing on some level, but mostly lends credence as to why you should go.

Chimeron as a whole has set a standard for culture in our game.  The past has shown us game-setting plots (Fae plot, anyone?), amazing foods, and challenging quests.

While it is hard for every single year to hold up to these standards, this year should be wonderful.  The kitchen will be staffed by experienced folk who know how to handle a ladle.  It will be headed by someone who has no worries wearing an apron with pride.

The rumor is that we will see the beginnings of a new plot this year, and everyone wants to be in on the ground floor for that!

Great food, great plot.  Just go, it should be a great time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fireside Chat with Kovaks

The return of spring is a glorious thing.  Any part of it is worth reveling in.  The soft rain, the first few frogs venturing out to sing, the brave bulbs forcing themselves out.  Even the mud.  
The ride to Chimeron, Griffindor specifically, was really a delight.  What I really enjoyed was time to sit and chat with someone I am very fond of, Kovaks.  She is a hard worker who asks for little in return.  She will give you the shirt from her back, and laugh while she does it.  Here are a few things for you to learn about how she sees the world.  Some of you would do well to learn a new perspective.

Tell me a funny story about your fellow members of Griffindor.
It is so infrequent that we are all in the same place actually questing together, partly because we have such different interests and schedules, and partly because people keep wandering off and getting distracted by shiny objects.Quinn is notorious for this. I kept threatening to put him on a leash on quests so he couldn't wander off, but people started giggling about tying him up, and I had to explain the humor to Lord Tara. It was just awkward all around.

Kovaks, what do you do on a normal, non adventuring day?
 All of my free time in the past year was spent rebuilding Chimeron. Before I was an adventurer, I was trained as a stonemason so I've been using that skillset to rebuild the city, roads, and walls of the nation. Now that's about done, I've been rebuilding my own house.  I make armor and do other odd jobs to pay the bills. When all that's done, I spend my free time reading, writing, and hanging around taverns collecting and sharing stories. Some of this is for work since I'm Chimeron's Court Chronicler, but some is just for my own amusement and relaxation. A cup of tea, a warm fire, and sharing stories until everyone falls asleep in their chair. That's my idea of a perfect evening.

 What is your favorite dish at feasts?
 Chimeron Beef. Eaten off the end of a knife.  (here I chided her about propriety, as I personally prefer to eat with my hands.)
   Look, I have short arms.  I need the knife to get the meat off the plate in the middle of the table.
Besides. If someone tries to take the meat, I'm already armed,
(And this is when I learned a new perspective on Feasting.  If nothing else, Kovaks is incredibly pragmatic.)  

Tell me who you are squired to and in what order. 
I'm squired to Sir Baron Diamond of Banecroft, Knight of the Sable Dragon. I take tasks and direction from all of the knights of the order. 

 Tell the Realms about the tenants of that Order.
Tenets of the order are: Protect the Realms, Serve as an exemplar of honor, Maintain diversity within the order, and Train inexperienced adventurers.

In your mind, what does it mean to be a squire?
For me, being a squire is all about learning. Learning from my knight, learning from other knights, learning what I need to learn, learning about myself and learning from myself; guided self-discovery might be a good way to describe it. I've learned some from the tasks I was given, but also from the tasks I assigned myself. Of course there was also learning from my mistakes. I remember I wrote a whole article about learning from my mistakes as part of my squireship. I think I have a copy of it around here... somewhere.

What types of tasks have you had to tackle?
My first assigned tasks were very academic. I had to read a few books and then write book reports about them. My favorite of these was The Armored Rose by Tobi Beck. A fantastic book for any female fighters or people who work with them. Since then my tasks were more hands-on. I had to learn how to make weapons using different techniques, repair armor. 
The hardest task I completed was being a general for a war tournament. I did it by being general for Team Tara at Queen of Hearts, and I learned that I didn't like it.
I'm much more suited as a senechal or castilian. Recently, as part of a task, I led a group of adventurers against a man who was stealing magical capability from babies, rendering them incapable of ever learning magic in the future. He's now dead, and I checked two tasks of my list: figure out what was going on with the magic in these babies, and destroy a threat to the Realms. 
The task I'm currently working on is to gather a large sum of gold to show. Donations gladly accepted.

You find the magic lamp that gives you one wish.  No demon speaking, no terrible repercussions.  Just a  simple, happy inducing wish.  What is yours?
 Wow. This question's really hard.  Can I give it to someone else?  (No, it is only for you.  You can make a wish benefiting someone else, if you like)
I wish for Darkvale to be returned to Chimeron control with the souls of the innocents that were lost in the war against the Disciple either returned or at eternal peace.

Im not going to take you step by step as I saw Kovaks weigh everything through her head.  One thing I am certain of, though, is that at no point did she consider doing something for herself.  She didn't think about what she could do with a million gold, (unless it was to spend on others).  She didn't think about an object of power to rule the world (but seriously, that sounds hard, and very tiring)  The answers Kovaks gave are all true to herself.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Worth Dying For, Part 3 by David Hayden

On came the goblins, carefully picking through the rubble, wary of potential traps, wary of her springing out at them. Through a break in the rubble she watched them; their eyes seemed to glimmer with malice, although she knew it was just the reflected light from her fire.  Forward they crept, cautiously and in a surprisingly tactical fashion, two carrying shields in the front, a third with a spear behind them. She realized they still thought she had a bow to shoot at them, and had learned to give the weapon the respect it was due. But she did not, and that would make her task all that much harder.

A scrabbling sound behind her drew her attention away from the tunnel. She turned and was startled to see a goblin halfway through the vine-covered window. It took just three strides to cross the room, her spear extended. Her prey noticed her just moments before her blade plunged deep into its arm. The goblin squealed in pain, ineffectively flailing about with its dagger while trying to retreat. She stabbed a second time and was poised for a third when she heard a triumphant cry from the front of the room and turned to see the goblin shieldmen stepping over the joist that was to have been her choke point. They had used the one climbing through the window as bait, although it seemed unlikely the injured creature was aware of that role given how that encounter had unfolded.  She had not expected that level of cunning from such low creatures and swore at her own arrogance for thinking so.

Their elation was short-lived, however, as their movement brought them in contact with several ropes that Niobe had tied across the opening and dulled with mud. Ropes that were anchored to the joist on one end, and the now cold remains of their eager comrade on the other. It had taken a great deal of effort to hoist the body onto the set of spikes she had driven in above the opening, and she bore more than fair amount of pain in the process. But it was totally worth every bit of suffering as the momentum of the two lead goblins brought the corpse down on top of them.

Niobe sprang into action as the pair went down in a heap, screeching in terror of the unknown assailant. The confused look on the face of the spearmen behind them quickly turned to dismay as she caught the now blazing log with the toe of her boot and launched it into the creature’s face. It dropped the spear to try and catch the flaming mass hurtling towards its face, and howled as the flesh was seared from its hands when it did. Niobe stabbed the creature in the throat.

She had no time to see if her thrust had been fatal as there were two enraged goblins at her feet. Their half-hearted sword swings posed little threat as their main focus was getting out from under their comrade’s corpse. She slashed and cut, delivering minor wounds, but quickly found her senses overwhelmed.

Behind her, the goblins she had stabbed before was back at the window, struggling to get through with murder it its eyes.

Above her, the sharp edge of an axe bit into the sagging wood as one of the monsters tried to hack its way in from above.

In front of her, the burnt goblin fell over dead, his face twisted in a combination of agony and confusion. But behind it came the last two goblins, including one that was clearly the leader. It wore a shirt of rough armor, mismatched pieces of metal attached in all manner of ways. On its head rested a dented helm, a scratched shield was strapped to one arm. Of all the weapons the entire motley troop of goblins had carried, its polished longsword was the only one a trained soldier would have been willing to wield.  In another place, the garish combination would have been comical. But here, now, there was nothing remotely amusing about it.
One of the shieldbearers had worked itself free and stood with a growl. She kicked it in the face and felt the satisfying crunch of cartilage giving beneath her boot. The creature yelped in pain, fell backward, and landed on some of her makeshift caltrops, and yelped again. She slashed at the other shieldman, any semblance of finesse or technique lost in the melee, desperate to slay it before the remaining goblins arrived.

The longsword sliced through the air, sundering her bow just below the blade she had tied on. And the one advantage of reach she had was gone.

She stepped back, her eyes frantically searching for a weapon, a way out, anything.

At the window, the frustrated goblin shouted threats in its foul tongue as it hacked at the stiff vines that kept it from climbing through.

On the roof, the would-be lumberjack hewed merrily away, with more vigor than any goblin had ever put toward a task that could be considered work, apparently oblivious to the impact to itself that success in cutting a hole would have, so eager was it to reach her.

Niobe drew her remaining knife, put her back against the wall, and prepared to sell her life as dearly as she could.

The shieldman whose face she had ruined with the flurry from her spear earlier circled unsteadily to her left around the pillar, the one obstacle which remained between Niobe and the goblins. The leader with his bright sword and the other unscathed goblin who wielded a pair of curved daggers moved to the right. Behind them, the second shieldman with the broken nose and two arrowheads embedded in its back finally managed to stand upright.

Above her, the ax-wielding maniac had widened a hole enough to stick its head in and snarl at her before returning to the task with vigor.

The window goblin was still being outsmarted by vines and furious for it.

The armored goblin with the bright sword pointed to her wound leg and spoke in its guttural tongue. She didn’t know the specific meaning of the words, having refused to learn the foul language out of deference to her father, but she understood enough to infer its meaning, and replied with some choice orcish curses her husband had taught her. It clearly understood her reply and with an angry growl, advanced.

The moment froze around her, and in her mind’s eye, she was back at home, a young girl wrapped deep in a blanket to ward off the brisk night wind, her father’s melodious voice echoing from the next room as he sang her to sleep.

And there, amidst the certainty of pain and death, with a child’s lullaby echoing in her ears, Niobe
found tranquility.

Just as suddenly, she was back in the ruins, surrounded by enemies eager to rend her flesh.

With peace in her heart, Niobe charged at the goblins, a most unexpected course of action and one that made her foes hesitate in a moment of confusion. That moment was all she needed as she sprang to the side at the last second, lashing out with her knee, driving it into a startled goblin’s temple. The creature dropped like a stone, as Niobe landed hard beside its corpse.

The remaining goblins quickly recovered and moved to block her escape, mistaking her actions as an attempt to flee.

Above, another board splintered under the axe-wielding assault of the goblin on the roof.

An unintelligible sound that could have been either a sign of progress or admission of defeat came from the window.

The concept of self-sacrifice is simply incomprehensible to goblinkind – it is one of the reasons they will always be a lesser race. Pulling a mate in front of you to block a hail of arrows? That sort of sacrificing comes as second nature to them. But the idea of risking injury or death solely for the benefit of others, that is so foreign a course of action that it may as well be some ancient form of magic.

Thus the completely baffled expression that the remaining goblins wore as Niobe unleashed a thunderous kick not at another of their number, but at the stout wooden column was understandable. A second kick did nothing to alleviate their confusion, but the resounding crack that followed did.

Looks of bewilderment turned to horror and then panic as their instinct for self-preservation overrode any sense of tactics and what little common sense they may have had. Two of the goblins surged forward to stop Niobe, who was shaking off the waves of agony her efforts had made course through her leg. 

Unfortunately for them, their two companions had decided that flight offered a better chance of survival, and the lot of them went down in a tangle of flailing limbs as the two groups, both intent on their individual goals, collided violently.

Niobe drew a deep breath, perhaps the deepest she ever had, although the clarity of certain annihilation tends to magnify everything one experiences. It isn’t that a mortal’s life actually “flashes” before their eyes on that final threshold – the synapses that hold individual memories are constantly firing. It’s just that we are usually too busy or distracted to notice. But in that moment, as Death’s embrace envelopes us, we are granted the priceless gift of focus, and those things that truly matter stand out from all of the static of mundane thoughts.

Niobe’s last thoughts were of her father, and a thousand memories they had shared. Of every hope realized and every nightmare vanquished. Of every rise and setting of the sun she had been blessed to witness. 

And of her daughter, from her first stirrings in the womb to her wailing declaration to the world that she had arrived. To every smile that had passed between them, every embrace shared, every tear wiped away, every night tucked in a blanket of pleasant dreams with elfsong lulling her to sleep.

And these memories brought her peace and joy, and that peace and joy blocked out the pain long enough for Niobe to drive her foot through the pillar with one final thrust.

The goblins, along with time itself, froze in that brief instant when the weakened wood gave way to her boot. Splinters of oak hung in the air. Sound ceased, as if the very waves that carried noise had witnessed her last act and were struck dumb in awe.

Above her, the rusted axe of a determined goblin was in mid-swing, its wielder blissfully oblivious to what had just happened below and enraptured how much more gleefully destructive the axe was when used against dead wood.

At the window, the frustrated goblin looked up with triumph in its eyes as it tore finally free of the vine on which its belt had been caught.

And on the floor in front of her, four goblins clutched at each other, not in some expression of solidarity in the face of a common horrible fate or even pure, simple terror, but in an effort to push their kin aside to try and save their own miserable lives.

Then the ruined inn, along with their entire world, came crashing down.

Belts of the Eternal Flame - One Last Thing

Who Are the Knights of the Eternal Flame?

 By Mike "Sir Panther" Palumbo

The KoEF recently adopted a mission statement:

An organization comprised of Knights that believe in the continued betterment of the Realms community, and recognizing individuals that embody this.

But who are these knights and what does this mean? The Knights of the Eternal Flame is an OOC/IC order started when the creator of the realms identified some outstanding role models who helped him create the game world we play in. It has withstood the rise and fall of empires, the ebb and flow of the ever-changing rule systems, and the secession and subsequent reunification with the Knight of the Realms.

If the EHC is about the rules of the realms, the KoEF is about its soul. The KoEF was founded to be a collection of role models. Every other realms organization falls in line with its commonalities. Event Holders are game masters. Nations are about a shtick, style, or philosophy. Guilds are about a school of practice. Only the KoEF collect the best of them all and puts them in the same room despite their differences. Hell, it celebrates their differences. Nowhere else in the realms is there a more diverse and varied group of leaders, with a simple common goal: Be the best role-model.

Keeping true to our one tenet, to thine own self be true, we've amassed people who bring their A-game to the realms in ways that are hard to quantify. We have people who are outstanding at certain character types, bringing richness and style to our game world. We have knights who have been groundbreakers in female combat and weapon making, serving as role-models for all women in our game. There are great questers and great fighters; people who throw events, and people who take whatever time they have and devote it to marshalling and NPCing. We have people who revolutionized our quality of fighting and elevated the tournament structure such that old retired fighters want to come and compete again. And we have people here who have brought mentoring and recruiting to a level we haven't seen since the days of Queen Meg. And when we recognize these people, and award them this belt, newer players see that and they know: this is the path. It's not a clear one, it never has been, but it's clear to us when we see it in them. It's about bringing your best to the table.

That's what KoEF is.

So whether a knight recently earned their belt and looks forward to a future of great contributions, or they earned it years ago with great contributions that brought us to this moment, their impact has forever changed the realms for the better. The flame is carried and passed on, and burns eternally bright.