Spear Gate — Chapter Eight, Pt. 1

The sound of voices and liveliness joined the ever present crunching of the carriage wheels and slapping of horse hooves against the dirt. The small windows of the carriage Esmina and her father sat in didn’t provide much insight to the commotion outside, but soon the wheels met cobblestone. They had reached Tal’Doraken.

Berold glanced out the window, looking up into the sky. He gave a short huff, but made no comment.

Esmina sat with her hands folded neatly in her lap. She stared downwards at the seat cushion across from her, trying her best not to offend her father in some ludicrous way. If she was dutiful and patient, perhaps she could get away with some time to herself while they were in the city.

“We’ll be arriving at the inn soon. It will still be a while before the sun sets, which is when we will be heading to the Ministry Offices to get the Night Seal officiated.”

Esmina made eye contact with her father. Her voice was clear, but not aggressive. “I suppose you’ll want me to stay in the room until then?”

Her father frowned. “That is how I would prefer it, yes. But today I will make no such demands. You are permitted to go about the city as you please, so long as you return before nightfall.”

Esmina’s heart leaped with joy. Father allowing her to do as she wished? Without so much as a discussion? She wondered what had gotten into him lately, but dared not question it. Instead, she smiled and nodded. “Thank you, father.”

The carriage slowed to a stop and some words were barked. She could feel movement as the coachman stepped off. A few moments later one of the doors swung open and the middle-aged man bowed to them. “We’ve arrived at the Liar’s Respite, sir. Welcome to Tal’Doraken.”

Berold gestured for his daughter to depart first, and she graciously did so. Taking the coachman’s hand, she took the large step off the carriage and into the busy streets.

There were so many people. Left and right, the lane was filled with dozens, if not hundreds of passersby. People with boxes and carts, horses and a few oxen. Some were yelling at each other or to the general masses of things they were selling, standing on stacks of crates as they did. The buildings weren’t as big as she had expected—none were nearly as large as their own estate, but most were built right next to one another. She had never seen so many people in one place before.

Her father joined the two of them, adjusting his pointed coat as he did. He scanned the nearby area, but with far less wonder than Esmina openly expressed. “Go get our things,” he told the coachman. “I went them brought to our rooms.”

His real job having been done, the coachman looked like he was about to protest, but soon thought better of it. One didn’t object to Lord Berold’s demands.

Her father walked towards the building their carriage was halted next to. The Liar’s Respite, apparently. “Father!” she called after him. “May I go now, or shall I stay?”

He waved a hand, not even turning to address her. “What do I care? Just be here before nightfall.”

Elated, she rushed over to the back of the carriage, nearly bumping into the coachman as he fumbled with her trunk of clothes. “Oh! My apologies. May I?”

“Oh, yes of course, milady,” he grunted. The trunk wasn’t meant to be carried by one man. He set it down and she opened it, pulling out her coin purse and covertly taking her spyglass and stowing that away in the purse as well.

“Oh! Esmina,” Berold said from behind her. “I almost forgot, you’ll need an escort.”

She spun around. “The coachman, I presume?”

“No, no, I need him here. You there!” he yelled, pointing at a man all but lying on the ground, half asleep as he drooled into his scraggly beard. The man, realizing he was being addressed by a nobleman, shot upright immediately. He wasn’t exactly the most sober of individuals in sight. “Eighty dragon marks says you’ll accompany my daughter to wherever she wishes. Just for an hour or two.”

Esmina paled, horror washing over her face. Assigning a drunkard to escort her across town? Did he care at all about her safety? Eighty dragon marks was no small amount, but that man could mug her—or worse—and make three times that besides with all the money she carried with her now.

With one sentence, her father had just thrown away all hope she had for enjoying herself.

D&D — Dialogues 3: The Law of Averages, Pt. 2

Two (in-game) days later. Our party had been rescued by a stranger (the paladin’s new PC), and taken to the secret base of the resistance. The leader, a ripped dwarf lady named Boulderback, says that she could use our help toppling the ruthless leadership of the dwarves currently in command. We owe the resistance our lives, for rescuing us in the first place, but its also personal. We lost a friend in that fight. They would have their help.

The party is instructed to go attack a guard tower at the same time as the rest of the resistance. A coordinated attack meant to be swift and decisive. Our rescuer, a female artificer, joins us for the battle.

Now, it’s worth noting at this point that out of character, I’m telling the monk in our party that Kallos is going to destroy these guys this time around. I (jokingly) argue that since Inflict Wounds rolled so low the first time it hit, the second time I hit with it it would have to deal at least 30 damage. It’s called the Law of Averages. Our monk remains skeptical. Plus, I tell him, it’s my birthday, so the universe has to cut me some slack. Kallos (and I) want revenge for being humiliated in that last fight. And this time, Kallos has a plan.

The party is in an open, garden-like area with statues placed throughout. These provide half-cover, and if we’re careful we can use them to sneak up on the guards.

Kallos casts Invoke Duplicity, making a perfect copy of himself behind a nearby statue. Then he sneaks towards it and fumbles a stealth roll (-1 Dex is a real killer).

As soon as the guards come out to investigate, however, our artificer engages. She deals an incredible amount of damage in the first round, nearly killing a guard right off the bat. The rest of the party moves in to engage while Kallos sneaks around the statues, still not quite involved in the combat.

While the guards are distracted with our warlock and artificer, Kallos sneaks up to the nearest one and casts Inflict Wounds. This time, with Invoke Duplicity right next to me, I have advantage on my attack roll, meaning I roll twice and take the higher number.

I didn’t need the advantage, though. I rolled a 20 on the first roll. I believe this is also Kallos’ first crit.

Now, in this particular session, the way our DM rules crits is “Double dice roll, then max damage”. So, if your attack would deal 1d6 damage, it would turn into 2d6, and immediately take the max without needing to roll, meaning it would automatically deal 12 damage. Inflict Wounds, of course, deals 3d10, so when it crits by these rules, I deal 60 damage.

Now, I didn’t have enough movement speed to get to the boss-man. This guy was just a lackey. He gets disintegrated. Literally.

At this point, the DM has me roll initiative, as I’ve entered the combat. I don’t roll very high, but I still move before the boss. So when it creeps up to my turn again, I walk over to him, and realize it is the same guard captain that killed my friend.

“Thought it tickled last time, did you?” Kallos says, casting Inflict Wounds at 2nd level again. I still have advantage, but again, I don’t need it. I roll another 20 on the first throw. 4d10*2, maxed, equates to 80 damage. (Again, for perspective, Kallos has 27 health. That amount of damage would take him down nearly 3 times over.)

So, having crit with Inflict Wounds twice in a row, he’s dealt 140 damage in one turn. Our monk is at this point nodding sagely. “I didn’t realize how powerful the Law of Averages was.”

Now, this guy doesn’t die. Instead, he does what anyone else would do when faced with certain death at the hands of dumb luck. He turns into a demon.

That’s pretty much the end of the exciting part of the tale. He turns all of his buddies into husks as he mind controls them using lampreys (which was, may I say, exceedingly gross). He keeps fighting Kallos, unwavering, and with his two attacks a turn (and terrible armor due to my wanting to be more sneaky this combat), he doesn’t do so well. And, I kid you not, the die that rolled two crits (not technically back-to-back, since I had advantage) proceeds to roll 4 2’s in a row.

So, needless to say, Kallos doesn’t last long against him. He falls unconscious, and I legitimately thought he was going to die that session. The rest of the party manages to pull through, however, and the would-be valiant end of Kallos Mortani instead became “That time Kallos wasn’t useless in combat”.

Story — Iron: The Sixth World

There are those in the Lower Valley that would teach you of their Mother’s grace. The light of the moon gazes upon the world with a brilliant yet peaceful eye. They cling to their ideals because they are at the mercy of their gods. Without Yone to cultivate their crops, without Umera to bring them light, and without Ienta and Iella to harness the tides, humankind would have no place in this world. If the gods forsake us, they say, we would all be lost.

But there are those of us that do not like being beholden to powers out of our reach.

The Iron’s Chosen see the world differently. It is not a place of submission and acceptance, but one of opportunity and growth. The culmination of thousands of years and eras as new gods emerge and defeat the old.

The first god gave birth to everything. Iltar, whose being was the Sun, blinded the cosmos with his radiance and showed dominance over all. Nothing could withstand him, until Jegzol came. His was the body of the world, and this armor shielded him against his father’s oppressive light, and soon Jegzol became the dominant god. But Jegzol was arrogant. He put all his faith in his armor and paid no heed to his weaknesses. Elene, the lady of waters, saw that his armor had cracks, and so she poured all her substance into him, restraining him with her entire essence of being. In this way, Jegzol was suffocated, and Elene took his body for her own. Now she had both Jegzol’s armor and her fluid form, so she was confident that she could not be overtaken.

It was then, during this third age that Umera, the mistress of the moon, came. Her brilliance was like that of Iltar, yet it was strong and sturdy like that of Jegzol. Like all the other gods, Elene fell victim to Umera’s beauty. But like the farmers will tell you of their Mother, she was no fool. She saw Elene’s craftiness. “Take me if you can,” Umera stated. “But if you falter when I go, you will be cursed with loneliness for eternity.” Elene graciously accepted, but as soon as she did so, Umera had disappeared. You see, Umera cast a spell on Elene, so that she lusts after anything she gazes upon. By doing this, Umera showed her superiority. When in sight, Elene gazes upon Umera’s beauty and leaps for it, but the Mother never stays long.

Eohr, whose form was that of wind, saw this unity and nodded solemnly. There was no way he could defeat Umera on his own now. Elene would protect her, and the two of them together were unstoppable. But Eohr was clever, as well. And so he went to Elene while Umera was away and said, “I see you have great power.”

“I do,” Elene said, but saw none, for Eohr was shapeless. “Who is it that speaks to me?”

“It is I, Eohr,” he replied. “You are cursed to love that which you can see. You cannot see me, and therefore I am immune to your fate. But I see that you are lonely. If I embrace you and hold you tight, will you claim me as your own, rather than the temptress Umera?”

Elene said that she would, and so Eohr embraced her. Elene forsook Umera’s light, because though her curse still held, it knew less sway because she had felt the touch of another. Eohr’s cunning and his union with Elene was the fifth world, and this persisted for many years.

Many of the gods thought that this was the way it was to be. Eohr and his unity of Elene, who still wore the armor of Jegzol were perfect.

Ferreus saw this world, however, and saw weakness. The last few gods had asserted their dominance through cunning, not power. Ferreus knew that strength was the only way to secure an unyielding hold, and so he stole pieces of Jegzol’s body. These pieces were burned, turned white with power. When they cooled into iron slabs, that power remained, and Ferreus used this power to show real strength. The earth, the winds, and the seas were powerless to stop him, and so Ferreus heralded the sixth world: one ruled by superiority through iron. He taught that competition breeds power, and so gave the power of iron to all the lesser beings of the world.

There is strength to be had in cunning and words, to be sure. But no amount of words can slow a blade aimed at one’s throat, and no amount of cunning can stop a crossbow bolt. Remember that should you choose to align yourself with the Chosen.

D&D — Dialogues 3: The Law of Averages, Pt. 1

(Story isn’t ready yet. Will post it tomorrow!)

 

This is one of those stories that prove insanely strange and awesome things can happen just by how you roll the dice. Hilarious characters and circumstances are great and all, but there’s something to be said for the occasional instances where statistics just… no longer applies. In short, this is the story of the time my level 3 cleric dealt over 100 damage in one turn. (And by coincidence, this session took place on my birthday, so I consider it a literal gift from the gods.)

Before we get to that particular session however, some background. Kallos (my cleric) and friends had just cleared out a tunnel to a nearby dwarven village. Upon arriving there, however, the half dozen guards at the gates immediately attacked us, after a brief and pathetic attempt at a peace talk.

The guard captain attacks first, and he has two attacks, meaning he is (at least) two levels higher than us. Considering that, and the fact that they also outnumber us, this sends some serious red flags. So what do we do? The same thing any respectable D&D party does. We charge right in.

Kallos tries fighting toe-to-toe with the captain, since he can easily heal himself if need be. With 18 AC and Mirror Image up, he can also soak up quite a bit of damage, hopefully giving the monk and warlock some time to pick a few off. Our paladin, who was right beside Kallos in combat, takes some savage blows dealt by the captain, who doesn’t seem interested in the many clerics running around right in front of his face.

The battle rages on, and our paladin is forced to disengage. It comes to my turn, and I have exactly one spell slot left. I can cast Cure Wounds on my ally, or…

Hoping to end things then and there, Kallos rushes towards the captain and grabs him, channeling powerful necrotic energy as he casts Inflict Wounds at 2nd level.

I don’t have high hopes for his ability to hit. Kallos has literally never hit with this spell, try as he might. It’s high damage potential (3d10 baseline) is pretty high, but you have to land the attack, and you have to be close enough to touch the guy.

Kallos, miraculously, rolls a 17. So he hits! And since the spell is 2nd level, he gets to add another d10 to the damage. So he has a potential of dealing 40 damage here. And for perspective, at this level Kallos has a maximum health of 27.

In order, the dice I roll show these numbers: 1. 2. 3. 4. A total of 10 damage. Less than half the average amount of damage 4d10 would normally roll. I could have swung my hammer at the guy and dealt more damage, for crying out loud!

Hopes and dreams crushed, the captain snickers. “As reward for fighting so well,” he says, “I’ll only kill one of you if you surrender now.”

We have nothing left. I’ve got no spells, and most of us are on the brink of death as it is. We’ve killed exactly zero guards. Having no other options, (and honestly getting the hint from the DM that this is the way he wants it to go), we accept. Our paladin’s throat is slit then and there, and we’re taken to the dungeon.

 

Life — October Update

The hiatus is over! I took a much longer break than anticipated because, I’ll admit: it was extremely relaxing to have one less thing on my plate for a while. It took no small amount of willpower not to continue, but because of last week’s promise to resume, I’m making myself return! You have past me to thank for anticipating future me’s thoughts. Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

The blog is in an interesting position. The hiatus has allowed me to think about my position as a writer, and what the daily upkeep really does for me. I’m far beyond requiring the self-discipline necessary, which was one of the blog’s primary purposes (aside from directly increasing the amount of content I wrote). In all honesty, I’m seriously considering dropping a lot of the daily posting of the blog in favor of streamlining and improving what I do produce. Especially since the production I’m in opens in two weeks and finals are just around the corner, I won’t have much free time on my hands. Resuming a daily 500 word minimum is the last thing I need. But nothing is set in stone yet (or online? Doesn’t sound nearly as good)—so stay tuned.

As far as writing goes, Spear Gate still has my full attention. I’m putting more focus on Upper Terrace and Varra’s side of the story because Maelys is less important at the moment. I have lots of plans of where I want the story to go, but some of them are a little conflicting. Suddenly getting arrested tends to have that effect. I’m definitely to the point where notes are very important, because I can’t afford to lose my ideas!

I’m sort of all over the place with video games at the moment. Mostly I’m playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, but also, depending on whether or not I’m playing with friends, I’m playing a bit of Overwatch and, more recently, Speedrunners. I’ve recently started playing Heroes of Might and Magic again, as well, and I was surprised to realize that I like 6 way more than 5. It’s far more intuitive!

These last several weeks I’ve been speeding through Critical Role. I had calculated how many hours I would need to put in it per week to finish by the end of the year, but I also wanted to watch the last episode as it was livestreamed. When I found out it was ending very soon, I started watching two or three episodes a day at 1.5x speed. Alas, I’m still on episode 91/115, and 115 was the last episode, having aired last week. I’ve still got 90 hours to power through, but at least I can rest easy knowing that their next campaign won’t start until next year.

As I mentioned earlier, school is pretty stressful. The show I’m in opens at the end of October (and I just realized I’m not sure if I’ve filled out the paperwork yet), and two of my three other classes require a lot of my attention. I’m debating a topic I barely understand very soon, and the unfortunate thing about that class is that I feel as though I’ve got a much better handle on the subject than most other people there. Really though, I just planned out this semester very poorly. It’s all I can do to conserve my energy and just tread water until it’s over.

Other things. On top of school, the next weekend on which I have no plans is over a month away. I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write, but I have to, somehow. Really, things just aren’t going the way I’d like them to be. It doesn’t help that it’s still hot over here. Even with the free time I have I don’t feel like I can relax, so I’m a little at a loss. I think maybe resuming the blog probably works against me finding comfort, but at the same time whenever I take a break it makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Here’s hoping the Daily Dose won’t take too much out of me in the coming weeks. But if it does, a longer hiatus may be the only option.

Spear Gate — Chapter Seven, Pt. 2

Varra sighed a breath of relief. The danger had passed, it seemed. “Captain,” she said, turning to Eathe. “There are things we need to discuss.”

“It seems so,” he nodded.

“It’ll have to wait, though. I have to see to the other Hands. Keep attending to the situation here. I want the palace on high alert for the rest of the day, and triple guard duty until further notice.”

“Yes, Exalted One.” He started to bow, but Varra put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close, staring into his eyes.

“And meet me in my quarters at sundown,” she whispered.

He visibly reddened at that, but his face was stern as he nodded more covertly. Without another word, she turned around the way she had come, making her way towards the entry stairs and the council chamber. The quickest way was in the opposite direction, as the palace had many flights of stairs, but that was towards the Spear Gate. As uncomfortable as it made her in the past, now she was downright scared of it.

The building was soon flooded with guards as the reinforcements Eathe had requested arrived. They had their weapons drawn and were jogging towards the courtyard. She didn’t address them. Even if the threat was gone, she wanted her men as prepared as possible. Now was not the time for relaxation. She did slow her pace in their presence, though. It wouldn’t do them any good to know she was terrified.

She ascended the stairs and braced herself for the argument that was to come. A mental checklist of what was important would help.

The Hands would of course interrogate her on what happened and ask where she had been all this time. That was a waste of time because she knew as much as what the Hands would. She would then turn the conversation into an appeal to recalling the army back to Terrace. A land grab in the Sanguine Archipelago just wasn’t what the country needed right now. Perhaps now the rest of the council would see that.

They would of course bring up her lack of a second, again. The Hand of Defense had become a very dangerous job in recent years. With her mother’s disappearance and Morren’s sudden death just a few years later, Varra was a hurried replacement, and the last safety net of the city. If anything happened to her… Well, in the absence of a second, the duty of the Hand of Defense would turn to the Guard Captain. That brought her a little comfort, but having grown up in Lower Terrace, the Hands would never accept him being formally named second. And so that argument had been laid to an uncomfortable stalemate. That particular argument probably wouldn’t find its resolution today, but she did have an idea in that regard.

The other Hands, Elodrus especially, would also question her about the boy. The boy whose very existence was impossible. There was no doubt in her mind that his presence was connected to the Spear Gate. The staff and the gate’s opening immediately after his arrival confirmed that. He had also confirmed her suspicion that Rozire was involved, though to what extent was still unclear. One thing was certain, though: She would not bring up Rozire’s name. If they connected him with the boy, they might torture him. No. The less important he seemed, the better. At least for now, while Varra found more pieces of the puzzle.

She rounded the bending hallway as she approached the council room. A dozen guards stood outside, white and bronze armor gleaming as they saluted her. She nodded as one of them opened the door for her.

The room opened up into a wide chamber with a small but ornate table in the middle. On the far wall was an enormous window that oversaw the courtyard and the obelisk below. Twenty or more guards waited inside, many of them staring out the window. Varra kept her focus at the table. The seats were arranged in the common painting of Aenias: three left arms and two right. There were no chairs on the ends, and only one of the seats was empty. Four men of pointed robe and silver hair took up the other ones. She wondered once more how her mother had ever managed to identify with them at all.

“Glad you finally decided to join us, Exalted One,” Karayan stated. The Hand of Justice, and the youngest after Varra, though he had seen over fifty summers.

“I had other matters to attend to,” she amended as she took her place among the five.

“I don’t doubt that. Guards?” He glanced over his shoulder where several men waited. “Arrest Varra under grounds of treason against Upper Terrace and Tebrein.”