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?"