Sunday, May 31, 2015

[Fiction] - The Sacrifice

Another in the series of daily writing, today I have opted to use an image as inspiration.

inspiration found at [link]
It was cold as hell and I still had a ways to travel. My feet crunched through the frozen layer of snow and sank knee deep. It was hard going but my destination was not far ahead. It was another hour before the looming hulk of Mont Naohn rose above me and cast a long shadow in the hazy and late afternoon sun.

Naohn rose hundreds of feet above me. The sharp black rock jutted at angles, providing little hold for vegetation to take root. Narry a single tree is housed on it’s steep and angled sides. The land surrounding the mount is barren and filled with black charred stumps and skeletons of the dead forests that used to call this cursed place home. Grey fog swirled and crawled along the ground as if alive and stalking me. 
They say salvation is often found in the bleakest of places and that is why I had trekked across the lands of man to this place. I sought the removal of a curse that has haunted my people and my family for generations. I sought a way for the future. I had left everything I knew with nothing but a dream and a prayer. And now I was here. 
I crested the low rise and came to the plateau before the base of the Mont. Before me I saw massive stones set in a wide circle, outside the circle stood a scattering of stark white columns - what remained of the once great civilization that held these lands ages before. I stopped. Before me stood the lone arch, created by a stack of stones and a single massive stone that balanced upon the stacks. The fog parted and light washed the stones in warm, yellow light. 
A figure stepped out from behind the arch. He was cloaked in black and a hood covered the head. Long white hair spilled out the edges of the hood but shadows hide the figure’s face. “You have come seeking salvation,” a low gritty voice spoke. It was not a question. 
I gasped, startled at the sound of the voice. “Yes,” I muttered softly. 
“You seek an end to the curse of your people. You expect the fates to alleviate your kind. For what purpose I wonder. For what reason might the fates shine their graces upon you.” 
I did not answer, instead I readied myself beneath my cloak. 
“You dare to think this would come without sacrifice.” Another statement. 
“Of course not, I always planned for a sacrifice to be made,” I pulled my pistol out from beneath my cloak. Aimed. And pulled the trigger.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

[map redux] The Hypogeum at Reggalita

I decided to revisit an old map, in this case a map from about a year ago. The original can be found here:

I really like this map from last year. I prefer maps that are not only pleasing to look at but offer a GM ample opportunities to mess with their players. Maps that offer numerous places to enter and leave the cavern are among my favorites as well and this map boasts at least three different ways to enter the cavern, more if you count the many cave entrances off the large body of water.

Here is a blue-format version of the map

I liked the old map but I feel the new 'style' is cleaner than the formats I was using then. And I figure, what the heck.

Here is a nearly-white version, probably better for printing if you are so inclined.

What do you think? Should I revisit more of my older maps? I have probably well over two hundred maps floating around on my hard drive, some going back more than two years. Should I update some? If you think so, which would you like to see?

[Fiction] - Red Monkeys, Part II

...continuing the story

The monkey attack was startling but the impressive roar of the creatures' fighting snapped me back to reality.

I immediately turned tail and ran for my life. I am not proud of myself.

After a fifteen minute sprint I was exhausted and dropped to my knees at the edge of a deep ravine. I had no idea how long or far I had ran. I was lost.

Large jungle-like vegetation lined the lip of each side of the ravine. I glanced in both directions for any sign of danger but saw nothing to give me the impression either direction should be avoided. My head turned skyward, to where I knew The Gargantua was up there somewhere. I wondered how long it would before I could expect a rescue attempt. Dammit, I uttered lowly, why did I not read SFM 101.17? 
I assumed it could be days before any sort of rescue attempt might be made. Knowing United Planetary Federation marines they might just auto-pilot recall the scout ship back into orbit after their calls go unanswered. I assumed there was some sort of protocol for this kind of situation but I was never an ardent reader or follower of regulations. Thus my current rank of private. My sergeant, the one who said we should have stayed on the scout, called me Stain. This was short for Shit Stain, which he said was what my mamma left behind when ya popped outta her (he had a strange accent). 
I pulled out the NavCom and turned it on. After a few moments of calculation the display reported the scout ship was three miles away, it then plotted a crazy course back to the ship. I knew this course would take me directly back to into the path of the flesh-lasso-skull-beast. I told it to find another path.
Twenty minutes later I was skirting the edge of a large crater when my radio sparked to life, a scratchy and broken voice calling out over the waves. I immediately recognized, and regretted, the voice “Stain! Where the fuck did you run to?”

I stopped and looked at my desperate situation, wondering if I kept quiet, could I survive here alone? Just ignore him and eek out a living on this forsaken jungle rock. I knew the answer and switched on my comms. 
“Yes, Sarge,” I meekly spoke into the comm in my helmet. 
“Speak up Stain, I canna barely hear yer ass!” There was a grunt and a deep breath. “Where you at?” 
“Three miles northeast of the scout.” 
“Fucking-A! See Private? I told you all that physical training would come in handy,” I could hear the excitement and pride in his voice. “Three miles in fifteen or so minutes? Fuck private! That gives me a hard on!”

“Roger Sarge,” memories flashed through my head of the old bald sergeant making me do push-ups in the rain, slogging through miles of mud with a forty pound ruck on my back, climbing over obstacle courses.

“Now, get that young ass over here, I want to get off this rock,” I heard some beeps and squawks in the background. He must be back at the ship. “Just you and I left, get back here asap.” 
“Just us? everyone else?” I swallowed hard, fighting back a choke in my throat. I did not know them all well but they were my battle buddies. That means something. 
“You cryin?” His harsh voice came back. “Fuck private! Get yer pussy ass back here, I saved the dumbass lieutenant too. So you can make up when you get back to the ship. He’s hurt, never win another beauty contest, but he will live to see another birthday." He chuckled on the other end of the comms. "You can kiss and make up when you get here.” 
“Roger, Sarge,” I started to fight my way through the thick foliage using the NavCom. 
It was just three miles back to the ship but I was adding another mile to the west, hoping to avoid that creature. And dreading a return to the Sarge.

Friday, May 29, 2015

[map] The Last Dragonslayer Inn

This map was actually drawn weeks ago and I just today got around to scanning and cleaning the map up. A simple tavern, but really, who can have enough taverns?
The Last Dragonslayer Inn was built as a retirement opportunity for a gentleman adventurer named Gregor Thornbottom after he had slain what he believed to be the last free ranging dragon (not counting, of course, the free ranging dragons of Port O'Mardoun and their many colorful dragons). Sadly Gregor lived only a year after the inn was completed.

The previously unknown tribe of white dragons led by an ancient and large creature by the name Marzoulabatozz appeared and quickly surrounded the inn. After discovering that the forty foot tall rotunda at the front of the inn could sustain his considerable weight, Marzoulabatozz was marvelled by the exquisitely designed building and spared the inn. Gregor was another story however and Marzoulabatozz quickly swallowed the old chap up. In a loud boisterous voice he proclaim the inn was under his protection so long as no person ever claimed the title of dragonslayer. Thus the inn has stood for well over one-hundred and eighty years now, serving up delicious suppers and lagers of high quality.

Today the fine and well known establishment is managed by Lady Gerntuber (not royality, she just likes how it sounds). She runs a tidy but friendly inn with well portioned plates and ample mugs of ale and lagers to suit the most picky of customers. The sword and javelin of the late Gregor still adorn the wall behind the bar though they be covered with a thick layer of dust.
Twenty years ago Marzoulabatozz pain the inn a visit, proclaiming he was on his Death Flight, that being the last flight before he was to pass to the Golden Pastures Beyond. Impressed by Lady Gerntuber he immediately tore a large canine from his jaw and asked her to prominently display impressive tooth. Today the giant tooth hangs from the ceiling in the rotunda thirty feet above the floor. Visitors often swing by the inn simply to ooh and aah over the tooth, they promptly end up purchasing a meal and a souvenir or two. The most popular being the Mini-Pak backpack shaped like the large white tooth.
A few variations on the map:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

[Fiction] - Red Monkeys

My daily writing, inspired by +Wayne Snyder's post this morning:

The giant creature shambled towards my hiding spot in the grove. An overpowering odor washed over me, reeking of rotting flesh, iron, and something else that my mind could not identify. Another step towards me placed it a mere three meters away, I held my breath and looked the creature over. I was hoping to find a weakness.

The creature stood easily eight foot tall and the head at the top had a vague resemblance to a human skull. Across the shoulders was some manner of metal plating adorned with a vast number of dangerous looking spikes. A square box embellished with a multitude of blinking lights of various colors. I could not determine a pattern or purpose for these lights. Massive arms were bare and displayed an amazing level of physical prowess. Across the creature’s waist was a row of skulls that formed a sort of belt. Overall the visage of the creature was terrifying, but the worst thing was the long tube-like fleshy growth that hung from the creature’s belly.

The long fleshy rope-like protrusion hung from the belly and was looped into a circle and held by the creature’s right hand. The protrusion undulated as if it were breathing. This terrified me.

I had seen the creature use this protrusion on my companions after our scout ship had landed on the surface. Initial scans came back inconclusive and garbled. The unfazeable and positive Commander Keen opted to explore, in person, the area directly surrounding the ship. “A short excursion” he had said as he donned his helmet and grabbed a rifle.

Sergeant Forten had advised against it, suggesting that half the team exit while half remained with the ship in a support element on the side mounted cannons. Commander Keen, ignored this suggestion and had the entire team gear up. He then opened the door with a bright and cheery smile across his face.

He died with that protrusion covering his face.

We had barely been outside the ship for five minutes when the thick foliage around the landing site suddenly parted and this behemoth of a creature stepped out. We all froze but I quickly determined this thing was not friendly and meant us harm. This creature’s protrusion struck with blinding speed and engorged itself around Lieutenant McNulty’s helmet. I heard a crack almost instantly and then a disgusting slurping sound. Fright took hold of my mind and I sprinted away from the team.

Unfortunately this meant in a random direction and not towards the ship. My strides were long and strong and I soon found myself lost and unsure of the direction of the ship. I crossed a stream of purplish liquid and found a thick grove of trees to hide behind. I then rested a moment trying to catch my breath.

Moments later the creature appeared across the stream and climbed the small hill leading to the grove. It now stood across the grove, staring directly at me despite my cover. It took a step.

And that’s when the fucking red monkey leapt from the bushes and attacked it…

Monday, May 25, 2015

[Fiction] - Memorial Day


I stopped at the bus stop and cowered under the meager cover it provided. The rain had begun to fall just after I had left the house and so I found myself without an umbrella. I shivered slightly and attempted to shake the cold, and the rain, from my body.

Suddenly I noticed someone beside me, I had not seen him shimmy into the small shelter. He was young, I guessed he had just broken the two decade line. I gave him the silent nod customary for men these days. Acknowledgement without the dedication, or the offering, of a conversation.

He opted not to play along. “Good morning.”

“Mornin’,” I replied with my not-so homegrown but earned over the years southern draw. I took the opportunity to look the young fellow over as his dress took me as peculiar. He was wearing khaki slacks but they had an odd cut, a line that seemed old fashioned to me. Certainly not something you seen the young folks wearing these days. He wore a thick wool but rain soaked jacket with a collared dress shirt beneath. He looked like he could be heading to church.

“Why you carryin’ flags mister?” He questioned, noticing the small bundle of flags I had under my arm. I was on my way to the cemetery to lay flags on a few of the boys I had lost in the war. Usually the Boy Scouts handle this but I like to place my own on my boys.

“They are for the boys I lost, helps me get through the days without them,” I reached out with an open hand. “It’s James.”

We shook. “Sergeant Jason McNulty, 101st.” I noticed he had a stuffed duffle bag at his feet, it looked like a large green sausage.

“Heading home?”

“Nope sir, heading back to the front, our boys need a hand. They left last week. My Sally was about to have our first so the captain let me stay back.”

“That was certainly kind of him.” I smiled, thinking of my two babies when they were born.

“I am grateful but now it is time for me to head over there and get to work,” His eyes lit up and I could see pride in those eyes. I remembered when I was young and eager like him.

I heard a bus and turned to see one fast approaching, my destination printed on the readout above the front window. I turned to him and place a firm hand on his shoulder. “Well, Jason, you take care of yourself, be safe and come home to raise that babe of yours.”

“I will do my best sir.”

“Tell you what, take one of these,” I handed him a flag from my bundle. “Remind you that there are folks back here praying for you.”

“Many thanks sir, you have a great day.”

I plopped into the seat on the bus and looked back at the bus stop but the sergeant was gone. I looked up and down the street, then across the street, but did not see the sergeant. “Fast little bugger,” I said to myself.
Twenty minutes later the bus pulled away from the cemetery gate and I began trugging up the hill towards the plain white alabaster markers the government provide the boys.

The hour was still quite early. I guessed I had beaten the Boy Scouts because not a single flag flew on the graves. I passed the first row, then the second. I always find it a strange feeling being here among the boys. Comforting, but eerie at the same time. Then I stopped in my tracks.
A single flag fluttered in the breeze three graves over from where I stood.

I looked up and down the rows, the next one, the last one. It was the only flag.
I knew the final resting spots of all my boys and this one was not among them. I shrugged my shoulders and was about to continue to the first of my boys’ graves but something made me stop and instead head towards the single flag.

I nearly dropped my bundle of flags as I read the tombstone:
Sergeant Jason P. McNulty
A CO, 101st Air Assault
6 JUNE 1944
Omaha Beach

Sunday, May 24, 2015

[map] Tinymorphs 2

Been in a bit of a lull in creative juices lately but I managed to pull off another Tinymorph map sheet. Given their small size I can see a GM cutting these out and arranging them behind their screen as they toss together a quick random dungeon.

I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend! Get out and enjoy the sun, dungeons can wait!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

[Fiction] - Building a story using characters

For our next writing assignment we were asked to develop a story focused solely on the observation from a simple sentence and then write a piece where we extrapolate upon this and develop a character based on this merger prompt. This piece is a complete deviation from anything I have ever written before. Heck, I even put a picture of a cute dog on the post.

For example:
‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’

This short description of a real person could be the starting point for a fictional character. 

Who might she have been?
Where was she going?
What did her appearance suggest about her mood or state of mind?
How old was she?
How did she live?

In answering these questions you are starting to build a concrete sense of character. You are starting to get a story.

In the darkness I could only catch glimpses of the woman as the bus flew past the lights along the highway. The effect of the rhythmic lighting was magical, with each brief glimpse offering up a new detail about the old woman to me. I had been deeply involved in a novel until I looked up and she caught my eye.
In her days she was likely a pretty sight with her curly hair and perfectly shaped face. Now she was well beyond middle age with a wrinkled face, the sort one gets from leading a wonderful life filled with smiles and laughter. Still, she was pretty and I bet more than a few older gentlemen would give her a wink and tip their hat. When we first met each others glance I had smiled at her and she smiled nicely back to me. A wonderful and friendly smile. Shortly after the bus began moving she had closer her eyes and fallen asleep, the white noise of the darkened highway rocking her to sleep.
At first glance her clothing looked expensive but with each successive burst of light I discovered otherwise. The edges of her red sweater were frayed with the flash of light. The next one revealed a button missing. The next a stain on the shoulder. The woman had hit upon hard times.
Her one extravagant expense seemed to be the large handbag she held firmly at her side. Her meek arm was wrapped around the top of the bag, holding it tight and safely next to her. I blinked at the next burst of light - I thought I caught movement in the bag. I leaned in.
With the next rhythm of light the top of the handbag slipped open and a small dog's head pop upward. It glanced around, the sweater-matching red bow atop its head bobbing and swaying as its nervous eyes darted around the darkened bus. The little dog struggled and fought to get itself clear of its pretty and soft prison. The next flash and it was on the woman's lap, standing up and licking her face.
She did not move.
The little dog whimpered slightly through four flashes of light. It barked sharply once, drawing the ire of some gruff voice from farther back in the bus. It whimpered again and then spun itself slowly around three times before settling on the woman's lap, its sad eyes staring directly at me.
We locked eyes for another twenty-seven splashes of lights before the bus drew to a stop. The little dog looked up as the five other passengers disembarked, not giving the woman or dog a second glance.
I stood and it turned its little head sideways at me.
I took a few steps toward the door, then stopped and looked back at the dog. "Come on buddy, your going to need someone to look out for you."
It yelped once, looked back at his friend, gave her a quick lick and then trotted after me.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

[Fiction] - Shooter

Yet another piece from my FutureLearn class. For this assignment we were to write something between 200 and 350 words and to focus on the character in the events you describe. I had nothing when I started and then I just dumped this onto the keyboard. Nothing special really but I was happy with how 350+ words just exploded out the gate once I had typed the first two sentences.

One note, all these are posted as-is. No editing or revision has taken place. There are likely spelling errors (I am a notoriously bad speller), grammar errors, and other writing sort of mistakes. These are meant to be quick, prompt driven gushes of writing and not meant to be completed works.

I opened my eyes. Blinked a few times, trying to clear my vision.
Anyone that has stared through a scope mounted upon a high-powered sniper rifle, admittedly a small portion of our population, will tell you it plays tricks with your eyes. You see things, you miss things, and you will even begin to "zone out" as some would say.
Today was no different than any other day. Today I found myself atop one of the many tall buildings that marked the glass and steel skyline of Chicago. I was wedged into a two foot wide gap in the air conditioning machinery that perched on the roof of the Mincler Building with the business end of the rifle expertly hidden among the pipes. Any person, even those with excellent vision, looking my way would simple see a shadowed area in the machinery and a bundle of pipes. 
I blinked again, willing my eyes to refocus. Long observations like this one were not my favorite. I preferred the much more efficient and quick methods that a up close and personal hit allowed. I see the target, I take them out. Done. Go get a bite to eat. These long stake out hits were a pain. 
I had been on the roof since three a.m. having come up to the roof to get situated so as to reduce the possibility that a person might see me moving about on the rooftop. I situated myself and had laid here frozen in place for neigh on eight hours now. My legs ached for my usual morning jog so I began the game of tightening my muscles for thirty seconds then relaxing them for a similar amount of time. Not perfect, but it helps.
Movement in the aperture of the scope caught my eye. The window blind raised in Malcolm's office and I could see his starched white shirt. He wore a pale reddish tie today, I could see it had paisley swirls of a darker shade of red that danced across the material.
I pulled the trigger.

Monday, May 11, 2015

[Fiction] - 500 words of struggling with the blank page, or How I was saved by Mozart

I am taking a course over at FutureLearn and one of the exercises you do is to listen to the radio and write a 500 word story based off that. Something I struggled to do for about four days. I was rather busy at the time as well but that is no excuse. Then this evening I sat at my laptop and stared at a blank page for nearly two hours. It was rather quiet and I opted to open up Pandora, forgetting that I had last listened to the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart station. As the music started up it immediately conjured up an image:  gentlemanly fellow nodding off in a large reading chair, his dress and the decor of the room surrounding him spoke to me of late 1800s. I suddenly began to produce words. What follows is the 541 word result.

I opened the door after the soft knock had awakened me from my late afternoon slumber in my reading chair. My thin coat did little to protect me from the cool autumn breeze that rushed into my home when I opened the door. On the small porch stood a woman.
“Mr. Cross,” she quietly inquired. She was younger than I by easily ten years, small and rather pretty. Her clothing suggested a moderate home, likely married to a young man struggling to provide for his family. I noticed a thin wisp of reddish hair had slipped from its hiding spot under the small lady’s cap she wore. The tops of her soft brown leather utilitarian boots were covered in fresh mud, from where ever it is she had come, she had walked and not ridden.
“Yes, ma’am,” I opened the door completely now that I was aware of my visitor. “Can I help you?” She paused a moment, long enough for it to become uncomfortable.
“Oh! Where are my manners, do please come out of the cold,” I stepped aside and made a motion for her enter. I noted a nervousness in her eyes and she tossed a quick glance up and down my street. “Please ma’am, I have a warm fireplace with a pot of tea brewing. I would could use a visitor to share the brew.”
She gingerly stepped forward. I could see her forward momentum pause as her left foot crossed the threshold of my door. A curious thing. She stopped and removed her outer coat and shaw as I closed and bolted the door behind us. With the cool breeze now vacant from the foyer I could almost sense the warmth slowly soaking into the room from the fireplace in my front room.
“Do have a seat,” I waved her further into the front room towards the grotesque and garish couch Abraham had selected for me. It cast a stark image in the crowded room. The large front window that faced south cast the room awash in bright light and cast a long shaft of light across the room to land upon the fireplace. The walls on each side of the fireplace and the wall opposite the entrance we covered-floor to ceiling- with neatly arranged shelves of books.
The young miss turned the corner and eye drew wide, absorbing the wealth of knowledge that sat upon my walls. She paused in her steps and her eyes danced across the books, reading titles and authors. I believe she had actually held her breath.
She blinked a few times, willing herself back. “Yes? Oh my, yes. What a wonderful collection of tomes. I...I have never seen so many!”
“I am quite proud of my collection,” I smiled and moved to the fireplace to examine the pot warming to the side. “I believe no one should ever stop learning, the world is full of wonder and to stop learning is, well frankly, arrogant. To assume you have learned all there is to learn. You see, I am an astute student of learning. I am…”
“I know who you are,” she stated rather flatly and her eyes met mine. “It is the very reason I have come to you.”