Childhood innocence

In this time, during which my children and I are stuck at home, I was recently reflecting on the wonder of childhood. It isn’t really odd that we cherish that time and the children around us. In many ways they have a much better world than ours. Theirs is innocent.

I marvel at how simple things can be for them. They wake up. They play. they laugh. They love.; all with their full heart. Sure, they are driving me nuts as I try to teach them in our little “home school” situation right now, but at the end of the day, I’m thrilled that they can continue to enjoy life in a way that adults find difficult.

Adults worry too damn much. We fret over everything. We overthink things. We suffer from anxiety and depression and a variety of other, mostly self inflicted, conditions. Children seem so much freer than us in many ways. It’s no wonder we celebrate them so.

Do they make a mess? Constantly. Do they whine sometimes and complain about things? Of course. It is brutal trying to get them to do their school work from home? Oh yeah. But still, when they give you a hug and tell you how much they love you, it is difficult to not just melt and release all that frustration.

I also loved coaching youth soccer. It was so much fun. They were so hilarious. I loved playing little soccer related games and encouraging them and cheering them on. Their faces light up when they do something good and you celebrate them and I will forever remember those feelings. I even had a child kick the ball into our goal, but he was so excited about seeing the ball go in the net I just cheered for him and gave him a high five anyways. No need to steal his joy; better to let him have it.

So, in a time of anxiety, uncertainty and fear, I take some comfort in the innocence of children. Their in the moment attitudes and joyful hearts give me plenty of hope when it is in short supply. Oh to feel what they feel once more. Sadly, once innocence is lost, it can never be regained.

Game Time!

I first played any type of role-playing game when I joined the army in 1998 and I was immediately hooked. Many enjoy these types of games and for various reasons. I love them for the role-playing and interactive aspect. Obviously I enjoy story telling and these games allow for the players to participate in a dynamic story as a character. I love it.

Years later I’m still playing with some of the old army buddies and some more recent friends as well. Lately, I’ve been enjoying it more than ever. Partially because I don’t have a horrible partner who hates the game and steals the router while I’m trying to play and partially because we’ve formed the most interesting and exciting group I’ve ever played with.

As far as characters go, the bard has always been my favorite for their social strengths and my penchant for womanizing during the game. So once again I am playing Justin Timberlake but I am joined by a halfling thief who uses a whip as his main weapon, a dwarf paladin and a gnome illusionist who pretends to be a necromancer but hates the scent of decay and death. It’s an amazing group. We named ourselves the Perilous Performers as we are former circus performers and we have an elaborate introduction that never gets old, especially since one of us tends to fail a performance check each time we do it.

There have already been a number of very entertaining moments and I will try to blog about them here so that you all can enjoy our adventures along with us.

Cheers to the Perilous Performers!

Excerpt: Sureshot the King

Some of the new words I’ve put down for Sureshot the King…coming soon.

Meanwhile, Vorfar and Makler began making a plan to get into the city once more. This time it would be more difficult as there had just done so. The decided they would travel to the northern end of the city and attempt to gain entry posing as woodsmen helping to bring lumber and supplies into the city. It was the least trafficked area of the wall because there were no well traveled roads there, only a few trappers, loggers and miners entered that area. Besides, it was on the opposite side from their position and so less likely that any search parties would be looking for them there.

When they were satisfied with their plan, they wondered where the prince had gone.

“He is struggling,” Makler suggested.

“Aye, he is,” Vorfar agreed. “It isn’t an easy thing. He’s torn between his loyalty to his father and his friend. In those situations, one’s heart aches because it wants to hold both but you cannot hold both fire and ice in the same hand. He must drop one of them and he does not want to.”

“But I don’t believe Durbar killed his father,” Makler added.

“Perhaps not, but it does not matter. Either Durbar did so because Duke Orthan had to be killed, or someone else killed the Duke and is letting Durbar take the blame. Either way, the young prince is mourning. Not only for his father but for his friend. It is a lot of weight on him. Try to be patient. He does not necessarily mean what he says right now. It is the pain speaking through him.”

”But if Durbar didn’t kill the duke then who did?”

“I surely don’t know. But I do know that his family is cursed with treachery. Never were they fond of loyalty.”

“Are you saying it is possible that Warren killed his father?”

”Many things are possible. In the case of Orthan and his sons, suffice it to say that there is a history of such things. Betrayal runs in their blood.”

Makler looked towards the woods into which Rothan retreated, but he, like the truth, was hidden.

The Enchanter

Just playing with a new character I’ve been thinking about for a week or so. Could be a lot of fun to write stories for him.

There was a tall tower made of stone that rose from the otherwise untamed landscape. Few knew about it at all, even fewer could find it. Besides the fact that it was far from organized society, its creator and master guarded it with an enchantment that disguised it further, making it appear like the trees that surrounded it unless you were very near. Many times, curious explorers and adventurers walked by the tower without the slightest notion that it was there.

The master of the tower was renown by those who believed he existed. Many figured he was a myth, but indeed he was alive and well. The secrecy and camouflage that enveloped the tower was purely do to its master’s business.

Inside the tower a man with a completely smooth bald head and smooth face worked in the highest room from which he could see for miles in all directions. The room was littered with various gems and items. Virtually everything could be found there from a variety of arms and armor to jewelry and articles of clothing. Anything a person could wield or wear was available to the master of the tower. At the top of the tower the man who dwelled there took ordinary items and transformed them into weapons and clothing of tremendous power and prestige. In the tower lived and worked the greatest enchanter the land had ever known. His enchantments were the best and most demanded in the world and so his life became simultaneously renowned and dangerous. His name was Borisov and there was as much mystery surrounding him as there was the enchantments he created.

Curses and crashes came from the room as the master worked trying to find the correct equation for making an item.

“Why did I take this order?” he grumbled as he ran his hand across his smooth head. “This is a pointless item anyways.” The enchanter held up a crown adorned with gems and glared at the stones. “Trash. Greedy gnomes selling me worthless gems. That’s the last time I do any business with them. Dwarves only from now on.” He yanked a topaz from a setting in the crown and threw it across the room where is shattered.

Borisov stomped to a corner were there were a variety of bowls filled with gems of various shapes and sizes. His eyes were squinted and sharp as he dug through the various bowls searching for just the right gem. He pulled several and considered them before he tossed them back with a huff. At last one caught his eye and he pulled it from the group and held it high allowing the light to refract through it. He smiled and then rushed back to the crown and carefully placed the stone in the empty setting.

Borisov held up the crown and studied it carefully. It was forged from a gold alloy making it lighter and stronger while just as brilliant as gold ought to be. It contained five stones in all, each different. They were an emerald, a topaz, an opal, a ruby and a large sapphire in the center. It was a crown befitting the most glorious of kings.

Borisov placed it in the center of a round table carved from petrified redwood and adorned with stones of its own. Even the simplest of beings could feel the magical aura emitted from the table. But the table alone was just the cradle for the Enchanter’s creations.

Once the beautiful crown was placed on the center of the enchanter’s table, Borisov strolled over to a robe hanging on a hook by the door. It was brightly colored and woven from the fibers collected from many magical creatures some of which were now extinct. Hunted for their magical properties and unique characteristics these creatures once roamed the world in peace and freedom.

Robe pulled tight around his neck and secured around his body, Borisov could feel the power flowing through him. It was simultaneously invigorating and exhausting. The robe was so enchanted that it surged energy from the lost beasts through his body but mortal bodies could not endure the aura for long.

Borisov opened his eyes and they glowed as did his flesh while his muscles swelled and his heart raced. He moved to the enchanting table and held the crown while he checked the list of enchantments he wrote out for this job. He reviewed the words that few could read and began to recite them.

After a few times through the list he had the words committed to memory and he closed his eyes and continued to chant them to himself while feeling energy flow through his body and into the crown. Bright light poured from his hands and the crown with its gems glowed brightly.

Borisov continued to chant the words as magical energy raced to fill the crown and its gems which soaked it up like a sponge soaks up water. The Enchanter swayed from side to side some while became one with the crown and could sense and feel every inch of it as though he were part of the precious metal.

The Enchanter began to note some weakness in his knees but he refused to succumb to the increasing weariness while he was still able to channel more energy into the crown. It glowed bright white and finally Borisov released the crown and stumbled backwards until he collapsed on a couch nearby. He pulled the robe from his shoulders and dragged a blanket onto himself as he peacefully slipped into a dream with a smile on his face knowing that his creation was indeed another masterpiece.

The Enchanter had earned his slumber.

Excerpt: Goblin Brothers

As before, once the ritual was complete, they threw the whelps back in their cells to face their fate. The shamans all circled in the sanctuary to wait and watch.

The trial began much different than the first. After Zyx settled back into his cell expecting some sort of pain to begin, nothing happened. Everything seemed exactly as it was. There was no warning about what was coming.

Zyx wondered if Grattird was experiencing anything, so he curled his legs under him, focused his spirit and reached out to her.

“You feel things?” Zyx asked.

Grattird heard the familiar whisper of her friend and was glad. “No, I fine.”

“You think this trial?” Zyx wondered.

“It seem easy. Maybe we pass?”

“Maybe. I feels it too easy. Something else happen.”

“I feels you right,” Grattird agreed and they sat and waited for whatever was next.

It happened suddenly. One moment the whelps were sitting in their cells slightly tense with anticipation. The next moment the world around them tried to swallow them.

Zyx saw the walls begin to close on him and he leapt up from the ground and scrambled about the cell trying to escape. The door to the cell appeared as teeth however and tried to bite him whenever he neared so he kept to the back but then pushed against the wall to try to prevent them from crushing him. Cackling laughs echoed around him and mocked his fear.

Unable to escape, Zyx huddled into a ball and cried in desperation. He closed his eyes tightly wishing it all away, but when he opened his eyes hands were grabbing him and pulled him through the stone deeper into the mountain. He fell through layers of rock and passed endless lost souls which screamed at him with shrills that pierced his ears and deafened him. These tormented spirits clawed at the small goblin and appeared to be trying to grab him and pull him into their endless hell.

TBT: Meet Rhyk Swift

The tavern was dimly lit as the proprietor had been low on cash and was sparingly using candles as of late. Shadows dances around on the floors and walls like dark spirits in the night. The air was thick with smoke and carried the smell of sour ale and spoiled meat. The patrons were in a word—dirty. Most of them were simple folk, farmers, hunters, woodsmen, the type of people who worked hard and then drank a lot in order to forget how hard they work before doing it all over again the next day. They had scowls on their faces and calluses on their hands. Their backs ached as much as their bellies from the rotten ale and food.

It was here that Rhyk found himself. It was not where he thought he would be of course, but then he didn’t think he would get caught with the king’s daughter either. My how he had fallen he thought as he performed a ballad to a hero of old, the revered Sir Mead. He retold the tail of how Sir Mead had charged into battle against invading orcs, led by an evil wizard. How he slaughtered them with might and bravery in spite of overwhelming odds. Rhyk swung his arms and relived the battle miming the movements of the brave knight’s sword as he told of the hundred, no, thousands of enemy orcs the man slew. He continued to explain that the brave knight was rewarded with a title and property and eventually married a princess and fathered dozens of children.

The patrons of the inn clapped half-heartedly and continued to drain their mugs and choke down their meals. Rhyk huffed but reached for his lute. He began to play a tune and recite a poem about fairies and dryads, but was interrupted by a man with a dirty beard and even dirtier shirt who shouted, “Play a drinking song!” and added under his breath before taking a slug from his ale, “if you know any you girly little whelp.”

Rhyk scowled at them man, paused for a moment and then started playing a tune he knew from his youth. It was a folk tune and had a quick tempo. He suddenly remembered the words to the tune as well and started signing:

Lift your glasses, lift them high

Cheers to happy golden times

Dance a dance of joy and glee

Dance with someone merrily

Let your pains and sorrows go

Let your friends and fam’ly know

Now tis time to have some fun

Let the wine and beer mugs run

By the time he hit the second verse the people were singing along with the mugs held high and smiles on their faces. The room was lit up with singing and joy it had not known in years and the energy spread from there into the town where people were sitting in the dark alone. They soon flocked to the inn drawn by the sound of collective voices and a skillfully played instrument.

For hours Rhyk continued playing every old folk song he could remember and even made some up as he continue long into the night until the sun threatened to chase them away with rays of reality.They cheered for Rhyk to continue playing until they could hardly stand nor sing any longer and crawled home to the stench that awaited them. Coins were left in abundance in Rhyk’s hat which he collected with a light heart as he finally ran out of patrons to perform to.

As he was collecting his hat, his instruments, and his affects as three men approached him. Rhyk had not noticed them before but they had been observing the performer for hours. They were well dressed in fine tunics and pants, with newly soled boots. Each had a sword on his belt. Rhyk’s heart sunk as he became aware of them.

“Pretty fine playing there,” the man in the center began. His voice was harsh as though he had damaged it in a fight. It scratched and grated as he spoke. “I wonder how a bard as talented as you ended up out here?”

Rhyk kept his head down. Trying to shield his face with his wide hat adorned with a long feather as though they had not already seen how he looked. “Oh just passing through. Thought I would spread a little joy through the country side you know,” he replied with just a hint of fear in his voice.

“Good to hear, what a kind soul you are to do that for these people,” the man baited. “You must really love people then.”

“Of course. These are good people here. They deserve to enjoy some music and song.”

“Oh I agree. Doing it out of love. How quaint. But sometimes you can love the wrong person. It can get you into trouble.” Rhyk didn’t answer because there was no question. He looked over the leader quickly and noticed a rolled up parchment in his belt. He did not need to see it to know that on it was likely the bounty for his own head. It seemed the king had not forgiven him yet for his indiscretion.

“I’m sure such well-manicured, cosmopolitan, socialites as yourselves have tastes for music and soliloquy far beyond the scope of what you observed this evening. Perhaps you would enjoy indulging in the fantastic and fabulous arts of the theater? Or are complex and well-crafted compositions your preference?” Rhyk had stood and was waving his arms about dramatically as he wove his words together.

The men looked to each other, then to Rhyk and then to each other. The leader spoke once more with his voice raised in pitch and volume and a finger pointed at Rhyk, “Hey, are you making fun of us?”

“Me? Making fun of you? On the contrary! I find you the most sophisticated and savvy men I’ve met in months. I hardly find it apropos to mock the only men I’ve found worthy of conversation in this county.”

Again they looked to one another for affirmation that one understood a word bard spoke. None of them gave the others any confidence.

Rhyk continued, “I am going to retire now to rest and take repose so that I may perform something worthy of your tastes for talent and tales. I bid you good night kind sirs, until tomorrow.” He bowed low removing his hat as he did and then quickly stepped out the door into an ally behind the inn where bins of garbage and empty barrels of ale rested.

The bounty hunters searched once more among themselves for an explanation but could not piece together the conversation to save their very lives. None had any sense of what Rhyk said. Suddenly, as though struck by divine thought one noticed that Rhyk Swift was gone. They ran to the ally and searched all around but could not find the quick-talking bard. Frustrated and tired they finally went to sleep themselves, more determined than before to capture him and bring him back to the king to be held accountable for his offenses.

Rhyk had other plans of course.

TBT: Meet Daelysti

Buried in the hills there were many things that humans and other civilized beings chose to avoid. Monsters and creatures of savage natures and evil intents ruled the remote areas. One of these were the orcs. Terrible and savage creatures they were violent and cruel. They were born in blood and died in blood. They were only ruled through force and threat of violence. They only respected might and strength. Such was their kind.

Sworn enemies of the elves which were once of the same ancestors. They lived to see elves slaughtered, but lacking the sophistication and intelligence that the other races possessed, they never succeeded in much more than some surprise raids on undefended farming communities or exploration parties. So it was strange that an elf would seek them out, but in fact one did.

Daelysti was not like most elves. She did not belong to any of the several elf communities that dotted the land. She was a recluse. Short and lean, little about her suggested any strength. Darker than most of the elves seen in the world she had a wildness about her with her hair flowing in various directions as if moved by the wind even when there was none. She wore little, only covering the more intimate parts and carried with her a long spear with an obsidian blade on the tip. The shaft of the spear bore many runes and markings undecipherable by any but the most educated scholars of the time. Her body too was marked by a pattern that resembled lightning. By far the most intimidating feature however was her eyes. Nearly all white they looked like blizzards and just as dangerous. She was no ordinary elf, if there was such a thing.

She appeared from nowhere, just seemed to step from the woods and stood before the entrance to an orc camp before any noticed her. A scrawny orc on guard looked up and yelped before charging the frail elf. Without a word she stood still until it looked as though the orc guard would run her through with his serrated blade. In a movement as swift as a breeze she lifted her spear, plunged it through his throat and removed it again.

So fast was her movement that the orc stepped twice more before realizing that he found it difficult to breath and was light headed. He looked down to see his life pooling at his feet before it all went black.

Many orcs were charging now from various tents and huts recognizing their intruder as an elf, and eager to steal her life away in retaliation for generations of ridicule and disdain. Still Daelysti stood as motionless as one of the trees from which she appeared. Finally she spoke some words that the orcs could not understand. They were words powerful enough to command the air and as she whirled her spear above her head it gathered electricity before spewing it toward the elf’s enemies like bolts of lightning.

Charred, singed and burnt the orcs fell back. Some collapsed from their wounds, some were struck dead by her might and others cowered in fear.

“Bring me your chief!” she shrieked in a high voice that sounded like that of a child. “I wish to speak to him.”

“Orcs don’t talk to elf!” one of the larger orcs growled.

Daelysti closed her eyes and focused her thoughts. She murmured more foreign words and when she opened her eyes she pointed her spear at the brave orc. Lightning flew from the tip of her spear and gripped the orc’s heart, crushing it in his chest. He fell to the ground, smoke rising from his body.

The rest of the group ran off to get their chief. Daelysti smiled weakly, “Good little orcs,” she chuckled.