Friday, July 24, 2015

Aftermath - Virgil Zell

Just before the aftermath, from Virgil Zell's point of view.

"Damn, those skeletons brought a scrap with them," thought Virgil.  "Hope all the trouble was worth it.  Can't say I'm sorry that Glasstaff prick isn't breathing anymore.  Wish I could have been the reason for that.  Oh well."

The party began tending to their wounds just as a door burst open across the room.  The Black Spider and a small band of bugbears flooded through the doorway.  They looked ugly and battle worn but still determined to make the situation more unpleasant than it already was.

"Aha!  I finally have the forge!" proclaimed Black Spider.

"Dammit all," thought Virgil.  "I was hoping to get a bit more down time before having to deal with this ass.  Looks like this fight isn't done."

Virgil drew in a breath and began mentally prepping for another bout.  He took four steps as he planned out the best course of attack.  This was all interrupted by the gnome.  Virgil glanced to his left and saw Zook going over to the recently and violently deceased wizard.  He bent over his body.

"What's that daft gnome doing now?" thought Virgil.

Zook took up the black sphere from Glasstaff's charred hands and began looking deeply into it with a purpose.  As comprehension flowed into Zook's face, the gnome broke into a sprint towards the green flame (green flame!) of the magic forge that was the source of all this consternation.

"Run!" yelled Zook as he covered the ground between himself and the forge.

"Certainly he doesn't mean to...," thought Virgil.  "Yeah he does."

The Black Spider and his entourage came to the same conclusion.  The small party, in a panic, began shooting anything and everything Zook's way but the small gnome was too quick for them.  It didn't hurt that there was an intervening wall either.

"Oh this is gonna hurt." was Virgil's last thought as he dove behind a pile of magical ore in the room, which might as well have been a nice set of silk curtains for all the protection it provided as a fireball of a size and force never witnessed in history lit off, taking the side of the mountain with it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Elalanil Moonfire stands on a wooded hill at the edge of the forest he has protected for most of his life, and hangs his head in sorrow.  It is a parting he never expected.  This is not his home anymore,  not now.  Perhaps it never was.  It is hard to reconcile the lifetime of change that has come over him in the short time he traveled with the band of misfits he now feels closer to than he does his own kind.  That is what happens, though, when the bonds forged by war are tested by those who have never known such things no matter how long they may have lived.

He had tried to explain to the Enclave what his friends had sacrificed and why they had done it, and that they were deserving of remembrance as the heroes they all were.  It did not matter if one was an Orc, or a Pirate, or whatever other group the Enclave was prejudiced against.  What mattered was that these Brothers of his had given their lives to save not just the forests, but everyone and everything that would have fallen into the grasp of the Spider Wizard and his allies.

But the Enclave, despite all of their years and all of their vaunted wisdom, failed to see it as more than a minor nuisance they could have taken care of themselves had it gotten to that point.  They even explained how the whole expedition was nothing more than a convenient way to get Elalanil out of their way for a time while they considered what to do with him.  They went on to say that his beliefs were just too different from their own and that they would not be accepting him into their order, but as a 'thank you' for handling the forge issue they would do him the high honor of allowing him to keep his territory and his title.  Their mannerisms during this brief speech made it quite clear that they thought it was much more than he deserved for such a trifling deed.

The bitter memory brings tears to his eyes, the first he has been able to shed since crawling out of the dirt and debris from what had become of Wave Echo Cavern, a trickle that once started becomes a torrent as he sinks to his knees wracked with pain and loss.

Sometime later, and after regathering his composure, he sets out to meet with The Druid of the Wood to collect his Owl Bear cubs.  From there he will continue on to his new home, a place where he can raise the cubs in peace and build a proper memorial such that even The Old Man of the Wood would have to take note of it.

It suddenly strikes him as no coincidence that he should be compelled to save the cubs and raise them, an incredibly risky and foolish endeavor, and also be spared from certain death at The Forge.  A profound peace settles over him as he realizes that The Oak Lord had known the outcome all along, and that He had provided all that he could.

Elalanil's stride lengthens in his impatience to begin his vigil, and to guard the graves of his friends to the end of days.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Song and a Memory

From the writings of Ardil Fellar, on the destruction of the Spell Forge and the formation of Zook. 1508

… At first it was just the songs. They spread from small inn to small inn. Audiences claimed that the performer or performers ended with them. Interestingly, the performers themselves had no knowledge of performing the songs, not the first time. The songs were never the same, at the beginning, only being “normalized” when non-entranced bards learned them, and used their craft to refine them. However, the songs all featured similar elements, and the same cast of characters, telling the story of Zook and his party, discovering and destroying the Spell Forge at Wave Echo Cavern. The cast, now all famous in their own right, consisted of:

An Orc holy warrior with no name
An ex sea captain named Virgil
An elven druid named Elalanil "El"
A brave goblin named Droop
And Zook himself

    More curious were the performers who gave the first “tranced” performances. Days apart, all former members of a troupe called “The Clash at Tethyamar Keep” (a troupe who achieved some moderate renown along the Sword Coast) had each performed a version of the epic. Interviews later revealed that a long missing member of this troupe, whose full name was Glimzookfrugsindri "Fnippernim" Ningel-Nackle, occasionally went by “Zook”.

    After the songs spread through the Sword Coast, a curious discovery was made. At the Bard College in Waterdeep, amongst the stacks of books considered fiction, a new tome was found. “The Clash at Cragmaar Keep” was discovered by chance, when a librarian noticed (as their kind is wont to do) books out of place. The text describes in much greater detail the same story the songs told.

“...all he could think, as the sorcerer stormed into the room, is it must be destroyed. The gnome’s magicks were not enough alone. The answer lay in the fallen body of the traitorous Glasstaff. As the gnome ran, he dropped his notes. The only thing he had never let his companions see, it contained this story...their story.

“Run!” Zook yelled.

No One, Virgil, and El hesitated. They faced death from the sorcerer and his bugbear cadre on one side, and a companion whose actions weren’t clear on the other. Through everything they had done so far, surely together they could take this next threat? Soon it became clear, the Bard’s goal. The sorcerer saw this as well

The gnome streaked towards the orb, scooping it from the charred body of its former owner. Zook thought the burning would start immediately. It did not. Had he not the power to wield this artifact? The Sorcerer saw an opening in this hesitation, and signaled his attack. Throwing spells at the running gnome, while his guards advanced on the rest of the party. El replied in kind with arrows, as he and the others dove for the entrance to the cavern.

The room flashed, and Zook screamed. The gnome had activated the orb, and held it aloft over the Forge. His hands and arms to the elbow already blackened by the power of the orb. Zook screamed again, “You shall not have its power,” as he slammed the orb into the magical font.

The magical blast destroyed the cavern, the mountain containing it, and all in the vicinity. All, except Zook.

Through some fate, the gnome survived. Changed heavily, now a being of magical energy. Perhaps a god. As the dust settled, a green flame enshrouded figure shot through the rubble, and far into the sky…
[The Clash at Cragmaar Keep]

So, it is possible that the entity known as Zook is the very same who joined the adventuring party in seeking out Wave Echo Cavern, which led to the destruction of the long lost Spell Forge. It also seems likely that Zook placed both the songs, and the book into the material world. For now we can only speculate on the reasons why.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Pitch

It has been far too long since I played Burning Wheel.  Brandon has been busy this summer and I've let other games distract me.  But the desire grows and presses against my brain so that I can think of little else.  I want to play BW again and....

Okay, I feel better.

Some of you may have been following my previous game, in which we see an aging Grimnar "Greymantle" Voss attemp to rid himself of the curse that is The Father of Swords.  In doing so, he has stirred up or, more accurately, found himself smack in the middle of a battle with the spirit world.  It's too early to say if this battle was caused by the Sword, or if Grimnar's luck just led him into it.  Nevertheless, that campaign seems to have stalled, so I've tempted Brandon to return to the world of The North is Burning by travelling back in time and examining the adventures of a younger Grimnar.  Before he is burdened by the Father of Swords and before he has even earned his "Name" among the people of the north.

It has been established that Grimnar's children are both red-headed, so it stands to reason that before he goes totally grey (probably has something to do with the Sword), he also had red hair.  That's why I love this picture to represent a young Grimnar.    Here's the pitch I sent to Brandon:

Behold, young Grimar Voss, a man who has not yet become "Named".  He seeks his fortune and fame in the South, where the merchants are rich and free of care and the nobility is fat and ripe for plunder.  What adventure will he find?  What riches will he accrue?  What cursed swords will he forever be burdened with?

Only Brandon can answer these questions....

Let's hope he takes the bait!

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please start here:  The North is Burning)