Lore Drop – The Family

And so it came to pass that three prodigies were born to the trolls of the Blackcap Mountains. Three brothers, born with rare wit and insight to match their physical strength, and they thrived. As they fought and grew, they developed a strong sense that their lot could be better. The listened to their elders talk of the wars with the dwarves and how they had been driven out of their hunting grounds and away into the harshest peaks. They raged at the loss of their ancestral homes. When they were grown, they crept away from their scattered tribe and away from the harsh territories they had known to spy on those who had conquered their birthright. They saw how the dwarves built their Hold and traded, and enjoyed the fruits of the land and the treasures of the depths. They learned all they could of civilisation, and then went their separate ways into the lands beyond after swearing a bond to return and reclaim their place. One went North and found the Wastes of the Last War. One went South and found The Pit. One went East, and found The Sisters.

In the Wastes, Urash found weapons and machines abandoned and broken by war. He created armour for himself and taught himself how to use what he had found. He began to seek out scattered trolls willing to join his cause and strike back with him. Inspired by the uniforms and medals of the fallen, he forged amulets and gave his new companions pride and purpose. The Fists of Urash would strike hard and endure. They would be loud, and draw all eyes to them. Urash The Proud was his name.

Dhumish crept into The Pit. He was second of the brothers and the hardiest of them all. Amid crumbling ruins and fell residual magics in the Lands Below, he became warped in appearance and mind alike. Preserved by his trollish resilience and unnatural will, he became a walking blight. He pulled the broken and dying of his race to his embrace, and gave them new purpose and new forms. Among his forces are trolls who are too angry to die, trolls who are riddled with rot, venom, and mutation. The Tide of Dhumish would undermine and corrupt. They would be the quiet before the avalanche. Dhumish Crackleg was his name.

Irreck made his way through broken lands to distant Droaam, the nation of monsters. Along the way he haunted the roads and passes to hunt travellers and hone his skills. As far from home as he was, he never forgot the Bond. The Daughter of Sora Kell were amused by the impudent troll hunter, but revealed to him the location of the Sisters of Rot. These remarkable troll sisters had studied with the Hags and also had a dream. The three sisters were a match in ambition and power to the three brothers. Irreck the Stalker was his name.

Irreck brought the Sisters of Rot back to the Blackcaps. They watched the turmoil in the dwarven lands as the forces of The Pit and the Winter Knight were pushed back into the night and swore to take advantage. A new Pact was formed. The Brothers and The Sisters became a Chosen Family. They would undermine and overthrow the dwarves and their allies. They would reclaim the hunting grounds. They would raise high the Eye of Khyber and nothing would be the same ever again

Urash The Proud, Dhumish Crackleg, and Irreck the Stalker. Granny Riptooth, Nanny Gutrun, and Missy Lambrot were their names. Their Chosen Family would soon be known to all.

A Warforged Gathering

There’s definitely a therapeutic aspect to playing in HeroForge alongside the creative exercise of the emergent storytelling. As part of my preparations for the next phase of DDC adventures I’ve been toying with a series of Warforged antagonists, so thought I’d put them up here to give them an airing.

Warforged were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in the world of Eberron – and are the products of a recently ended continent-wide war. House Cannith looked for ways to bolster armies by reverse engineering old giantish constructs. Somehow during their creation process, the warforged developed souls and a struggle began to be accepted alongside the biological races. One of the treaty conditions at the end of the war was a universal acceptance of the warforged as a people in their own right – something that still sits uneasily in some quarters.

In terms of naming conventions, the warforged often adopt functional or simple descriptive words associated with forging, machinery, or construction – but exceptions are growing as confidence grows in developing their own identities and culture.

So from top left we have Link – a sorcerer channelling lightning; Chain, an assassin; and Hook – a swashbuckling pirate. On the bottom row from the left we have Watcher – an investigator and his dog; Iron Ryan – a bare knuckle pit fighter; and Coal – gentleman rogue about town and his favourite Mimic

I’ve already used Iron Ryan and Coal in the adventures – Iron Ryan started as a foil for Thorin in his pit fighting career and for a while was a romantic entanglement for Kerne. The amount of time the DDC was away on adventures led to the romance fizzling out. While it was amicable enough, I’m sure there’s a rematch due in the future – and then there’s always the reactions of Karkanna to factor in as well to this imposing ex. Coal adventured alongside the DDC as their designated rogue before semi-retiring to raise Odif while the group headed off to Clan Amberhammer. He created a “Youth Club” for local tearaways that may or may not also be the core of a new Thieves Guild if the rumours are to be believed…

Short Story: Coal

In his dreams, Coal hears screams and the clink of chains rattling and sliding. Formless flashes of colour resolve into a series of static and disjointed scenes. His mind and body feel trapped in ice, unable to move or affect the parade of images forcing themselves on his mind’s eye. A cold lassitude lies on him, stealing his focus.

He sees the Last War, and the fighting in the streets against the risen dead. He remembers the sorcerous warriors clad in bone. The maniacs who slew the living and commanded their corpses, and the hatred in their eyes. He sees the Titans released. He sees buildings broken, bodies everywhere. He knows them.

Then he sees a face with horns curving from its temples. He hears shouts. He hears metal striking metal and the crackle of flames, and his eyes grow heavy.

Coal wakes. He is in a bed, limbs tangled in blankets and sheets. That alone gives him pause. Waking implies sleep and his kind don’t do that. Yet here he is, in a room he knows but rarely rests in.

Every part of him hurts. The enamels and brass-inlaid surfaces of his limbs are cracked, scorched, and riddled with holes. His joints whirr and crunch as he levers himself upright. His body, forged to fight where flesh would fail, has been greatly abused.

The cottonwool thickness shrouding his thoughts still lingers, deflecting his mind’s streams of awareness. The lenses in his eyes suddenly click and refocus, and with new purpose he pulls the sheet away.

The revealed wreckage of his body leaves him numb. There are rents in the steel plates, and missing panels that reveal damaged conduits, pistons, and cables woven to resemble bundles of muscles. There are scratches and gouges everywhere, and the discoloured blooms of scorching. What has happened?

Coal prods and tests the limits of the damage to his body in the morning half-light. With dispassionate care, he ascertains that he is functional and will heal. The act of assessing his own state allows his mind to start to catch up.

He remembers being restrained by dead things with the faces of friends. He remembers the bite of blades, and tubes being driven into him. He remembers the pale wight directing the corpses, and a man dressed in bones. He remembers the other two figures – warforged like himself – telling the wight what needed to be done.

Above all, he remembers the carcass of the reassembled Titan and what they did to him, and why.

His scream startles a cat-sized dragon snoozing in the rafters and it flees the room as fast as its butterfly wings can carry it.

He hears cries of alarm downstairs. Feet pound on the stairs. He is not alone.

Fiction Fragment: Sassing An Angel

Wrote this recently as a block breaker:

“I know I’m not the world’s greatest theologian,” Paul said, “but aren’t you guys supposed to be pants-wettingly awesome instruments of divine will whose first words are usually ‘Do not be afraid’?”
The freckle-faced teenage girl in front of him blinked and became a towering multi-headed giant with three sets of wings, and a flaming sword. Silhouetted by the sun behind it, the angel leant forward. “When you’ve changed your trousers, we can start again if you like, but time as you experience it is running rather short.”

Plotline thoughts for Nanowrimo

I’ve been using this morning to go for long walks down to harass the bank over money they owe me (seems only fair) and try to go to the library (only to find its closed on Mondays) and along the way clear my head a bit to think about the basic plot of what I’m going to write for Nanowrimo this year.

I’d already decided its going to have a loose connection with the main story I’m working on – in as much as I plan to use some recurring characters and locations so that if I want to I can use this story as unofficial backstory – but that it will have a much more overtly fantastical feel to it without, I hope, wandering too much into pure fantasy.

This got me thinking about what tone I did want to go with – the voice of my protagonist already has a pretty noir feel to it –  a wisecracking private eye of sorts, but a lot of the standalone images and scenes that I’ve mentally scheduled to wander into also range into some quite disturbing territory and it was in search of a way to describe it that I recalled seeing a tv production recently of Terry Gilliam‘s production of Berlioz’ The Damnation of Faust that had struck a number of nerves.

By some process that I haven’t quite analysed yet this has become the thought that the way I’m currently writing the story in my head can also be interpreted as the protagonist having only a fairly tenuous grasp on reality – blurring the real with the unreal and the maybe real… and that will, I hope, also help propel me through what may be some pretty stream of consciousness writing for the first draft that the competition is aiming to produce…

It is of course a totally different view and interpretation of the main character than the way I’m currently writing him in the main story – and yet I can already see a way to bridge the gap with debate on reality, mental health, treatment, acceptance, healing and redemption.

I think I’m setting myself some pretty tall targets to hit, but then I’m already trying to write a novel in one month – so if there’s any chance of a failure, why not make it a spectacular thing to watch and learn from the mistakes?

And of course, having had my own experiences with depression in the past, I have some small fuel and sympathy that I can add to the mix for my poor confused creation. I just have to make sure that this doesn’t turn into an open mic therapy session 🙂

Character Sketch – Tomas

One of the joys of having a headcold and a heavy winter duvet on the bed is that occasionally bizarre character ideas jump out to say hello. I’ve just woken this morning to find this character scampering around:

Tomas, the Summoner, lives in a world of his own at the best of times – but his quiet bookish insanities are contagious, with a sly humour that reaches out and slaps you upside the head just when you’re getting comfortable.
Tomas is unremarkable to look at. You probably wouldn’t think twice about him if you met him in the supermarket or while waiting at the bus stop; you would remember his friends though.
We all have imaginary friends when we are children. Most are kind and gentle, some are malicious or mischievous but at the time we believe in them absolutely. Tomas never grew out of that stage – and he can make you believe in them too.
Tomas’ friends will do anything for him, and are often modelled on famous or historical people. They aren’t the spirits of the dead however, neither are they supernatural entities as such – rather they are summoned wholesale from his subconscious, given form in the viewer’s eye through telepathy and substance through telekinesis.
These friends are phantoms of his own mind’s eye, writ large with a childlike incomprehension that perhaps betrays a sly sense of humour.
His Alexander the Great is a giant of a man; his Han Solo looks like his actor does today, forever bickering with a balding and overweight wookie; his Maggie Thatcher is made of iron, sprays milk from her fingertips and is very kind to minors…

There are of course at least two fictional forerunners of this character that I can think of: Madman in Simon R Green’s Nightside novels, and Kid Eternity from DC Comics. The idea of the eternal child whose imaginary friends have substance is one that crops up in the X-Files and any one of a number of Hollywood films such as Poltergeist and with Halloween nearly here perhaps that’s as appropriate a film as any to use as an example.
I think I may have to use Tomas in my nanowrimo effort this year – interesting too that the autocorrect on my phone tries to turn nanowrimo into ‘banished’, so on that note I’ll draw veils across our view of The Summoner and move on.