Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Your Mother was a Whetstone!

Good day, ladies and mentalmen. It is two hours past the very black of the night, so without further ado, I present the next installment of the Passage of the Planeswalkers.

The group looked the skinny wizard up and down. He was the newest member to have joined their rag-tag Planeswalker party.
“Is that a bathrobe?” asked Rathalohse. He was toying with a new, powerful compound longbow.
“Yes. Yes it is,” replied Wizard Wolfenight. He was a young fellow and seemed oddly at ease with his state of undress.
“You’re just going to wear a bathrobe through the gates of Lisseth?” asked Mange, a very confused look on his small, pinched face.
“No. Of course not,” replied Wolfenight.
“That would be far too silly,” agreed Jet-Ulfgar, who was sitting nearby, sharpening his axe.
“Yes, which is why I’m wearing my hat too!” said Wolfenight, indicating the pointed wizard’s hat perched upon his head. Lereahl, who was skulking in the shadows nearby, simply face palmed.

Stepping through the crystal gates of Lisseth was quite familiar now to our ill-assorted companions. The white magic pulled them through the irrational, blinding white ether, dumping them all unceremoniously in a pile at the other end.
“Ow. That’s my ear,” moaned Rath.
“Sorry,” replied Jet, removing the offending elbow.
The group picked themselves up, untangling Mange’s harpoons from Lereahl’s new crossbow. Once they had sorted themselves out, they were able to take in their surroundings. They were standing in a perfectly square room. The floor, walls and ceiling were of the same perfectly polished green stone. There was a corridor ahead of them, with a bright light at the end. After checking the room cautiously, they ventured down the hallway.
“Go towards the light…” whispered Rath, jokingly.
This hallway opened out into a great, pentagonal shaped room. The ceiling was lost in darkness and the walls were of blue tinted glass. Behind the glass were thousands upon thousands of creatures. Creatures that looked humanoid, but that were horribly changed. Some had the head or hands of animals, others had mutated, disfigured features, some had horns or spines or glowing eyes – some had no eyes at all. There was a low buzzing, roaring noise that ceased immediately when the companions stepped into the centre of the room. Every single one of the near-human creatures turned to look at the travelers. They raised their weapons only to find themselves no longer looking past blue glass.
The pentagonal room had vanished completely. The ground under their feet was now soggy and marshy. Trees with low hung branches surrounded them and thin slivers of white mist curled between the leaves. Spotted through this now wide landscape were thousands of headstones.
“Er… Either I just dropped acid, or we’re suddenly in a really bad place,” said Wolfenight, now aiming his staff at the four, misshapen, discolored creatures that shambled from the shadows of great tombstones. Mange, being Mange, was the first into battle with a piercing war cry. Unfortunately, all the smaller ghouls turned upon him. The first ghoulish creature’s arm fell to the ground at the behest of the halfling’s great sword. Rotten black blood began to dribble from the wound. The rest of the creatures piled upon the halfling, one managing to get its teeth into him. The beast’s bite was enough to paralyze Mange.
Wolfenight recovered well after the group’s second, sudden displacement of the day and sent a blast of white light into another ghoul, flooring it with a squishy thud. Rath went into action too, wielding his new longbow with ease. Fitting an arrow to the string, he took out another of the ghouls which already had a bolt in the shoulder, courtesy of Lereahl.
At this point, Jet was accosting the largest of the ghouls. Lately, he’d begun to favour rushing his enemies with his large, spike shield. This was only useful once, after that, there was no room to ram again, and his battleaxe swung into play instead.
Wolfenight, with no more magic to throw at the time, decided to simply rush up and clout one of the zombies on the head with his staff. He was unfortunate enough to run right into Rath’s line of fire. The ranger’s sharp arrow pierced him in the shoulder. Wolfenight turned around, fuming.
“You shot me!” he yelled.
“You got in the way!” snapped the ranger.
“But you shot me!”
Outraged, Wolfenight ran up to the ranger and clouted him too on the head with his staff.
“Ow,” muttered Rath, rubbing his ear for the second time that day. Suddenly he pushed Wolfenight out of the road, drew an arrow swiftly and finished off the last ghoul as it was about to go for the paralyzed Mange’s throat. With a great roar, Jet beheaded the last ghoul.
Mange groaned and sat up as the group stopped to rest and share some candy around. The mist swirled eerily around the five companions. Suddenly, as quickly as it had appeared, the damp graveyard disappeared. They were back in the pentagonal room, thousands of quasi-humans behind blue glass, all watching them intently. There was a new sound now – a roaring, thunderous applause. The travelers looked around in surprise.
“I get it now. This is some sort of arena… We just finished a bout, which means…” The five turned around as a large chest materialized behind them.
“Prizes!” they all yelled and dove forwards to collect their spoils.

They were now standing on a peaceful, grassy hill with a large rocky cairn at the top. A sweet breeze blew around them, rippling the soft grass. There seemed to be nothing around. Lereahl’s eyes were the sharpest though and he was the first to spot the large leather sack. Hurrying up to it, Jet was a bit overexcited. Without thinking, he jumped on the leather bag, eager for more treasure. Whatever was in the bag was definitely not treasure, and was quite offended at having been stood on. Shaking its great mane and snarling menacingly, a dire wolf stepped out onto the grassy hilltop.
“Oh,” said Jet.
“Puppy!” cooed Wolfenight.
The wolf howled. There was a great rumbling. What they had mistaken for a cairn moved, and then with surprising speed, stood up.
“Er. Yes. Puppy. A  giant’s puppy,” mumbled Wolfenight, quickly backing away.
The giant roared. The sound was earth shattering, but not as shattering as the vibrations caused when it swung its huge club. The club that was practically a dead, uprooted tree left a crater where the companions had just been standing. The wolf raced after Jet.
“Bad puppy!” yelled Wolfenight. “Bad dog! No! You sleep now!” A bolt of purple lightning shot from the wizard’s staff with a few more choice words, hitting the great grey wolf in midair. The huge beast slumped forward, fast asleep.
Mange meanwhile was flying towards the giant’s patella. With a great slash to the giant’s knee, he dropped to the ground, and was promptly bashed twice over the head with the huge club. This effectively drove him two feet into the soft dirt and knocked him out as cold as one would expect from being hit with a tree.
The rest of the group had already begun firing whatever they had at the enormous creature. Right before Jet prepared to charge at the beast, he and Rath locked eyes over the battlefield. Something passed between the two. On the other side of the hill, Lereahl straightened up, looking around curiously.
“My sexy senses are tingling…” he muttered to himself.
Jet charged the giant, slashing vicious swathes in its ankles.
“This is not working!” cried Lereahl as a bolt ricocheted off the giant’s tough skin. He went to reload, only to have the string snap. Mange struggled out from the hole he’d been pressed into and rolled gently down the hill to the half-elf’s feet. Lereahl bent down and with a swift motion, pulled a potion of healing from his pack and tipped it into the little barbarian’s mouth.
“You’re right! We have to stop him moving,” growled Jet as the giant roared and took a swing at him. When Mange was back up on his feet, he took a harpoon from his pack and aimed it at the giant’s legs.
“Guys, I have an idea…”

Jet ran, puffing, around the giant. The enormous creature roared and followed him, tangling the lines further around its legs. It swung several times, but missed. The beast was growing furious at not being able to hit the stocky dwarf. Jet banged his axe on his shield, further taunting the giant.
“Hey! You! Your mother was a whetstone!” he yelled, garnering him another blow of the huge club.
“Now pull!” Mange yelled. The other three grabbed the ropes wrapped around the giant’s legs and pulled. Slowly, incredibly, the beast toppled forwards onto one knee. With another heave, the giant collapsed onto its back. There was another, closer roar. The dire wolf had woken up. Hackles raised, it took a flying leap, knocking Wolfenight to the ground, pinning him beneath huge paws. With a roar of his own, Jet came charging up and bashed the wolf solidly in the chest. Wolfenight, in his panicky wriggle out from under the wolf’s paws, head butted it in the nether regions. As it was then rather incapacitated, Jet was able to pin it to the ground with his shield and snap the beast’s neck.
Lereahl sailed through the air and rolled to a stop, coughing and moaning. The grounded giant was still flailing dangerously. As Mange approached it, sword aloft, it was able to smush him again into the dirt. From then on it was a confused frenzy of healing the nearly dead halfling and watching in amazement as Jet finished off this huge creature too.

A short rest later, and they then found themselves standing in a hot, dry wind. All around them was the soft sound of sand drifting and falling in a vast desert. They were ready with their weapons this time, not fooled by the apparent lack of danger. Fifty yards away there was a strange disturbance among the dunes. Everyone turned to face it. There was a weird hissing sound as the sand fell away and something dark rose from the dunes. Glittering in the harsh sun, shaking sand from its leathery wings was a huge blue dragon. It shook its head, and then turned intelligent, sparkling blue eyes on the five. It considered them for a moment. Wolfenight, knowing that dragons were extremely clever creatures, lowered his staff.
“What are you doing?” hissed Mange as he stepped forward slightly.
“Hello over there!” the wizard called to the dragon. “We would very much appreciate it if you didn’t attack us. In return, we shall not attack you-” The gangly wizard’s words were cut off very abruptly as the dragon smiled and unleashed a blazing bolt of white lightning at him from the horn on its head. Wolfenight turned back to them, now smoking and frizzy haired.
“Well,” he said with a cough of smoke, “Diplomacy has obviously failed.”

The ranged fighters were slowly backing over the dunes, getting more and more frustrated as the dragon’s scales simply deflected each and every one of their arrows. Mange and Jet were up under the dragon’s feet, stabbing and hitting wherever they could. Wolfenight, out of magic after singeing the dragon’s toes with a fiery spell, was simply holding armfuls of healing potions, dancing madly around and feeding them to the fighters as they were needed. The dragon roared as an arrow finally pierced its neck, bent down and snapped up the dwarf. But Jet refused to be swallowed by the beast. Instead, with a feat of manly strength, he pried the dragon’s jaws off and fell from its mouth, sprawling in the sand and rolling down a dune. The dragon seemed to grimace. Maybe dwarves tasted bad. Mange however was still raging away at the creature’s forepaws. However, the dragon looked lazily at the halfling, and with a smirk and swat of its tail and claws, he was down too.
Lereahl and Rath looked at each other. This dragon would surely kill them. Most of their attacks weren’t even penetrating the beast’s armored hide. Mange and Jet were on their last legs. Wolfenight had no legs to speak of.
“Guys! We’re not going to make it!” Rath shouted to the others. Mange ducked another swipe of the dragon’s claws and then rolled to avoid its tail.
“Sure we are!” he yelled back.
“We’re really not,” said Lereahl. “I’m not dying out here in this wasteland. I’m too pretty and you know it!”
Jet, who had paused to get his breath back, could only nod at this statement.
“He is a formidable opponent, but just not this day,” added Rath. The ranger and the half-elf vanished in puffs of white and purple smoke, letting the ether draw them back through the gates of Lisseth.
“Well, that means I’m out of here,” declared Wolfenight, vanishing too.
Jet looked to where Mange still danced and poked and prodded the great dragon.
“They’re right Mange. I too shall leave this admirable beast in peace, and those monsters behind the glass to find new entertainment,” said the dwarf and then he was nothing but smoke.
Mange glared out at the empty desert, his brow furrowed in rage. With a final scream of frustration and a last swipe at the dragon’s belly, he too vanished.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Hunt for Sir Editor

This is just a very quick post before I go to bed. Brandishing my red pen like a an awesome ninja sword, I set to work on editing my lovely, thick manuscript this evening. Not too long ago, I finished finding all the silly mistakes in the hard copy I printed out a day ago, and then corrected them in the digital version. Thus, step one of my brilliant plan for world domination - uh, wait, sorry - step one of publishing Soulless is complete! Well, technically step one was writing the thing, and the first edit was step two, but whatever.
Now I must go on a hunt for several reclusive creatures known as beta-readers. I'll need people who are not so friendly as to be scared of giving me hard truths, and who can give me insightful details on how I've screwed up characters, plotlines and flow. Also to catch all those other nasty little spelling errors I might have missed. So, once I gather these knights of the red pen, I shall be marching onwards to the second edit!

Feeling: Awesome, but tired.
Wearing: Senior shirt and blue pants.
Listening to: Nothing. I can't read and listen to music at the same time.
Eating: Nothing, but I had some yummy post-Easter MnMs that were on special.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Geek in Progress

See that? That, ladies and gentlemen is what happened today. I finally printed out the Soulless manuscript. It is a whole inch thick slab of delicious novelly goodness. And it weighs more than a jar of salsa dip. I didn't really have anything else heavy on my desk to compare it to.

Anyway. Printing it all out has been my first step towards editing. I find that seeing the words on paper allows me to catch mistakes better than on the computer screen. It also allows me to scribble all over it in red pen, adding notes in the margins and what-not. Also, some random advice to all you other aspiring authors out there: read your manuscript aloud. I have read that it helps a ton during the editing stage of a novel. It helps you catch lots of other things - sentences that seem too long, weird dialogue, commas in the wrong place, etc. I actually did quite a bit of this back in February. I printed out several chapters and read them to my mother during the five-hour drive down from my hometown to the dormitory where I spend my academic year. She's really excited about me finishing this book - what she really wants though, is to see it turned into a movie. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to see my story as a movie one day, but first I have to publish the silly thing. At least my plan to turn her into a geek seems to be working. I've slowly been re-introducing her to fiction and fantasy in the form of TV shows and this book (Insert maniacal laugh here.)

One thing that really weirds me out about writing is that rereading what I've written takes me hours to do. For some reason it doesn't feel like it should take me that long - that it shouldn't take as long as reading an actual book does. Then it clicks in my brain - it takes so long to read because it is an actual book. Cue more excited wacky-waving-inflatable-flailing-arm-tube-man dancing.

In other news not writing related, I have a new pet - and I say pet quite loosely. I live on the second floor of my dormitory and my window looks out into a rather scrubby garden. A beautiful black bird called a drongo has taken up residence right outside my window. He sits on the same branch every night. He has meticulously cleaned and stripped other branches and leaves off this one particular whippy little bough. It is highly amusing to watch his continued efforts at removing any other unwanted specks from his perch - it often causes him to hang upside-down. I have named him Batman, on account of the fact that when he sleeps, he's all hunched over and broody looking, exactly like the batty superhero by the same name. Even during the day his persona suits him. Flitting around, looking sleek and handsome, making lots of noise and mischief, is a little feathery Bruce Wayne.

Feeling: Hungry.
Eating: About to go to dinner. Although I had five lollypops yesterday. I don't think it was good for me...
Wearing: Short shorts and a black Stussy tee.
Listening to: A very short playlist consisting of two songs. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) by the Eurythmics, and the cover done by Marylin Manson. Such an awesome song.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tom and Jerry

What an awful morning. 'Tis way to early to be up and on the computer. Thus I bid you bad morning, fillies and gentlecolts.

Here is the next Passage of the Planeswalkers installment! Enjoy!

Mange’s combination of a great sword, two harpoons, the blood and gore from several different monsters and the skull from a fifty foot snake as a helmet, was really quite intimidating, despite the fact that he was only four feet tall. When he turned on the menace, he could quite literally make people wet their pants. For the second time in as many days, he sent the shopkeeper running, screaming for the back rooms. He grinned and shoved the small pile of gold on the table into his bag, then turned to the rest of the group. Today, there were no rookies among them. Lereahl, the roguish half-elf stood in the corner, looking shifty. Jet-Ulfgar, the red-bearded dwarf was thumbing his axe in another aisle, waiting impatiently for their next adventure. And Rathalohse, the slim ranger with the top hat full of cheese stood behind Mange, staring off into the distance. The slight smile on his face could only mean he was thinking about dairy products.

The gates of Liseth, the magical portal between realms, stood high and glittered in the evening sunlight. The four companions stepped through, into the blinding white magic, all quite used to the strange buzzing sensation by now. Another few steps and they felt themselves enter the new world on the other side of the portal. They were immediately hit by the iciest blast of wind any of them had ever felt. Mange and Lereahl immediately began to shiver. All four of the travelers tried to blink the dazzling white portal magic from their eyes, only to realize that this world was no easier to see through. They were standing in the middle of a howling blizzard, on what appeared to be a flat, blasted ice plain. The wicked wind was so bad that the name of this frozen realm, which any Planeswalker would have heard whispered to them upon arrival, was instead snatched away.


“It’s s-so c-cold,” yelled Lereahl over the wind and between his chattering teeth.
“We need to find shelter!” called Jet over the blasting snow. The group nodded shakily and shuffled off into the blizzard. They had not walked far when they saw something dark on the ground ahead. Approaching it, they saw a large set of polished black steps leading down to a doorway made of similar black stone. They hurried down the stairs. Strangely, the wind was almost at a standstill in this crack in the plain and the black stone gave off a small amount of heat. The four stomped and wrung some warmth back into their hands and feet as they inspected the black double doors. They were covered in images of crossed war hammers and axes and short men with huge beards, etched forever in this black stone in warlike poses.
“Hmph. Dwarvish carvings,” grunted Jet, folding his arms crossly. Mange looked at him strangely.
“You don’t like dwarves? How can that be? You are a dwarf,” he said.
“Doesn’t mean I like them. My clan was cruel to me growing up. I was always different. ‘S why I chose to live in the great Planeswalker city when I found I had the ‘spark’,” replied Jet.
They were just about to argue whether or not it was safe to push open the black doors when there was strange, cracking, rumbling sound. It was audible even over the roaring of the storm. They turned to see something enormous burst from the ice, not twenty feet away from the top of the black stairs. The huge, white and blue body grew and grew, stretching up into the storm, fifty – one-hundred – two-hundred feet straight up. It growled, a deafening roar of ice and fury and began lowering its great mandibled head to the ground, sniffing at the new smells of warm flesh.
“Oh… my… gods…” muttered, Lereahl, standing frozen, staring at the monstrous creature. “SNAKE!” He screamed and threw himself at the black doors. The great white worm however, was more interested in the skinny ranger. Rath turned white as the huge head turned to face him. He reached into his pack and grabbed the first thing his hands touched and threw it at the creature, hoping to distract it. The triangle of lovely yellow cheese was snatched up by the blazing winds and disappeared into the blizzard.
“No! My cheese!” howled Rath, launching himself after it.
“No! Everybody inside! Now!” yelled Mange, grabbing the back of his jacket and shoving him through the slightly open doors after Lereahl. He grabbed the reluctant Jet and dragged him inside too. It was not a moment too soon, as the huge white worm struck at the black door, slamming it shut and throwing them into pitch blackness. It threw itself again and again at the door, but after a while, there was silence.
“Wow. It’s really dark in here,” said Mange, waving his hand in front of his face. It so dark in fact, that he somehow managed to smack himself in the face, and nick a finger on his snake skull helmet.
“Ow,” he muttered, and then pulled out a torch. With a spark, the magical torch lit. The flickering glow illuminated a massive cavern. Enormous pillars and heavy, stone carvings of the same, warm black stone filled the hall.
“How many torches do you have?” asked Lereahl, peering into the vast darkness beyond.
“Just the one,” replied Mange.
“Only one?”
“Don’t worry. This one cost me a pretty penny – it’s ever-burning.”

The first door they found was a huge archway that was filled with black stone rubble. They moved onto a door that had a strange carving over the archway. It looked like a completely normal face, albeit with large, horrible fangs. The door was the same, warm black stone. Mange, obviously a bit excited from the terrifying encounter with the giant white worm, charged the door with his shoulder. The tiny halfling bounced comically off the black stone.
“Er, did you think to try the handle first?” asked Rath. Lereahl sniggered in the darkness behind them.

The corridor behind that was lined with more doors. They picked one at random and pushed their way in. This room was smaller. In the centre was a long table at which stood high backed chairs. There were maps and charts all over the room and a great huge parchment on the table, littered with tiny war figurines.
“Ooh! Army men!” said Rath, rushing forwards to play with them. The others stepped into the room, looking around carefully too. Rath and Jet had now somehow acquired a biscuit each. They each took a bite and then eyed the others’ biscuit, seemingly jealous of the other’s biscuit flavour.
“Trade,” they said in unison and swapped their half eaten biscuits. This transaction was so odd, that the others had failed to notice the huge wolf, with a slight, magical blue aura standing quite still in the corner of the room. The huge, white-furred creature lunged at Jet, latching powerful jaws around his arm, causing him to drop his biscuit. The great wolf growled and shook its head, meaning to throw Jet about, but the Dwarf was made of stronger stuff and would not be moved. Instead, he pulled out his axe and gave it a chop across the chest. The wolf growled, fell back, but then lunged again, fastening its teeth around Jet’s leg. Jet kicked the wolf’s jaws away, stood up and charged at it. His shield clouted the wolf fairly on the head, stunning it and allowing him to pin it to the ground. Lereahl rushed up with his sleek dagger drawn and slid the blade between two ribs. Mange, his bloodlust already stirred by the huge white snake, raised his great sword and let out a terrible cry. Even Jet looked quite terrified as the halfling rushed forward to cleave the wolf in two. Thinking it defeated, Jet got up and walked away, leaving the two halves of the beast gushing blue, crystallizing blood all over the black stone. However, the wolf was not done. Somehow, the front half of the wolf, still snarling and thrashing, hauled itself up. The now bipedal wolf threw itself at a stunned Rath. The sight was truly impressive. Its jaws closed around his throat, but just before it ripped out his jugular, mixing red blood with blue, the wolf went slack and fell with a muffled thump, dead on the ground.
“What a committed creature. Even with only two legs it was going to try and kill us. Its head will make a fine trophy,” said Mange, striding forwards to lop it off. Lereahl came forward too, looking at the glowing blue and white pelt.
“Interesting. Want to help me skin it?” he asked the eager halfling. When the skin was finally separated from the carcass, Mange hesitated for a moment, then licked the pelt. Lereahl stared at him, shocked. Rath however wanted nothing more to do with the wolf, having nearly had his throat ripped out by only half of it. He sat down and pulled out the beer he had packed.

“A manta ray…” said Lereahl, shaking his head.
“Yup,” replied Mange.
“Seriously, a manta ray?”
“Yes. A manta ray.”
“That cloak will let you turn into a manta ray. Swimming, breathing underwater – the whole shebang?”
“Apparently,” replied mange, fingering the new cloak. He had found it in another room they had cleared out. Why dwarves in a frozen wasteland had ever needed a cloak to turn oneself into a manta ray, they would never know. Lereahl shook his head in amazement and turned back to Rath, who was still fiddling with the lock on the last door.
“Dude. I’ve already tried it. You’re not going to be able to get it open. I’ve been picking locks since-”
There was a tiny click and the ranger grinned at Lereahl as the door swung open. Lereahl glowered at Rath and folded his arms.
Inside they filed, looking around at more polished black obsidian. In the darkness though, there was a strange glow. It was as if mist was hanging in the room. The group gasped when they saw what it really was. Hanging in the air was a translucent figure. It’s features were blurred, but one could easily see the many tiny barbs that protruded from its wispy body, bleeding silvery, gaseous blood. The specter looked mournfully at them and then gestured slowly to the left and right walls of the room. With a soft sigh, it vanished.
“Well. That was weird,” said Mange.
“Indeed,” added Lereahl. “You know, I’m actually kind of beginning to wonder whether this is all a bit too easy. I mean, the last few rooms had nothing in them but abandoned stuff and empty shelves. It feels like there should be trap-” The word wasn’t even halfway out of his mouth when Rath spotted a huge chest at the back of the room. Rushing forwards, he stepped on a pressure plate.

“Ooow…” moaned the ranger, pulling out another dart.
“You were lucky you were wearing armour,” said the halfling. “Otherwise there’s be two rather mournful ghosts trying to warn others about that trap.”
“I told you so…” muttered Lereahl,  looking rather smug. Rath glared at him. Not only had the booby trap peppered him full of dart holes, but the others had demanded that he share the thousand gold pieces he found in the chest at the back of the room. In another room where they had fought fiery demon imps – Mange had cleaved one of these in half too - They had also found a small bag of gems. Lereahl was unimpressed by the quality of the stones, and confused by the strange image of a slug-turtle beast on the bag, but pocketed them anyway.
As they headed back to the great, pillared cavern, there was a sudden shudder. The black floor beneath them shook and a great grinding and cracking noise could be heard from the cavern ahead. The earthquake shook the hallway again and again, but then the floor grew still. Ahead the sounds of grinding rocks continued. It actually sounded like something was munching on them. Cautiously, the four planeswalkers ventured into the now rubble strewn cavern. The opposite wall was now a great, gaping black hole. Sitting in the hole, shoveling rocks into its vast, bloated, mottled yellow-green belly was a slimy, many eyed beast. It was enormous. It towered over the companions, scooping rocks and slime into its gaping maw with blunt, flipper like appendages. It looked like a horrible cross between a giant slug and a turtle. And even though the four raised their weapons, and several of the eye stalks swiveled to watch them, the beast seemed quite content to continue eating rock.
“Well. That’s different,” said Mange, lowering his sword.
Jet was staring up at the beast, his brow furrowed.
“Delver,” he said suddenly.
“Pardon?” asked Rath.
“It’s called a delver. Creatures that live underground. They tunnel for miles and miles, just eating rocks. They can go on murderous rampages, but generally, they just like to eat dirt.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I read it in a biology book.”
“A book? You? A dwarf actually read a book?” Lereahl was pretending to be aghast. Jet punched him.
“Shut up half-blood. It was a good book. And besides. I know something that could make this beast quite useful to us,” he said. “Give me that pouch of rotten gems you found earlier.”
“Why? They’re mine,” replied Lereahl, rubbing his arm where the dwarf had punched him.
“Give them to me,” he growled. Lereahl rolled his eyes.
“Fine. They’re probably not worth anything anyway.” He pulled out the leather pouch and handed it to Jet, but not before noticing the strange picture on the bag again. A turtle-slug. A remarkable resemblance to the vast creature licking rocks before them now.
“Oh…” breathed Lereahl, understanding.
Jet moved slowly towards the gargantuan beast. Most of its eyes were fixed on its meal, but more and more of them began to flick over to wear the dwarf trod. It slowly stopped sucking and munching on rocks and made a noise like it was sniffing the air. It froze suddenly and all its eyes were on Jet. The slime around its huge mouth flowed even faster now and it gave a quiver of excitement. In fact, the huge slimy creature looked exactly like a giant drooly dog, waiting for a treat. Jet got as near as he dared and then tossed the bag of gems into the creature’s maw. The delver snapped them up and made a satisfied, if disgusting slopping, grunting noise. Jet waved to get its attention again and then pointed with both hands towards the caved in corridor. With a bound surprising for its size, the delver leapt towards the rockfall and began munching happily away at it, clearing the way for them.

The now cleared tunnel led deep into the darkness. The ever-burning torch revealed another cavern, just as large as the one before. Here, the walls were thick with carvings and drawings of war scenes and battle and the shedding of Dwarven blood. Against the back wall there stood a huge stone throne and beside it, two decorative gargoyle heads spewing molten rock. Before the throne however, knelt six dark figures. Upon hearing their approach, the figures rose up and turned towards the travelers. Six dwarves stood before them, dressed in full armour. Three of them carried heavy shields, the other, enormous war axes. Every one of these dwarves was pale, emancipated, sickly. Their eyes were sunken and mad. They looked as if they’d been locked away in the darkness down here for too long and had long ago lost their minds.
“Goblins!” one of them rasped. The troop began to move forward.
“Uh, I assure you, we are not goblins,” said Lereahl, moving to the back of the planeswalker pack, his hands raised in a peaceful gesture.
“Lies!” hissed another dwarf.
“We must kill the goblins! In the name of King Tordek!” growled another.
Diplomacy failed, Mange did what he did best – scaring people. He drew himself up to his full – which is not saying much – height and roared at the oncoming dwarves. The snake skull was obviously too much for one of the axe wielding dwarves, and he fled into the darkness, crying. The other five attacked. Rath was quick on the draw and managed to slide and arrow right between the eyes of one of the shielded dwarves. He toppled back slowly, landing in the arms of his comrade behind him.
“Jerry! Nooo!” cried the dwarf. Arrows, axes and swords began flying. Mange, with another show of strength and ferocity managed to leap forward and behead another axe wielding dwarf. He leapt to the side, the enormous swing carrying him into the shield of another enemy. The dwarf behind the shield’s eyes widened as his brother fell, head rolling away.
“Nooo! Tom!” he cried.
Meanwhile, Jet had landed a solid blow, and cleaved another enemy’s head from his shoulders. Lereahl, in the back, had been disabling their axe swinging arms with arrows to the shoulders. His crossbow seemed to have a thing for shoulders. Rath, further back still, grinned evilly and took a potshot at the dwarf who’d fled in fear. The dwarf cried and ran further into the darkness, an arrow now protruding from his buttock.
With another great swing, Jet managed to lop the second last dwarf’s arm off. Floored, the dwarf gurgled and lay still. Mange was a blur as he raged past, screaming as he leapt onto the last dwarf. With three huge strokes of the sword, the last dwarf was reduced to six, bloodied, separate chunks. Mange panted as he stood over the carnage.
“I’m going to have to start calling you the Great Divider if you keep this up. The wolf, the imp and now this poor fellow. You love your division,” tutted Lereahl.
They walked past the bloodied corpses, wiping down weapons and sheathing them, interested to see what they could pilfer from the gem studded throne. Several large gems were loose and easily pocketed. Jet, however, had a keener eye and picked up a small, golden ring. Upon putting it on, to his and every one else’s astonishment, he disappeared from view completely.
“Wow. A ring of invisibility,” said Rath, fiddling with a gargoyle head. Lereahl eyed the dwarf jealously when he reappeared. He would have really liked an artifact like that. He shook his head suddenly.
“Wait. Guys. Doesn’t this seem familiar to anyone? Great underground caverns, a lost dwarven city, the threat of goblins, a halfling, a dwarf, a human and an elf travelling together, and a ring that makes it’s wearer invisible?”
The others looked strangely at Lereahl, momentarily distracted from their pilfering.
“Nah,” they said in unison and went back to stealing. Lereahl’s brow was furrowed for only a few moments more before he shrugged and went back to work too.

Lereahl placed the large, gleaming aquamarine gem on the glass countertop. He saw the jeweler’s eyes widen momentarily, but then a perfect poker face was back in place. He sighed, fixed a glass to his eye and peered at the sparkling blue stone.
“Hm… Well, it’s nice. But I’m afraid it’s worth only about 250 gold pieces,” the man said.
Lereahl rolled his eyes. He had it under good advice that the stone was worth nearly twice that much. He sighed and leant forward to where the jeweler was still peering at the stone through the eye piece. Lereahl reached out with a finger, placed it under the man’s chin and gently tilted his face up.
“Now, are you sure about that?” he purred. His eyes were soft and his most alluring smile so close to the man’s face. The jeweler was stunned. His breath caught in his chest and something clicked in his head. This beautiful, blond, half-elf had made him realize that he was in fact, gay.
“Will you go on a date with me?” he whispered, his legs feeling like jelly. Lereahl sat back, a little stunned that for the first time batting his eyelashes had actually worked. But he recovered quickly.
“I’m sorry darling, but I am taken for the moment,” he said sweetly. The jeweler’s face fell. Lereahl stroked the man’s chin.
“But don’t despair. I may one day come back from my travels to find you,” he said softly, his grey eyes sparkling.
“Okay…” breathed the jeweler.
“Now, about this gem…”

Lereahl left the jeweler’s a few minutes later, a mischievous grin on his face. His money bag was 700 gold pieces heavier and he could hear the jeweler telling his wife he wanted a divorce.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ooh... Shiny...

Good day, gentlemen, gentiles and gentoos.

It is early Monday morning, which means this is the next installment of the Passage of Planeswalkers! Yay! This is our third dungeon crawl and our group was switched up a little. Three of our original party members are still starring in this novella, but there are also three new characters. Please enjoy.
It was another day and thus another adventure for our small band of planeswalkers, which today, had grown even smaller. Lady Celerean and her samurai compatriot had been unable to make it into town. Their horse had broken down. So, while gathering some items for their next foray into the unknown, Jetulfgar the axe-happy dwarf, Lereahl, the rather flirty half-blood elf, and Mange the halfling with an inferiority complex and a sword as tall as he was, kept an eye out for anyone they could rope into being meat-shields.
In the next shop, where Mange managed to send the keeper screaming into the back room, they happened across a few such individuals. The first introduced herself as Dragonheart. She was tall for a halfling – which Mange took as a great offence – and wore a curious combination of silver hair and purple eyes. She held a crossbow close and a dagger closer. Then there was Andrew. An exotically named human, he was incredibly young for a fully fledged cleric. Strange clear eyes peered from under a black fringe, and his gaze lingered longest on Lereahl as he fiddled anxiously with the new silken rope he’d just purchased. The last fellow was also human. Strapped across his back was a great longbow and on his head, a tall top hat.
“I am Rrrathalohse,” he declared, bowing and removing his hat, “but you don’t have to roll the ‘r’.” Before he swept his hat back onto his head, the company could see that it was full of something yellow.
“Was that cheese?” asked Mange.
“Yes indeed,” replied Rath.
“Your hat is full of cheese?”
“Is that a problem?”
“… full of cheese…”
“I really just like cheese.”


The motley warriors stepped through the crystalline gates that stood in the heart of the great planeswalkers city. For some of them, the blinding whiteness was now quite familiar, but for Andrew and Rath, the tingling magic was quite alien. This was their first journey through the portal. This was highly apparent for when they stepped through the strange world beyond, the shock hit and Andrew fell to the ground and started twitching.  When they had stopped marveling at his weak shudders, the rest of the group looked around cautiously. Rath sneezed. The room they were in was only average sized, but every conceivable space was crammed with dusty books. The walls were lined with shelves and there were stacks and mazes of books on the floor.
“Wow. That looks like a lot of books,” said Lereahl.
“Yeah. Lots of books,” agreed Jet.
“Never seen so many books,” added Mange.
“Yup. Books,” said Dragonheart, nodding sagely.
Mange, Lereahl and Jet headed towards one wall, while the others, minus the still incapacitated Andrew, were exploring the other side of the room.
Mange paused as he heard a strange creaking noise and was able to scoot backwards as one of the bookshelves against the wall was disturbed and began toppling towards them. Jet and Lereahl were unable to get out of the way and were buried in books.
“Ow,” came a muffled voice from beneath the aged pages. “Definitely feels like a lot of books too.”
On the other side of the room, Rath and Dragonheart had disturbed what appeared to be a nest of shredded scraps of scrolls and books. In the nest, now squirming and squealing, were three dog-sized cocoons made also from shreds of old scriptures. Dragonheart was quick to leap away from the creatures, and was able to slay one of them. Struggling out of the wreckage of the bookshelf, Lereahl noticed the danger and was able to loose off a bolt that landed with a squelch in one of the writing creatures. Jet, also struggling from the book pile, let out a great battle cry and ran forward to bash the last one on the head with his shield.
When the fighting was over, the companions saw that there were now two directions in which they could go. There was a small wooden door behind them, and a long, dark corridor before them. They chose to try the small wooden door first. They were nearly all through it into the dark hall beyond when they remembered Andrew, who was still lying, shaking on the ground.
“Does he have to come with us?” asked a rather disgusted Mange.
“I suppose so. Should I give him a kick?” asked Jet.
“Nooo! I shall hug him,” declared Lereahl, bounding forward with a large grin. The tall, blonde rogue hugged the young boy tenderly. All who witnessed this were not sure what to say, but the young cleric was able to stand after a while. He stilled looked dizzied though. Jet meanwhile had found a rather gripping book on biology. It was odd to see a dwarf learning something. He looked almost constipated.
So, off they went, into the next room. This one was much different. There were no books here. The room was circular, and paved with gold-flecked black marble. It was a stately room with sculptures and empty display cases. Perhaps someone had been here recently to remove their contents. Also unlike the previous room, this one was spotless. There were four small robots scooting all over the floors. They were small and shiny silver with little spindly legs. They seemed to be the perpetrators of the incredible cleanliness.
“Ooh… Shiny…” crooned Mange and Dragonheart in unison. They immediately began to plan how to catch one. Rath however, drew his bow and shot one. The arrow glanced off the shiny metal plate. All of the bots suddenly stopped and turned towards the six adventurers. They rose up on their spiky legs, emitted an annoyed crackling noise and began stalking towards the attacker.
“Man. You’re so mean. A robot would have been a cool pet. Now we have to kill them all,” whined Mange, who stepped forward to slam his war hammer down on one scuttling bot, leaving a square print in its now crushed carapace. Rath and Lereahl began firing off arrows. Jet managed to pin one under the edge of his shield and stabbed it to death with the butt of his battleaxe. The young cleric however, was of no use at all and threw up messily all over the floor.
When the bots were dead, disassembled and divided equally between the kleptomaniac halflings, the group moved off into another hall that led off this new room. Lereahl lagged behind a little, his grey eyes darting here and there, searching for any treasures the cabinet ransackers had missed. There really was nothing left on the glass shelves, but something did catch his eye. Tucked under one of the legs of a cabinet, was a small, yellowed scrap of paper that the cleaner bots had somehow missed. On it was a strange numerical code. Lereahl didn’t have the time to stop and ponder it, so he pocketed it.
In the next corridor, another bookshelf fell, narrowly missing Dragonheart, who slipped beneath it with a terrified squeal. When the dust settled, the rest of the companions climbed over the wreckage.
“Another bookshelf? Seriously?” said Mange, struggling through the rubble. “There’s something weird about this place. The shelves are possessed, methinks.”
The others simply laughed at him.
The next room’s door was a strange one. It was heavy as if it was being sucked closed while they tried to open it. They all managed to make it through though. The room beyond was another circular one. It was much darker. The dim light was red and glinted off several different display cases. They were frosted glass and looked quite enticing. Rath darted forward eagerly to one of them. He opened the lid, stuck his hand in – and emitted a blood-curdling scream as the cabinet bit down on his arm. The others rushed forward to help the poor, trapped ranger. The glass cabinet was not actually that – it was in fact a cleverly disguised mimic. The group went at it with swords and a mace. Lereahl considered shooting the creature, but decided that the others were handling it well and flounced off to rummage and pilfer in the other cabinets.
Mange struck the mimic with a huge blow from his great sword. The strike carved into the creature’s belly and it began to bleed sawdust. Jet grabbed onto the crying, bleeding ranger and heaved on him. Rath’s arm was wrenched free of the mimic’s jaws and he went flying, sliding along the floor and crashing into the farthest wall. Dragonheart leapt up onto the now shuddering, keening mimic, and point-blank shoot it in the head. It crumpled.

Back down the corridors they traipsed, examining some fancy new items they had found in the cabinets. Rath, while his hand was trapped in the mimic, had actually managed to grab onto something. The sword, aptly named ‘Wind’ was short and tapered, and returned to its owner if thrown in battle.
In this hallway, another bookshelf tottered and dumped its contents on Andrew.
“I told you! These things are possessed,” squeaked Mange. Only a few people chuckled this time. Some were beginning to wonder if he was right.
Up ahead of them was a broken door. Peering through it, the adventurers in the front could see huge nest. There were more cocooned larvae here, but also six huge caterpillar-like creatures.
“Ew. They have human hands…” whispered Dragonheart.
“Manopillars,” said Lereahl in a low voice. It seemed an apt name for the beasts.
“So, how are we going to take them out?” asked Jet.
“Full on attack!” said Mange.
Dragonheart shook her head. “We need to try and sneak attack them first. It will give us an advantage.”
“Okay. Go ahead,” said Jet. Dragonheart nodded and turned to the door. She drew her crossbow and readied herself to creep into the room. She took a step forward – straight onto a piece of broken bookshelf and some crunchy old scrolls. All six of the manopillars whipped around and stared at her.
“Oh,” she muttered, eyes wide. The beasts attacked, biting at Dragonheart and Mange who leapt in to defend. Two of the creatures that lunged towards the taller halfling hit her hard, knocking her to the ground. Andrew, who was already at the back of the group, ran away screaming.
Jet lunged forward too, but tripped into the room, rolling into the creatures’ nest, becoming entangled in some sticky, thread like gunk they used to line it.
“It’s in my beard!” he roared.
Lereahl and Rath begin shooting past the only standing halfling, trying to kill two wriggling beasts that had begun to shoot blobs of the same sticky, web-like gunk.
Andrew had calmed down considerably after reaching the safety of the previous room. He had sat down and was flipping casually through a book. Once in a while he would peer down the corridor, waiting to see if the monsters were all gone.
The two web spitting manopillars turned to Mange, all but one of their brethren slain. Two gobs of sticky white were fired at him, but instead hit Jet, who accidentally leaped in front of the halfling. The sticky white strands wrapped around the dwarf, encasing him completely. He fell to the ground and rolled slowly towards the centre of the nest where a bunch of hungry looking larvae begin to crawl towards him. He squirmed and rolled epically, missing each one of their clumsy bites.
Andrew finally decided that there were few enough creatures left that entering the battle would be relatively safe. He crept to the door where everyone was now in the nest, tackling the last of the big manopillars and avoiding the nips of their larvae. He raised his hands and chanted a few glittering, magical words. With a comical pop, a badger appeared in the midst of the fighting. It was glowing. There was a pause in the melee while everyone sort of turned to look at this glowing badger as it swiped angrily at a larvae, and then disappeared. Green blood spattered Mange as he took the head off the last big beast, but there were still plenty of hungry larvae nibbling on the cocooned Jet. You could hear a muffled growling sound from within the sticky white. The others continued stamping and stabbing at the worms. Jet gave a final, defiant roar, flexed his stocky dwarf muscles and busted the fuck out of his cocoon. He leapt forwards, grabbed the last worm, sliced its head clean off and then squeezed its insides out like a tube of toothpaste.
“Well done,” said Andrew. He was still standing in the doorway, and unlike the rest of the group, who were panting and covered in green manopillar juice, he was quite clean and unruffled.
“Usless…” Growled Jet. He flung the limp worm corpse to the ground. “Bloody…” Red faced and furious, he strode up to Andrew. “Cleric!” Jet punched him squarely in the jaw.