Friday, June 25

Resurfacing… (Original Fiction by Xan)

The party of adventurers continued down the corridor. Beasley scurried around like a mouse searching for a bit of cheese. He darted back and fourth examining each wall, every crack, and all questionable spots of dust throughout the walkway.
“It feels as though we are slowly rising.” Beasley whispered.
Following the small halfling, Solcloud trounced along proudly, not caring about what may approach or what could hear him approach. His immaculate sword still secured in its fine scabbard and his polished shield upon his flawless back.
“I feel nothing, Thief.” Solcloud scoffed at Beasley. “You must be disoriented, we are on the level.”
“Would you be quiet,” ordered Jenny in a half whisper.
She stalked behind Solcloud listening to every echo his loud armor made. Her Drow blade drawn and in perfect ‘Spada Libera’ or free for an advantage. She moved with such grace, her footwork moved in a way like a swordsman would advance slowly on a retreating foe. Her body moved like water, no sound came from her, not even her chainmail made a sound.
Lastly came the giant, Zander. He did not lumber like Solcloud, nor did he stalk like Beasley, but he moved carefully and as quietly as he could down the hallway. His hammer firmly gripped in both hands. The large oak chest strapped to his back made him look like he had twice as much of an upper body than he actually had. His dim shadow flickering on the wall looked even more intimidating.
“I agree with the little one, we are slowly moving up.” Zander growled a whisper. “It seems that was the dungeon, and wherever we are going was where they came from to be forgotten about.”
“Or held until they were sacrificed.” Jenny interjected. “Those acolytes came to drop off prisoners and left with living,” Jenny cleared her throat. “Well, barely living sacrifices.”
“Did you see this corridor when you were brought to the holding cell back there?” Beasley asked.
“No, I woke up down there.” Jenny shivered as she remembered the small, cold cell.
“Messy business, sacrifices.” Solcloud piped up. “Much better to sacrifice time and money to your god than living, bleeding victims.”
“Absolutely right brother,” Zander piped in. “No use dragging someone to the altar when they will walk into the church willingly right?”
Beasley and Jenny looked at each other as they fought back the urge to fall to the floor laughing.
“Yes, quite right.” Solcloud didn’t even notice the suggestion about his methods made by Zander. “Teach them the philosophies and then guide them into the temple.”
“Guide them with a strong shove?” Beasley accused Solcloud. Jenny and Beasley used the opportunity of conversation to drift back towards the giant and allow the knight to take point. Jenny just smiled and winked at the small thief having played this game before with other ‘proud’ people.
“Well if a good ‘nudge’ is all they need then I am happy to be my Gods hand.” Solcloud seemed to puff up with pride with that statement, not noticing too much the change in marching order. “If He can use me to direct people into His holy places then I will do so.”
“I prefer to teach them with my actions and tell them my beliefs over a tankard of strong ale and let them make the call.” Zander winked to Beasley as he sensed the rouse taking shape, but making sure to keep a watchful eye on the puffed up evangelist. “If they want to join my faith, they can ask me more.”
“Do you feel you gain many converts that way?” Jenny asked as she took up her new position just behind Zander. The bittersweet feeling and familiar hum returned as she passed him again.
“Well, there is a whole caravan of halflings out there who could drink even you under their tables.” Zander laughed.
“I find that hard to believe. I mean my father and I stayed up many a night drinking the finest wines when I was but ten years old.” Jenny interjected. “But I suppose a faith in a God who can drink the oceans could help you take a few intoxicating drinks. But why did you teach halflings?”
Zander smiled. “Well, I don’t know how to speak halfling just out of coincidence.” His face softened as he though back on the moment. “They helped me and I in turn showed them my appreciation with my faith. They all accepted the gospel and Othr has a whole caravan of small ones with big hearts doing his work.”
“I never thought it possible for a halfling to be a drinker AND a wrestler.” Beasley said confounded. “I would have left that up to the larger folk.”
“I find it better not to assume anything,” Zander smiled at Beasley and then turned to Solcloud. “Especially on first impressions.”
Solcloud acted like he didn’t hear the comment of his fellow evangelist but decided to keep moving forward. He kept his eyes fixed forward and walked a little more puffed up
“Solcloud don’t…”
Beasley reached forward as if to try and stop the knight from taking his next step but it was too late. The stone that Solcloud put his next step on began to sink. In less time that it takes to blink, the ground at Solcloud’s feet instantaneously dropped out from under him and he began to fall. Luckily Zander had been expecting a trap to be set off by the preoccupied paladin seeing how easily Jenny and Beasley had set him up. Zander dove to the ground, sliding over to the pit as his massive hand shot out like a lion pouncing on a helpless animal catching Solcloud by in his armor. The half elf now dangled sheepishly by the scruff of his neck like a puppy in its mother’s mouth. About five feet down from the tips of his toes lay a spread of rusty swords and rotting wood spikes.
“Good show, old boy.” Solcloud tried to hold his voice steady as the shock resided. “Now could you be a lad and pull me up?”
“It seems that our company does not agree with your attitude, Sir Knight.” Zander groaned a bit as Solcloud twisted in his grasp.
“Quite right, I can see that we are at an impasse.” Solcloud retorted.
“Maybe you should keep the religion to yourself.” Beasley shouted down the hole.
“But that is what I do, my boy.” Solcloud said as he looked up at the three above his head.
“How about you just lay off it a bit then?” Jenny compromised as she admired Zander’s massive five-foot arm dangling the shiny knight in this hole.
“Point taken madam.” Solcloud conceded. “And I will trust your judgments in battle and I will redouble my efforts to understand your ways in ‘stalking.’ Now Brother, could you please hoist me up?”
The giant struggled to his knees and hoisted up the knight with both hands without any visible strain. Jenny just stood there amazed by the hulking frame that was this humble and mild priest.
Solcloud took a quick assessment of his armor and provisions, making sure none were lost in the fall. He noticed a scuff on his shield and tried to hold back a gasp but it still escaped as a whimper. Jenny and Beasley only smiled at each other. Beasley looked at Jenny in a way that only thieves could communicate. A few small gestures, almost imperceptible, passed between them as if to say “Good work.” Beasley climbed across the small ledge against the wall where the trap door connected and found the reset switch. The large slab slowly clinked back into place and they proceeded on their venture up the hallway.
Beasley, now back up front, noted to the rest of the group that the hallway was becoming steeper and the stonework and masonry was becoming cleaner and more ornate.
“We must be approaching the sacrificial chamber.” Jenny gritted her teeth.
“Shhh!” Beasley chided. “Can you hear that?”
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks and began to listen intently. A popping and crackling like flame burning moist wood could be heard in the distance. Along with that was the sound of chanting and hollering. The damp air in the hallway seemed to be drawn towards the sound. The cool, damp air in the corridoor rushed by them and was being replaced by cold and dry air.
“Whatever it is,” Solcloud mused, “It seems to be drawing all the heat and air toward it.”
“Let’s go.” Beasley looked up at the giant and the knight. “Let’s go quietly.”

Friday, June 18

Truth is Discovered (Original Fiction by Xan)

Blackfin waved his arms in large arcs as his giant Balka Whale tooth blades glistened like polished pearls in the setting sunlight. Jenny, with the grace of a dancer, moved in fluid motions to avoid nearly every swing of the massive blades. Countering the attacks with a silver cutlass in one hand and a small dagger in the other hand Jenny tried to advance on Blackfin. The two captains matched one another blow for blow never allowing the other to gain the upper hand. Blackfin knew his ship well and was leading Jenny back towards the bow where he had a winch with a line attached ready to allow him the upper hand. The evil captain reached for the line, kicked Jenny, and took a swipe at a parallel rope which counterweighted his massive frame and launched him up to the topsail boom. Jenny looked for a way up to Blackfin and yelled to her crewmate Maccus who was standing in the rigging firing his guns down onto the deck of the ship.
“Mac!” she yelled.
Without hesitation or another order Maccus saw a rope on a pulley near him that led down to Jenny. He jumped into the rope and cut one side. Maccus and Piper were more than enough weight to catapult Jenny up to Blackfin’s perch. Jenny and Blackfin continued their duel, this time always being mindful of their footing on the boom. Blackfin dropped one of his blades as Jenny struck a lucky blow to his right hand, but Blackfin countered it with a swift uppercut the knocked Jenny directly onto her back. Luckily Jenny kept her balance while prone on the boom.
The fighting on the deck of the chip had slowed down as both sides watched this epic battle amongst their captains take center stage. Both sides knew that the battle would only be decided through this mighty duel.
“Looks to me I will be taking yer ship after all, Blackbirch.” Blackfin laughed triumphantly as he made his way towards his powerless victim. “You know your father had the same look on his face when I carved him up too.” He lunged at Jenny.
Jenny lifted her left hand up as if to try and stop the blade coming down but as she did so a burst of blue light appeared to shoot out of her hand as a massive wind seemed to come out of nowhere and push Blackfin off balance. He wobbled on the boom and slipped from the boom. As he fell more than the fifty feet to the deck of the Onyx he closed his eyes before impact and then he felt the joints in his hip, knee, and ankle crack grotesquely. He opened his eyes and screamed out in pain only to realize he had stopped a few feet from the deck, his foot had been caught up in a rope that now held him suspended from the foremast boom.
“Looks like we won this fight,” Kilzar walked up to the dangling shark captain and slapped him on his broken leg, “and we even have ourselves a piƱata to celebrate with.”
Jenny’s crew laughed as they surveyed the damage to the Onyx and watched as the remaining members of the crew threw down their weapons in surrender to these brave sailors. Jenny made her way down the rigging by sticking a dagger in the sail and sliding down to the deck.
“What are we going to do with them now?” Salt belted from the Duchess helm.
“We are going to take them to Sharn to stand trial as pirates.” Jenny laughed at the irony of her words.
“What about us, ma’am?” Piper queried. “Won’t we be hung as pirates too when we make port?
“I have a feeling that bringing in the notorious Blackfin and his now crippled Onyx will redeem us.” Jenny assured the smallest member of her crew. “Hoist the white flag and make way to Breland and her home city of Sharn.”
“AYE CAP’N,” was the reply of the entire crew.

Friday, June 11

A Strange Feeling… (Original Fiction by Xan)

Jenny stuttered in her stride as a small shock coursed through her body when she passed by Zander. The hum through her body buzzed all the way up to her head in a bittersweet rush of elation and sadness. She shook off the feeling with a confused look towards Zander and continued walking down the hallway. Zander and Solcloud followed closely behind her as they spotted Beasley down the dimly lit hallway. Beasley was waiting just outside the trophy room, leaning on the wall and carving a leg of the broken chair with his dagger.
“It’s about time you showed up.” Beasley said as he sliced a large chunk out of the piece of wood. “I was starting to get curious.” He looked up at his towering friend. “And you know what happens when I get curious.” He cut another chunk of wood from the leg effectively making the piece too thin to work with. He tossed it over his shoulder and proceeded to the only door left closed.
“Well, I figured you’d come running back if you got into too much trouble friend.” Zander chuckled as he patted the halfling on the head. “I had a talk with Solcloud.” Zander spoke in halfling. “I hope he realizes that he is losing great allies for his cause.”
Beasley just spit on the ground as he checked the solitary doorway for traps. “We’re clear to continue.” He turned to the giant and motioned him to open the door as he slid to the side; his tiny sword ready to strike.
Zander, with a small grunt, pushed the heavy wooden door to reveal a smoky corridor with dim torches about every fifty feet or so. The small flames seemed to go on forever.
“Well, looks like it is a long walk.” Solcloud pushed through the group gathered by the doorway and within a few moments was easily passing two torches between himself and the group.
“Let’s get going.” He yelled back to the three of them.
“What about Mayvn?” Beasley looked to Zander.
“Well,” Zander shrugged as he drew his hammer. “We know he isn’t behind us in those cells. Let’s go.”
The giant moved cautiously into the long hallway. Jenny drew her new blade and a faint hum could be heard as the steel brushed upon her makeshift scabbard. She moved up in front of Zander and winked as she passed by him, the same bittersweet feeling rushed through her body again.
“I think you aught to cover the rear Zander.” She winked at him and glanced down her body. Zander’s ears burned as he realized he had followed her eyes and found himself looking at her backside.
“Y-yes, of course m’lady.” Zander tried very hard not to let on his sidetracked thoughts. He tried to refocus thinking about the battle with the dragon or with the troll; anything to keep his mind focused on battle. Everything he tried just came back to gazing at the cat-like movements of the atypical barmaid stalking the corridoor in front of him.
“Get a room already you two.” Beasley stormed past them as he jumped from shadow to shadow.
Zander continued to walk a few steps behind Jenny. His mind wandered back to Jenny in that robe, then to thoughts of her milky bare shoulders with that dark elf chainmail resting on them.
“Doesn’t it hurt Jenny? Zander said curiously. Jenny slowed her walk as she contemplated exactly what Zander was asking. Did he know about the feelings she got when she was around him? Did she do something to tip him off? She had been a barmaid for some time and could hide her true feelings under a mask of flirtation, but never was she able to flirt and have it feel real.
“Does what hurt?” She asked elusively, trying to cover up any hint of guilt in her voice.
“That chainmail you are wearing.” Zander pointed with the head of his hammer.
The hum pressed further inside Jenny, her knees nearly buckled. She feigned a smile. “Not really, feels lighter and smoother than silk.” She reached up and touched her shoulder. “Everything from the elves is more beautiful and delicate than it appears.” A coy smile curled her lips as she slowly slid her hand down the chainmail to her breast. Instinctively, Zander’s eyes followed her hand until he realized where he was looking.
“M’lady!” Zander tried to rebound from his apparent embarrassment of the situation. “It is true what they say, elves are more than they appear. “Let us press on.”
Jenny giggled playfully. “Yes, let’s.”

Friday, June 4

Attack on the Onyx (Original Fiction by Xan)

With the six guns on the starboard side loaded and ready to fire with a flip of a switch and a run of fuse Maccus and Piper remain below decks for their captains’ orders. Kilzar sat in wait on the steps between the gun deck and the main deck to relay the order to fire. Salt stood in a crouch at the helm of the Dryad Duchess ready to flip the switch to release the air elemental that lay dormant in the bindings of the ship. Jenny stood at the forecastle deck ready with a hatchet in her hand to cut the tow line connecting the crippled Duchess to the dreaded Onyx.
The crew aboard the Duchess lay in wait, they were so quiet and still they could hear Blackfin barking orders to his crew over the crashing of the waves on the ship.
“Tighten the Fore Sail you mangy sea dogs!” The gurgle and the coarseness of the voice could only be accredited to the dreaded shark known as Blackfin. “Keep that Jib tight you bilge rat!”
Jenny’s stomach turned as she reflected on the visions of her father bleeding out in that Inn over a year ago, branded by the Black Delta, the light fading out of his eyes as he gasped his last words, “Promise me you will not go looking for Blackfin, but you will RUN and take the Duchess far away from here.”
“He came looking for me, Father.” Jenny mumbled under her breath as she tightened her grip on the hatchet. “He took our ship and it is time to take her back.” She took a deep breath and barked the words that her deck hands had been waiting to hear. “NOW!”
As if the crew were one being everything happened at once. The fuses started sparking and spitting as they slowly crept like a fiery snake towards the six guns on the starboard side of the Duchess, the windy roar of the air elemental could be heard as it ripped in a circular motion around the bindings encircling the ship, and the mooring line holding the Duchess hostage by her bow dropped into the water. The Duchess leapt forward in the water like a horse rears up on its rear legs before bolting. Just as the elemental brigantine drew up along the port side of the Onyx the six guns thundered to life raking it with splinters of wood and steel bursting into the air. The schooner lurched and stalled as the main mast took a direct hit and came crashing to the deck crossing the gap between the two vessels and creating a perfect boarding platform for the crew of the Duchess.
Without so much as an order to board the Onyx, Kilzar had already fired his blunderbuss into the disoriented crew of the schooner and was on his way across the fallen mast. Fire of his fallen ancestors burned in his eyes as he pulled out a second hand axe and ran into the fray yelling out battle cries in ancient dwarven. Salt was standing at the helm as he reached into an iron chest at his feet and pulled out what looked to be a small rusty cannon barrel the length of his forearm. Within seconds Salt’s right forearm had been replaced by this cannon barrel and Salt was firing fist sized cannonballs at the opposing vessel taking down two or three crewmen at a time. Maccus had strapped on a leather harness in which Piper could easily sit and cover his massive friends’ backside as they traversed the ship in great spans. Maccus scaled up the Duchess’ foremast in seconds and traversed to the Onyx in a blink of an eye, his massive ape-like arms propelling him with supernatural speed all the while Piper was raining down a barrage of pistol shot from his harness. The pirate crew of the Onyx was in disarray not knowing what had happened only seconds before now they were fighting for their lives in a seemingly losing battle against a massive army of six.
Amidst the shrapnel of exploding ship and musket balls Jenny made her way to the deck of the Onyx and after cutting down many rogue pirates she had located Blackfin near the foremast. Their eyes locked and it seemed that the world slowed down as the two engaged in battle.