Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sister Hannah

After she blew out the candle, the stars were her only light, so Hannah had to wait for her eyes to adjust. She set the candleholder on the closed trapdoor, and turned. By memory, she slowly felt her way out to the wall of the roof, aiming for one of gaps. The sisters told her the gaps had a name, but she could never remember stuff like that. Crennallons? Once there, she leaned out, feeling the breeze intensify and blow her hair back and up from below.

Slowly, the world came back. She saw the silhouette of the forest, beyond the outer wall. Just being up here made Hannah feel better. Her world was larger. She peered down and smiled at the rough stonework of the keep wall. She checked herself again, made sure the long sleeves of her novice's habit were well secured, and swung herself over. She set her feet carefully, and began her descent.

It wasn't too hard. She'd climbed these walls ever since she was a child, and the stone bulbed out, rough with ridges perfect to set the edge of a foot upon. She locked her fingers into gaps in the mortar, or spread her hand over a bulge in the stone, leaving as much weight as possible on her feet. Occasionally she'd look up, and see the glow of the moonless sky, the stars sharp points in a field of deep blue.

It was taking longer than she expected. She'd never climbed down from such a height before - the elder sisters had always pulled her down before she could get above their heads. Hannah smiled, and shifted her weight over onto one foot, lowering herself until she was sitting on her ankle. She sent her other foot out, questing for a ridge to set it against. Well, not always. There was that one time she'd made it up to top of the great gate. She'd climbed her way around the archway, and had sat on the jutting edge of the capstone, barely six inches deep. She'd been two scared to climb down. Valerie had had to convince her to jump down into a sheet, stretched out tight by a team of sisters. The fall had been pretty fun, actually. Once down, Val had grabbed her and hugged her, holding her so tight. Val had started crying, which made Hannah start crying, and they had just sat there, locked in a hug until one of the nuns had pried her sister off her and had taken Hannah off to see the Mother Superior.

Hannah had spent most of the next two weeks confined to her cell. She had been let out for meals and classes, but they hadn't let her out in the courtyard, and she hadn't been allowed to speak to Valerie. Val had still sat next to her in the great hall at meals and held her hand. "You scared me, Hannah. Promise me you won't do that again," and Valerie had glared at her to show that she meant it. "Don't climb so high you can't climb down again." Hannah had squeezed her hand to show Val she understood. The rest of Hannah's two weeks had been spent practicing climbing the stone walls of her cell. Up and down, left and right.

Hannah reached the base of the wall, and sat. She wasn't tired yet, but there was still the outer wall to go. No reason to rush.

By the time Hannah had turned twelve, Val no longer held her hand. At eighteen, Valerie'd sworn the vows to become a full sister of the order, and somehow that seemed to mean she could no longer be as much of a sister to Hannah. She'd starting carrying a perpetual frown, and whenever Hannah tried to make a joke, or play with her, Valerie would pull away. "You've got to be more serious, Hannah." And so Hannah had been left alone. Even now there was only one other novice, and, at the time, she had been four. All the nuns had kept to themselves except for Hannah's lessons.

Those were no relief. The sisters had tried to impress upon her the importance of history, of ciphers, of their great work, watching the gods, waiting for them to... something or other. Screw up most likely. That's how Hannah had felt whenever they were watching her. She had far preferred her chores - tending the trees in the inner orchard, or weeding in the fields outside the outer wall. Every once in a while, if she had whined enough to the cook, she'd gotten to go gather mushrooms from the woods. The sister enjoyed the taste, but it had been hard work to convince her to leave her kitchen. And no one was allowed in the woods alone, and certainly not a novice.

Hannah got up, and snuck over to the outer wall. She took a glance behind her. The keep was completely dark - lights out had been hours before. Even the window for the Mother Superior's office was dark. Valerie must have finished her work for the night. Hopefully she hadn't come by to check on Hannah before heading back to her cell. She wouldn't normally, but they had had that argument. Hannah turned back around, and found her first holds. Well, if so, time was wasting.

There had been one of the lessons that Hannah loved. The forms. Each dawn and sunset, the sisters all gathered in front of the keep and, in unison, performed one of the forms. Graceful, elegant motion, flowing at times with long slow movements that switched to quick and small without stutter. Some of Hannah's first memories were of Valerie standing behind her, holding her arms in her hands and helping her move with the sisters.

Every day, a different sister had come and trained her for an hour. She would request that Hannah do a specific form, the Spring Dawn Awakens The Slumbering Bear, for example, and critique her movements. Then she would approach Hannah, and show how the form could be used in combat, to disarm an opponent, or restrain, or cause so much pain that the opponent would be unable to respond. Originally, Hannah had not understood.

"But they're so pretty! Why do you want to hurt people?" The lessons had started at age six. Valerie had not been allowed to attend Hannah's, much like Hannah had not been allowed to attend Valerie's.

"I do not want to hurt anyone," Sister Christine had explained. "The world is a dangerous place, full of people who want to hurt us. Even the gods," and she paused, pointing up, "have their enemies, as you should know. There is no one that is safe, there is nowhere that is safe."

"But we're safe here, right?"

Sister Christine had crouched next to her. "No, young one, we are not. We may prepare, and wait behind our stone walls, but someday our enemies may find us. And we must prepare."

Near the top of the wall, Hannah encountered some loose mortar. Her hand jerked out of the stone and threw her off balance. She flailed around, hand swimming through the open air, until she managed to bring her shoulder back tight to the wall. Her other hand ached from holding her weight in. She resumed her climb, and crawled over the top a few moments later. She laid down, both to rest and to present a smaller profile, should anyone be looking out towards the wall.

When she could get them talk to her, Hannah had asked the sisters questions about the outside world. Where did other people live? What were they like? Where do nails come from? The stories she'd heard in response were horrible. There was nothing but death and villany beyond the walls of the convent. People warred, and killed. Stole, raped and maimed - left their fellow beings to starve or die alone of sickness. None were to be trusted. This was the only safe place, these people the only good people. Their duties here were holy, and if the world knew what they were doing, even the convent would not be safe.

Also, nails came from a tinker, who visited once or twice a year. Two sisters would meet him outside the wall and trade for nails or pots or whatever else they needed but could not make themselves. They never spoke to the tinker, only communicating by gesture. In return, they'd reveal some gift, all wrapped in rough linen, which the tinker would peek at, then hide hastily among his wares.

Hannah knew all this because she'd been peeking from the tallest branches of one of the trees in the orchard just that afternoon, its limbs poking just above the line of the outer wall, letting her see the trade going on outside. She'd climbed down, and leaned down to grab her basket of apples back off the lawn when she'd felt a hand on her shoulder, pulling her around. It was Valerie.

"What in the name of our Founder were you doing?"

"Just watching. Sisters Reynault and Patience met with a man! He had a beard and a huge carriage full of bits of bronze and iron. I think they got more nails!"

Valerie scowled at her. "You should not be watching such things. Reynault and Patience have been prepared by the order, are experienced with dealing with the outside world. They know how to present a front that will not draw the attention of the world. But you, with your hair flapping and your eyes wide, you threaten our safety!"

"Our safety? He's just one man, Valerie. And shorter than Reynault. She could have had him on the ground in half an instant with Mockingbird Flees A Storm from the way she was standing." Hannah moved through the first part of the form, her hand wending a path from her hip towards Valerie's neck.

Valerie batted her hand away. "Yes? What if he went away and brought back more men? What if he saw your face, and decided to come and bring an army, to carry you away from us, to burn our home to the ground!" Valerie was near shouting. "We are none of us safe, Hannah, none of us. You must be careful!"

"I must be careful?" Hannah scowled at her. "Why? Because I'm in danger? Or because I'm endangering you, and your precious role as the Mother's assistant? You're not worried that he saw me watching them, you're worried that one of the sisters did." Hannah picked up her basket and stomped a few steps away before stopping and turning around. "You think that everything I do reflects badly on you, that I'm holding you back. You leave me alone for three years, and then you try to control everything I do so that I don't threaten your career!" She chucked an apple at Valerie.

Valerie didn't even try to duck. The apple hit her right in the eye. "You've assaulted a full sister, novice. The penalty is two weeks confinement. You should think on your role here, and how you should respect your betters." Hannah squalked, but Valerie grabbed her by the arm, and marched her inside the keep to her cell. "Stay here, until you are summoned for the evening meal." As Valerie turned away, Hannah was sure she could see a look of satisfaction on her face.

Hannah had had enough. She knew the world was bigger than this. The world was better than this. It had to be. She couldn't spend another day hiding from it. Not another day of her sister trying to pound her into the mold of a proper nun. She had made up her mind. She would leave. Tonight.

After getting down the outer wall, Hannah's forearms were kaput. She couldn't have picked up a feather. Her calves and feet were sore too, but she kept moving. She circled around the wall toward the gate. She walked up to it, and laid her palm on its smooth wood surface. The outside of the gate. She'd never gotten to touch it before. Her arm ached. She smiled.

She turned around, and started to jog down the tracks of the Tinker's cart. Maybe he would give her a ride.

Hannah is an optimist, who, up until now, has lived in a world of pessimists. Orphaned as a newborn, her six year old sister Valerie brought them to an isolated convent in the mountains. Hannah's never managed to learn how. There, they were raised by an order consumed with their life of isolation. Valerie grew into her role, and after making full sister, started to scale the hierarchy.

Hannah, despite having no memories of the outside world, believes it to be a good place. And, after having fled her only home, she is determined not to be proven wrong, even if she has to make it so. Neither very experienced nor the brightest, Hannah has some strange ideas of how the world outside works, which may lead to some humor. She's fascinated by people, and may err on the side of too trusting.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cassius (the Redeeming)

The two of them weren't very far from the camp when they heard something crashing through the brush ahead. The girl froze, and looked up at her father's face. He waved at her to get down, and they both crouched, eyes darting around the forest, looking for the source of the noise. Suddenly, they saw a huge shape move between two trees. It moved toward them and into a shaft of moonlight, resolving into a huge beast, covered with brown shaggy hair and metal plates, two curving horns on its head, its face that of a bull. In its hands was an enormous axe, its twin edges bare and glinting in the light.

The girl shrieked, and ran back towards the camp. The man left behind turned and called out to her. "Honey, wait, don't run. Honey, it's ok! It's just-" and he gave up as she vanished into the green. He sagged. "It's just our escort, Sir Cassius," he said to himself.

He turned toward the minotaur. "My apologies, good sir knight. I've told her you're here to protect us. She's just a little flighty."

The minotaur waved off his apologies. "It's all right. I've certainly suffered worse insults. It's just Cassius, though. I've not earned my knighthood yet." He removed his helm, the metal curved oddly to accommodate his horns.

"Hanlon, isn't it?" The man nodded. "Do you mind if I sit for a moment? I've just run a ways, and this armor is a bit heavy. I'd like to catch my breath. If you'd sit with me, I'd appreciate it."

"Of course." There might have been a slight tint to the man's voice, but no fear showed on his face. There was a fallen log a stride or two away. Cassisus clanked a bit as he sat. Hanlon's movements were a bit more quiet.

"I must apologize again for my daughter. I'm not sure why she's so nervous, normally she's quite well-behaved."

"Normally, she's not part of a caravan. Especially one that's been attacked three times in twice as many days. She's used to her protector looking like you. I'm a bit of a transition." Cassius smiled, his lips pulling back to reveal his sharp teeth. "It's all right for a child to fear monsters. It's healthy."

Hanlon spoke up. "But you're no monster - " Cassius cut him off.

"Oh, but I am. I've done horrible things. Horrible. In my youth, my brothers and I, we ran wild. We were worse than any bandit, and this valley was our stomping ground. We raided countless caravans just like this one. Not half a day from here was Ufirth, which we burned to the ground. We killed men by the score, and worse than that, we ate what we killed." He grinned his sharp grin again, no mirth at all. Hanlon's eye's grew wider, but he did not pull away.

"We drank in the fear and the power, and we reveled in it. There were fortunes on our head, and we collected our own wanted posters as a point of pride. One day, we set upon a small temple. We'd hit it before - taken the meager collection and stuffed the priest down the well. Good fun, we thought. We were looking for more of the same.

"My brother Kratus was the first in the door. He kicked in the door and ran in. Not two seconds later, he crashed out, knocking me over. A hole in his chest spilled his blood over me as his breath rattled out. I was stunned, so it took me a second to push his dying body off of me.

"Marcus and August were fighting an armored man - easily a foot or two smaller than they. Yet they could not close with him. He swung his sword, catching every swing of their axes, turning their blows to the ground. I heard a muffled sound coming from him, and realized he was laughing at them. I was infuriated. I charged his back. We were to be feared, I thought, respected. Not laughed at.

"I never even saw the blow that stopped me. I came to with a long gash in my head", and Cassius pointed to a scar, "and a hole in my chest. I should have been dead. I was not. My brothers were not so lucky. Our bodies had been piled in a ditch, out in the woods. Like offal, or rotting meat. No burial or respect given.

"I pulled my axe from our grave, and trudged my way back to the temple. The door was already back on its hinges. Like we'd never been there at all. I stood outside and roared for our killer to come out. To face me. I yelled, specifically, for justice for the death of my brothers.

"And so the knight emerged. His helm was off, and his sword still in its sheath. He was a human and old-looking. His face was shaved, and his hair grey and cropped close. 'For justice?' he said, and cocked his head at me. I rushed him, and he stepped aside, tripping me. I pushed at the ground to right myself, but my strength left me. He squatted by my face and looked at me. Then I felt a fist crack me on the side of the head, and blacked out.

"When I came to, I was in a bed. I could see that my chest was bandaged, but I was set in restraints. Another human in a white shift saw that I was awake, and scurried away. Soon enough, the knight came by and stood by my bed. I shouted insults at him, and asked why he did not face me in combat. He told me he had no interest in fighting a wounded opponent. Heal, he said, and he would face me again.

"So I waited, and healed. The attendants changed my bandages and waited on me. The knight came by occasionally. To make sure I was preparing for our fight, he said. After a few weeks, I managed to wrestle myself out of the restraints, and pushed my way outside to a courtyard.

"I had been moved after he knocked me out apparently. This was not the temple, but some lord's keep. I yelled my challenge, holding a stone broken from the pavement, my dressing gown flapping about my hooves.

"The knight came out, donned his helm, drew his sword, and laid me out in a manner of seconds.

"I spent the next few weeks healing up again, before I broke loose and the knight took me down again. This repeated itself several times. Each time, the knight came by afterwards, and each time, I issued my challenge.

"Finally, I asked him why he did not kill me? Why keep me alive if he knew I was only going to break free and try to kill him again? It was then that he told me of his lord Bahamut, and of mercy. Bahamut had seen fit to grant me mercy, he said, sparing my life when I should have died. He was only following his lord's example.

"I broke out that afternoon, and tried to stab him with a broken flagpole.

"After about six months of this, the knight came by and told me that he was tired of facing such a weak opponent. He said if I would give him my parole that I would not try to escape, or kill anyone else, and if I spent the month training, that he would let me face him again and the end of the month.

"Even though I was eager to face him again, and a month seemed like too long a time to wait to collect his head, I agreed. I was weary of losing. I was weary of my sickbed.

"At the end of the month, he beat me again. He disarmed me and made me yield, his sword to my throat. Give it another month, he said.

"Eventually he started training me himself. 'You want something done right', he said, 'and I don't want to wait another month for you to face me not knowing how to parry.' I tried to kill him in training, but he just sidestepped my blows and critiqued my form.

"He taught me my first prayers as a way to still my mind for combat. I continued on my own, figuring that if Bahamut had saved me, maybe he would help me kill the old bastard.

Cassius paused his story. The shadows had grown darker. Above the two of them, the stars had vanished and the sky was the steely gray of pre-dawn. Hanlon's face was almost completely obscured.

"Well," the man rasped. "Did you kill him?"

"That's the thing. Creatures like you always want to know that. Humans and other folk are generally more interested in what it was that changed me, what made me turn the corner from vicious killer into true believer. Was it a tender moment? Did I cry as I realized my past sins?" Cassius stood up, and Hanlon scrambled off the log.

"Creatures? What do you mean?" Hanlon's voice was torn now. It dropped too low and squeaked at the end. His body was almost entirely hidden in the still dark shadows, all details obscured.

"Come off it creature. I'd apologize for deceiving you, but you've been trying to deceive me, so it's all the same. And I did appreciate the chance to catch my breath. I found Hanlon Albrecht's body a good two miles out, and I ran every step of the way back." Cassius's axe was in his hands, edges gleaming with the coming morning.

Hanlon, or the thing that had looked like him, hissed. Its form distended, inky tentacles and claws waving and flashing at the edge of the shadow. "And Bahamut's mercy," a distorted echo of Hanlon's voice called, "is it for me too?"

"Not for me to say." Cassius clapped his helm back on. "Redeem yourself!" he bellowed, "for I can not do it for you!" And Cassius charged into the shadow.

Cassius repents for a youth ill-spent. He has devoted himself to the life of a Paladin, and hopes that he may one day overcome the wrong he has wrought.

His family had long since disowned him and his brothers, well before their death. His only family now is the knight who killed them, who brought Cassius to his current path.

Cassius still faces him in mortal combat once a year, to make good on his oath. Each year, they both live. Cassius wonders what would be justice - killing the knight for the death of his brothers? His own death, for the wrongs he has done? He does not know for sure, and counts each reprise as another instance of Bahamut's mercy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Timothy Underleaf

Timothy was somewhat put out. He'd been all set for his upcoming duel with that utter bore, Stevens, when his cousin Missy had grabbed him on the way to the east hall.

"Timothy, you're being an idiot!" Missy stood right in front of him, hands on her hips. Timothy stopped. He couldn't swing around her, the passage through the rootway was too tight - she'd pin him to the wall with one of those elbows. He rubbed his sternum in remembered pain.

"What is it now, Missy?" Timothy smiled, putting on his most innocent smile.

Her eyes danced with little blue fires. Perhaps she wasn't buying it. "This duel is ridiculous. It's a good way to get yourself killed." She poked at his chest through the back of his hand. "Stevens won the last three tourneys. The last three! Did you see the roster of injuries after those bouts? And those were against his friends, Timothy."

"Well, that is as may be, but I challenged him, didn't I? It would be dreadfully poor form if I didn't show up."

"Poor form, Timothy? You're going to walk to your death because it would be poor form not to?" She sighed, and put her face in her hand. "You're hopeless, Tim-tim, hopeless."

Timothy put a hand on her shoulder. "Look, it's not as bad as all that. I might even win!" She grimaced at him. Timothy put on what he was told was his serious face. "Really, Missy, do you think I would have challenged Stevens if I didn't think I could win?"

"Yes." Honestly, now she looked on the point of tears.

"Well, perhaps. But I had to! I can't have anyone insulting my favorite cousin, even if they are a tourney winner." He straightened his lapel. "Makes me look bad." The tears vanished, replaced once more by the fire. "And you deserve better."

"I can't stop you?" she said.

"I'm afraid not. I'm, what's the word, determined! No, that's not quite it. Resolute? Unswayable? Wait, that last one's not even a word." Timothy searched his memory. It was right on the tip of his tongue. Maybe it was determined?

"Fine then. At least let me give you a good luck token." Timothy brightened. This was a bit more fitting.

She led him off down a branching rootway through some twists and turns. Timothy had lived in the old treemanse his whole life, but the way grew quickly unfamiliar.

"Look, Missy, this isn't going to take too long, is it? I am on a time table."

"Not long," she said, all seriousness. Timothy scowled. It better not. Being late would be almost as bad as not showing up at all. She stopped suddenly in front of a doorway, stroked the door, and opened it. "It's in here," she said, and ducked inside.

Timothy followed. Inside the room was a large silvery pool with a small shrine on the opposite end. He was certain he'd never been here before. The room was dark, except for the light from the pool, which danced up and down around the walls of the room and over the shrine's statue. It looked unfamiliar - one of the minor goddesses, perhaps? Timothy was always horrible at his religious studies. He walked up to the edge of the pool, peering across to get a better look.

"We're not here to pray, are we? I certainly don't have time for that."

"No Timothy, we're not." Missy's voice was right behind him. He half turned, and saw her thrust her arms toward him. "I love you Tim-tim. Be safe."

Her shove knocked him off balance and he fell into the pool. The last thing he thought before he blacked out was "That's odd. She always hated it when I pushed her into pools when we were small."

Timothy woke up, and found himself outside. He was in one of those ridiculous little groves he'd heard about from travelers - places where the trees were only a few feet around and a few dozen feet tall. It was cute, in its own way, but hardly seemed practical. He picked a direction, and started walking. There must be someone else around here somewhere.

After a little while, he emerged at a village. More travelers' tales. Dead and cut wood and stone, piled into mounds with holes in them. What a quaint way to live. They'd even cut stone for the passageways between some of the mounds! Houses! And roads! His tutors would have been proud. It must have been a dreadful amount of work.

The late afternoon sun cast long shadows between the houses. Now, what had Missy done with him? There was obviously no way he could make it to the duel. Oh, he'd get her back for this. Let's see how she liked it when he convinced the treemanse to keep her in her rooms for a week. After he got home. He saw some lights ahead, where the road seemed to widen. Perhaps there were some people ahead who could let him know where he was.

He emerged into the square to see an array of townsfolk, seated out front of a big building with a swinging sign. Obviously some kind of pub - they all had steins on their tables, and the thick sound of conversation suddenly hit him. Timothy sighed, and relaxed. He could definitely do with a drink. He walked towards the pub.

One of the townsfolk turned his way, then back to his conversation, before doing a double take and staring at him. Several others began to stare, and the conversation died. Timothy smiled, slightly uncomfortable.

"Drow!" one of them yelled, and the crowd scattered. Tables abandoned, chairs and steins knocked over, within five breaths there was no one left in the square. Well, that was rude. You didn't see him calling humans "monkey-ears" to their faces, did you? And why had everyone run? He peered in the pub's window. Missy hadn't hexed his face - he wasn't kidding himself, he wasn't stunningly handsome, but he wasn't bad. With his inheritance, he should be able to do alright for himself when it came time to get married (may that day be some distance off).

Suddenly, the window broke, and he felt the whoosh of something fly swiftly right past his head. Timothy focused past the broken window pains to see an old man with an empty crossbow in his hands. The old man saw Timothy looking at him, startled, and fainted.

Something odd was definitely going on.

Timothy Underleaf was raised in the upper crust of elven society. The Underleafs were one of the older Shade Elf families (or, as the epithet had it, "Drow"). He was classically trained in all the proper arts for a gentleman: fencing, music (his favorite), history and religion (both of which made his tutors despair), as well as self-tutored in the gentlemanly practices of drinking, dueling, and gambling his allowance away.

When his cousin Missy pushed him into the pool, she'd been intending to send him away, keep him safe. Something obviously went wrong. Perhaps he was flung to a far away time, or an alternate reality, or something even stranger. Whatever the case, this is not Timothy's world. His family's patron deity is known to be dead, the entirety of his race is enslaved to some evil goddess Lloth, and he seems to incur fear wherever he goes. It's quite vexing.

If you like, you could have Timothy encounter other (drow and non-drow) elves that either remind him, or are the spitting image of his peers and friends from home (sure would make for fun role-play). Working out exactly what happened is a matter for you and your DM.

In battle, Timothy's a little foolhardy, but quite the inspiring companion. He knows well enough to stay out of the way when something a bit too fearsome takes the field (and may have to swallow his impulse to run), but will certainly get his hits in when he can. He's quick to make friends, and still on some level sees this as a grand adventure, great fun, that will make for a wonderful story when he gets home. On the other hand, he is troubled by the fact that he doesn't know how to get home, and any sort of hint or hook towards a solution to that will easily tease him on.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Professor Iggy Von Boom Boom

Professor Iggy Von Boom Boom is larger than life.

He's The Professor to his audiences, alternating between selling them candles blessed by the lizard pope and healing waters distilled from the tears of phoenixkin, and amazing them with feats of strength and firebreathing. A spectacle of the small stage, he dominates with his presence and energy. He's large, and looms even larger on his opened wagon, up above the crowds that form in the village square, yet his frame seems to small to contain him.

He's Iggy to his friends, who swell in number in every town he visits. Five minutes after entering a common room, he'll have ordered a round for all in his heavily accented Common, and be locked in an arm wrestling contest with the local talent, spinning stories about the places he's been, and laughing all the while. Sometimes he'll even pay for the round before he leaves - that is, if the barman is quick enough to catch him. But by that point the bar will be busier than it has been in weeks, as everyone has run out and grabbed their friends to be there and see Iggy, and even if that first round wasn't paid for, there's been many more since - and look, even the headman of Ioun is in his cups. So no one chases him that far.

He's "Mr. Von Boom Boom?" to his fans, always in a slightly squeaky voice, as they catch him heading back to his wagon for the night, and ask for a signature, or a bent piece of metal, or (several times now) for permission to travel the world with him. And he'll give the first two right away, and tell the third to meet him in the morning, on his way out of town - there, by those hills over there, yes? But by morning he'll be gone.

And he's Ignatius to nobody, not any more. And why would he be? Who would want to be that boy, whose parents spent all the money they had on a wizard's apprenticeship for their son, because he had talent, such talent. That clumsy boy, who was too big for his robes, and who could never even manage a simple light spell. Who couldn't bear the shame of losing his apprenticeship after burning down his masters lab (the third time) and never went home again.

Professor Iggy Von Boom Boom is a lie. Most everything about him - from the wares he hocks as he travels from town to town, to the accent which waxes and wanes (but normally has him sounding like Russian tough guy, yes?). He gets away with he makes the lies so big, so obvious, that no one worries about getting bilked, they're just here to see the show. If he was a smaller liar, they'd feel threatened, but he lies big, so everyone just comes along for the ride. And so when he leaves town, it's with the feeling that he has done something good.

With his itinerant business and general goodwill, Iggy is a pretty easy drop-in for most parties. Give him the chance, and he'll help swing in to save the day - and stick around for a change. He has no problem hurting those who would try to hurt him or his friends, but may fall back on trying to scare them off so he doesn't have to.

He's big (even for a Dragonborn), with grey scales and yellow and red eyes. All of his money is tied up in his wagon and wares, but he mainly appreciates it as his way to get from place to place and create a proper spectacle. With sufficient motivation (and alternative venues for his showmanship) he could leave it all behind. Especially the horse, with whom he maintains an adversarial relationship.

Again, I don't think there's anything particularly male about this character (at least, not in this unplayed form), so if anyone wanted to genderswap him for Professor Kiki Von Boom Boom, I wouldn't be offended.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brian & Bronze

I've been coming up with characters and sets of characters in my head for a while now. I thought it might help if I started writing them down. At least this way they'll be available if our gaming group ever needs a couple spur of the moment PCs or NPCs. Enjoy!

Many decades ago:

"...out of some wood, rocks, and bronz- Tit of Vecna! It's moving!".

"I told you it would. Now sit up. That's good. Look left. Good range of motion. Now stand. Perfect."


Two men walked down a hall arguing, one pulling a child along behind them. The carpets swallowed their footsteps and the wall hangings softened their words. They left a trail in fragments of grease pencil, several sticky pieces of wax paper, and a ball of twine that unwound its way across the floor as it was drug by the end still trailing from the child's pocket.

The man yanking the child along hissed at the other one. "The kid's too good of a distraction, that's what I've been trying to tell you. We can't push an agenda through if the old man's not paying attention!"

"I'd forgotten he'd gotten so big. Look, last time I saw him, we could just perch him on the old man's knee and he would just nod through whatever we proposed." The other one kept looking back as they stalked down the hall. No one else was there, and the child was staring absently at the ceiling as he stumbled along.

"Infants grow up, Lars. That's why they're such a pain in the ass. We don't have time for this." The speaker threw open a door. Inside, light crowded through dusty windows, throwing a sepia cast on the old workshop.

In the corner, a humanoid figure stood stiffly, the dust covering it an even coat. The man with the child pointed to him. "You, warforged! Watch the kid. Make sure he doesn't get hurt." He then wrenched the kid around him into the room and left, closing the door behind him.

The mannequin looked down at the child, a slight slough of dust pouring off the top of his head. The child smiled and tottered over, smiling at his new companion.

"Tin Man!"

"No," said the figure. "Bronze."


Brian Cannith is a thirteen year old runaway. An extremely promising artificer, he left after the death of his grandfather, who had been the local patriarch of House Cannith. His family is extensive, but his grandfather had been the only one he'd felt close to. He left home to explore the world beyond his family's mansion.

Bronze is Brian's companion. An extremely ancient warforged hand crafted by one of Brian's ancestors, he spent the last several decades abandoned and forgotten in one of the mansion's workshops, until one of Brian's uncles chanced to find him, and charged him with watching over his nephew. Though the arrangement was meant to be temporary, Brian took a true liking to Bronze, and spent much of his childhood reviving and restoring the workshop Bronze had been in. Brian is the only person Bronze cares about, and when Brian told Bronze of his plans to leave, Bronze agreed to come without hesitation. Bronze has few memories of his time before the workshop - he remembers his first awakening, and being shown around, having his creator show him to others, often at first, then less and less often as his creator moved onto other projects, til Bronze was ultimately forgotten by his creator's children's children. Bronze is curious of the world, but somewhat mistrusting.

Plot Hooks

Both Brian and Bronze can be tempted by new experiences, though Brian's young recklessness and Bronze's protective personality are often at odds. Brian has quickly figured out that in order to continue his studies and practice of crafting new and
interesting magical items, he needs a good deal of money, so he can be tempted by monetary rewards as well, though he's only interested in the money insofar as it will let him buy the components he needs.

Between his dragonmark of making and his obvious natural talents for crafting, great things are expected of Brian, and his uncles plan to capitalize on his achievements for the advancement of House Cannith (and to a greater degree, themselves - if they can figure out how to cut out each other). His disappearance put a hink in their plans, so they are actively searching for him. They haven't let the House at large know that it's a problem, so as to maintain the appearance of control, but they would very much like to get him back. To this end, Brian and Bronze may at some points be pursued by various mercenaries working for his uncles. Normally, it's a non-lethal game of cat and mouse. Brian bears them no ill will, he just has no interest in going home. Brian's uncles are beginning to get annoyed with him (which is a change from previously just ignoring him), but dead, he would be worse than worthless, he'd be lost profit.

Bronze has had few dealings with other warforged. Though a few others were stationed around the mansion (mainly as guards), they were definitely not regarded as full status members of the household. Outside of the mansion, he's discovering the breadth and personality of warforged culture. Bronze has some identity issues, as standing for most of a century in a closet did little for his personal growth, and even after that he defined himself mostly in relation to Brian. Now on the outside, he's beginning to wonder who he is, and how he wants to define himself. He's not going to let Brian set the order of business all the time, and may occasionally drag Brian behind him on his journey of self discovery.

Bronze may (or may not) be the first warforged. It's up to the DM to decide. He might just be Brian's great great great grandfather's journeyman project. However, he's definitely much older (and old fashioned looking) than most of the models around these days, and this may itself lead to some plot hooks, with other artificers wondering what they can learn from this prototype, as well as other warforged wondering about their roots (despite the paucity of information Bronze himself can provide).

Other notes

I don't know much about the canon of Eberron. I've read the 4Ed Player's Guide and Campaign setting (though not necessarily as carefully as I should), so some of what I've written above may contradict canon. If that matters to you, do some research and fix it.

There's definitely a slavery/American south angle you can play with here if you want to. I would avoid making the common population too disrespectful of warforged - they're bigger, stronger, and equal under the law. Such attitudes seem unhealthy in the short term. Bronze and Brian, in particular, should treat each other with respect. However, Brian's uncles should be complete jackasses about it. After all, the only reason they can't own warforged outright, and can't manufacture and sell them anymore is by treaty. The lack of respect they have for most warforged (and the distaste the warforged have for them in return) should be evident, though they are capable of restraining themselves when necessary (although if an uncle or two should die of stupidity, I wouldn't worry too much about it).

If the DM rules that Mark of Making and Master Crafter don't stack (though, by my reading, they do; and money is always a limiting resource for making magic items anyway), then you might want to monkey with those feat choices for Brian a bit. Potent Restorables is another great early level Artificer feat, especially if he's going to be doing solo healing (though his crafting of healing potions and woundpatches can go a long way with sufficient funding).

A note about gender. There's nothing male-specific about either of these characters (even less about Bronze), so there's nothing that says it couldn't be Breane and Bronze.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Session 15 - Triften's Alternity game - Endgame

We'd spent nearly half an hour making our way into Round Mountain with Cain chattering the entire time. He started off with the tour guide shtick. That must have been something preloaded into his database. After we traversed the isolation gap, he started to sound sort of pathetic. He seemed prepared to be shut down (nearly wrote "die" there) but he wasn't pleading or anything. Seems like a catch-22, if he was pleading it would have seemed pathetic, but he was resigned, so it still seemed pathetic.

I guess it got less pathetic when we realized he was trying to cook us. He had waited until we were a good 15 or 20 minutes in to turn up the heat so that if we tried to turn back, we'd collapse of heat exhaustion before we got out. Seemed a rather sad attempt to stop us.

We were only a couple rooms away when Cain toasted Kelly's HERF gun. It was in an RF lab with some huge antennas and coils. He must have given the gun a taste of its own medicine. Kelly picked up some new scars from the chemical burns but was able to toss the gun before it caught fire.

Cain had made some references to chess on our way in. I thought they seemed rather pompous until I saw what he meant by his "queen". It was a mass of identical cube robots, each armed with a small sawblade, and it could move in any direction it pleased. Between Mark's explosives and a number of compressed gas cylinders, we were able to destroy enough of the robots to reduce the "swarm" to a few pesky bugs without anyone being cut to ribbons.

Finally, we got to Cain's lab. He asked for a "swift death" and even told us how to shut down his systems. It seemed almost anti-climactic, like his parting shot was taking away the satisfaction of tearing the place apart. Then again, given the amount of equipment there, that would have taken us quite some time.

We made our way back out into the sunlight to the blasted remains of our ride. Sam thought he spotted something off in the distance and, climbing the slope for a better look, we realized that it was a string of lights coming on. I never thought the simple sight of some street lights in the distance would bring us so much joy. If only Alvin were here to see this.

--Alan Collins, 1LT USA
26 May 2010

DATE: 26 MAY 2010 - 1927
PAGE: 0078

WARNING: Failure QCUs 1, 2, 3, 4 -
Excessive heat. Temperature out of specifications.
Waveform collapsed.
Check cooling system.
Error: Interface failure. Closing database.
Database shutting down.... Done.
Shutting down system....
Alert! The system is shutting down NOW.
Stopping services............................ Done.
Unmounting filesystems.......... Done.
Halting system... Done.
**********SYSTEM HALTED**********

'Why are you furious? And why are you downcast?
If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if
you do not do right, sin is crouching at the
door. Its desire is for you, but you must
master it.'
-Genesis 4:6-7


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Session 14 - Triften's Alternity game - Gordian Knot (of Worms)

Sam watches for movement in the water. The shockwave of the concussive grenades caused plenty of worms to go belly up, but there's plenty more where those came from. He also keeps an eye on Bill who appears to be a little distracted by the chorus of voices in his head. "Kelly, is that thing almost ready?"

"Will be soon. 'Enter 16 digit confrimation code. Entering an incorrect code three times will disable the device.'"


"'Next enter the timer start value in the format HHMMSS.'"


"Three minutes?! Are you crazy?"
"Look, we dont have to carry this thing out. We can run out a lot faster than we came in... assuming nothing gets in our way... and I don't want to give the snakes enough time to figure out how to stop it."

"'Confirm the timer start value by re-entering the same value.'"



"Get the hell out of here!"

Alvin, Kelly, Sam, and Bill head for the exit, with Kelly in the lead, allowing her incredible memory to guide the way back to their impromptu entrance. Perhaps inspired by their sudden movement, the infected come pouring out of the shadows at the escaping group. Kelly levels her sidearm and fires off several rounds while Sam strafes a full clip from his SMG across them. Alvin keeps them at bay with his Desert Eagles and notices that Bill is lagging behind. As he starts to get cut off, Alvin yells to Kelly and Sam "You guys go on ahead, I'll cover you."

Sam reloads, "You need some help over there?"

"No, I'm fine. Just go."


As Bill becomes more winded, Alvin yells, cajoles, and shoves him down the hallways as they keep up nearly continuous gunfire. Once they clear the central sector, most of the danger remains behind them.


Sam and Kelly get to the entrance blasted open minutes ago, maneuver through the twisted rebar, and head for the truck. Jesse sits in the passenger seat, dazed and bloody, after having turned to truck around to face away from the mountain.


Gritting his teeth against the pain of shattered ribs, Alvin pushes Bill towards the exit. Bill grunts in pain as the rebar snags cloth and flesh. The delay allows the pursuing horde to catch up and, as Bill crawls down the tunnel towards daylight, Alvin throws himself backwards through the opening in the wall while unloading his pistols at the worm people. As he lands in the tunnel, the next shot on one of his guns causes the slide to blow off the back of the gun. The slide rebounds off the back of the tunnel, missing Alvin's head by inches. Ignoring the powder burns, Alvin throws away the rest of the gun and heads towards daylight.


Bill and Alvin jump into the car and Kelly punches the gas, launching them past the downed chain link fence and following the tire tracks back towards the road.


100 meters out. The truck hits 60 mph. Kelly reaches pavement and continues accelerating toward the highway.