Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mists Close In, A Deal Is Offered, Efraim Opens A Door

Another few weeks between updates, but it couldn't be helped. First, I was sick during the times I had to write. Then, once I was better, I started writing and it . . . sucked. I threw out two drafts in the last few weeks. Nothing worked, nothing made sense and it all felt forced. So I'm going to leave Kenseth and Angela in the lurch and shift focus again until I have a Eureka!! moment.

Mists swirled around Magnus. He walked slowly, arms outstretched, searching for obstructions in his path. He wasn't cold, nor was he hot. He had no idea where he was or how he got here.

His name was not Magnus, yet this did not bother him.

He had been walking through this mist for eons as far as he could tell as his sense of time had disappeared shortly after he found himself in this formless, blinding landscape. Every so often, he would spy what he thought was a shape forming in the mists ahead of him, but any attempt to approach the shapes ended in failure as they dissolved as quickly as they formed.

The latest shape to appear did not even give him that momentary jolt of hope the first few dozen shapes had, until he realized it no longer was a shape, it was something real.

Stopping his endless shuffle, Magnus looked at what was a podium with a book on it. The book was large, it would take both hands to lift off of the podium, and it looked to be several hundred pages thick, if not a thousand. Made of leather, it looked old and well worn. The cover had a sigil emblazed on it, but he had never seen it before, a half-circle bisected by a line surrounded by tiny starbursts.

Magnus, peered through the mists, to see if there were any other shapes, or entities, watching him. If they were, he could not tell, but he was certain such entities would not be detectable anyway. He opened the book, hoping there was a reason to all of this.

"He who reads this has been chosen to play a part in the things that must come to be, lest a world fall to darkness forever . . " read the opening page.

Nodding, Magnus turned the page. While the writing was completely legible to him, he also knew it was not written in his native language, although what this language is or his own was remained completely unknown to him.

The writing was plain but engaging, a grand history of a civilization. The writer made few conjectures, sticking to facts, only occasionally introducing an opinion when the facts were muddied.

The book drew him in, explaining the origins of a hollow world born in fire, populated by heroes and betrayed by those sworn to protect it. The highest powers gave in to their weakest impulses, and as a result, death and destruction became the guiding force for a civilization. The aftermath of an event that should not have happened left the hollow world shattered, it's mightiest civilizations a shell of their former selves, and too many innocents caught in the crossfire.

"But this never should have happened . . " whispered a voice from the mists.

"What is my part in this?" asked Magnus, not sure why he even bothered to ask.

"Only someone not of this world has the power to change it," said the voice. "My people can only begin the process, you have to end it."

"I don't even know who I am," said Magnus, well aware that it wasn't his name.

"You will," replied the voice, and the mists closed in on Magnus, turning his world to black.

Efraim, having spent a few minutes staring at the door, decided the worst of the traps already had been sprung, but aware the likelihood of one last lethal trap was high. kneeling before the lock, he examined every inch of the metal and every fiber of the wood, feeling the edges, tapping the frame, and calling upon every bit of knowledge he had.

"I sense no more magic around the door," said Barbaro.

"We're down to mechanical," said Efraim. "And I haven't found a mechanical trap yet that can stop me. I'm betting on me for my streak to continue."

There was no response from Barbaro, which was fine with Efraim as he was trying to concentrate. He put on a pair of custom-made leather gloves. They were thin to allow him to do more with his fingers, but gave him a little protection from poison needles. Reaching into a pouch on his belt, Efraim pulled forth a few small tools. He took a thin needle and a set of prongs, and began probing inside the lock.

A few clicks later, Efraim removed the tools, satisified that he had the basic construction of the lock down. He also was fairly sure he knew where the traps were. He put his eye to the lock, holding his light source close. Grunting in satisfaction, he again went at the lock with his tools, this time with clear intent to open, head cocked to the side. He went purely by feel. A loud *click* followed by a *Thfft* as a bolt shot past Efraim's head, just as he had planned.

Putting his tools away, he lifted the latch on the door, and it opened.

"If it weren't for all the dancing I had to do just to get to the lock, I'd say whoever put this lock together was an amateur," said Efraim.

"If you can get to the point where the physical lock is all that stands between you and what's inside, the only other thing you can do is blow the place up," said Barbaro half-jokingly, but then realized that wasn't outside the realm of possibility.

"I thought about it," said Efraim. "But I have yet to find a place intended to guard something that included such a final self-destruct mechanism. If that was the case, this place would've blown up the moment I walked through the cave entrance. These people want this artifact to remain intact. If they lose it, they'll try and get it back, though."

"That's another problem for another day," said Barbaro, "But I have a feeling that problem may be coming sooner and be larger than either of us want to deal with."

"It keeps life interesting," said Efraim, and walked through the door.

Kenseth and Angela stared at the men in the doorway, all dressed in black. The man in front was small, with a rat-like face and a grin that was anything but friendly. He was flanked by two larger men, neither of whom looked any friendlier.

"Good evening," said the man in front. "You may call me Clemenza, and we have a lot to talk about."

"What do you want," asked Angela.

"For you to make a deal," said Clemenza. "One that will save your life."

On another world in another life, Larry woke up and stared at the clock. It was 6:52 a.m. He should've been up 20 minutes ago. It wouldn't make him late to work, but now his usual leisurely morning routine was ruined. He would have to wolf a cold bowl of cereal down and get dressed without the benefit of taking a few minutes to surf the web, play with the dog and just generally wake up.

As he went about his morning routine at a higher rate of pace, skipping the unnecessary steps along the way, he wondered why he felt like he'd been walking all night. Peering out the window, he noticed there was a heavy fog around the house, almost like a mist . . . .

Shrugging his shoulders, Larry finished getting ready for work, hugged the dog and went out the door. He didn't notice the large leather book sitting by the front door. Nor did he see the note taped to it marked, "For Magnus."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More Plots Revealed, Kenseth Revels In His Importance


It's been a few weeks, but I was being productive on some paid projects, so I hope you will pardon the lack of updates.

Anyway, we'll be leaving Efraim for the moment and returning to Kenseth and Angela, who had just met Angela's mysterious benefactor.

The tall man slowly circled the room, occasionally glancing toward Kenseth and Angela.

"You may call me Tobias," he said. "Right now all you need to know is that I have been watching you."

"Why would you be watching me?" asked Kenseth. "I have done little that might draw attention from the wider world. In fact, I've gone out of my way to not be noticed."

Tobias smirked and stopped his slow walk, arms clasped behind his back. "You have done that because I asked your parents to keep a low profile and to pass that trait on to you. In fact, you have done very well in that regard, but since I've known you since the day you were born, I had a leg up on keeping tabs on you."

Kenseth nodded, not seeming to be all that surprised. Angela's face was expressionless, other than a slight tinge of worry.

"Master," she said. "Why are we accelerating the timetable?"

"Because circumstances are changing rapidly," said Tobias. "In fact, they have changed considerably since this morning. I had hoped to postpone our meeting a few more days, but that's now unavoidable. The forces aligned against us will shortly be aware of what we are trying to do, and so we must stay one step ahead of them."

"You need my skills, obviously," said Kenseth. "But I'm not much more than a brawler. I can swing a sword and shoot an arrow, but it's not like I've been out on the training field every day."

"You have a particular talent you are aware of only in the fact that it hasn't manifested yet," said Tobias.

"So my mother told me," said Kenseth. "I always knew someone, you as it turns out, was watching me. I could feel your eyes from time to time, but my parents always told me not to worry. Why aren't you talking to them? They're both still alive and not far from here."

"Their part in this drama is over," said Tobias. "That being said, I speak to them frequently. We didn't want to involve you before it was time, but we didn't want you to be completely ignorant of your potential, either. Just in case someone picked up on who your parents were, we wanted you to be ready to defend yourself."

"Excuse me," said Angela, "But I'm kind of in the dark here."

Tobias smiled again, "Kenseth here is the son of two very talented people who helped me out before he was born. In the process, they were exposed to some magical energies which I thought might affect any children they might have. They only had our Kenseth here, but I was right."

"What can he do?" asked Angela.

"We still don't know," said Tobias. "Other than he might be able to level entire cities, or simply fry an ant. The possibilities are numerous . . . and quite exciting in a way."

"I'm glad you approve of your little experiment," said Kenseth, "But I still haven't said yes, and I still have no idea what's going on."

"Right now, another one of my associates is retrieving an object of considerable power," said Tobias. "Once retrieved, which I believe will happen in the next day or so, the forces we are fighting will find out what we have and will suspect what we are trying to do."

"You still haven't told me anything," said Kenseth.

"Of course not," said Tobias, breaking into a huge grin. "That would take all the fun out of it."

"I was supposed to tell you we are going on a journey and that we need your sword arm," said Angela. "I have my own magical talents, plus I'm pretty good with a staff."

"Both of you will be needed in the days ahead," said Tobias. "We are assembling a small group, about a half dozen people, to undertake this mission. The reason we needed to make contact with you now, Kenseth, is your parents entrusted you with a talisman, and asked you to hide it even from them. Do not tell me where it is," he said, putting his hand up to stop Kenseth from interrupting.

"I will leave this book here," he continued, pulling a small book from his jacket and placing it on the counter by the wall where the wares were displayed. "I want you to read this. It contains much information. Then you will come see me tonight and we will talk more. Angela will show you the way. Now, if you will excuse me, I must depart before I am discovered."

Waving his hand, Tobias opened another portal and stepped through it. "Be mindful of who you talk to, and we will speak later," he said as the portal closed behind him.

"That was interesting," said Kenseth. "I'm glad you know even less than I do, it makes me feel important."

"You're funny," said Angela.

Just then, a shadow darkened the door. Whirling around, Angela's hand went to her belt and the dagger she had sheathed there. Three men dressed in black entered. They were not armed, but they did not look like they had come here for pleasantries.

"Good afternoon," said the man in front, a small, thin man with a clean-shaven, angular face. "I hope we are not disturbing you, but I am afraid we have business with the proprietor that can not wait."

"I'm as close as you're going to get right now," said Kenseth. "What can I help you with?"

"We wish to have the Talisman you were just discussing with our friend, Tobias," said the small man. "He is mistaken in what is about to happen, and we would like to guarantee your safety and prevent any accidents in your future."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Which Efraim Goes Somewhere He's Not Wanted


It's been two weeks, and for that I apologize, but last week got away from me and every time I sat down to write, I either ended up doing 10 other things, or I stared at the screen for about 20 minutes before moving on to something else.

Anyway, back to the story: When last we left, Barbaro had just told Efraim the reason for sending him to Bellisaria, he had to retrieve an item called Vanya's Clock, an essential component for traveling through time, which is what Barbaro was planning on doing in order to stop the Immortals Rad and Ixiom from destroying Alphatia in AC 1010. The current year is AC 1012.

Efraim stepped over the dead body of the jaguar he had just killed and continued to move slowly through the field. Ahead of him the field began to rise, and the surrounding forest began to close in. Just a few yards before the treeline, there was a large Tulip tree by a doorway dug into the hillside. There was no door, and the entrance appeared to be man made.

"This has all kinds of bad written all over it," said Efraim to Barbaro via the magical connection Barbaro had opened.

"Would you like some help?" asked Barbaro. "I can't do much from here but I might be able to summon something and teleport it to you. I'm afraid going myself will attract too much attention."

"Not yet," said Efraim. "I'm afraid throwing a lot of powerful magic around might trigger something. Keep an eye on me, though. Don't break the connection."

Efraim moved past the tree, and looked the entrance over. Pulling a lens out of one of his pockets, he fit it over his eye and looked around again. Grunting in satisfaction, he put the lens away and slowly moved into the cave entrance.

The light from outside only came in a few feet, and Efraim reached into a different pocket and pulled out a small bag. Opening it, a light shown from inside, and he pulled out a small, copper coin that was the source of the illumination.

"Your spell never ended, Barbaro," Efraim said. "This is one of the most useful items you ever made for me."

"The spell is designed to be permanent," said Barbaro, "I'm surprised more people don't have and use little trinkets like this instead of lighting torches that just burn out and can start fires if you don't look where you're waving the thing."

"Exactly," said Efraim, placing the coin in a headband and sliding it on top of his head. "And now both my hands are free."

Efraim resumed his slow exploration of the corridor, which was barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and just barely taller than his lean frame. The corridor definitely had been worked, but not finished as their were ax marks and some timber supports along the sides. Wary of a trap that might collapse the ceiling on him, Efraim pulled his lens and peered around the area again.

"Mechanical traps won't show up on that lens," said Barbaro.

"I'm aware of that," said Efraim. "That's why I wanted to make sure there weren't any magical ones first."

Efraim shuffled forward slowly, testing the surface, and tapping the sides of the corridor occasionally. Just when he thought he was making too much noise, he heard shuffling from down the corridor. By now, he was about 50 feet into the hillside, and the daylight behind him was just a backdrop, meaning his illuminated coin was the sole source of light now.

He didn't have to wait long as a figure shambled into his light. Clearly dead, it continued to move haltingly, it's dead eyes staring and vacant. It's death wound, a nasty gash along the throat, evidence it did not die a natural death. Efraim didn't waste any time, stepping forward and slashing at the thing's head. His blade cut right through the rotting flesh, decapitating the walking corpse, which collapsed in a heap beside him and no longer attempted to move.

The head bounced a few feet away, and Efraim gave it a good look to make sure it wouldn't try and bite him as he moved past. For the moment, it appeared dead for good.

"That wasn't a ghoul," remarked Barbaro.

"Most people don't know the difference between a ghoul, a zombie, or other kind of walking corpse," said Efraim. "So here's hoping they continue to be wrong about ghouls in my favor."

Moving forward again, Efraim saw the corridor come to an end, and a large door blocking further progress. The door appeared to be made of solid granite, with a handle made of bronze affixed to the right side. There was no window on the door, but there was an hourglass about a foot long carved into the door at eye level.

In front of the door was another corpse, but this corpse seemed truly dead, and appeared to have been there for quite some time as there was no smell, and what flesh remained appeared to be no thicker than parchment. Efraim nudged it with his boot, sword raised in case he needed it, but nothing happened.

Bending closer and pulling out his lens, Efraim examined the body, which appeared to be male, dressed in leather armor that had not begun to rot. A crossbow bolt of some kind was sticking out of the body's midsection, but a quick glance around the door showed no crossbow, or an apparent culprit for the murder.

Efraim pocketed his lens again, grabbed the body, and began to move it. That's when he heard a *click.* Calling on his enhanced reflexes, Efraim dropped straight back and went into a roll as a crossbow bolt shot from the left side, barely missing him as he tumbled out of the way.

Efraim did not have any time to recover as another bolt shot out from the right, almost as if it knew where he was, and he dropped to the floor to avoid being hit. Springing back to his feet, he flicked his wrist, turning his sword to deflect a third bolt and then dodging to his right to avoid a fourth bolt.

Efraim dropped to a three-point stance, sword held in front of him, waiting for a fifth bolt, but the attack had ceased for the moment. "Did you see where they came from?"

"Yes," said Barbaro. "The pressure plate you activated tripped a magical defense system, which is probably why your lens didn't pick it up. It flared to life after the first bolt flew."


"Don't trip the pressure plate again."

Smirking, Efraim again approached the door, careful to avoid the pressure plate. However, the conundrum he now faced was the body still mostly was on the plate, and he would have to move it again, assuming he got the door open.

Efraim stared at the door, willing it to give up its secrets. Reaching into another pouch, Efraim produced a small red gem. Holding it between his finger and thumb, he snapped it loose and it hit the floor, spinning. As it moved, it began to pick up speed, it's small facets reflecting the light of his coin all over the room.

Efraim sheathed his sword, laid down, and then pulled the corpse on top of him, rolling into a defensive position as he did so. Crossbow bolts flew from both walls, the door, and a spear flew down from the ceiling, chasing the lights reflected by the gem. One bolt thunked into the corpse on top of him, but in a few moments, all was quiet again.

"How did you know that would work?" asked Barbaro.

"If whatever was tracking me was going by motion, I figured the gem's movement and trick of the light would confuse it. I wasn't wrong," said Efraim as he regained his feet. "Now, about this door"

To be Continued . . . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Barbaro Sets Things In Motion

When last we spoke, Kenseth and Angela were getting to know each other when her master interrupted the proceedings. While I would love to continue that conversation, Barbaro tapped me on the shoulder today and said we really should get back to him.

Sifting through his stack of tomes, Barbaro stroked his beard with a mixture of indecision and frustration. There were about ten things he needed to do and they all had to be done in the right order. The problem was, he had no idea what that right order was.

Barbaro had listened to the voice from above, an Immortal he no longer dared name aloud, for fear of the plan he was putting together falling apart from outside interference. Secrecy was his friend, and he needed all the friends he could get.

Barbaro took a moment to stare out his window, he found looking outside to the forest surrounding his modest tower helped ground his thoughts. There was something about nature that was very calming. With summer beginning in just a few weeks, the trees were all green again and the sounds of the forest were very much alive around him.

"I should have been a druid," he muttered to himself, something anyone who spent any significant time around him had heard more than once.

"You should have been the town drunk," said a feminine voice from below. "You would have accomplished just as much, and played an important role in our community."

Barbaro rolled his eyes at that comment from Felicia, his wife and top critic. He rose from his desk and walked to the edge of the loft, peering over the balcony at the room below. "At least I still would have met you," he called back, alluding to her time tending her father's stables, where more than one drunk had been found in the mornings over the years.

"Where do we stand?" asked Felicia.

"At the moment, I have to gather a small group of willing and experienced professionals to perform a task that probably will anger any immortal that catches wind of it," said Barbaro. "The reasons for which you well understand."

Felicia nodded and cast a quick spell, eschewing the stairs and floating up and over the railing. "You've told me you believe what you are doing can restore Alphatia and save thousands, maybe millions of lives. But what about us?"

"What about us?" asked Barbarao, a small smile playing on his face. "We were quite happy before all the unpleasantness began. There's no reason to believe that won't continue. You fear the unknown. I'm embracing it. Now what have you found out.?"

"I dispatched Efraim to Bellisaria to locate the artifact you're looking for. Our Benefactor contacted Angela in Karameikos to recruit a promising individual there, and I've quietly put the word out to research the ritual to get this thing started in several sages' ears."

Barbaro nodded. It was a start, which was all he could hope for at the moment. The events he was putting in motion required absolute discretion. As a result, he and Felicia had stopped referring to their immortal benefactor by name and were making sure no one outside of themselves knew the entire plan. Even the people they were recruiting weren't being given the big picture for now.

"I was thinking we may have to go ourselves as I'm not sure of who we could trust whose power matches our own," said Barbaro.

"I already surmised that, and I'll be ready to go whenever you are," said Felicia.

"Excellent," replied Barbaro. "I'll be down for dinner later."

Felicia gave him a peck on the cheek and floated back downstairs.

Barbaro returned to his desk, resuming his studies of what was needed to get this massive undertaking done. He knew Efraim would have some difficulty in obtaining one of the artifacts in Bellisaria because these things never were easy.

Efraim, an old friend with a particular set of skills when it came to retrieving things, was looking for an artifact called Vanya's Clock. Barbaro resisted going after it himself so as to not draw too much attention to it. Assuming Efraim's success, it wouldn't be noted any more than anyone else who happened to gain possession of it.

The main problem was getting everyone together in the right place at the right time. Once he accomplished that, there would be little the Immortals he feared could do to stop it. His plan was a rolling stone, but it only had just begun to turn. It still could be stopped.

Barbaro turned to a large mirror to the side of his desk and waved his hand in front of it while murmuring the words to a spell. The mirror went dark, then cloudy, then cleared again. Instead of Barbaro's middle-aged bearded face, the mirror showed a much younger man in the prime of his youth with a stylish goatee in leather armor. He brandished a sword and looked to be in some sort of field in the countryside.

"Did I contact you at a bad time?" asked Barbaro.

The man in the mirror didn't even turn his head. "Not really. I think I'm being stalked by the native wildlife, which is the least of my problems. I'm told by the locals this place you're looking for is infested with ghouls."

"If anyone can handle it, it's you, Efraim," said Barbaro. "I thought you brought some friends with you?"

"They pulled out as soon as the last local I talked to said 'ghouls.'"

"How sure are you the artifact is in there?"

Efraim shrugged, his head swiveling slowly around. "How sure are you this mission isn't just a giant waste of time?"

"Time, actually, is at the very center of this mission," replied Barbaro.

"Now that I'm about to go into a den of ghouls, do you think you can confide in me what it is we're trying to do? I think I'm committed enough here that you can tell me," said Efraim.

Just then, a dark streak came through Barbaro's mirror and Efraim reacted, sword swinging in perfect harmony to the jump. Barbaro heard the sword connect and the animal give a shriek before falling to the ground with a thud.

"That was a big cat," said Efraim. "Unfortunately, I doubt that it was representative of the species when it comes to size."

"That looked like an adolescent," agreed Barbaro. "The jaguars in that area have been known to get quite large. You were lucky."

"I came prepared," said Efraim. "I magically enhanced my speed before coming into this field once I realized I might become dinner."

"We wouldn't want that," said Barbaro.

"But I do want to know what Vanya's Clock is for," said Efraim. "And don't try and dissemble."

"Vanya's Clock has but one purpose," said Barbaro. "It's only good for time travel. We're going to go back in time and stop Rad and Ixiom from destroying Alphatia."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In Which Kenseth And Angela Introduce Themselves

Kenseth paused a moment to survey the damage he and Angela had wrought, but other than two comatose bodies, it appeared no permanent damage had been done. Even the few spectators to the impromptu fight didn't appear interested enough to enquire as to the cause or seek officials to sort out the remains.

"Thank you again, Angela," said Kenseth. "But I'm afraid you have the best of me at the moment as you know who I am, but I have no idea who you are."

"Actually," said Angela, "Other than your name, I have no idea who you are or what you do. I only know I was sent to find you."

"To save the world, eh?" said Kenseth, his face breaking into an amused grin again.

"Exactly," replied Angela. "Shall we move on before these two decide to wake up? Or are you interested in getting in another fight?"

"Let's move on," said Kenseth, unwrapping his tattered shirt from his hand and putting it back on.

The two made their way back toward the south end of the square to a small building dark with age and stained with years of abuse. "I'd apologize for the building's appearance, but I had nothing to do with it," said Kenseth as he led Angela inside.

Once through the doors, the few patrons of the establishment, which looked vaguely to be some kind of armory, applauded Kenseth, who acknowledged them with a slight bow.

"Why were you fighting those men?" asked Angela.

"They insulted my friend, and I don't take kindly to people who insult my friends," he replied.

Kenseth walked behind the counter and began sorting through some piles of swords, belts, gloves, and other gear. "I believe you want to speak to me about matter of some importance," said Kenseth as he continued his search.

"You speak very well," said Angela. "I was expecting someone . . . . rougher."

Kenseth smiled as he pulled a long knife and sheath out from the pile and strapped it around his waist. "I have that effect on people," he said. "I am afraid my parents insist I be educated. I did my best to thwart their efforts, but to my chagrin, the lessons sunk in, and here I am, the smartest armorer's assistant in the city."

"You're an assistant?"

Kenseth smiled, "For now."

Angela surveyed the shop, noting a large variety of weapons along the wall. Flipping her long hair back over her shoulder, she smiled back. "You have secrets."

Kenseth shrugged, "As do you."

"I have one fewer now. My master, a powerful figure who wishes to remain anonymous at the moment, has tasked me to find you. You are the first person in a small group he wishes to assemble. The stakes are high, but the reward could be more than you could ever count."

Kenseth walked slowly around the counter and leaned up against it. "How do you know what I'm good at? How do you know I have any interest in leaving this shop?"

"I don't, but my master does," said Angela. "He said you're bored and that you've been waiting for something like this for awhile."

Kenseth nodded and looked up at the ceiling, "If only someone would relieve me of my boredom, except this already has been a pretty exciting day and I'm not sure what your 'master' has in mind for me. I prefer to know the people I work for."

At that moment, the wall to Kenseth's right began to grow a dark spot, which rapidly grew and began to coalesce into a spiral. The sound of muddy water slipping off of a high curb emanated from the spiral and a figure began to appear.

The figure, a tall man with iron grey hair, severe features and an imperious glare, solidified and stepped into the room, the portal closing behind him.

"Then I guess we'll talk here. Time, unfortunately, grows short," said the figure.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's a New Year, And We Will Find Out What Actually Caused The Wrath Of The Immortals

Hello Again!

After a particularly grueling December, I must confess to being a bit worn down, mentally exhausted, and a bit lazy. But that was yesterday. Today is a new day, and I'm feeling more like my usual self for the first time in about a month.

To those visiting this page for the first time (most of you, probably), WELCOME!! If you go through my first post, I gave you some of my background/resume and a little teaser about the story I will be attempting to tell in the coming months.

In the years since Wrath of the Immortals came out, I noticed through online groups, chatter at GenCon, and later Facebook, that not everyone allowed Alphatia to be sunk into the ocean. On further reflection, I thought this severely limited future campaign expansions, and that instead of making the world more interesting, it only made Mystara another TSR world that had been brilliantly set up and then "blown up," for lack of a better term. They would later do this to Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms.

As an aside, I still believe the esteemed Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have a master plan to undo said destruction, but this may never come to be until and unless the current powers-that-be change their thinking on the world and the creators' place in it.

Back to Mystara, the steward of this wonderful fantasy set piece, Bruce Heard, expanded Alphatia on his own blog, which if you haven't seen it, you may visit it here. If only the powers-that-be decided to also give this man his old job back . . . but I digress.

In the late 1990's, I began to put together a campaign set during Wrath of the Immortals that would involve my players stopping the Nucleus of the Spheres and averting the disaster. Alas, it only lasted a few sessions and the outline languished in my files for years . . . until recently when I decided to dig it out.

After reviewing it, I was delighted to find it wasn't complete rubbish and that I could salvage the story aspect of it.

It occurred to me the Immortals may not be as smart as they think they are and that Rad actually may have been manipulated, Ixiom duped, and the world made to suffer for it. This idea grabbed me and I ran with it. I do not want to spoil the story further, so I will ask you to trust me on the setup and enjoy this next teaser.

In which we are introduced to Angela and Kenseth . . .

Angela was busy.

Angela usually was busy these days, but today was busier than most. Her "master," for lack of a better term, had been keeping her moving from one place to the next, but she was no slave. Angela did the bidding of someone powerful. How powerful this person was she could not say, but she had seen her master demonstrate his power and she was suitably impressed.

Today she was running down the streets of Specularum, looking for a person. All she had was a name, a brief description, and the assurance he would be there when she arrived. The person she was was looking for, Kenseth, was tall, long-haired, muscular and fancied himself to be good in a fight. That being said, she was told he would be about to get in a fight he couldn't win.

Angela, knowing she might have to get into a fight herself, came prepared with a solid quarterstaff, and a long knife if she felt she was in real danger.

Rounding a corner, she came upon a public square, and immediately realized why her master told her she would have no trouble finding Kenseth. In the middle of the square stood a tall man with long brown hair, sharp blue eyes, and a devilish grin. His shirt had been ripped to shreds and he was using the remains to wrap his fists.

Across from Kenseth were three men, all armed with knives.

"Looks like you brought your shirt to a knife fight," said one of the men.

"You're lucky I didn't bring more," said the long-haired man Angela assumed was Kenseth. "You actually have a chance to beat me now."

The three men broke apart to try and encircle Kenseth, who to his credit, never lost his mirthful grin. Feinting toward one, he deftly spun and threw a kick at one of the other thugs, landing it right on his thigh.

The thug grunted and went down while the third thug dashed in, knife slashing for Kenseth's back. Kenseth spun back around, ducking the slash and gut-punching his assailant, who threw his knife hand out again in an attempt to cut Kenseth.

Meanwhile, the first thug, who had completely fallen for Kenseth's initial lunge, had recovered, and saw his opening while Kenseth was engaged with his compatriot. Angela, seeing Kenseth was about to get a knife through the ribs, dashed forward, flinging her staff out and cracked the man right in his ribcage.

Angela reversed her swing and brought the other end of her staff down on the back of the man's head, knocking him to the ground and into next week. Looking up, she saw Kenseth punch the thug he was engaged with right in the jaw, also knocking him senseless.

Meanwhile, the third thug, nursing a seriously bruised thigh, took stock of the situation and began stumbling away as fast as his injured leg would let him. The few onlookers to the afternoon's entertainment mockingly applauded and then returned to their own business.

"Thanks," said Kenseth, and introduced himself.

"I know who you are," said Angela. "How would you like to save the world?"


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Welcome to my Fantastic Adventures!!

Hello World!! To the many of you who do not know me (and the few who do), I am Brian DiTullio, a full-time liquor store manager (12) and part-time fantasy game designer(4)/writer(10)/wizard(1)/delusional fanatic(36). I was introduced to the world's oldest RPG fantasy game in 1984 with the old D&D Red Box. It only took one session and I was hooked. I became a rabid fan of the Gazetteer series and Mystara, Dragonlance, Greyhawk and the Realms.

As time went by, I focused my energies on becoming a professional in the industry. I did succeed in getting a few publishing credits, but the dream of working for TSR (and then WotC) never quite came to fruition. I spent seven years as a reporter, won a few awards, and freelancing for the RPGA. I even interviewed for two WotC jobs, but never got picked. Since both jobs no longer exist, I guess it wasn't entirely a bad thing. If you played the 2002 D&D Open at GenCon, then you will know some of my work. I wrote the Open that year, the last in Milwaukee. It was titled "The Proving Grounds," and featured the players versus a Humongous Red Dragon in the final. Having been involved in the Open since 1996, and being a student of the tournament, that plot never actually had been done, and when the opportunity was offered to me, that seemed like a great way to bid farewell to the longtime home of GenCon. It was very well received, there was talk of actually revising it and publishing it . . . but then it never happened. Such is life in the industry. That being said, everyone involved in the process was great and I am forever grateful to Stephen Radney-MacFarland for his help during that time. You couldn't ask for a nicer guy to look out for you.

After that, I was referred to Creighton Broadhurst and I wrote a scenario called "Holding the Fort" for GenCon UK in 2004. It even won an award for "Funniest Event." Since that was the goal, I'm very proud of this. Not much happened after that as the industry changed, heaved, and moved on. I got more focused on my career, kept getting laid off as the newspaper industry collapsed, moving five times in four years, and eventually ending up back where I started in Northeast Ohio after a four-year sojourn in Arizona.

I disliked fourth edition, my gaming group had moved on, and I didn't play for several years. Starting a few years ago, I got back in the saddle, started gaming again and getting my appetite whetted for more. I have begun writing some pieces for Frog God Games in the last year that hopefully will see publication soon online. I'll advertise them here when they go live.

More recently, I got involved in the Mystara community and have been delighted to communicate with the esteemed Bruce Heard. It rekindled my love of the Mystara Campaign and what "I would have done had I been in charge," the ultimate in Fanboy speak. After some searching through my library, and a little bit of a faithful leap, I will begin writing my Mystara Campaign in journal form. This campaign only existed as a hand-written outline and a handful of session. We never finished it.

I, and a few others, were big fans of the Wrath of the Immortals, but we weren't happy with how the campaign ended. While sinking Alphatia certainly was a bold move, we always felt like it was "too much." Rather than just say, "That didn't happen on our campaign world," I decided to make a campaign out of it. What if an immortal discovered Rad and Ixiom had been manipulated by a greater power? What if the Nucleus of the Spheres had more than one purpose? What if someone were to find a way to destroy the Nucleus of the Spheres before it began draining the energy from the world?

In the coming days, weeks, months, I will (hopefully) provide regular entries on this story.

Now, a short tease for the story, Title TBD:

“This should not have happened,” said a voice with no form.
“So you have said, several times,” replied Barbaro.
Rad is arrogant, but the complete destruction of Alphatia goes beyond what even he comprehended,” said the voice.
“There were more of you Immortals than just Rad involved in that catastrophe,” remarked Barbaro. “If I recall correctly, there were several alliances. The world was not pushed to the brink of destruction by accident.”
“I have searched the stars and planes, I have felt the . . . 'wrongness' of this world,” said the voice. “This world should not be. We have been victimized in ways even most immortals did not think possible.”
“You have said this before,” said Barbaro, flipping through a large book in his private study. “You believe a greater conspiracy led us to where we are now with Alphatia sunk, Glantri and Thyatis a shell of their former selves and Alfheim now a complete nightmare. I am not sure what your endgame is here.”
“We fix it,” said the voice.
“What's done is done,” said Barbaro. “It is now in the past.”
“What if it wasn't?” asked the voice.
Barbaro paused in his research. “What are you saying?”
“There are ways to manipulate time and space . . .”
“What if you're wrong? What if we end up making things worse?” asked Barbaro, but his interest clearly had been peaked.
“Does it matter? We succeed, or we die.”