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Kiltayre Session 8: review

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The game session went well. Full-house of players at the table and air-con to stave off the heat of a 37C degree day (99F for our imperial friends).

 

Play started out with the players incarcerated. Alassiel retrieved her psi-crystal. It’s fine size allowing it to make an unseen path to its mistress. She spent her time in the cell deciphering the memorized script of Felghanis’ Uncle’s journal.

 

Kallista, poor Kallista, was suffering the most. She cried and screamed for a priest. The gaoler asked it if was for a confession of her crimes. Kallista agreed to confess to trespass on the church’s road. The meeting didn’t come for hours.

 

Felghanis went for the top. “I need to speak to the Prelate.”

Eventually, some 6 hours later, the Prelate met with Felghanis.

 

Both meetings were between somewhat desperate prisoners and skilled diplomats. Each time the priest or the Prelate was well-used to dealing with such a situation. The prisoners were sent back. In Kallista’s case with a bucketful of guilt.

 

They persisted for a time until the lack of water began to take its toll. When they finally were given water Kallista attempted to create more but without her focuses and spellbook she failed the spell; drenching herself and her bedclothes. She passed out after less than an hour from the cold.

 

It was at this time, nearly 48 hours after being incarcerated, that they were moved by cart to a huge stone ship that sat berthed on the river of Dwarf Town. It had no sails and the populace seemed unwilling to come any closer than the shore to see it, or they ignored it. In the hold was like being in a cave. Time passed. They were fed, watered, and witnessed a fight over food. Callan, a murderer, pulled the eye from the prisoner who stole his bread, adding another soul to his victims.

 

Fenris was another prisoner, a self-confessed traitor, and three brothers; Tomasso, Dean and the eldest, as well as two dwarves, were there for tax-evasion. In chains they travelled in the belly of this stone ship. Alassiel shared that it was known generally as demon stone ships, and the church really ought not to be trucking with the likes who might have one.

 

After a lost amount of time, Kallista awoke to see Fenris apparently meditating. She heard the mutterings and recognised some words of summoning. It appeared he was calling in a pact, that had elements of summoning in its request. Alassiel awoke and drew the same conclusion. It was Felghanis who attempted to intervene (with his Charnel Touch channelled through his foot). Yet bad luck prevented Fel from managing to reach Fenris. Kallista was first to notice that the traitor had slipped his manacles.

 

Things began moving very quickly. Something smashed the ship and it wailed. Fenris started bending the bars, just enough to get his head out, and Fel called for the guards before he could escape. Like a wolf he lunged out and punched Fel nearly knocking the young necromancer unconscious. Dom quickly placated Fenris with promises to keep Fel quiet.

“Good. I don’t want you to drown,” Fenris’ reply was frightening.

“What’s happening?”

“I’m going to get the key,” Fenris answered. With a few more efforts he bent the bars and squeezed himself through, popping a shoulder, and replacing it once out.

 

More massive blows to the ship set it to screaming. Suddenly Fenris was back, with a sword and armoured, to see Dom and the dwarves were brute-forcing the manacles open. He threw in the key and then left. The part set about freeing everyone. Callan was last. Felghanis helped him loosed but the guards had beaten him so soundly he couldn’t walk properly.

“I’m not leaving without him,” Fel said resolutely.

Kallista nodded and joined the dark young man in aiding this murderer to get free of the hold.

The ship listed dramatically and then righted. They rushed up to the decks only to be blocked by thre guards with spears. They were shaken and desperately trying to carry out their orders.

“Get back below!” one bellowed.

“We’ll drown and you will, too.” Dom tried to reason with them.

“For no reason at all,” added one of the dwarves.

“Get back,” the guard was seeing the sense but fell back on his obedience to orders.

“Come on man, let us live, and you can, too. We can help each other get of this ship.”

Suddenly the prow pitched up and the ship ground over rocks to a halt. A flash of lightning from stern-ward lit up the night. Ahead was a looming cliff and above it a stretch of scrub. Motes of ice were driven in the strong wind and it was very dark.

The guards agreed and they used the mooring lines to make an escape.

 

At the rear of the deck a mage flung a lightning bolt. He was aided by a cluster of a dozen soldiers and they seemed to have driven off something huge. Into the dark water a massive neck and shoulder were swallowed by the midnight waves. Fenris was nowhere to be seen.

 

The ship went pale and the guards with their mage as leader arrived. Channelling raw mana, and then his own blood, the captain held the ship together enough for everyone to escape. including 6 guards who had salvaged three chests all marked with the sigil of the Church of St. Fergus. Once they were all off the mage leapt into a feather fall, and the ship collapsed in a fractured cacophony of stone shattering.

 

Assembled at the top the shock of the wrecking was passing. The captain ordered the soldiers to secure the prisoners. In what seemed like a whole minute, Kalista and Dom exchanged glances and then fled into the snow.
”Don’t pursue the,” the Captain said. “They will be back.”

He was right.

In return for the agreement to try to return Fenris to Captain Morgane the prisoners were given back their belongings (minus the deep earth crystal the party had acquired in the Soucairn of Thulemon) and set free. Seeing Felghanis’ with his map the Captain pointed out their current location.

“Plateau point.”

“What do you thin Fenris’ agenda will be?” Dom asked.

“He was robbing old tombs before he was arrested. I’d say he’ll be aiming to do that again.” The Captain’s eyes fell on the mark for the Iron Tower inked on Fel’s map.

 

The three brothers and Callan opted to head west and attempt to find Fenris that way. The dwarves joined the party and headed east.

 

The Iron Tower?

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Kiltayre: session 1 summary

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In the village of Felk Bay the seer-woman, grandmother of the Alderman, made a prophesy. The young unmarried folk were expected to step forward to save the village and its children. That’s where the players stepped in.

Line-up:

Alassiel – creepy little girl with psion powers and a horror-build of a psi-crystal.

Dom’ – has a much longer name but this shepherd boy is a doughty specimen with a secret pact to a fey witch.

Felghanis – a budding dread necromancer that wants to turn the dark-arts to help people; mainly by preventing his uncle & mentor from achieving nefarious goals.

Kallista – animist mage with a large pool of power that can boost spells. She studied with Felghanis’ other uncle affectionately called the Codger.

 

There was a large celebration for the four heroes-to-be. Drinking and plenty was had even though times were harsh. Next morning they said goodbye to their families. Food was gifted to them all and spare quilted woollen blankets. The Alderman gifted each with an amethyst on silver chain – a phylactery. And advice to go to Iron Foot City as someone there might know what 5 fingers of stone refers to.

 

They set off the next morn and travelled in poor weather heading up into the mountains towards Iron Foot City – or what might remain of it.

 

 

Next morning they came across a limping hungry bear. The psi-crystal destroyed the creature with impunity. Reaching Iron Foot city the next day they found a recluse who was happy to talk to them – that day. He told them the five fingers of stone were in the range far to the north.

“What dangers are there?” Dom asked.

“Some say there’s Garren in the woods.”

“The wood-wraiths slay all who enter their realms. Other races are toxic to them so they do it to protect their children. We must avoid them.” Felghanis and Kallista say.

 

Most of Iron Foot City was in ruins, since many buildings were little more than tents when it was abandoned. One building was still strong – the offices of administration for the mines. Once run by the church and the feudal magnates. They made camp inside a smallish office, with the pony, and spend a night sheltered from the blizzard outside. Felghanis found a map of the whole island amongst claim notices and records.

 

They went back to the recluse who was not happy to see them but traded preserved goods for fresh ones that they carried. Then the party headed north to find the mountain ranges on the map that the Five Fingers of Stone were meant to be within.

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A Tale of Rum Town: Easter coupon special

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A Tale of Rum Town on Smashwords has an Easter coupon special. Get it for under a buck at US$0.99 if you enter the coupon code: LX53J

 

It is only valid until late April so get in quick to get a tale of the gritty underworld of a fantasy big city for a good Easter read.

 

COVER_05f_gold_blue

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Second Khara Thel Novel Completed

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A Tale of Rum Town, is completed. This will likely not be a free download as it is many times better a tale than “Bounty for the Taking”. And in celebration a change of theme. Something nice and green but still slightly old style.

Don’t despair, though, for I will give the first chapter away.

A TALE OF RUM TOWN

CHAPTER ONE

Crottle stepped quietly through the shadows of Mastview Alley. Once upon a time, he supposed, you could see the masts on the wharves of Ferris. Now the buildings were all at least three stories high and so close together many parts of Rum Town were in permanent shadow. If only he was like Patchwork and could traverse Rum Town from end to end without touching the ground – leaping from rooftop to wall to rooftop. That would be the way to travel. No risk from gangs, beggars, cutpurses and footpads. If he could do that he could operate at any other time except the dead of night where he was now.

Parkey said that Patchwork never goes to the surface except for a contract. Patchwork even sleeps in a place that you can’t get to unless you jump from a six-storey tenement. Anyway, what does Parkey know except the bottom of a jug of rum. This night Parkey was probably slumped in an alley full of rubbish so drunk he’d filled his pants with his own nightsoil. Rats would be nibbling off what was left of his ears.

No, Parkey was not to be worried about. Crottle’s days of having to pay Parkey with coin or booze just to learn about Rum Town, without having his pocket picked or his throat slit, would be over after this. When he completed this job for Harkett he would be out of Rum Town and down to East Freeport where he’d finally see daylight anytime he wanted. That and he’d work for The Cartel. Harkett had made him a good offer and Harkett was the collector for the leader of The Cartel – Medesca. That was a man to respect and fear. Crottle hadn’t seen him but he’d heard a lot about him – oh yes. A genius at plotting and getting away with all kinds of heists, burglaries, thefts and contraband sales. In Crottle’s mind Medesca was going to take over all the underworld of Ferris.

Slick black cobblestone led into the blind alley. It was narrow enough that he could touch both walls by just bending his arms at the elbows. Two people would touch if they tried to pass. It was at this point that Crottle started to climb. He pressed his back against one side, toes of his supple boots against the other, and then lifted and braced his way upwards.

In a few dozen accelerating heartbeats he reached the shutter and braced in position to fix a stiff guard on his wrist. He would have to brace across the narrow alley with one hand to open the shutters. Crottle had trained for four weeks to build his endurance but his wrist wasn’t strong enough. He still fell on the mats and rags until the idea of a wrist brace occurred to Crottle. He built one out of old boots and an archer’s vambrace and that made the difference. With the brace he could maintain the position long enough to get open the shutters with one hand.

Now he carefully slid out his tools. Long and of steel the probes and hooks were in a buckram roll with each tool in its own firm pocket. All Crottle needed was one of those tools now. With all the practice he was surprised that the latch of the shutters came open so easily. A small tin flask of oil with a pointed nozzle was the next device to deliver lubricant to the hinges. They opened with very little sound.

This was going well, Crottle thought.

Meeze, the street rat, had kept an eye on Murchison’s house for a a week. All Crottle had to do was feed Meeze, and give her the lure of a shilling at the end of it all. That shilling was costly but Crottle thought it worth so. Meeze was only about nine or ten years old but a tough little rat of a street urchin. She was also very smart. Crottle thought of her as like his niece. If this went well he would offer her a place to live and run errands for him once he was out in East Freeport. Murchison had left today with travelling bags and Meeze was quick to report. It was too good an opportunity to let go.

Crottle braced again and sorted his gear. He worked the oil-paper window with his probes then oiled the hinges just like with the shutters. With great care Crottle eased into the window, gripping the top of its frame with a steely grip.

It was so dark he could see nothing of use. Just blocky shadows amongst pitch-black. Closing the window and the shutters he set about lighting his tiny shuttered hand-lantern. Outside he heard voices.

‘Thought I saw ‘im go in here. I’m sure it was Crottle – stinking rat-turd thief,’ a nasal whining voice said.

‘Could have been a rat,’ said the other, deeper voice.

‘It weren’t no rat, hare-brain,’ said the first.

Crottle’s neck grew cold and he quickly hid against the wall of the room that faced the alley then shuttered his lantern.

‘Where are we?’ asked the deeper voice.

‘I think we’re near that money-lender – Murchison’s house,’ said the nasal voice.

Who were these two? Crottle asked himself. He heard their feet scuff through the detritus of old shingles, potsherds, and smashed tiles. They stopped almost right under the window.

‘I smell’im,’ said the nasal voice.

A deep laughter came out, ‘You can’t smell anything since Harkett broke your nose. You said so yourself!’ mocked the deeper voice.

Now Crottle knew who it was. Jenk Sonner the smuggler and his bodyguard, Hurmgaal – the half-ogre. Even though he was up in Murchison’s house and there was no way either of them would climb up he felt afraid. Ever since Crottle had scouted Jenk’s stash of grapeleaf-nectar, and stole it for Harkett, Jenk had been after him for revenge. It didn’t matter that Harkett kicked Hurmgaal in the groin then broke Jenk’s nose they still wanted to catch him – perhaps moreso, now that he was looked out for by Harkett.

‘He ain’t here,’ Hurmgaal said, plainly indicating he though they were wasting their own time.

‘Well not now but he was. I swear,’ Jenk was begrudgingly ready to go.

‘Sure. Let’s go where we’s meant to be,’ Hurmgaal said.

The two in the alley made their way back out. Scuffing as they went completely careless of how much noise they made.

Crottle slowly relaxed and unshuttered his lantern. The room was quite sparse. A trunk and a chest of drawers near a bed-frame. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years and Crottle could plainly see that he was leaving tracks in the dust. He silently cursed and decided he’d have to clean the whole room since he couldn’t put the dust back where it was meant to be.

Creeping through the dark house interior Crottle finally found a locked door. After deftly bypassing the lock and the pathetic needle trap he found a small room that contained an large iron bounded trunk. Using his probes and listening carefully he picked his way over the floor to the trunk. The lantern guttered as it ran out of oil and started to fade. The pointy bottle of oil was used to top it off with little risk of a fire and light was safely had again.

The trunk posed a problem. Crottle had to get out most of his tools and carefully apply pressure in three ways to pop the lock and not the dart-trap. If he ever lost his legs he’d make better traps for chests. As the lid swung open Crottle saw small buckram sacks that looked to be filled with coin – and they were. A small fortune in shillings and florins. He started stuffing his chestpack and kidney-bag then slowed down. Time was his. Murchison wouldn’t be back at least until tomorrow. Crottle picked the bags by their silver content and when he was laden left the rest. If he felt up to it he could come back. No, he wouldn’t, on second thoughts. Crottle locked the chest and then the small room before dusting off the floor where he entered Murchison’s house. With difficulty bracing on one arm he managed to latch the window and shutters then descend to the narrow alley.

The sun was just beginning to light the east into a grey line when he returned to his back-lot tenement bolt hole. Some bread he’d left behind from his evening meal was eaten and a nearly sour goblet of wine washed it down. Within minutes of shedding his loot and hiding it behind the wall panel he was asleep.

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Khara Thel Fiction: Bounty for the Taking

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Bounty for the Taking – Book 1 is entering second pass editing. It’s been pulled from the site for that reason. When the editing process is complete it will be available for purchase on Smashwords and Kindle. There will be a new post about it then. For now here’s an excerpt:

A shower of rain lasted for a few hours during the night and Staifcairn travelled into the morning to find the streets thick with brown mud. Trudging through the viscous muck, which clung to his boot-soles, wore at his endurance. Staifcairn arrived at the small cartographer’s store, haggled briefly and without real interest, to purchase the best map of the hills north of the Scalest river valley. He was happy with the purchase. It was well scribed on good vellum and the cartographer had sealed it in a metal scroll-case with a screw-on lid and leather gasket. On his course through the town towards the river Staifcairn bought a few meals worth of local preserved food including some strange dried pink fruit that smelled sweetly of honeysuckle and rosewater.

By the time the sun had reached its zenith for the day Staifcairn had crossed the river and was trekking north into the hills. He stopped to consult the map, taking a bearing with the compass that Cavis had given to him many years ago, chewing on some of the strange pink dried fruit that he bought in the markets of Nom Pei.

Ahead of Staifcairn lay the hills. Gently rolling and lightly forested they seemed somehow full of life yet uninviting. A kind of harsh aloofness permeated the area. Staifcairn felt with magic into the soil, the bones of the earth, here and found it to be holding a subtle taint in the mana. Scry-guard was too strong a term for what was held within. It was more like a spider web in the essence: a means for the ‘spider’ at its centre to feel any flies that strayed into its finely spun snare.

Shaking the feelings of this land Staifcairn struggled with his little used knowledge of the earthblood and flung together a rough-shod cloak to lessen his presence. The spell was hastily convened and probably of little potency but it held together in arcane form well enough for Staifcairn to trust his effort and move deeper into the subtle web-like magic.

Another league passed behind Staifcairn as he walked briskly through the low underbrush beneath the thin canopy. Shadows deepened as he pressed through a thicketed vale and crested the shoulder of a hill. Ahead lay a garden rich with many herbs lit by direct sun in places and dappled green shade in others. Staifcairn took a breath of surprise as he realised that some of the small plants should not be growing anywhere but ice-laden tundra or hot volcanic slopes. Magic was at work in sustaining the plants at least and it would not be folly to assume that the source of that magic was also the source of the scrying.

‘Hello there.’ A confident older voice called to Staifcairn.

Silvery hair flicked about as Staifcairn sought the voice’s owner. ‘Hello,’ he called back.

‘Are you lost?’ The voice had moved since he last heard it; moved from somewhere off to Staifcairn’s right to a position closer at his left.

‘I don’t think so,’ Staifcairn answered as his hand closed on his sword’s grip.

‘Ah, then you wish to be here.’ The voice took on a cold tone veiling a heavy menace.

Staicairn’s senses narrowed on the source of the voice, a burl in the trunk of a young til tree. It must be the target of a long voice enchantment; he thought and on impulse triggered his own magic of protection to bend spell attacks. A shrill keening split the air and Staifcairn barely had the presence of mind to force a thread of mana into an angled shield before a dart of iron was deflected from his spine. He leapt behind a tree for cover and the hissing of another dart parted the air where Staifcairn had just stood.

‘I would parley with you, Ulthinger,’ Staifcairn called out, his sword still in its scabbard.

‘I receive only invited guests. You can leave or fight,’ he replied, the voice still coming from the burl via the enchantment.

Staifcairn felt his heartbeat race. His first instinct was to fight this man to a standstill with his knowledge of coldfire-magic but that risked killing him and it also risked that Ulthinger may have many enchantments in place to aid in his defence.

Staifcairn took a deep breath, ‘Then perhaps you could invite me back another day so we may talk of my brother?’

A dart sliced the air near Staifcairn’s ear and buried itself in the bark of the red cypress tree. Anger coursed into his blood and with a practiced reserve of mental prowess he conjured a blade of coldfire as tall as himself. Its blue-white light glared in the dappled shade of the grove and Staifcairn heard the sound of footsteps suddenly changing direction in the undergrowth. With sudden reflex he loosed the blade at the cluster of scraggly bushes. It streaked across the grove, evaporating the stems and leaves that it touched, to careen into a sugar gum sapling; splitting its trunk.

A short squeal of dismay came from in the undergrowth, ‘My young tree!’

Staifcairn quickly began weaving a spell of instant travel, a long door, to displace his spatial location to the far edge of the grove and behind his assailant. Another dart hissed towards him and relying on his quickness alone Staifcairn barely managed to avoid its dark iron point. Concentration on the spell made him clumsy. He staggered about the cypress and another dart hissed and pinned his cowl to the tree. The spell was ready and Staifcairn suddenly displaced across the grove. The lurch of warping spatial reality, as it stretched and sucked him from place to destination, made him dizzy and nauseous but Staifcairn was prepared for that. He immediately began casting an invisibility enchantment and vanished from any sight.

Crouched in the brush on the edge of the clearing Staifcairn saw a lean old man approach the cypress he was using for cover moments before. The old man must be Ulthinger that Rhastavon told him of. Wearing a pair of dirty pants and a leather jerkin of a strange greenish hide Ulthinger was difficult to see at a distance. He clutched a strange crossbow: one of the locally made dokyu repeating crossbows. Staifcairn used the time to prepare another enchantment, this one of coldfire, his favoured magical focus, to bind the man where he stood. The chains leapt from his fingers and coiled about Ulthinger in eight thick bands of energy. The old man instantly tried to struggle and the bonds seared his flesh. He staggered for balance, the bonds threatening him again, and turned hateful eyes to fix on Staifcairn.

‘It seems you have won, archmage,’ Ulthinger spat.

‘It seems I have bound you with the coldfire,’ Staifcairn replied. ‘Yet when I asked to talk to you of my brother you pressed your attack. Tell me, what would you do if our roles were reversed?’

‘My brother is long dead,’ Ulthinger answered.

‘Then imagine harder and tell me!’ Staifcairn was losing his patience.

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