Friday, March 26

A giant and a sneak attack? (Original Fiction by Xan)

Zander just shook his head as they began back down through the swamp water and through the passage on the other side. He gave his small friend ample room to run off ahead but still kept him just within his sight. Beasley seemed to dart between the darkness and cracks in the cave wall like an animated shadow. Zander was amazed to see how skilled his little friend was.
The halfling froze a few paces ahead of the giant. He held his hand up in a fist and the lumbering tower stopped in his tracks. Beasley tapped his nose and winked at Zander. Zander took a deep smell through his large nose. A thick musk filled his nostrils and almost immediately he turned his head and his last meal nearly topped his throat. He quickly put his hand to his mouth and slowly moved to where his small friend was trying not to laugh at his lumbering friend turning greener than normal.
Zander peeked around the cave corner and viewed five slender bipedal lizard-like creatures. They seemed to be arguing with each other, creaking and croaking like a couple small tree frogs in the summer night’s warmth. The smell emanating from these dirty creatures was nauseous and Zander was astounded that Beasley shrugged off the smell but he was having a hard time keeping his eyes from tearing up.
Beasley put his finger over his mouth as he put his hood over his head and twisted his ring and vanished as a cloud of smoke dissipates in the wind. Zander looked at the ground and watched the dirt on the cave floor smash in small footprint like patterns. Zander tried to hold his breath as he twists his ring and flickers out of sight.
“You can’t have all the fun little friend.” Zander scoffed in halfling in a small whisper.
“Shhh… you need to learn how to prey on those not paying attention.” Beasley said in a tone like an aged instructor says to a pupil.
Quietly, like a couple of lions hunting a pack of gazelles, the two slipped unnoticed around the clutch of troglodytes while they continued to chatter and groan at one another.
It seemed they were arguing over a steel pot, probably discarded or lost by a traveling band of gypsies or ‘confiscated’ from an adventuring party who had descended into the pit. Unknowing to their surroundings the troglodytes did not even notice the two lions stalking them. The biggest of the three lizard kin was standing by as the smaller two fought. Without warning one lunged at the other, the two flailed on the ground lashing at one another with claws and crude knives.
“NOW!” Beasley shouted as he appeared on the back of the top troglodyte and made quick work of one with his sword and it went limp falling on top of the other. The second one, dazed by its victory, pushed the dead body to the side and tried to get up. As it started to stand, it stiffened, gurgled, and dropped to the ground. The crazed eyes of Beasley glowed with a fire of adventure as he stared at the larger troglodyte clutch leader.
The clutch leader stared in awe at this small man appeared out of nowhere to drop his two clutch mates with not so much as a blink. The large lizard man growled and drew its crude stone axe from the leather belt slung crudely from its waist. The stench of the leader filled Beasley’s nostrils as he raised the axe. Beasley felt his stomach turn as the noxious fumes paralyzed him. The toothy grin of the clutch leader seemed to grow larger as he ominously approached the frozen halfling, the glint of the stone blade glimmered in the torchlight. In a blink of an eye, the clutch leader flew across the tunnel and fell in a slump. The crushed head gave no hint that it had once been a troglodyte had it not been attached to his body.
“You aught to watch out for yourself.” Zander chided Beasley as he lay on the cave floor still covered in the gore of the two slain troglodytes and the grey matter of the clutch leader. Zander appeared like a reflection on a pond after ripples subside. He was holding his large hammer in his hand and was wiping the blunt face with his cloak.
“You have room to talk,” Beasley sputtered in the common tongue. “I scotched two of them before you decided to come out of hiding. You big yellow brute!” Beasley stood and wiped his face with a scrap of cloth from his pack.
“You got the two smaller ones,” Zander growled. “I was just waiting for my moment to strike, unlike you I don’t have size on my side to hide.”
The small man looked up to his large compatriot and laughed a hearty laugh loud enough to make even the giant proud.
“Come on, let’s get going.” Beasley slapped Zander on the knee with the gore-covered rag and laughed again.

Wednesday, March 24

Before the Attack (Original Fiction by Xan)

“Father,” Jenny roared through the thick oak door of the inn’s finest suite, “you had better not be in bed with that sweet young barmaid you was flirting with all last night!” Her voice began to show signs of impatience as she pounded on the door with more force. “That’s it! I’m coming in!” She screamed as she backed away from the door and across the hallway. She huffed a deep breath and charged at the door with her shoulder. The door crashed open as it broke of its rusted hinges. The sight that Jenny expected to see was not the one that awaited her in the suite of her father, Captain “Red Dog” Blackbirch.
Jenny nearly lost her footing as she slipped on the crimson pool developing on the wooden floor. His signature black and red coat lay on the bed at the far side of the room folded eloquently, probably from the night before. A man lay on a table in the middle of the room gasping for air, his white shirt stained burgundy by his own blood lay torn open exposing his red curls of hair matted with blood as well and a strange marking carved into his flesh.
“Jenny,” he gasped.
“Who did this to you father?” Jenny dashed to his side, bundling his shirt on the wound and trying to stop the blood.
“It is too late for me Jenny,” the fading captain gurgled out. “The Dryad Duchess is yours. Take her crew as your own. Leave here, now.”
“Father, what happened?” Jenny sobbed “Who did this to you?”
“Not… much… time…” he garbled out between coughs of blood. “Blackfin marked me with his Black Delta. He wanted me dead, and my ship to be his.” Jenny tried in vain to keep him breathing but the brand carved into his flesh ran to the bone. “You musn’t go after him, Jenny. Promise me!”
“Father, what will you have me do? Run from him like a coward?” The fire of revenge burned in her tear filled eyes as she hung onto her father’s final words.
“Take me hook, it controls the Duchess. You know that the elementals bound to its hull will only be controlled by its power.” He gasped. “Promise me you will not go looking for Blackfin, but you will RUN and take the Duchess far away from here.”
“I promise.” Jenny sobbed as her father’s last breath gurgled from his slack jaw. “For now…”

Sunday, March 21

This I Believe

So before I post this I wanted to say that I don't post much on this blog, I leave that to Maggie. But every once in a while I think I need to post a thought or two.

This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived.

I hope you enjoy mine.

I believe that if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, don’t. My father taught me that. I don’t want to say that hard work doesn’t profit you or benefit you, but if you are opposed to working in the trenches and getting your hands dirty then aspire for something better.

As a child I went to work with my father, the general contractor, to ‘help’ him on his jobs. During the summertime, when school was out, and sometimes on weekends I would climb gleefully into his truck. The smell of sawdust wafting into my face as I bounce on the seat, the same sawdust covered the dashboard and console of the truck. Our first stop of the day was at a gas station where my father would fill up his mug with his Diet Coke and purchase a sweet roll, I would follow him to the fountain and grab me a large cup to fill with my Root Beer and then over to the pastry cabinet for my chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting. My father pointed out to me that the glazed doughnuts are so much better and sweeter. My comment, as a child at that time, was simple in my mind “I hate getting my hands dirty, Dad.”

My father proceeded to take the rest of the day and the rest of my life reflecting on my comment and taught me a valuable lesson. He explained to me that he has worked manual labor his whole life. He never graduated High School and was a misfit in his younger years. He was lucky to be taught by his Father-In-Law a trade in construction and he is grateful for that. He learned the value of working hard and having a strong work ethic. Be good at your job, do it well, do it better than the other guy and do it faster. Be paid by your ability and not by your time. Many times my father explained to me that if I didn’t want to get my hands dirty with something as sweet as a doughnut then I definitely don’t want to get them dirty with manual labor. He taught me to work hard in school, develop my skills in such a way to be paid for my mind and not by my strength or the sweat of my brow.

I appreciate the blue collar worker. I believe myself to be from a great strong stock of hard workers who made it possible for me to be white collar because of their example. I worked harder in school to get better grades and learned from my father that I have a choice in my life to get my hands dirty in jeans or get my hands dirty through sales in slacks and a tie.

Friday, March 19

On their own once again… (Original Fiction by Xan)

The large missionary is interrupted from his alms to Othr by a nudge on the shoulder. He neglects to open his eyes, as he already knows who has become familiar enough with him to attempt such an act.
“What is it my small thief?” Zander speaks halfling in a hushed voice.
“I am not a...” Beasley replied back in his own tongue but with a slightly aggravated edge. “Oh, never mind. “Call me whatever you want, but right now, you can call me ‘bored.’ I can’t sleep, and those two are out cold again, can we go? They are too loud and they are slowing me down with their complaining and ‘righteous admonitions.” Beasley waives his hands and puffs up his chest in an attempt to look like Solcloud.
“Very well little one, we can go again. Valhalla forbid you should get yourself in trouble with no one to pull you out.” Zander’s face curled with a slight smile and a wink. “But I do not want to leave them unprotected, give me a moment.”
“Hurry up; I smell adventure just down this hallway!” The hooded halfling said nearly jumping out of his skin with anxiety.
Zander looked around for a decent sized stone and placed his hammer on it. He knelt down and Beasley could see the head of the hammer begin to glow slightly and in the dim light, he could make out the giant’s lips moving but could not hear him speak. The hammer then dimmed and Zander stood up and walked a few paces away from the stone, it looked as though he had passed through a smooth waterfall. A sparkle of light washed over him and was gone.
“What was that?” Beasley looked up to his large companion.
“An insurance policy that our friends will be safe while they slumber.” Beasley looked to the cleric quizzically as the giant spoke to him. “Not to worry, Solcloud will know what it is and will know how to pass through.”
“Well I hate to think they may think the ‘thief’ ran off alone again. I penned them a small note to let them know where we went and they should catch up.”
Beasley had another stone with a piece of parchment tied to it with a bit of twine. He tossed it up in his hands as if to judge the weight and then tossed it towards Zander’s ‘magic rock.’ As the stone flew through the air it stopped and dropped to the ground where Zander had passed through his magic.
“What the…?” Beasley jumped a bit. “That is a protection spell of some kind. I like that. Now let’s go, we are wasting time.”

Friday, March 12

Digging in the Trash (Original Fiction by Xan)

“Well boys…” Beasley trots over to the pile of junk in the middle of the pond of black water. “Let’s see what this Dragon has been holding onto down here.” Without a moments notice he begins digging through the tattered clothing and bones of adventurers past who had become the unfortunate dinner guests of the young dragon.
“There is nothing but junk and tattered clothing.” Solcloud scoffs. “Why waste your time digging around in such filth? Can we just continue? I feel evil radiating here. This place must be cleansed.”
“I couldn’t agree more, my somewhat dimmed knight.” Mayvn takes his damp sleeve and rubs a chunk of slimy filth off the paladin’s now grimy armor. “Besides, it’s dark in here, the smell is awful, my shoes are soaked clear through, and my lute is beginning to warp.”
Beasley barely pays them heed and continues to dig through the refuse. “By the smiling face of Olidammara!” He stops digging in a gasp and waves his hand beckoning to his large friend but never taking his eyes off his find. “Zander! Bring me a torch quick!”
The half-ogre quickly does as he is told and rips the torch from Mayvn’s hand and trudges through the muck towards the mound and his small friend. “What is it?” He leans in over the small halfling, completely engulfing the tiny man underneath his enormous body. The torchlight flickers as he holds it close to the halfling.
“Back up a bit, Zander!” The small bandit elbows the half-ogre in the chest. “You’re crowding me.” Zander moves back a small bit, but continues to hold the torch close to the tiny man in red.
“What is it?” Zander says curiously.
“It’s a small jackpot, my oversized associate, a small jackpot.” Beasley reaches into the small hole he made and begins to pull out items to be of some value.
“Did I hear 'JACKPOT?'?” Mayvn begins plodding through the muck towards the two treasure hounds. “I think I am only entitled to MY share!”
“Oh how quickly we disregard our silks when treasure is involved.” Beasley takes a stab at the lyricist as the murky water splashes on all three of them when he approaches them.
“Well, I did cause a distraction.” Mayvn’s eyes gleamed with anticipation. “What did you find?” He flops on the sullied mound of bones, tattered clothing and twinkling metal beside the halfling.
Beasley just rolls his eyes as he reaches into the hole he has dug. He pulls out a diamond bigger than his tiny fist. “I didn’t find much.” He turns to Zander and smiles. “But it should pay the bills.”
From across the cavern Solcloud’s voice echoes. “I hope you plan on giving some of that as a donation to the poor! The church always needs financial support.”
Beasley only huffs and buries his head back into the refuse.
“Our patrons also give us blessings to pay for the quests we must go on.” Zander harasses Solcloud. “Don’t you think they guided us to this trove to pay for a greater mission?”
Solcloud slinks in his armor as he folds his arms with a huff. “I doubt St. Cuthbert would appreciate us keeping this fortune to ourselves.” He skulks off down the passageway a bit to leave the raiders to their dirty work.
“DON’T MOVE!” Beasley spurts out to Mayvn with his arms straight out and his hands out. “Since when did you find silks to lie on?”
“What are you talking about my boy?” Mayvn looked at him quizzically. “I just dropped on top of some old rusty armor.” Mayvn pats his ‘bed’ he had been lying on while watching the small burglar work. To his amazement, he was not on rusty armor anymore, but on a bed of silky robes.
“My goodness!” Mayvn jumps to his feet, the silks disappear, and the rusty armor reappears.
“Touch it again.” Beasley prods the bard. “I have a thought.”
Mayvn slowly extends his hand to the armor and with one extended finger touches the armor. The armor again turns into silks before the three raiders as they all gasp.
“I have heard of this before,” barks Mayvn. “It is glammered! It appears to be whatever the host wants it to be. Zander, you try!”
Mayvn removes his hand and the rusty armor returns. Zander hesitantly does the same and touches the rusty armor and it turns to chain mail armor. Zander jumps back in astonishment and pushes the rusty armor away. “No Thank You! I do not want something like that; Othr likes things to be as they appear. Nothing to hide.”
“It is too heavy for me to be walking around in full plate armor.” Mayvn scoffs. “Besides, it wouldn’t feel like silk against my delicate skin.”
“Well,” Beasley shrugs. “I am too small for it, and it will make too much noise for my tastes. By the looks Mr. Shiny was giving us about keeping this stuff, I doubt he will want it. However, it will bring a good price at the market. Zander, can you boot it in your backpack please.”
Zander slings the giant chest off his back and loads up the armor that looks like chain mail as soon as he touched it. “I just can’t get used to armor doing that. Makes my skin crawl.” Zander shudders as he turns his head towards something flickering in the torchlight. “What’re those?” Zander points to a couple bottles with different colored liquids in them. Beasley hops up, runs nimbly across the loose treasure mound, and scoops the bottle up in his arms like firewood.
They look like potions or poisons or something.” He gently lays them down at Zander’s knees. “Can you tell what they are?”
Zander pops the stopper on the first one and takes a deep sniff, smacks his tongue to the roof of his mouth and makes several clicking noises, rolls his eyes back and then exhales.
“This one is a restorative brew…crude but not bad when we are in a pinch.” Zander smiles as he puts the stopper back in the bottle and does the same smelling technique on the other two, devising they are an anti-poison and a curative potion for disease victims.
“We aught to keep all of these.” Zander gently tucks them into his belt. “Feel free to take them if needed.” He winks at Beasley as he pats the belt. “What’s this?” Zander notices an intricate stick tucked in with the pile of bottle when Beasley brought it over.
“Looks to be a wand!” Mayvn’s eyes begin to sparkle. “I am schooled in the ways of magical items; shall I give it a wave?”
Zander and Beasley gather up their things and begin to back off.
“Maybe you should identify that one some other way than giving it a flick.” Beasley says with an edge in his voice. “You are not exactly followed by good luck or anything.”
“Oh, very well.” Mayvn begins to mumble under his breath and wave his hands about as if to weave the very air over the item. The wand glows a light bluish-white and then dims. “It is a wand that cures moderately damaging wounds. Definitely a keeper! Well, I think we aught to find old Mr. Grumpy and settle down for a bit of rest.”
“I agree,” Beasley stands up and stretches in a long cat stretch. “It feels as though it is to be late.”
“I will take last watch so I can pray for help from Othr in the morning.” Zander opens his toothy mouth in a large yawn. The low rumble echoing within his cavernous mouth nearly took the color out of Mayvn’s face.
“I am sure glad you are a man of the cloth,” Mayvn hesitantly smiles and pats Zander on his cold chain-mailed arm. “You could frighten even the biggest things in here.”

Friday, March 5

Reunited… (Original Fiction by Xan)

“Zander?” Solcloud waives his torch around in the looming darkness. “Drat that big oaf and that thief friend of his too. St. Cuthbert would never approve of such shenanigans, regardless of the bounty.”
The heavy breathing and purring continued to echo in the darkness. The chill of the shallow, murky water seemed to permeate even the walls. Solcloud’s torchlight seemed to dance on the walls, reflecting the small streams of water soaking through the rocks and collecting on the cave floor into this underground swamp-like environment.
“We should be dealing out justice to the rank beasts living down here, not sneaking around them.” Solcloud continued to stand on the bank of the small swamp waiving his torch from side to side, trying to spot any sign of movement. The water rippled slightly, but not enough to suggest something concealed in the darkness. The silence was almost tangible except for his torch burning and flickering, pieces of cloth and rope sizzling in the water as they fell off the torch.
“I say!” A voice shatters the silence as Solcloud nearly drops the torch from the unexpected boom of sound. “Is that you Solcloud? I thought you were dead?”
Solcloud turns on his heels swiftly, draws his sword, and nearly lops Mayvn’s head off had it not been for his quick reflexes.
“Goodness that is a fine how do you do!” Mayvn bends down, picks up his hat, drops his shoes, and slips them back on. “I thought I was lost down here for good, alone.” He shakes at the thought of such an idea. “What are you doing here, were you separated as well?”
“Would you be…?”
Before Solcloud could chide Mayvn for making so much noise, Mayvn had already alerted the presence hiding in the darkness.
“You have come to take my horde, and no doubt try to kill me Paladin!” The words all seem to drip with poison as they are growled out in the deepest part of the swampy cavern. Greenish eyes seem to glint to life from the back of the cavern. “Well come on now, deal your justice on the darkness Paladin; let your silly bard there record your exploits!”
Suddenly a splash of water at the banks near their feet bursts a long black tail. Masked in the darkness the massive tail swings through the air, splashing water and flinging the surface scum around the darkened cavern. The immense tail flailed around in the darkness nearly flinging Mayvn across the room. Solcloud was not so lucky; his torch doused by the watery tail fell to the ground where he used to stand. Solcloud lay in a heap on the other side of the cavern, a good thirty feet from where he once stood. The scum and filthy water lapping over his scratched armor, he shook his head glad that he was wearing it. He rolled to his hands and knees in the water; he wiped a small bit of blood from the back of his head as he slowly made his way to his feet.
“Fowl wyrm, you deserve the justice St. Cuthbert will deal you through my blade!” Solcloud reached around in the bog and fumbled for his sword, once found he held it at the ready.
“Ha!” The dragon, still masked in darkness waived his tail in warning. “I will have you and the bard here as a pickled snack!” The green of the dragon’s eyes flickered briefly then it roared in defiance at the two would be horde snatchers. The dragon swung its tail again splashing a wave of fowl smelling water at Solcloud and roared but this time the swing went wide and the roar was not one of anger but one of pain.
“Get to higher ground!” The small yelp of Beasley came in the direction of the dragon. “You kept him busy long enough for me to find him. RUN!”
The dragon flailed around as the small halfling had dug his short sword into the knee of the giant beast. The great black monster turned its head towards the pain scorching through its leg and snapped at the small attacker, but he seemed to have disappeared.
“Show yourself thief!” The dragon snarled with rage, nursing his fresh wound. “I know you are here, in the shadows, lurking in my waters!”
“You will have to find us.” The haunting voice of Zander booms from the shadows, echoing in a distant ghostly tone.
The dragon roars again as the crunch of scale and bone mixes with the sound of flesh and sinew. The dragon turned to the site of impact just in time to see the half ogre fade from view. “Your tricks will not work on me thieves! I have your paladin!”
Without warning the sound of air, being drawn into powerful lungs was quickly replaced by a sticky muck that burst from the dragons’ mouth. Hissing and putrid smoke followed in its wake as it splashed off the walls in a deadly line towards Solcloud. The knight, now back on solid ground behind the dragon leapt to the side just before the stream of vile goo hit the place he once stood.
“You see dragon,” Solcloud scoffed. “St. Cuthbert protects me from your vile ways, you have been judged. Now you must be executed!”
Mayvn, cowering in the corner heard those valiant words and stood up gallantly. “That was great; it will go in my next sonnet.” With that, Mayvn began to strum his lute and began playing a tune with a fast-paced rhythm and a strong backbeat.
Solcloud concentrated on Mayvn’s tune and lunged towards the darkness. “Fall before St. Cuthbert’s might!” He swung his sword wildly in the darkness, trying to locate exactly where the beast was.
The dragon, also blind in the flicker of the small torch near Mayvn, swung his great claws and flapped his mighty wings. Solcloud continued to parry the hidden onslaught of attacks, hacking at the beast with great fervor.
Dodging another swipe of the dragons claws, Solcloud scoff at the dragon and steps in to strike. “My lord protects me, vile harbinger of the mire. But who protects you?” He slashes at the dragon, connects with the dragon’s front leg, and spills more blood. The dragon roars in agony but continues to fight on.
“You are persistent Paladin! Between your travel companion and you against me... you are out measured!” The dragon swipes again and flings Solcloud across the cavern once again. The dragon turns to the sound of the lute and the only light in the cavern. The beast trudged towards the silky bard strumming his lute.
“Stop that annoying screeching!” The dragon breathes in and let’s loose another spray of the vile acidic ichor.
Mayvn quickly dodges the spray; hissing and smoke fill the air as the acid burns the rock wall smooth. Mayvn continues to hum his tune as he does a quick assessment for holes in his silks.
“Whew,” he sighs. “These clothes sure are durable. I will have to refer all my friends of my wizard tailor.” He snickers.
Again, the dragon roars with pain, attacked again from the shadows by one of the unseen opponents.
Beasley’s voice echoes underneath the dragon. “Mayvn, you had better move, he sees you and he likes your gift wrapping!”
The dragon barely slowed down from Beasley’s cut to his rear leg. It roars with anger and continues toward the silk-garbed minstrel. Slowly increasing its advance to a trot then to a run. Nevertheless, yards away from Mayvn another hollow thud filled with the crunch of bone echoes through the underground waterway.
Zander’s voice can be heard in that unearthly tone. “Don’t mess with what you cannot see!”
The dragon falls to the ground, splashing the stagnant water in all directions. The tidal wave covers Zander and Mayvn in moss and mud. Mayvn just stood in awe like a rain soaked scarecrow, wishing he were in some tavern or court singing tales of other adventurers, not being in one himself.
“I sure hope this is all worth it.” Mayvn flaps his soggy arms like a bird, flicking slime and muck everywhere. “I say my lads, why did you leave me up there while you were down here? I could have been killed, or worse, my clothing could have been ruined!” He looks at his dingy silks and sighs.
“Looks like you have now been blessed with adventure.” Solcloud seemed to gleam in the faint torchlight; his armor seemed to still be polished to perfection.
“How did you…?” Mayvn’s jaw dropped to the floor never imagining a knight so quickly after a battle would have time to polish his armor. “Oh never mind,” He pouted. “My clothes are now officially ruined! I will never be allowed back into civilized society again. It will take months soaking in rose oil to remove the smell of this place.”
“Othr has blessed us with great wealth!” The ethereal voice of Zander seems to echo from behind the two. Without another word, the giant appeared before them as a reflection in a pond materializes after the ripples from a stone begin to smooth on the surface, his hammer swinging lifelessly from the leather strap off the bottom of the handle to his massive wrist. Twisting the newly acquired ring on his finger and a wide grin on his face.
“You like that ring, eh Zander?” From the shadows, the small halfling materializes with not even the slightest hint of water or muck on his deep red clothes. “Next time I tell you to hold back while I look ahead…. Listen to me.” He slips his sword back into its scabbard and glares at the giant. Zander looks to the small companion like a dog reprimanded for barking at the neighbors’ children and frightening them.
“Sorry, sir.” He wrings his hands together and looks down in humility. Nearly a blink of an eye later he pirks up and slaps the small halfling on the back, nearly knocking him face first into the stagnant water. “But we sure showed that black beast not to mess with what it can’t see.” The towering clergyman bellows in a howl of laughter.

Thursday, March 4

“Attack on the Dryad Dutchess” Original Fiction by Xan

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT This is the story I came up with from the picture I previously mentioned. ENJOY!

“His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham-plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling.” (Stevenson, 1883)


“What happened?”

The rays of the bright sun rushed into her eyes like a tidal wave as she tried to focus on the shadow looming in the middle of the flood. As her eyes slowly came into focus the image of her battered and rusted warforged bosun came into view.

We have been marooned Cap’n.” The towering warforged replied to his captain in his rust stricken metallic voice.

She blinked and tried to rub her eyes as the white sand of the beach scratched her face. “Where is my Dryad Dutchess?” She rubbed her head where a large knot could be felt underneath her ebony curls. She winced at the mere touch of the swelling mass.

“Blackfin took her Cap’n.” A potbellied dwarf piped up from behind the massive warforged. His normal orange mohawk drenched in seawater lay like kelp over a manatees head after surfacing.

“Kilzar, my old friend,” The deposed captain placed a hand on the bare shoulder of her long time friend. “That ugly pirate has returned to take back what I have rightfully stolen.”

The dwarf looked up at his captain and smiled, “Aye.” His mechanical eye gleamed blue as it hummed and whirred as it telescoped out and back in focusing on his friend’s battered face. “The filthy shark killed more than half yer crew and shipwrecked us all on this blasted island.” He cursed under his breath while he wrung out his long crimson beard and tried his best to stand his mohawk back up straight. His blue tattoos all over his body and face almost seemed to writhe like snakes when he moved.

The immense pile of rust that was Ol’ Salt piped in with his tarnished voice, “Role call has turned up as; I yer bos’n, Kilzar yer quartermaster, Maccus ‘n Piper yer gunner and powder monkey, and ‘Bad Rum’ Maurice yer cooper. Ma’am.”

Slowly lifting herself to her feet she groaned, “It seems that my best men survived, eh Salt?”

“Aye Cap’n,” he grated.”

“It seems then that Captain Jenny Blackbirch is in need of a new vessel.” She wrung out her own hair as she looked at her lightened crew. “But what exactly happened to us Salt? How did I lose my precious Dutchess?”

Ol’ Salt produced his Captain’s hat and handed it back to her as he relayed the tale of the attack on the Dutchess.

A Bosun’s Tale

“We were sailing to the Straits of Xaloc where we usually…” Ol’ Salt cleared out his throat with a gurgle and a cough of oil and rust before he continued “where we toil at our honest profession.” The crew laughed at his choice of words. “We were approaching our favorite spot to weigh anchor and await the next merchant ship to arrive on its way from Sharn to the outpost of Weatherdeep on Xen’drik when we seemed to have run aground. Now Cap’n, you’n I both know these waters better’n any man and to run aground in the Straits is damn’d near impossible.”

Kilzar sat down on a stump and rolled his eye as the mechanical one scraped in and out with the grit of sand marring it as it moved. “Just because you were once an honorable marine during the war doesn’t mean you can navigate the tides n’ weather always, Salty.” He popped his mechanical eye out and spit on it and tried to polish it with his beard to get the sand off.

“As I said Cap’n,” Ol’ Salt continued, “we ran aground in the middle of the Straits.”

“How is that possible, Salt?” Jenny queried as she rubbed the knot on her head. “And I guess I can credit this knot to my foggy memories of the event.”

“Aye ma’am,” was the squeaky reply of the young gnome they called Piper. His ruddy cheeks could be seen for the first time in months as he was washed clean by the sea from all the cannon powder he was usually covered in. “The ol’ shark Blackfin knocked you good on the noggin’ Cap’n.”

“We are getting ahead of the story,” Salt retorted. “We had no more as gained our footing on deck when tentacles started crawling up the sides of the boat. We had been caught by one of those creatures, the ones from sea myth, those Kray-kens.”

“Crack’n,” said Maccus.

“Krah-kun,” barked Bad Rum.

“Regardless,” snapped Salt. “The giant squid believed only in fairy tales and nightmares had grabbed a hold of your poor Dutchess and began crushing masts and rudders.” Salt seemed to creak and groan in his joints as if he shuddered at the thought of this beast doing the same thing to his own frame. “Then came the real shock, Blackfin and his crew came around a nearby cove aboard his ship, The Sea Lance; As if he had taught that creature to lay in wait for us.”

“I wouldn’t doubt that in the slightest,” Kilzar chimed in as he popped his polished eye back into the hollow socket of his mechanical eye.

Salt’s voice box scraped out the words as he continued. “We were boarded as we were helpless in the grasp of the Kray-ken.”

“Crack’n,” snapped Bad Rum.

“Krah-kun,” whispered Maccus.

“Anyway,” growled Salt. “We were boarded by Blackfin and his band. You’d been proud of yer crew ma’am. Each man proved his mettle a hundred times over as they lay waste to three to four of Blackfin’s crew before bein’ cut down themselves.” Salt seemed to groan, but it was just his body creaking with the white sand mingling with the rust in his salt corroded joints. “You ma’am then squared off with Blackfin. You fought honorably, despite Blackfin’s predilection for cheating.”

“Predilection?” Kilzar grumbled. “Stop speaking like a Marine mate and speak to us like we are educated pirates.”

“His fondness for cheating,” if Salt could sneer he would have done so to the quartermaster.

Kilzar smiled.

“Despite all odd ma’am, Blackfin got the best of ye when one of his crew, a crimson red painted warforged skulked behind ye and knocked you on the head with his massive sledge of a hand.” Salt shuttered at the image replaying in his mind. “It is a wonder you are still alive ma’am.”

“So that is how we ended up on this island somewhere between Xen’drik and Khorvaire?” Jenny stood up and looked to the horizon for any sign of another spot of land. “How about we find a way off this rock and get our ship back?”