Friday, January 29

Clash of giants… (Original Fiction by Xan)

As Beasley cautiously unlatched the next door, he slowly pushed it open. This hallway was very similar to the last, though the hallway was a bit longer, they could not see the end in the dim torchlight. The musty smell rotting vegetation filled the air, though thicker and more acrid than the last. “Smells as though this room has had its share of waste a little longer.”

“SHHHHH!” Zander stopped them in their tracks, and then he moved in front of them. Like a hunting dog tracking its quarry, he pricked his ears. “Beasley, cover your light, can you hear that?” Zander whispered to the group.

“I hear nothing.” Solcloud stoutly mumbles.

“You don’t speak Giantish, do you?” Beasley snickered as though everyone should know the several languages he spoke. “I thought you were an educated man.” Beasley laughed quietly as Solcloud glared at him. “What is he saying Zander?”

“He is complaining about… trash.” Zander got a confused look on his face. “Something about being upset that he has been given trash duty. And he’d rather be defending the keep.” Zander slowly drew his hammer and shield as he slowly advanced. “Let us proceed with caution.”

The others drew their weapons; Beasley pulled his hood over his head and backed against the wall as they advanced toward the mumbling creature. When they approached in the dark Zander made out their quarry, a creature more than a foot taller than Zander with gray rubbery skin. The creature was carrying a large basket or barrel over its hunched back; it spilled over with refuse and half decomposed plants and vegetables. The creature did not hear their approach because it was too busy talking to itself.

“Why do we get stuck with trash duty? A troll like us, strong and limber, deserves to be defending the tower. Protecting our fiery god, not stuck down here taking care of the rubbish. We should be dealing with intruders and feeding on their remains, but instead we end up here.” The troll dropped the basket and wiped its brow, it turned towards the approaching party. “We see INTRUDERS!!!” Without a second of hesitation, the creature lumbered in a frontal attack.

Beasley gasped as the creature swiftly closed the gap between them. He leveled his crossbow and loosed a bolt that went high and wide. This seemed to only provoke the creature to a greater act of rage. Zander took this opportunity to run at the troll and the two giants collided and locked arms in a dance of death. Both frothed at the mouth, muscles flexed, and sinews tightened. Neither would give ground to the other.

“What are we waiting for?” Beasley ran to the aid of his friend.

Solcloud drew his mighty sword and let out a stout battle cry as he too charged into battle. Zander occupied the beast while the other two slashed and poked at its thick hide. Nevertheless, as every gash and every wound spouted blood, it immediately closed off.

“FIRE!” Solcloud shouted as though it was an order, but it was more of a request.

“Beasley, ignite your torch, they cannot regenerate that which is burned!” The mighty giants twisted and turned in the small hallway. Smashing into the walls, dirt falling to the ground from the ceiling, Solcloud narrowly avoiding being crushed between them and the stone walls. “Hurry little one! Zander is fading.”
It was true. Even though he was holding the monster off, Zander was tiring. Every smash into the walls that seemed to break to shoulders of the troll, it immediately restored itself. Zander also was taking similar abuse, and thanks to his troll ring, he was holding his own, but his magical healing could not match the speed of the natural healing of the troll. Every smash, every twist seemed to grind him further down.

Beasley relight his torch and as Solcloud slashed at the troll, Beasley pushed the flame of the torch into the open wound.

“AAHHHH!” The troll shrieked in agony as the wound sizzled but did not heal. “It burns us!” The troll shrieked in Giantish, “You filthy monster burned us!”
With a renewed flow of strength, the troll threw Zander to the wall, knocking him unconscious. The troll then reached for the halfling. Beasley ducked between the giants’ legs and pushed the head of the torch into the back of its bare leg, right at its knee. The troll cursed at the halfling and reached between its legs to grasp hopelessly at the small halfling. This fraction of a second gave the paladin the opening he needed to slash at the monsters head. He caught it clean between its shoulders and head. The head of the beast, separated now from the body, fell to the ground with a hollow thump. The body also fell in a grotesque slump. Solcloud held his hand out to Beasley to silently ask for the torch. Beasley threw him the torch, Solcloud pushed the torch into the open neck, the troll ignited within, and bursts into flames, as its half-living body thrashed on the ground then smoldered into ash. He threw the torch back to the halfling who was crouched over looking at the still living head. Beasley took the nod from Solcloud as an order to ignite the head. He did as he was signaled to do, the head rolled to the side and burned to ash.

“Nasty things, trolls.” Solcloud said in a disgusted tone. “Luckily I had run across them before and I knew their weakness, fire. We would have been here for days in a stalemate, with our rings and his natural ability. Beasley, you want to check down the hallway in the refuse room?”

“Not with what you told me.” Beasley shuddered at the mere thought of running into one of those garbage monsters. “I am not going in there alone.”

“I’ll go with you.” Zander hefted himself up against the wall then slumped into a sitting position propped against the wall. He rubbed his head and checked his hands for blood. “What did I miss?” He rolled his neck to check everything was still attached.

“You wait here and let the ring do its thing, Beasley and I will check down the hall.” Solcloud pointed down the hallway in the direction the troll was walking. “We will yell to you if we…” Beasley coughed, showing his apprehension. “If we see, or run into something.”

Friday, January 22

An education on trash… (Original Fiction by Xan)

“Shall we continue?” Beasley examined the large circular room they stepped into from the stairway. The stairs stood solitary and steadfast in the middle of the room like a mighty elm tree on top of a small hill. It rose out of the light of the torch like a great column of smoke from a large bonfire. The stonework was less dramatic, not smooth like the other tunnels had been, but rough and full of ridges. It was an amazingly clean floor though, dirt only being pushed into the corners to seem to mold the floor into a rounded corner fading into the walls of carved stone. Along these walls lay nine identical doors with the locking mechanisms to the room. Whatever was through these doors was to remain on the other side of them by the looks of the complexity of each latch and bolt.

Upon examining the latches and locks, Beasley snickered. “Well, one thing is for sure, we will have no need to disarm traps or unlock doors. We, for once, are on the defended side.” He looked to the other two and continued with a gleam in his eye. “But we aught to be careful when we step through as to not trip a trap on the other side.”

“Trip a trap!” Zander laughed. “You are becoming a poet, my friend. Better be careful or one day you will be wearing Mayvn’s hat.”

The entire party laughed as they stepped through the first door. The hallway was rough-hewn stone, not quite as nice as the landing they just came through. The hallway went back just out of torchlight and opened into a small room. They continued to explore the hall down to the room, a smell of rotting vegetation and garbage filled their nostrils as they went on. The torchlight filled the room and it had a large pile of decomposing rubbish piled high in the back corner. Beasley approached the pile, with his arm covering his nose and he waved the torch around to examine the rubbish.

“Nothing here, and the stench is beginning to make my eyes water.” He coughed through his shirtsleeve. “Let’s try another door.”

Solcloud’s nose curled at the disgusting sight of filth. “I agree, no use digging through this mess. But be weary of Fungus, or worse an Otyugh.”

“A What?” Beasley stopped instantly, looking back at the pile of refuse waving his torch around and looking closer at the garbage.

“Nasty creatures they are.” Zander growled. “They are misshapen underground monsters that live in piles of refuse.”

“They are primarily scavengers,” Solcloud added. “Much like vultures or a krenshar, they eat that which nothing else will dispose of. My order had one in a personal holding pit to dispose of our waste.”

“As did my abbey.” Zander went on as they turned to walk back to the landing. Beasley walked backwards, afraid of this walking waste eater. Zander continued. “They are bloated, with rocklike skin. It has a large mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth in the center of its body. It has three thick legs and two long tentacles with leafy like hands to scoop refuse into its mouth.”

Solcloud almost wretched as he thought about of their ‘garbage monster’ back at his order. “They are as wide as I can span my arms. Not something you care to see, face to face.”

Beasley shuttered as he shut the door and latched it. “They sound disgusting; I should hope I never have to meet one. I will make sure to keep clear of refuse piles bigger than myself.”

“Let’s try the door to the right here.” Solcloud smiles as the pats the fearful halfling on the back. “Not to worry, I think Ol’ Zander and I can keep you safe.”

Friday, January 15

Debate on the descent… (Original Fiction by Xan)

“What about that doorway above those rocks?” Solcloud questioned the giant and the halfling.

“Ummm, I think this way is probably better.” Beasley winked at Zander as the giant held a hand over his mouth and tried to hold in a laugh. “Yeah, I have a feeling that we should go down these stairs.” Beasley pointed to the opposite side of the large cavern where they had set off the gas trap and used the bones for their trick on Mayvn. “That doorway up there probably doesn’t go anywhere.”

“All right, little one,” Solcloud huffed. “You are, after all, used to dark places and dungeoneering.” The contempt in his tone of voice just seemed to ooze from his lips. “Dark creatures play cruel jokes on their friends, and I want it to be known I do not condone your course of action. To gag me and drag me away from our camp while Mayvn slept is just cruel. But since you will not let me go back to wake him I suppose I might as well continue on with you lot.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll be safe.” Zander comforted the paladin as they clanked down the long and dark spiral staircase. Beasley just shook his head and rolled his eyes, as the other two could not take one step without clanging or clinking.

“A man of the cloth, such as you wouldn’t play such jokes.” Solcloud scoffed. “A cleric should not give himself up to laughter. Only a fool indulges such childishness.” Solcloud gathers himself and continues, “I am sorry. I trust my words did not offend you.”

“It all is a matter of your god, my noble friend.” Zander smiles in the darkness as they continue to descend.

“Ah yes, I have heard of your order.” Solcloud switches into a ponderous tone as if to deliver a sermon as they travel. “Your order views merriment with indulgence while my order hasn’t the time for such laughable things.”

“Yes it is true. Othr was much disposed to laughter of a thunderous nature.”
“Laughter is a devilish wind! It distorts the features of the face and makes men look like monkeys.”

“HA!” Zander begins to laugh almost out of spite, but continuing to keep a humble posture. “Monkeys do not laugh, it is particular to humanoids.”

“Yes, just as chaotic choices can be.” Solcloud stopped a moment on the steps to emphasize the point.

Beasley felt uncomfortable hearing about religion at a time like this, but he did not want to get in the middle. He decided to keep going, Solcloud would have to use the torchlight Beasley was carrying to see where he placed his next footstep.
Just as Beasley had guessed, the noble knight continued down the stairway. “St. Cuthbert never laughed.” He stated with some authority.

“Can you be so sure?” Zander placed an interesting question to the man with a different faith than his own.

“There is nothing in his teachings to say that he did.” Solcloud huffed.
“There is also nothing in them to say he didn’t.” Zander took a bold step, not truly knowing the faith of this knight. Solcloud turned his head to listen to the cleric. “Why it is known to all that some gods have been known to employ comedy to embarrass and ridicule enemies of the faith. Is this not true?”

Solcloud only growled with Zander’s attempt to preach his faith.

“For example; Garl Glittergold, the Joker and god of the gnomes once collapsed the cavern of Kurtulmak, god of the kobolds, as a practical joke.” Zander drew upon his teachings of other faiths while doing missionary work to continue his point. “There are the stories of the bard cleric, Rehgan Jhurl. After ogres captured him and they plunged him into boiling water for dinner, he complained that his bath was too cold. The ogre mage reached out his hand placed it in the water and scolded himself.”

“A so called saint of Olidammara, immersed in boiling water, does not play childish tricks.” Solcloud now knew that the half-ogre was schooled enough to be a missionary of the faith but he saw no reason to back down yet. “He withholds his cries and suffers for his faith.”

“Did not Kainderhast, the great philosopher, devote his second book of lyrics to comedy as an instrument of truth?” Zander smiled at his reference to a well-known philosopher in all circles of the world.

Solcloud stumbled at the mention of the philosopher’s name. “You have read this work?”

“No, of course not.” Zander enraged by the rebuttal. “It has been lost for many centuries.”

“How do you know of this book?” Solcloud continued his retort. “A book like that was never written. I will hear no more of this…this…idle banter. Let us agree to disagree and move on shall we?”

Zander humbly bows his head, conceding to a draw. They reach the bottom of the stairs; Beasley straightens his tunic and smiles up to the both of them. “Well, that conversation sure made the travel seem swifter.”

“That it has, my little rogue.” Solcloud smiles. “It has also made me realize that education and wisdom are not always limited.” He looks to the giant and gives him a hearty slap on the back. “Well done, my friend. You are truly an educated man and an experienced missionary of your faith. I misjudged you, may St. Cuthbert…” Beasley clears his throat to signal the paladin to rethink his words.

Solcloud cleared his throat and continued. “May St. Cuthbert and Othr forgive my prejudice?”

Monday, January 11

Gear Upgrades

I have been working my tail off lately and really trying to make Xan the best toon he can be with the limited time I have to play. Recently I have been taking full advantage of the Random Lich King Heroic LFG (Looking for Group) option located on the action bar. Once a day for completing a random daily heroic you receive 2 Emblem of Frost which can be used to purchase all sorts of great gear.

Xan recently bought himself a new weightlifting belt... well at least that is what it looks like. It is called Malevolent Girdle. But seriously, does this belt make me look fat? I mean it is called a girdle.

In addition as you kill bosses in the random heroics and any subsequent heroics you complete you also receive Emblem of Triumph which can buy you a lot of great stuff as well. Xan has decked out his Retribution (DPS) set as much as he can using these guys. His last purchase was Helm of Thunderous Rampage. Pretty fashionable hmmm?

I talked to a friend of mine the other day and she recommended a great program to help me optimize my gear as well as look for potential upgrades. I suggest everyone give it a try. RAWR is a program that takes your toon right off of the WOW Armory and then gives you ways to optimize your current gear or look at all the potential upgrades. It is amazing.

Sadly now most of my gear upgrades will have to come from raids or upgrading my tanking gear. Now if only Blizzard would help to make the Raid LFG (Looking for Group) option a little bit better then we would be in business. As you can tell... Xan has barely seen inside the halls of any raid. (Except a couple)

Friday, January 8

Continuing the practical joke… (Original Fiction by Xan)

The two early risers, after their ‘morning stretch’ they sauntered back to the rest of their group. Having only spent an hour or two exploring and doing a little extermination work, Zander looked like a little kitten after pouncing on its first mouse. Beasley looked like a horse that had been ridden all day without a rest. His head was down and he drug his feet back to the makeshift camp. The two other adventurers still slumbered while the skeletons still lay where Zander and Beasley had placed them. Beasley examined the scene and it was as though he had seen a dragon’s horde of jewels before his eyes, an idea popped into his mind.

“Let’s wake just the walking blacksmith shop.” Beasley had that same gleam in his eye he had earlier. “I think the peacock would have a heart attack if he was the only one that wasn’t a skeleton.”

“Beasley, you are quite the trickster.” Zander fought back a rolling laughter. “I’ll get the bones.”

Friday, January 1

Covering an escape… (Original Fiction by Xan)

As the two bandits make their way, back through the tunnel ash pushes up in their faces as the chests drag on the ground. The halfling, covered in ash, pulled the first chest off to the side, grabbed a hold of one of the worm creatures, and began to slowly move it towards the hole. The second chest pushed through the hole and slid against the wall, Zander’s huge blackened hand protruding from the hole.

“They’re right behind me Beasley!”

“Well then, get out of the way,” Beasley, grunted as he continues to tug on the mutated worm. “I have an idea! Get out of that ash chute and help me.”
“What are we doing with that thing?” Zander made his way out of the tunnel and wiped the ash from his face.

“If we pull this in front of the hole it will slow them down as they crawl out.” Beasley had a gleam in his eye. “As they push their way out of the, now smaller opening that will give us a chance to…” Beasley cleared his throat. “Clobber them.”
In an instant, Zander’s eyes took on the same gleam as he gripped the giant worm; with a mighty grunt he swung, it in front of the chutes opening. He then wasted no time positioning himself on the side of the opening and readied his mighty hammer.
The first guard encountered the worm corpse and struggled to push past it. As he pushed his head through the opening, he did not have time to react before everything went dark. Zander’s well-placed hammer strike crushed the helmet of the guard between his shoulders with a hollow crunch.

Beasley blinked at the power of his towering companion. He shook his head in disbelief and readied himself for the next guard as he shouted, “Move him out of the way, that way the guards following will think they are still chasing us.”

“Done!” Without a second thought, the giant hefted the guard into the back wall with a limp thud. The next guard peeked his head through as Beasley jumped onto his back and slashed him from ear to ear. Beasley jumped off the limp body, and Zander played clean up once again lofting the body into the forming pile. The next four guards fell just as easily, but as the seventh guard crept through the hole, he managed to take a sing with his sword at Beasley. As he leapt to avoid the sword swing, a burst of flame rumbled down the shaft above them. Zander howled in pain as his cloak smoked and his chain mail armor smoldered. The guard lay dead in the hole. The giant grimaced as he pulled the burnt guard away from the hole and threw the body, as he did so he noticed a figure standing on the ledge above them.

An emaciated figure in dark flowing robes stood over them, his fingers had a smelly powder dropping off them. The skeleton of a man reached into a pouch at his belt, pulled out some more powder, and began to chant. Zander had to think quickly and stop this evil from casting another fireball. He grabbed a stone from the ground and said a quick prayer. A feeling like a thunderclap without noise reverberated in the room and everything fell eerily silent. Zander reached up to the ledge and dropped the stone at the wizards’ feet and without hesitation climbed onto the ledge. Zander pulled out his hammer that seemed to glow in the dim light of Beasley’s torch coming from the bottom of the cavern and he swung it into the wizard. He felt the hammer stop briefly as it connected and then continued on its course, taking the thin wizard with it until he smashed into the wall.

In the silence time seemed to slow down as Zander looked back into the pit and noticed Beasley was not near the tunnel entrance. He opened his mouth to scream Beasley’s name, but the sound stopped just short of reaching his lips. In a panic, the giant dropped back into the pit and fell to his knees he could see the small halfling and he was slashing at the last guard as he backed up in the dark hole.
“Come on!” Beasley was screaming as he slashed at the near helpless guard backing up. The halfling was standing completely upright and advancing as the guard, stricken with fear could do nothing more than back up on his hands and knees. The guard struggled to gain any advantage he could. Reaching for a small pile of ash in the tunnel corner, he threw it at the overconfident halfling. Beasley dropped to the ground, rolled toward the guard and his small short sword found its mark in the guards’ chest just as he reached the fireplace opening. He fell to the ground with a thump.

“Beasley?” Zander yelled in a panic as the silence spell wore off.

“Yeah?” Beasley emerging from the hole with ash and blood spattered all over his face. “You get that wizard?”

Zander reached for the halfling and gave him a bear hug. “How many times do I have to tell you?”

“You’re crushing me!” Beasley gasped for air as Zander’s massive arms flexed around him.

“No,” Zander chuckled as he loosened his grip. “Don’t run off without me.”

“Let’s not worry about me; you know I handled that human guard all by myself.”

Zander lowered Beasley to the ground as he continued his boastful rant. “And I did it without sneaking up behind him.” He hopped onto the pile of bodies and examined the two chests. “Can we open these now before we go back?”

“As much as I like the idea of having funding to provide for our quest,” Zander chided the little burglar. “I think we aught to share with our other companions. However, before we go back to the surface, I think I can throw most of these contents in my ‘pack.”

“You’re right.” Beasley kicked one of the chests and turned his back. “I don’t want to see what’s in it yet then.”

“Very well.” Zander crushed the lids of both chests with his hammer and emptied their contents into his large chest backpack.