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White Mesa Chronicles Book 1:

Fledgling militia officer Tommy Thaxton is used to scavenge missions in the ruined city. He’s not used to being in charge of his team of young men…but he can handle it. They all can handle it. It’s just a simple scavenge mission.

Until things go horribly wrong, and Tommy’s team finds themselves facing a full-scale gang attack – something their superiors never anticipated.

Now, getting home on schedule is the least of Tommy’s worries. Getting the entire team home alive is much more important.


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Dear Diary…chock one up to the spider

ALERT: May contain spoilers for the adventure: “The Village of Homlette”

With a little more internal direction, we headed back to Homlette.

They’re building some kind of fort at the east end of town. The walls aren’t too imposing yet, and the gatehouse is barely started, but the tower in the center looks sturdy and well-made.

Elmo split off from us near the edge of town…off to do his own secret mission stuff, no doubt.

Ezekiel wouldn’t stop dancing down the road. I guess he likes having a definite direction to move in.

As we passed the house of the village elder, a warrior in blue armor led a horse out the gate, mounted, and rode off. The elder stuck his head out and waved to us as we passed. It’s nice to know now that he’s on our side…and that he hasn’t been murdered.

We got to the Welcome Wench about mid-afternoon, and ordered some dinners.

There were a couple fighters in the common room – one of them wearing the blue lacquered plate armor we’d noticed earlier. With her helmet off, her hair shone against the armor in a devastating way.

We had just gone upstairs to “freshen up” while dinner cooked, when Lydia appeared at the door of the bunk-room. She said there was a problem, so we went down the hall to the room we’d rented for the past two nights to store our trunk in.

She said she’d found the door unlocked, and the trunk inside was also unlocked.

Ezekiel examined it, and thought some of our electrum was missing (about five pounds). I guess you can’t count on anything.

Well, it’s not like we were suddenly broke. Many of us had been lugging around our share of the gold, so we were able to pay what we owed on the room, and pay for dinner. (And I’ve still got the “company stash” in the bag of holding: what we have left from selling the dwarf-sized magic chainmail.)

Ezekiel had asked the innkeeper, Osler Gundigoot, for time to answer questions, so Mr. Gundigoot talked with us while we ate.

He started by explaining that the one fighter was Rufus, who’s building the tower with Bern for the Plar of Veluna (they’re the two who killed a dragon).

The other fighter – in blue and silver – is a princess! from Celene…so that makes sense.

Anyway, Ezie asked about the “old troubles.” Apparently it started as just bandits…or, the villagers thought it was just bandits. They started human, but as the raids went on, more bugbears, hobgoblins, and other goblinoid vermin were added.

Sounds like it was pretty bad. The townspeople organized the militia and set up horn-signals to help warn each other, and some of them built hiding places in their cellars to protect their goods (and children).

In one raid, “Black J” the shepherd lost his wife and child. He was a mercenary back in those days, and wasn’t at home…and his family didn’t make it to the safety of the inn fast enough. That’s why Black J was so surly when Ezekiel and the others passed his house on the way to the chapel.

(The chapel of St. Cuthbert wasn’t built yet at that time.)

Mr. Gundergoot also mentioned – there’s a weaselly fellow hanging around the inn, calls himself Fernok of Ferd (Ezekiel said that’s a made-up name if ever he heard one). Apparently he’s and adventurer who never seems to go out adventuring, and he spends a lot of time playing cards with the other guests…and winning. Mr. Gundergoot says he can’t prove that he’s cheating, but he would be happy if Fernok played his games elsewhere.

Mr. Gundergoot also told us that the bandits used to use a moat-house as a band of operations. It’s to the north of the new fort they’re building (I saw the overgrown track as we were coming into town today).

We agreed that this hide-out would be a good place to investigate (although I ask myself, “Wouldn’t a new cult stay away from such an obvious place? Or wouldn’t the professionals have thought to investigate that already?”).

Ezekiel also wants to talk to the village elder and Black J – although Mikael seems dubious about getting Black J to actually communicate with us.

We were just finishing up our drinks (Raven praising the meal to high heaven) when a young man came up to our table and introduced himself as Fernok.

Well, sometimes things just drop in your lap.

He offered to buy us drinks, and Lydia asked for another glass of the rather pricy wine she had had…and her veil was over her face, so Fernok went for it and bought her one.

It was hilarious watching her play him. I wonder if she’s had practice.

Anyway, Ezie invited him to join us at the table, and Fernok began explaining this card game called “gin.”

My brothers never let me play with them because they were afraid I’d mess up the cards. (I think some of them never tumbled to the fact that I wasn’t five years old anymore.)

Well, Ezekiel muttered something to himself (sounded like, “I guess we’re doing this now”) and agreed to play a round.

Half-way through, Mikael pointed out that Fernok seemed to be dealing Ezekiel cards from the top, but himself he dealt cards from the “not top” sometimes.

Lydia apparently noticed, too, and asked if maybe Nori would notice even better (having eight eyes, you know).

Lydia asked Fernok how he knew which cards to pull. He didn’t seem to know what to say.

Ezekiel looked over one of his cards, and found a nick in the edge – which is surely bad, because my brothers were always anxious that I was going to nick the cards.

Lydia took the card to look at it, and set it on fire with her finger. It was a dramatic thing to do…but it’s also a pretty cool trick.

Ezekiel (in classic pompous style) told Fernok to play straight or play elsewhere. (Somewhere in here Lydia dropped her veil, and gave him the shock of his life. I could say something about female goblins here, but that wouldn’t be smart.)

Well, I don’t know if Fernok was convinced, but he was certainly rattled, so he took himself off toward his room – with his deck of cards.

About that time the princess got up to leave, and Ezekiel muttered something to himself again and met her as she approached the door.

He made a nice bow, and asked her, “pardon your highness,” could she tell him anything about the Battle of Emridy Meadows?

She said, no, she wasn’t there…and he apologized profusely for rudeness.

The princess laughed, and said, “That weaselly thief was rude; you’re merely amusing.”

And I guess to be “amusing” to an elf is about as ambitious as small fry like us could hope for.

They said some other pomp-y things to each other, and then she left. I stood as she passed and went out the door.

Ezekiel dropped into his chair, shaking his head. “Paladin of Hironius – because of course,” he muttered – looking like he’d been speaking to a ghost.

Lydia sighed. “She was so beautiful,” she said.

So I guess the lady affected us all in different ways.

We decided to give him a minute, then go talk to the village elder.

I asked if someone didn’t want to guard Lydia’s room while we’re gone…just in case Fernok is vindictive or something?

Well, the gang decided Nori could sit in the room and guard it, so Mikael took the key from Lydia and led Nori up there. (Do spiders need to be house-broken? Um…do spiders pee?)

The elder was as courteous and welcoming as ever, and told us about the history over fruit drinks.

After the Battle of Emridy Meadows, the forces of Good went to the Temple and stormed it. When that was accomplished, they mopped up at the moat-house.

Since then, it’s fallen into disrepair…although apparently adventurers still go there and bring back loot from time to time.

(That made me wonder…are they really “adventurers”? Might someone starting up a new cult want “relics” from the place of the old cult with which to do their Evil? To focus their actions, maybe? Speaking as someone who’s never started a cult, I don’t know.)

The elder talked a little bit about the bad times…how the villagers set up signal systems to warn each other of raids, and Osler at the Welcome Wench built a room in his basement to store weapons and to be a refuge in times of attack.

He confirmed what we’d heard about Black J, and said he was working for someone when the raid came through that killed his family.

Ezekiel also asked about the Paladin from Celene, and the elder told us that the Prince of Furiundi has disappeared! The Princess Paladin was carrying a message between the rulers in relation to that.

I guess bigger people have bigger issues to deal with. Apparently the prince was supposed to marry the daughter of the Plar of Veluna, so now both principalities are on edge, and it’s anyone’s guess what might happen.

All above our heads, I suppose, since we can’t even discover whether or not there’s an Evil Cult working around here.

But if the Temple is trying to restart itself…that’s trouble that nobody needs right now.

When we took our leave of the village elder, Ezekiel was all gung-ho for exploring the moat-house…but we pointed out that it was almost suppertime, and if it took three or more hours to get there (through the bog and overgrowth on the old road) we’d be in a bad spot. Much better to wait for morning.

So we returned to the inn – and no sooner had we gotten upstairs than Lydia gave a scream from her room.

We raced down the hall, and she said she’d found the door unlocked again –

And a man lying dead inside.

Ezekiel examined him. It was Turuko, the guy who’d tried to join our party when we first arrived, and had rubbed us the wrong way.

Raven talked to Nori (yeah, I forgot he can do that) and says he let himself in and started working on the chest, so she dropped on his back and bit him.

And that was that.

With a clanking and thumping, Kobort appeared in the doorway (the guy’s friend).

He half-drew his sword, but Ezekiel explained Turuko had entered our room without permission, and our spider did her job and took care of him.

It seems the most that Kobort was worried about was his money – since he says Turuko held the money for both of them – so Ezekiel said that after taking some electrum that he assumes is ours, we’d give the rest of the possessions to Kobort.

Ezekiel offered to buy Kobort a drink, and we all headed downstairs – locking the room, naturally.

Ezie chatted with him for a bit, finding out that he’s from the Wild Coast, and that he’d met Turuko while coming through Homlette, and T had suggested they join up to become “rich and famous”. T said they’d wait for adventurers to come back from the moat-house with treasure, and then rob them…but they hadn’t found any adventurers to rob yet.

Osler Gundergoot pulled Mikael aside to find out what happened (kicking myself that we didn’t tell him sooner) and then summoned the constable (Fred Renton).

(Elmo was in the common room drinking again, and waved “hi Dad!” when the constable came in.)

C. Renton went upstairs and examined the “crime scene.” (I’m gratified that Nori didn’t eat the body. That would have been disrespectful at best, awkward or criminal at worst.)

Well, the upshot is that we weren’t arrested, and the constable and Ezekiel looked over Turuko’s clothes to try to figure out what god he worshipped.

They decided he was probably a monk of Hextor (Ezekiel almost spit on the floor). Well, there aren’t any churches of Hextor around (thank goodness) so they sent for Brother Calmert at the chapel of St. Cuthbert to “deal with” the body.

At the constable’s suggestion, we moved Lydia into the room across the hall, then went downstairs for dinner.

I stood as Calmert and his men carried the body out…he was a human being, after all.

Mikael said he just cares that his spider did well. Must be his “Neutral” showing…

Oh, yes. Ezekiel invited Kobort to come with us tomorrow to the moat-house. After all, he doesn’t seem like an Evil guy, and it’ll give him a chance to make some money before he moves on. I can believe that it’s not his fault Turuko played him.

And if it’s just a day-trip, we don’t have to trust him to keep watch through the night.

Father always got pretty upset over the friends Bartholomew used to hang out with. I think he figured Bartholomew didn’t have enough character to be a positive influence and not get corrupted by others.

Maybe that’s why Bartholomew and I never really had fun together. He was…okay…there just wasn’t much there.


To read the previous entry, click here.

To start at the beginning of the Homlette adventure, click here.

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Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?)

Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia Wood

CHOOSE YOUR PATH! Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So once upon a time an older person met a younger person. They didn’t know each other very well, but were connected through socio-cultural similarities.

Wanting to encourage the younger person, the older person chose to give advice about their potential life choices.

See if these words sound familiar…

You’re interested in writing? You should go to a four-year college and get a Master of Fine Arts degree! That will let you make money as an author.

You did very well with your three lines in the church play! Maybe you should go to a four-year acting college, move to California sight-unseen, and get a job in the movies!

You enjoyed high school math and economics? Invest in that! Go to this website and check out internships in your field, then look into advancing your education and getting into clerical/economic positions!

Do you notice anything…off?

Naturally, there’s a lot of good here: the older person is trying to affirm the younger person…to notice their interests and passions…to give them positive feedback…and encourage them to better themselves.

The older person wishes only the best for the younger person. They seize on what little data they can find, and build on that…with nothing but the best intentions.

And yet…

What god do these people worship?

Take a close look at the quotes. There’s not a lot to go on, is there? There’s mention of a “church play”…but what else in the scene places these two characters?

They might be meeting at a Lions Club. They might be distant relatives at a family reunion. Perhaps they’re total strangers interacting briefly in a store.

Look again at what the older person said. Based only on their words, who (or what) do they consider the most important thing in the world worship?

Short Aside—What Is A God?

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that “idols” are things people worship apart from God, and it makes Him very angry.

Because, if we’re Christians, we’re “married” to God…but every time we put something else in His place, that’s like having an affair with the idol.

That’s what He literally says through his prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

(Anyone else feeling dirty right now?)

My dad defines a “god” as this—

A god is something we go to when we want to get things done…or something whose claims on us we acknowledge.

Examples?

Money is an easy target. It’s even mentioned in the Bible. Money is a very generous god…it gives us anything we could desire.

But in exchange, it demands our soul.

Power and sex are other “gods” we go to for getting what we want.

Sports is a harsh authoritarian, demanding our Sunday mornings, our school nights, and our time with family. It can be hard to deny Sports the things it demands.

Pride? Pride is a god worshiped by many (including me – that’s why Jesus needs to change my heart). I want other people to praise me, to acknowledge me, and to speak great things of me. Because (get this) it’s all focused on ME…not God.

And in exchange, Pride rots my heart from the inside out.

Back to Our Fairytale…Who Gets My Life?

An older person spots a younger person…just starting out, an image of what they themselves once were, with a chance to do anything and be anything this world offers.

This older person wants to advise the younger person…to give them a hint about the direction they should take…to encourage them to put their youthful energies and resources into something meaningful.

So the older person says:

[…what would you say?…]

[…what is the most important thing?…]

[…what one thing would you point to, that you wish every whipper-snapper in your life would devote themselves whole-heartedly to?…]

There’s no guarantee they’ll listen. They’re young…they probably won’t.

But what is so critical, so vital, that you’ll use your one interaction with this incarnation of Past You to impart?

Think about it. Your answer will say a lot about where your heart is…


Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family…including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark! You’ll get a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier…plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Christmas Night, From the “Other” Side

What is he waiting for?

Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

The shepherd men are here. The mother and husband are in position.

Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting? Isn’t it time?

I got excited when the Emperor signed the census order. After all, that was finally the beginning of the end, right?

Then there was that Simeon guy…Remember when the word came down? Somebody took him a message from the Throne:

You won’t die until you have seen my Promised Anointed One with your own eyes. (see Luke 2:25-26)

Good grief gravy! I was so pumped I couldn’t walk straight. Remember how we said to each other, “You know what this means? It’s happening soon. Like, human-standards soon!”

Man! I can’t even–

What is he waiting for? How long can it take to deliver a baby? Couldn’t some of us dash over and give the girl a hand? Please?! I’ve been waiting so long!

Just make yourself visible already! We can’t come out until you come out! Listen, I’ve been practicing this song since Isaiah got the tip.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

I can’t even imagine being separated from Him – even for a moment. I despise our former kin who took up arms against Him.

And yet…these weak, momentary humans…He’s coming for them! The Great Plan – you’ve heard the rumors, yes? The little, cryptic hints we were allowed to give the prophets?

Gah! So long! Why is this taking so LONG? Don’t you tell me, “It’s only one night.” This is THE night — the night all other nights are counted from…

The point where Eternal, Immortal Invisible cracks Time, the Physical, the –

We have got to go to the stable after this and see for ourselves. Imagine Him – wrapped in a flesh body – hokey smokes, won’t the light and majesty just leak out of Him like a bush on fire?

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? The shepherds are just waiting around for us. The fat one is asleep – I can tell. Wake him up! Wake them all up! Wake up the whole damned, soon-to-be-redeemed-and-ransomed world!

He Is here! In the flesh! God fused with human form so closely and completely that He is fully both –!

At last! Look at ’em scream and hide their eyes. If you only knew, boys…if you only knew.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

It’s time! IT’S TIME! Can’t take it any more…gonna become visible – Boom! Listen up, little men of the sheepfold – listen!Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

He’s here! He came! The Son of Man Himself! How can you not be shouting – dancing – with me? He’s come to redeem your poor, pathetic, flesh-bound lives and make ALL THINGS NEW!

How can you not sing?!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Kimia the Author lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother that strangers mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark.

Now I gotta go dance and sing for a while…

Best Articles You Shouldn’t Miss

I love Twitter for all the cool articles I can find and share there. So I dug back through my feed for the best articles, posts, and videos I found and shared this past year!

Whether you’re an author, a blogger, or just a Christian who likes thinking deeply about things, here are some cool (and/or important) pieces for you to enjoy!

Writing and Story DevelopmentBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

This year I fell down the deep, dark hole of “writer YouTube”…Here are some of the amazing (and addicting) videos I found:

Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV

via WIRED

I found this video while researching my spy/suspense/action story Transmutation of Shadow, and it’s so cool!

Trope Talk: Robots

via Overly Sarcastic Productions

Red does a great job recognizing that humans and computers have totally different ways of thinking…and she also breaks down the good, the evil, the friendly, and the realistic of writing robots in fiction.

Rey and the Sad Devolution of the Female Character

via Thor Skywalker

We don’t hate female characters…we hate poorly done characters that serve a meta agenda, rather than feeling like genuine people within the story world.

Watch the video to see for yourself!

(Also check out this video – by Literature Devil – about “Mary Sue” characters…what they are, why people dislike them, and how they relate to the issue of “Social Justice Warriors”.)

A Few Words from Roger Zelazny

via on Tor.com

Roger Zelazny wrote the Chronicles of Amber, which inspired my dad as a young writer…and became a surprise favorite with me when I read it. This interview with him gives insight into his writing process, his opinion of fantasy vs. science fiction, and on writing complex characters.

It’s not a video…so read it at your leisure.

Action Choreography for Novels

via Felix the Fox Mysteries

Action plays a big role in my White Mesa Chronicles (especially Gladiator…guess why) and in Transmutation of Shadow. Thus it’s important to get the physics right!

This post (also not a video) will help you think about those pesky problems of what’s actually, physically possible in your story!

Also check out his post on making pre-modern (and fantasy) battles more realistic in terms of equipment, technique, and strategy. Remember: everything happens in context!

The Elevator Pitch

via Christa MacDonald on Christian Shelf-Esteem

If you’ve been in the “author” circle for long, you’ve heard you need an “elevator pitch”…a short, pithy expression of your book(s) that would fit into the space of an elevator ride, but make whoever’s listening want to hear more.

Christa MacDonald found she was making assumptions about what the people she was talking to would be interested in, and defending her work before anyone had raised any objections.

Read her post to see how she decided to let go of this fear rooted in pride, and share her stories at face value.

Worldview

Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

How we think about the world is crucial…and our different perspectives form a central part of who we are.

Each of these articles (or videos) explores a different element of our lives and challenges us to think about morality, culture, art, ourselves, and/or God in a different light.

Enriching Lives – What Mass Effect 2 Teaches Us about Morality

via Extra Credits

Extra Credits create entertaining, thought-provoking videos about video games…how to make them well, how to tell meaningful stories through them, what they can mean for the broader culture, etc.

This one talks about how video games can force us to examine our own moral beliefs!

Artistic Originality: Is It Dead—or Was it Merely a Fallacy to Begin With?

via Sean P. Carlin

In our cultural climate of reboots, sequels, prequels, reboot-sequels…Mr. Carlin has asked the question, “What is artistic originality anyway?”

Can we ever truly be free of our creative influences, and make “original” art?

Read his article to find out!

Also check out his article about his childhood of urban exploration in New York City, and how our shifting culture of security-consciousness makes that impossible for kids of the modern day. We’ve lost something…is it worth the price of “safety” to give up?

Read his piece and decide for yourself!

How Virtual Horse Armor Paved the Way for Micro-Transactions

via Cheddar

Micro-transactions are all over the place in free-to-play games…sort of like YouTube has started shoving ads in my face every time I want to load a video.

This video (on YouTube…ahem) talks about how it started…and why micro-transactions that affect game-play make players more unhappy than things that affect aesthetics.

How Our Addiction to FREE is Poisoning the Internet and Killing the Creatives

via Kristen Lamb

This post was so interesting, I even wrote my own follow-up piece.

Basically: we all love free stuff. Getting free stuff, that is. But nothing is free…someone has to give it. And as authors give away more free stuff (books, songs, etc.) the more audiences expect free stuff, and the worse the whole problem gets.

Just go read her full post – then read my post about living generously!

(Also read her post about the flood of new books that self-publishing has created, and some strategies that we as an industry could use to find the “good fish” amidst the tsunami. Basically, go check out her blog in general.)

My Son Was Addicted to a Smartphone

via Sabrina McDonald on Family Life

Yes, smartphone addiction is a thing, and yes, you can confront it. In fact, before drugging your kid up for ADHD, look into culling his screen time! It might be the trick you need.

YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)

via Lindsey Ellis

Having become, ahem, slightly addicted to YouTube this year, I naturally found channels/content providers that I liked and looked up all their videos.

However, as an author and blogger, I also have a feeling for the other side (people all over the world aren’t watching my face, but they can look up my words at any time).

When the wall between “media celebrity” and audience comes down…when your favorite YouTuber or author “gets real” and shares personal things…what does that do to them? What does it do to us? What are the “moral hazards” of this “authentic celebrity” culture?

If you’re not sure exactly what I mean, just watch the video! It’s thought-provoking! (Language cautions, though.)

Christian Fiction Guidelines

via Chad Pettit

Did you know that some “Christian” readers have very specific guide-lines for what they consider to be “Christian” fiction? And that they’ll rake authors over the internet coals if they break these rules?

Perhaps we should go back to the BIBLE for a consideration of what we should be reading/writing in our fiction…and maybe we can extend some Christian kindness to our brothers and sisters.

This post is a plea for just that. Read it yourself!

A Tale of Two Worldviews

via Scott Allen at WORLD Magazine

Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Martin Luther King, Jr. — two African-American thought leaders with very different approaches to the race issue. Justice and reconciliation will only come from a Jesus-centered worldview.

MarketingBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

We authors are always looking for ways to better get books into readers’ hands. Here are some of the useful posts I’ve found on marketing:

How To Improve Your Amazon Book Descriptions

via Jane Friedman

How do you describe your book so that someone else will want to buy it? Making the text easy to skim, and starting with a grabby line, are just a couple of the suggestions you’ll find here!

How to Improve Your Email Newsletters Right Now

via Bad Redhead Media

Email newsletters are one of those things that are so important, yet so mystifying. These tips and tricks will help you look like a pro to your fans! (Hint: STOP USING G-MAIL ALREADY.)

How to Write for a Blog: 10 Tips for Writing Strong Web Content

via Anne R. Allen

Writing a blog post is different than writing a term paper. Here are some easily digestible, understandable tips to help anyone write a better blog!

Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)

via Vicky Who Reads

200+ bloggers were surveyed (anonymously) about how they want authors to interact with them. I found some of the answers very interesting, and it’s worth it to check out someone else’s perspective.

The Eternally Clickable Headlines of Buffer (And How to Write and Find Your Own)

via Buffer

Blog post headlines are mysterious, but very important. Here’s some advice that is readable and digestible to make your blog headlines even better!

Six Reasons Nobody Reads Your Blog and How to Fix It

via Mixtus Media

You say you could never write a blog? That it’s too complicated, or too hard?

These six tips might just give you the tools and the steps you need to become a blogger (or to take your blog to a more professional level)!

Hope you enjoyed these posts!

Be sure to share the posts you liked best with your friends, and support the authors!

What did you enjoy learning this past year? What were your favorite things to read? Give us your suggestions!


Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s currently bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY

What can you do with all those fabric scraps you have sitting around? Make cute little Christmas ornaments for your friends!Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood

Even those scraps that are too small for other projects can be used for these adorable ornaments.

You will need:

  • Christmas-themed cookie cutters…shapes with bigger angles and few corners will be easier (stars, candy canes, hearts, gingerbread men, angels, etc. I also used a Christmas tree, but it took more work to get right)
  • Cardboard (such as empty cereal box)
  • Pencil
  • Pins
  • Lace or ribbon (3/8″ works well…if it gets wider than, say, 1/2″, it won’t work so well)
  • Stuffing
  • Needle/sewing machine and thread
  • FABRIC SCRAPS 🙂

1—Cut Patterns

First, make your patterns. You could just use the cookie cutters as patterns, but they stick up and make it awkward to trace onto the fabric.

So take your cardboard, place your selected cookie cutter onto it, and use the pencil to trace your ornament’s shape.

There are two methods:

Method A

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood

Here you can clearly see my stitches trying to follow the pencil lines…

Cut cardboard exactly along the lines of the cookie cutter’s shape.

Method B

Using a ruler, extend the “shape” out about 1/4″ on all sides, then cut out the cardboard along these new lines.

Pros and Cons

With Method A, you have to remember to leave a 1/4+ inch hem around the fabric when tracing your pattern…but you then have a handy pencil line to help you stitch the shape.

I initially invented Method B so I could make the ornaments bigger, but when you just “balloon out” the line of the cookie cutter’s shape, the new shape doesn’t look the same (it looks more fat and rounded). On something like a star, this works better.

The benefit of Method B is that you can 1) make your ornaments slightly bigger, or 2) you have a built-in allowance for the hem, and can cut out your fabric directly on the pencil line.

I prefer Method A, however, because having that line to stitch along is sure useful.

2—Trace Onto Fabric and Cut

Take your cardboard pattern and place onto your fabric scraps. Even if you have a really small piece – as narrow as two inches! – you can probably fit a candy cane shape on it! Just remember to be sure you have extra space for the hem.

Once your pattern shape is traced, cut out the pieces (again, leaving roughly a 1/4″ for the hem).

3—Match Fabric Pieces and Pin

Once you have two fabric pieces of complementing colors cut out, hold them Right Sides together and pin.

I like to use joints or corners to make sure I have the shapes matched up to one another…for example, stick a pin into the peak of the Christmas tree on one piece, and then through the peak of the other Christmas tree piece…or stick a pin through the matching armpits of two gingerbread man pieces.

Stick two pins through matching points along your shapes…and then use them as “fulcrums” to align your pieces.

4—Sew Pieces Together

Sew the pinned pieces together — leaving at least an inch open at the top for turning.

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI was constantly second-guessing myself that I wasn’t leaving enough space to turn the ornament…and once I even snipped the stitching to make the opening bigger. Don’t do this! The stitches will pull out and you’ll have to repair it and it’ll be annoying…

An opening of an inch to an inch-and-a-half is plenty big. Just remember to put it at the top of the ornament…

5—Snip Corners

Gingerbread men’s armpits, the boughs of Christmas trees, and the hooks of candy canes all need to be sniped out to make turning easier! Just be careful not to snip your stitches (ask how I know).

Also make slits around the gingerbread man’s hands and feet, the points of the Christmas tree and the star, the curve of the candy cane…you get the idea.

6—Turn Inside Out

Turn your ornament inside out, through the small hole you left. Be patient and take your time…even if you think, “This hole is way too small to fit the fabric through!” if you take your time, it’ll usually work.

Get something long and pokey to help get the corners turned out. I started with the eraser end of a pencil, but that was poking right through my seam and tearing my stitches — so I went for a large crochet hook.

7—Sharpen Points

You might need to use a pin to grab the points and help pull them out…This is especially true for the Christmas tree, but also for the gingerbread men’s feet (and hands).

Basically, for the Christmas tree to actually look the way it’s supposed to, you need to pull all the little branches out…and for this, it usually works best to use a combination of the crochet hook and a long pin.

Just remember: this is your chance to get it looking the way you want it to!

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood(I made a dog ornament, making my own pattern based on a silhouette from online…and getting all the nooks and crannies turned right-side-out was a pain! On the bright side, it did look like a dog at the end! The key is to take your time and pay attention.)

(You could iron it at this stage to make it nice and crisp and neat…but who has time for that nonsense?)

8—Stuff

I used polyester fiberfill…but use whatever you have on hand. Use the back end of the crochet hook to help you get it into those hard-to-reach legs, branches, and bends.

Don’t over-stuff it…This is just to give it some body, not to turn it into a plush toy.

Stop when it feels good to you.

9—Hanger

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI usually used between 2-1/2 and 3 inches of ribbon or lace for the hanger. (This assumes that it’ll still need a paperclip-style hanger to go on a tree.)

This is my typical procedure:

Take the end of the ribbon/lace…estimate a thumbnail’s worth to go inside the ornament…hold the ribbon behind the ornament and bend it in a loop until it looks long enough…pin the loop flat…and snip the ribbon off, level with the ribbon-end.

Then, using your thumbnail to help with the placement, stick the ribbon ends into the top of the ornament and fold the loose fabric down on itself, so it looks neat and closed over the top of the ribbon.

Pin firmly, then check the back-side to make sure your raw edges are all hidden, and your ribbon hanger is inside the fabric on both sides.

10—Stitch Closed

Stitch along the top of the Christmas ornament, closing the hole and fastening the hanger at the same time.

Check the back side when you’re done to make sure the stitches grabbed both sides of the fabric (ask how I know).

Optional—Topstitch

At this point, you can top-stitch around just inside the seam of the ornament. I only did this with one of mine (because my seams were messy and it needed extra reinforcement)…but with contrasting colors of thread, it could look very nice.

Enjoy and Give Away!

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI worked on these in stages, focusing on cutting out, turning/stuffing, ribbon-ing/stitching, or sewing… I could usually knock out ten ornaments on a lazy afternoon.

Not only is this a great way to eat up those itty-bitty scraps of fabric, but it makes adorable (and seasonal) little gifts for your giving needs!

In fact, with “neutral” shapes like hearts and butterflies, you could make pincushions for everyday use…make Easter ornaments (those are totally a thing, right?)…show someone who’s sick that you care…

They’re small enough – yet challenging enough – that you could use them to introduce your child to sewing.

Okay, I’m done. I actually have a basket-full of these I’m giving away for Christmas.

Happy crafting!


Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates of her latest reading and writing adventures.

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are scary. Not only is there the perpetual smell of urine and chemical cleaners, there’s the constant blathering of a thousand TVs all set to something different…not to mention they’re full of little old ladies who mistake you for their daughter (when actually you’re their son).

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Image credit: IrishExaminer.com

And yet…Those little old ladies are sick, lonely, inching towards death, trapped in this mysterious and scary place that smells like body fluids, and could sure use a smiling face to set the day apart from all others.

In short…they could use YOU to break up the week and bring some cheer into their pain and uncertainty!

Impossible, you say? You could never go visiting in a nursing home? You’d rather be caught dead than in one of those places? (Jinx.)

It’s not as scary as you think. Check out these tips for visiting a nursing home…and then you might decide that even you can help out in this important ministry!

Starting is the Hardest

The first time I visited a nursing home, I wasn’t sure I would make it.

When you walk in, you might not know anyone. Besides the intimidating environment, you don’t know what to expect. Anything could happen.

You’re there to “love on people” and “touch lives”…but what does that even look like in real life?

You won’t know until you try. And chances are, it’ll look different in your case than it did in mine…but don’t give up!

Here are some strategies to make those new friends:

  • Walk down the hall, knock on doors, and see who smiles back at you. Chances are good that people will let you say hello for a few minutes, if you just ask.
  • Contact the staff of the facility where you’re visiting, and ask them which residents don’t have family or friends in the area…or which residents might enjoy having the Bible or a devotional read to them. The staff will probably be excited to help you…Our bodies heal faster when our minds and emotions are in good shape!
  • Bring a dog, baby, or small child with you. People will come to you to make friends!
  • Talk to the activities director or other person in charge, and bring a craft, special movie night, or other activity in to the facility. Those who are able and interested in participating will show up…and now you have a connection for other visiting opportunities!
  • Go see someone you already know: a relative, former church member, or friend of someone you know. Chances are they’ll have a roommate you can talk to at the same time, and you might meet someone in the hallway you can get to know.

It does get better!

You’ll get the hang of things, find a routine, and make new friends.

Just like the first day of school, the first month in a new town, or the first few weeks in a new apartment building…it’ll take getting used to.

Just remember: there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!

Take a Buddy

Yes, you’re there to make new friends…but sometimes the best way to do that is to bring old friends!

From the disciples Jesus sent out, to Paul and Silas and Barnabas and John Mark, to the multiple-elder model of the Biblical church, we’re supposed to do ministry together.

Not only does this provide accountability, to 1) keep us on the straight and narrow and 2) protect our reputation from the Enemy…but it’s also more fun!

Walking into a strange place to speak to people you don’t know is a lot less intimidating when you have a buddy at your side. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone from your church, take that buddy!

You can’t swim without a buddy…don’t try to visit without a buddy. They’ll be there for you when you don’t know what to say, they’ll be a prayer partner with you, and they’ll keep the ball rolling on days when you can’t make it.

No one ever said you had to do this alone! So don’t try 🙂

Don’t Worry About What You’ll Say

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

My grandma, dying of brain cancer

What do you do when an old lady looks right at you and says, “I’m dying?”

When a woman tells you she has cancer?

When someone weeps about the disfunction in her family, and how she’s not getting the care she wants?

Just like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the temptation is to open our big mouths and fix everybody’s problems.

Sometimes they need their problems fixed. Sometimes God put us there to share Jesus with them and point them to ultimate healing.

And sometimes…the very best thing we can do is sit beside them, holding their hand and crying with them.

It feels like doing diddly-squat. But people appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

Pray. A Lot. For Everything

What about the times when you need to say something?

You’ve got the Holy Spirit inside you, right? Leave it to Him.

If He starts poking you from the inside, whispering, “This lady will go to Hell without Me — introduce us!” you just better listen is all I’m saying.

And as long as you’re having good, long conversations with Him on a daily basis, you’ll have the strength you need.

Pray for one another

You can also pray for your friends – new and old!

While it’s vital that you spend quality time with God for your own spiritual health, it’s also important to bring others before him.

Your contacts in the nursing home will have obvious needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual) that you should tell your Father about…but what about your visiting buddies?

Don’t forget to pray for them, too — that they will have just the right words to say, that they will meet just the right person God wants them to minister to, and that they will be strong on the days that are hard.

(And encourage them to pray for you, too!)

Just Showing Up Means the World

If you don’t take anything else away from this post, learn this:

Don’t sweat it.

God is able to take your little, pathetic efforts, and work His grand, amazing scheme out of it.

You’ve taken the first step. God doesn’t ask us to give Him everything all at once…just one thing more.

And until you actually step out, you’ll have no idea how much five minutes of conversation actually means to someone!

Just one short conversation with someone who isn’t paid to be there, who isn’t necessarily related to them, and who’s only there to brighten their day…people will be so grateful, it’ll break your heart.

Commit

Like dieting, exercising, cleaning the house, and other good habits, consistency is key.

Go once a week…or even every other week. That’s all. No pressure.

The more you show up, over and over again, the deeper your relationships with the patients will be. They’ll start to expect you. They’ll remember you from last time, and smile.

You’ll have made a friend.

They’re the ones stuck in a nursing home, so it’ll be up to you to make the effort. But you can do it!

(Not only that, but the staff will start to notice your commitment and faithfulness…which gives you another place to shine Jesus’ love!)

Just show up – week after week, month after month – and people will begin to trust you…in a way that they can’t trust someone who might or might not show up, maybe.

Find a schedule that works for you.

Don’t let yourself make excuses. If this is what God wants you to be doing with your time, make sure you get it done.

And again…don’t sweat it. Emergencies will come up, you’ll miss a day here and there…and sometimes your “contacts” will be out, too.

Just make sure that, when you commit, you really mean it.

It’ll mean the world to some poor senior or patient.

Pray – All the Time – For Everything

Did I mention this?

It’s not super hard to remember to pray for your new friends…especially if you write it down and ask your ministry partners to hold you accountable.

What I find harder is remembering to pray before I go visiting…and to pray for the right words, that God will lead us to the right people, that I will trust Him in every situation, etc.

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Look at that smile 🙂

But this is just as important.

Pray for your fellow visitors. Also pray for the families of the people you will meet, and for the staff, and for the healthcare system as a whole (it needs it, trust me).

Pray that Jesus will be evident in every single action we take.

In this way, you will immerse yourself in God’s will, and invite His Holy Spirit to take charge of your life – and of your commitment to visiting.

I said “take a buddy.” The Holy Spirit is the best buddy you can take.

You Will Fall in Love

I keep saying, “You’ll make new friends.” This is not a figure of speech.

You might just get addicted to this. If a week goes by, and you don’t visit your little buddies, you’ll feel weird.

You’ll have deep conversations…some hard, some amazingly cool. You’ll get to gush about Jesus, and maybe find out you have “brothers and sisters” in some unexpected places.

Your heart will break. You’ll be built up. You will touch the lives of some lonely, desperate people.

God doesn’t call all of us to this kind of ministry…but if He’s calling you, don’t be afraid. He’s got this!

Now go be sunshine to someone who needs it!


8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to her mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

NaNo Chapter 1—Happiness Can’t Be Wrapped

NaNoWriMo is wrapping up! So far, I’m on track to finish my 50,000 words by the end of the month…although I haven’t hit every story concept I planned to. Some story ideas took two days to write down! (Which is fine, because some days’ ideas barely filled a page!)

Enjoy the first chapter of this idea! 😉

By the way, my Dad has also been blogging his NaNo progress. Check out his AD&D-inspired adventure, or his fan fiction set in my White Mesa world!!


Twinkle entered the office on tip-toes – not because that made her practically soundless, but because she was nervous.

Santa’s office, after all. The big man himself!

The office chair groaned, and a face appeared over the desk…a huge, red face with a bushy white beard.

“Ah! There you are,” rumbled the deep voice. “Go ahead and have a seat, my little friend.”

Twinkle sprang twice her own hight and landed in the chair in front of the desk. A second chair sat a few feet to the side, where a male elf sat, playing with the bells on the toes of his shoes. He must be nervous, too.

“I’ve asked you two here for a very special reason,” said Santa, sitting back down with a thump that shook the floor. “You see, we’ve run into something of a problem.”

Santa turned his computer screen around to face the two of them.

“The Letter Office turned this up from one of those ‘Email Santa’ sites. Take a look, and tell me what you think.”

Twinkle shifted forward to read better.

Dear Santa,

How are you? I am fine.

I see some kids telling you how good they’ve been, but if you can really see us all the time that doesn’t make sense.

This year all I want is whatever will make Daddy happy. He’s been really quiet and sad lately.

Please and thank you.

Love, Jessie Morgan, New York City, USA

P.S. My teacher Miss Frantz helped me write this.

P.P.S. Are you secretly Jesus? Because he knows everything about what everyone’s done, too. That would be really convenient, because then we could just pray to you instead of writing letters and emails.

Twinkle smiled. The minds of children were so adorable.

“Well,” said the other elf, stroking his chin. “It’s hardly specific. ‘Whatever will make Daddy happy’…There’s a lot of directions that could go in.”

“I love it,” said Twinkle. “It’s so unselfish. Mama Clause gave a lecture just the other day about the problem of selfish children, and whether we were enabling the behavior –”

“Of course she was,” grunted the other elf under his breath.

“Well, I found it fascinating,” said Twinkle. “And I think this is a delightful counter-example.”

“Good points, both of you,” said Santa, putting the computer back in its place. “But my concern is this: our recent initiative for getting every child exactly what they want…no more, no less.”

“Total Accuracy,” quoted the other elf. “Prefer a cheap present with maximum emotional impact to an egalitarian view of economic exchange –”

“Which is just common sense,” said Twinkle.

“Quite,” said Santa. “Glad you two are so on board with the program. But here’s our problem…What would make Jessie’s Daddy happy?”

The elves looked at each other, then back at their boss.

“Do you have any background information?” asked the other elf.

“I deal mostly with children,” said Twinkle. “But I imagine American dads would be very similar.”

“Hardly!” insisted the other elf. “Single? Married? Recently widowed or separated? Is he a sports fan, gamer, workaholic, or academic?”

“But would something catering to those side interests actually make him happy?” exclaimed Twinkle. “Remember our other motto: Happiness isn’t found in a stocking.”

“Well, I feel confident in assigning you to this case,” said Santa. “This is a fact-gathering mission, my friends. As useful as the internet has become in these last few years, sometimes you have to go back to good, old-fashioned footwork.”

“What are our orders, sir?” asked Twinkle, bouncing to an “at attention” pose.

“And mission parameters?” asked the other elf.

“First off,” said Santa. “Twinkle, this is Shimmer. Shimmer, Twinkle.”

Santa’s mustache crinkled, as though he wanted to laugh.

Twinkle loved whenever he laughed during official dinners or speeches or such.

She turned to the other elf, and found his hand stuck out toward her.

She took his hand and shook it.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” said Shimmer.

“So glad to meet you,” said Twinkle. “I’m Pleiades Barracks. You?”

“Polaris Barracks.”

“Right,” said Santa. “The sooner you two start, the better. November is almost gone, you know.”

“Ah, yes,” said Twinkle, jumping down.

“Wait a moment,” said Shimmer. “Do I understand we’re supposed to travel to New York City and investigate this family at close range?”

“Precisely.”

“Ah. What sort of equipment –?”

“Any equipment you think you’ll need for a clandestine operation. Well, now…Anything I left out?”

“Let’s go see the Morgan family,” cheered Twinkle, bouncing up and down in front of the door. “Mission: discover Mr. Morgan’s perfect Christmas present.”

Shimmer cleared his throat, looked to Santa for a nod of affirmation, and jumped to the ground with a grunt.

Santa waved at them, and Twinkle waved back as they left the office.

“I’ll head to the armory for supplies,” said Shimmer. “Will you need to pack anything?”

“I suppose we might be a couple days,” said Twinkle as they headed down the corridor.

“A few days! This is a serious assignment. Clandestine movements, operating under the noses of the humans, cautious observation over an extended period of time…If we really intend to deliver the perfect Christmas present, that’s not something you can decide on after a single day of observation –!”

“Well, gotta go pack,” said Twinkle, skipping down the hallway. “Meet you at the hanger!”

“Meet by 1400 hours,” hollered Shimmer down the hall after her.

Whatever. Why had Santa chosen the two of them to be partners? And especially when everything in the workshop and shipping department was shifting from “high gear” to “highest gear” — the faster they could complete this assignment, they sooner they’d be back to help with other operations.

Still…the Total Accuracy Initiative… A present for Jessie’s Daddy was a present for Jessie, and every child deserved the perfect gift.

Even if it meant thinking outside the box.

Twinkle paused to stare at the poster tacked to the wall of the corridor. It was a picture of Santa in his outfit, and he was smiling broadly and pointing at his temple.

On top it declared, “Think outside the box!”

The text beneath proclaimed the motto: “Happiness isn’t found in a stocking.”

Twinkle scurried toward her barracks to pack what she would need. The mission was on!


Kimia Wood grew up under aNaNo Chapter 1—Happiness Can't Be Wrappedn aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Dear Diary…drama and revelations!

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure: “The Village of Hommlet”

What. A. Day.

On the plus side, no one is dead…

After investigating the rock pile memorial by Emridy Meadows, we headed for Nulb.

Four bugbears attacked us, but Elmo noticed them (and I smelled them) and we killed them pretty easily.

We did get hurt badly enough that Mikael took time to properly cast both his Cure Light Wounds spells (on Ezekiel and Elmo), which meant he’d used them up for the day.

Lydia did something cool, too, where she turned herself invisible when the bugbears attacked. I’ll have to ask her about that some time…

Nulb is surrounded by the Gnarly Forest, which by all accounts is a dangerous place. It’s no surprise bugbears are wandering freely, robbing and molesting as they please…and that adventurers are flocking to the area to wring treasure from the monsters.

As we came into town, the first couple houses seemed to be barely hovels – made of mud and thatch, or sod, and barely maintained. There’s a short bridge across the river into town, and the stones were much moss-eaten. We all followed Elmo’s example and stayed in the middle of the bridge.

The smell hits you as you enter the cleared ground of the town, and just gets stronger the closer you are to the river. Swamp and rotten fish is the best way to describe it…much like the Rushmoors around the lair of Explictika Defilas.

Lydia pointed out some enormous fish with teeth like crocodiles. She called them Giant Gars…whatever they are, I’d rather not swim with them. Obviously they eat the leftovers that are dumped into the river…(and perhaps the unwary travelers that are dumped into the river?).

The first building across the river is the Waterside Hostel – which has a stone foundation and wooden timbers, but looks pretty shabbily cobbled-together, all things considered.

We kept going past the blacksmith’s, where we met an old man taking a stroll.

Ezekiel tried talking to him about the town gossip, but the man said everything was “none of your business.”

I muttered to myself that I could “just feel the warmth of hospitality” – and the blacksmith must have heard me, because he laughed.

When Ezekiel went and talked to him, the blacksmith said there was demand all over for “hired blades”; when Ezie asked about trouble that needed solving, he suggested we ask “Little Mona” the Tzigan about her troubles.

She lives back up by the river, and the path to get there is only a step away from being swamp. Nori found a toad the size of a dinner plate (and, of course, ate it).

I asked Lydia if it was her toad, and she said, no, he was in her pocket. Apparently his name is Gruumsh, which I didn’t know before, (like the chief Orc god – Lydia says he looks like the altar to Gruumsh. She showed me, and he kinda does).

When we met Mona, Raven did the talking. She instantly recognized that he had the mark of the Tzigani, and didn’t mind telling us that her crystal ball had been stolen last night while she was at the tavern (Waterside Hostel).

Raven and Ezekiel engaged to find it for her, if possible, and of course I was set to track the thief.

The footprints weren’t that hard to find…especially when Elmo started tapping the toe of his boot casually by them.

“Thief prints go this way,” he said.

(I wasn’t really sure how he could know they were “thief prints” – I mean, they weren’t Mona’s feet, but you can’t jump to conclusions, y’know?) But he was insistent, so we followed the prints (this guy hadn’t done any work to cover his tracks, so I really didn’t need Elmo’s subtle-but-not-subtle hand gestures) until we got to the Waterside Hostel.

Well. Then.

We went in. There were three patrons in the corner, a couple of them still humming the drinking song we’d heard them singing earlier.

A greasy serving girl with more bust than shirt (you know the type) draped around Ezekiel (I have heard he’s a stunner, if you’re into that) and asked what she could get for us.

We found our way to a table and Raven and Elmo right away grabbed the good seats – the ones against the wall facing out into the room.

Ezekiel nodded me into the third chair against the wall and sat down, checking the potions and money pouch on his belt.

“Thief went upstairs,” said Elmo.

The window at my back was greasy. The table was greasy. The mostly spent candle on the table was also greasy. Long story short, I don’t think that place had seen a cleaning rag in some time.

While Raven and Ezekiel were ordering ales, Lydia made fire on the end of her finger and lit the candle.

(Magic Users are so cool that way. You can mock them for not doing anything in a fight…but come on. You can’t mock somebody who can make fire come out of their finger.)

I was deciding whether to be paranoid about their drinks – and Lydia was deciding about ordering wine – when Mikael held up his hand and said, “Wait, where’s my ring?”

That got all our attentions, since it’s his magic Protection Ring (and he can use all the help he can get).

The serving girl, with her chest in Mikael’s face, flounced onto one hip and said (a little loud) that she didn’t know what he was talking about.

Well…we’d seen this magic act before, so Mikael straight-up asked her to give it back.

Things are never that easy. The girl started hollering for the innkeeper (who’s named Dick, is like seven feet tall, and has an eyepatch).

They argued for a little bit — and I tried to suggest that everybody empty their pockets onto the table (to give them an out so we didn’t have to say who took the ring) but they weren’t falling for anything like that.

Ezekiel stood up to face the innkeeper (and the bartender he called over, and the two guys with leather armor and daggers that came out of the kitchen) and started in on his pontification stuff.

“I mean your establishment no harm, but kindly return my friend’s ring.”

Someone (either Raven or Mikael, I forget who – I was busy going through my pockets) suggested they might return it in exchange for some coin.

Dick the innkeeper thought he’d be clever, and said, “Oh, you want a specific ring!”

Yes! we all said: A specific, magic Protection Ring that was on Mikael’s finger just a moment ago!

Well, the bartender (his name is Wat and he’s really tall) brought over a lantern and crawled around on the floor, then announced he couldn’t see any ring.

(About this time Mikael whistled for Nori, and she came to the door, clicking her mouth-parts together.)

(The three drinkers in the corner ignored all of this and focused on their mugs.)

One of the kitchen staff came into the room in chainmail with sword and shield, while Ezekiel started breathing heavily through his teeth.

“I personally am not a follower of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel,” he said. “But there are times when I think his philosophy is the correct one. Elmo, what do you think?”

Instead of answering, Elmo hurled the table.

Elmo is very big.

The table flew through the air, slammed Innkeeper Dick and Bartender Wat in the chests, and toppled them to the floor.

Ezekiel (plus his chainmail, shield, mace, gear, and backpack) jumped on top of the table to hold it down – BLAM.

Raven danced over the table with monk-ish speed and swung at the guy in chainmail.

I got around the table and slashed at him – got him pretty well, too, and cut a big gash across one shoulder.

Elmo’s axe whistled as it came down and imbedded in the table – THUNK.

“We give!” howled Dick…which was pretty sensible – and also worked out for us, since we had no intention of seizing an inn by massacre.

Elmo levered the table off the two of them, and they picked themselves up and called the girl from where she had fled upstairs and made her give the ring back.

While our companions kept an eye on the staff, Elmo (with me for moral support) tracked our original thief upstairs.

The floor up there was such a mess of muddy footprints, though, that we couldn’t tell which room he went into.

Elmo knocked on the door where the girl was and “persuaded” her to open the door. (Don’t argue with a guy who has a big axe.)

We did find a secret hiding place in the floorboards, but all it had was a potion and some earrings. Probably not originally hers, but there was no way for me to know that – and it wasn’t really my business anyway, so we left them there and went to the room across the hall.

It was locked, and nobody was home (the girl said someone named “Mickey” lived there), but Elmo didn’t find the lock much trouble for his shoulder and got the door open.

In that room, we found what we were looking for – a crystal ball buried in the straw mattress (I assume it’s the same sphere – it had a cloudy center…and how many crystal balls are there around, anyway?).

We returned to the others, and left. Ezekiel said the electrum we paid for our drinks (which we never got) would pay for the damages.

I doubt very much that we made any lifelong friendships there.

We took Mona back her crystal ball, and in return she told Raven’s future. She said, “How strange. It just says, ‘Beware of snakes’.”

Well, that’s a little less strange when you realize that Raven’s traveling with Ezekiel…Grand Cleric of Snake-summoning. It was disappointing, though, since we’d been hoping for news about the Evil we came here to defeat, and, as Mona pointed out, snakes aren’t exactly evil…they just “are.”

She did promise that if she hears any news of the Temple of Elemental Evil, she’ll send word to us at the Welcome Wench in Hommlet, and suggested we go see Mother Screng, the herbalist, for more info.

See, we came here because the Cleric of Velnius had heard rumors the cult of Elemental Evil was stirring again. Not because no-good ruffians were picking pockets and murdering travelers. I’m not saying that regular bar-brawls and banditry are okay…but there is a difference in scale, see. And for the moment, we were stumped.

Well, we took the long way around to get to Mother Screng’s (Elmo knows his way around really well) and passed the Boatman’s Tavern (which is supposed to be the “bad” inn).

Ezekiel, Mikael, and Lydia went in to do the talking, while Raven, Elmo and I hung out around the corner and kept an eye out.

Elmo started tapping against the wall of Mother Screng’s house, and I looked at Raven awkwardly. By that point, he’d saved our lives enough and been enough of a help that I didn’t think he was going to double-cross us…but there was a whole lot of stuff going on that I didn’t understand, and there’s only so much I can take.

So I asked him what tune he was playing there, and he said he’d explain at camp.

A little boy went inside, and then Ezekiel and the others came out — Ezekiel practically dancing.

He told us it was probably time we got out of town, and Elmo agreed – taking us back by the long road. As we were crossing the bridge again, we heard a whistle from the Waterside Hostel…but by then we were practically out of town.

If those small-time crooks want to brave bugbears to try murdering us in our sleep, have at it!

(Just don’t let the bugbears get ahold of any dangerous weapons – like tables! Ha!)

We returned to the campsite where we stayed last night, and Raven retrieved his “horsey” dagger from the stump.

Since it was a little after noon, and we hadn’t eaten, I got a fire going and started preparing rations.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel was practically bouncing.

“I want to apologize for dragging you all out on a wild goose chase,” he said. “But now I think I know where we’re supposed to be.”

He spread his hands with a grin. “Maybe we looked like fools, blundering around like this, but I’m used to looking like a fool for my God!

“See, Mother Strung told us that ‘Cannoness Eday is exactly where she wants to be…on a special assignment for the church.’ Obviously Mother Spring is Cannoness Eday!” he went on.

“Also, remember that old man we met on the way into Hommlet? Well, St. Cuthbert sometimes travels around in the guise of an old man – so I think he was St. Cuthbert.”

I was beginning to start wondering what nefarious plot this was to murder us in our beds (and also how Ezekiel could have so much trouble with a name like ‘Screng’) when Elmo started talking.

In…a…different…voice.

“She’d appreciate it you didn’t spread that around too much, you know. Some of us can’t appear like what we really are.”

And he started telling us how he joined our group partly to see if we were legit…and had decided we were too stupid to be lying about who we were.

Because Evil people pretending to be Good are way more clever about it.

He also said that he understood acting like an idiot in service to your Deity.

He told us that we could trust the innkeeper of the Welcome Wench, and the elder of Hommlet (both are Old Faith).

(Oh, and he slipped me the Super Secret Ranger Signal. I guess because he felt like being obvious for once.)

Ezekiel asked him about the fighter and magic user building a tower somewhere east of town, and Elmo said, Oh, yes – they are servants of St. Cuthbert and are building the castle on behalf of the Plar of Veluna (and, yes, they did get their money from killing a dragon).

At which point I raised my hand and opened my big mouth.

Why on earth had Velnius (through his Cleric) sent a handful of Level 3s half-way across the continent (a party whose sneakiest member is the Large Spider and who largely resemble a mace – blunt and un-subtle) when there were a couple of dragon-slayers, a priestess secret agent, St.-Cuthbert-in-the-flesh, and a Level 18 triple-classing Ranger/Magic User/Bard already dealing with the problem? (Maybe the Cleric should have taken a pull of that crystal ball before setting his quest spell on Ezekiel?)

To which Elmo replied: Sometimes the blunt, clueless adventurers are more likely to bump into the answer and knock it over than a collection of secret agents who are trying to sneak around and find it.

In short: because we have big mouths, and no clue what we’re doing.

(Yeah…I got that feeling back with the tracking-footprints bit.)

So Elmo suggested we talk with Cobort and Turuko (those guys in the Welcome Wench who gave us a bad vibe) plus someone who’s claiming to be a sage.

Apparently there is “Evil” going on…and it’s uncannily coordinated. But where is the coordination coming from? Who is the Mastermind behind all this?

Elmo tells us that both the innkeeper and the elder were here before the original troubles started, so they might be able to give us pointers on what to look for.

But besides all that, we can serve as the cheese in the trap for older, stronger adventurers to catch their prey of evil cultists.

As Mikael said: “Let’s run headlong into danger!”

Ditzy, blundering do-gooders has totally been our M.O. lately. (Jill taught me that phrase: it means modus operandi – a person’s mode of operation.)

Cheese seems about what I’m cut out for at the moment, since I feel pathetically inadequate in other respects.

(Ezekiel mentioned “back when he served Heironeous,” so Elmo asked who he serves now. So Ezekiel got to gush about Ao, the “God of Gods,” who is in charge of even the other gods, and is worthy of worship even though He doesn’t give Ezekiel spells. Ezie pointed out that He has given good gifts – as seen with His power against undead – and that he is sure Ao has him here for a reason…even if it’s to play the Idiot Cleric in some universe-sized plan beyond our comprehension.

(That can be a comforting thought…especially when it feels like Blundering Idiot is your highest stat. It’s encouraging to think that Someone more powerful has your back…whether that’s a real, grown-up Ranger, or Ehlonna, or – dare I say it? – the God of Gods.)

Ezekiel looks ready to break into song and dance any moment.

I think Mikael and Raven are just happy to finally have a definite direction to move in…and also to be closer to defeating bad guys. Dare I suspect them of a little danger-lust, where it’s the thrill of the hunt and the unknown that keeps them forging on?

Lydia is taking notes in a notebook. Maybe she is keeping a journal, too.

The investigators who come after us will want to know what clues we gathered, and where we went wrong.

Which reminds me…I need to make sure my will is up-to-date.


To read the previous entry, click here.

Read the start of the adventure in Hommlet here.

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NaNo Chapter 1: Noah’s Bad Day

NaNoWriMo marches on. Here’s the “Chapter One” I wrote yesterday!

What story might follow it?


Noah approached the corner table, pen and notepad in hand.

“Good afternoon,” he said – trying not to make contact with the cat-eyes across the table. “My name’s Noah, and I’ll be your server today. Can I start anyone with any drinks?”

Thank goodness for three years’ experience of rote repetition. The girl sitting in the far chair (she looked like a preteen) was very distracting.

One of her cat ears twitched, and she smiled up at him. Gah! Her pupils were thin vertical slits! How easy was it for her parents to adapt to that? The other three in her family looked like pretty standard humans.

“Can I have lemonade please?” she asked.

“O-Of course,” said Noah, scribbling in his notepad.

It wasn’t fair, of course. No one knew where the mutations came from…and no one treated him differently for the weird scars on his face.

One night, he’d scratched his face…and woken up to find his pillow covered in blood. That’s what happened when you abruptly grew claws without realizing it.

Thank heavens for industrial strength nail clippers.

Noah smiled and nodded and went to put in the drink orders.

“Hey,” he said, nodding to the fry chef as he entered the kitchen. “Have you checked out Table 8? The girl’s got cat ears!”

Mr. Michael was not so much a “fry chef” as a Fry Master. He chuckled around the stumps of his tusks (every six months he visited the dentist to have them shaved down; it kept him from drooling into the oil).

“Have you seen Table 3?” asked Logan, juggling two trays. “Kid’s got honest-to-goodness butterfly wings. I’d hate to do third grade in his shoes.”

“Amazing his parents haven’t taken them off,” said Noah, collecting his orders for Table 1. “Hey, can anyone do me a favor? My shoulder-blades are killing me.”

Someone started rubbing his back. “Fresh scabs?” asked a voice – Jake, the manager.

“No, just crazy itching. I don’t know what it is. It’s driving me nuts,” said Noah. “Thanks, man.”

“Anytime,” said Jake, scratching his shoulder-blades. “Anything to keep you from touching it yourself.”

“Ha! This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Noah, flexing one hand.

He delivered the tray to Table 1, took more orders from Table 8, and refilled soda on Table 7.

As he came back into the kitchen, Jake was talking to Logan while sorting through the order tickets.

“One thing’s for sure — these mutations aren’t going away,” he said. “Which begs the question: do we try to pretend they’re not there? Or do we make the best of it?”

“Yeah,” said Logan. “If my kid came out with a tail or something, would I want to hack it off? Or show him I loved him just the way he was?”

“If you nip it when it’s small, they’ve got more of a chance to live a normal life,” said Noah, arranging a tray of drinks. “Ask how I know.”

“Oh, come on,” said Logan. “Don’t you ever have days where you say, ‘Boy, I wish I left my wi–’”

“No,” said Noah. “I like my job. I like my life. I like being able to get through the door of my apartment. I’ll keep telling my body what to do, not the other way around, thank you very much.”

His back gave a throb, but he ignored it and grabbed the drinks tray.

He flexed his shoulders and pushed the door open with his foot. He had no time to get achy right now; the lunch rush was just dying down, and then the dinner rush would pick up. He had things to do, and he wasn’t going to let something like a shoulder-ache get in the way.

As he was setting out the drinks for Table 4, both shoulder-blades throbbed. He clenched his teeth to stop himself wincing in front of the guests.

“I’ll – be back in a moment for your orders,” said Noah. “Unless you think…Actually, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be – right back in a moment.”

Hugging the tray, he headed for the front door. He didn’t smoke, but he needed a smoke break. He needed some fresh air, and a good, hard scratch on his back…and…

Something hit his back, and he fell on his butt in the foyer. Something was hanging on his back, trying to tip him over backwards.

Noah curled forward, hugging his knees. He had to get out the door. He had to do something. But he couldn’t even stand up and walk.

A little old lady with a walker froze on her way to the door, staring.

Logan came through the foyer with his notepad out – and dropped it to rush to Noah’s side.

“Does it look that bad?” whispered Noah – and yelped as his shirt tore.

“What on earth?” Logan gulped, his hands flickering around like mosquitos as he tried to think of something useful to do.

“Get Mr. Jake,” rasped Noah, rolling forward onto his knees and stomach as the thing behind him hauled even harder on his shoulders.

“R–Right,” said Logan, and darted away.

Noah started crawling for the doors. It was hard to move because the weights were all wrong…Gravity was treating him wrong.

He reached the doors and pushed the bar. Still crawling, he made it over the threshold – and got stuck.

He pulled, and twisted, and then tried to move backward – but he was stuck.

A family stepped up to the glass outer doors – and froze, staring in fascination.

Noah waved at them weakly, trying to smile.

Something tickled him on his shoulder – except the part of the shoulder that was still inside the restaurant.

Noah clapped his hands over his head. His own nerve endings were sending the signals to his brain — but his brain couldn’t handle it. It was all wrong. His body shouldn’t be like this.

Mr. Jake came through the second set of doors and stood in the entry-way, looking down at Noah.

“Hold on a second,” he said, and opened the door for the family still hesitating on the sidewalk.

“Good afternoon, folks,” he said. “Feel free to come in this way…Just a little medical emergency. It’s under control.”

Noah did not feel like having your enormous wings lodged in the entryway was “under control.”

Jake smiled and held the door for some more customers, then stepped to Noah’s side.

“We’re going to go straight through,” he said. “I’ve got this side. Logan, you got the other?”

Logan’s voice came muffled from beyond the bulkitude of Noah’s wings.

Jake grabbed one side and shoved inward.

Noah felt his two wings meet above his back and rub together (although his brain rebelled at this interpretation of the sensations).

He started crawling again, and his friends followed at his sides. He made it through the outer door and kept crawling until he felt his wings spring free to either side.

As the huge, membraned limbs spread out above him, the sidewalk was cloaked in shadow.

Noah put a hand over his mouth to keep from swearing in front of his boss. “It was my good work shirt, too!”

“Man!” said Logan. “Why would they grow back like that? I thought you just had to trim the stumps every few months or so –”

“I did,” wailed Noah. “They never did this before. Why would they do this?”

“Well,” said Mr. Jake, hands shoved thoughtfully into his pockets. “Maybe, if keeping them trimmed isn’t working, you’ll have to find a new way to live with them. In harmony.”

“Harmony?” hollered Noah. “I can’t fit through doors! I can’t follow dress code! How can I live in harmony with an angry condor growing out of my back?”

“Hey,” said Jake, and put out his hand to help Noah to his feet. “Try brain-storming, huh?”

Noah staggered upright, and leaned forward to keep from landing on his butt again.

Without meaning to, he found the muscles that controlled the huge, freaky cling-ons…and almost knocked himself and Jake over with the air blast.

“Look,” said Jake. “Take the rest of the day off, and give me a call in the morning. We’ll work with you on this.”

“I’ll get with my doctor,” said Noah. “These beasties are going down.”

“Hold on,” said Logan, appearing around the corner of one tent-like, membranous wing. “If they grew back over about ten minutes, what’s to say they won’t grow back again as soon as you cut them off?”

“I’m to say,” said Noah, throwing out his arms to keep from toppling over. “I can’t live a life like this. I’ll figure out something.”

Mr. Jake gave a funny, smug-looking smile. “Tell me how that works out for you.”


Kimia was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots are in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

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Dear Diary…talking and investigating (also what we’re bad at)

Alert: May contain spoilers for the module “The Village of Hommlet”

Well…we know what we’re good at, now.

Over dinner, Mikael told Raven about how Elmo’s armor is nicer than expected, and some of the suspicions he and Ezekiel had about that. (Elmo was too busy drinking to notice, I think.)

Ezekiel excused himself and went to visit the chapel of St. Cuthbert to ask the rector about the habits of bugbears (wish I could find the manual my Ranger Master gave me), while Raven and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have another member of the party, and we’d feel out some of the other potential adventurers in the inn.

Specifically Zrt (Zirt? Zyrt?), who Raven seemed to have a positive impression of…but I only vaguely remembered bumping into at the top of the stairs a few days ago.

We found him in his room…He’s waiting for a caravan to accompany to Divrs, but is willing to kill some monsters in the meantime.

Well…under certain circumstances.

The three of us talked a little bit, feeling each other out, and turns out he’s more focused on treasure than, ahem, public service. He says his deity is “eighteen inches of steel” and that for a monster-hunting, treasure-seeking adventure, he’ll settle for an equal share of the loot…but for a “trouble”-seeking, Evil-stomping mission, he wants fifty gold a day.

(Like we have that kind of money.)

We told him we’d confer with our party leader…but I don’t think he would mesh very well with Mr. “Worship-a-God-who-doesn’t-exist-’cause-it’s-the-right-thing-to-do-and-wander-the-Flannaes-for-Evil-to-defeat” Guy.

If you know what I mean.

Besides that, Raven is anything but blasé about his goddess (I’m pretty sure “praying and meditating” isn’t short-hand for “napping”). And as useful as a magic short sword and shield and bow and arrows all are, there are some predicaments nothing but the good grace of Ehlonna could get us out of.

So Zyrt is probably just as happy to find a party more geared toward his interests. It might have been awkward for all involved, but I’m glad we found that out.

Before I could say so, though, Raven announced he was going out to buy cheese, and left.

Mikael had apparently been talking with Elmo…but now Elmo had left, and Mikael said he was going to teach Nori some new tricks as he headed out the door.

I decided it was my turn to be the grown-up for once, and hired a room for Lydia for the night, and bunks for the rest of us. (I used the gold we got for selling the magic dwarf armor, since I figure that counts as “party funds.”)

When I was done helping Lydia carry her books up to the room (don’t let anyone tell you magic users are frail and delicate…no wonder she can’t wear armor when she’s got to lug those tomes around…although if it was me I might just jot some notes down to help my memory, or for the most important spells, and just bring that) anyway, when I returned to the common room, Ezekiel was in the corner with Elmo, having a chat. (And Elmo was having a jack of ale again.)

Ezekiel came over to me and told me, “We can trust him.”

Aaaall-righty, then. Perhaps Ezekiel pontificated at him – or maybe he finally got a “Detect Alignment” or something – but anyway that’s a weight off my mind.

Now I’ll only be suspicious because that’s what I do – not also because Ezekiel and Mikael have this big conspiracy they’re trying to uncover (and aren’t telling me about because they don’t want me to worry – like I would worry about something!).

Oh, also Ezekiel says that, according to Under-Priest Calmet (and the Master of the Grove, Brother Geru), bugbear chiefs have been known to keep the group’s treasure locked up in a central place to keep the other bugbears from getting uppity ideas.

So there goes another beautiful theory. I’m not one to question those higher level than I, but I can’t help wondering what the Cleric of Velnius was thinking of when he sent us after “Evil” here. I mean, the area is crawling with bugbears (and other nasties, apparently), but is there something more sinister going on?

Because the treasure-grubbing breed of adventurers seems perfectly capable of dealing with monstrous bandits.

And after all, the Cleric of Velnius was a long way away. Surely he wouldn’t have sent us halfway across the continent for nothing?

Maybe we’ll find out more in Nulb. We’ve bought more rations, so we’ll set out in the morning…with Elmo, again.

****

We got a good start, and the day was fine for walking.

We overtook a wagon caravan on the way through to Divrs, guarded against bandits by crossbowmen.

They were loaded down enough that we easily passed them, and continued down the Low Road.

Elmo obviously knows this area pretty well. As the sun was descending, he directed us to a campsite on a hilltop overlooking the road – and what I assume is the village of Nulb in the distance beyond a copse of trees.

A fire pit full of ashes indicates this is a popular spot for campers. I can see why, since it gives a good vantage of the surrounding grasslands…and the trees here will shelter us nicely from the wind.

On the opposite side from Nulb, we can see a large pile of rocks – almost a monument. Elmo says that’s the battlefield – Emridy Meadows – where the forces of Elemental Evil were defeated.

Hard to believe it was only nine years ago. Elmo doesn’t think his brother Ottis took part in the battle.

Alpheus would have been old enough, but I don’t think he made it over here to fight. He would have liked to, though…this battle turned the tide against the hordes of Evil, and allowed the lands of Good to enjoy what peace and quiet they now have.

The war isn’t over yet, obviously.

We’ll investigate in the morning…maybe we’ll finally find something out of place – something that will give us a direction to whatever the Cleric of Velnius felt was amiss…to whatever Brother Geru of the Druid Grove says is “disrupting the balance.”

As I was examining our campsite for any signs of bugbears, I found a hollowed-out stump. I showed it to Raven (since he had been talking about finding a place to hide his stuff before we went into Nulb) and he put the horsey dagger there that he bought in Veluna.

(He says he wants to give it to the Tzigane boy if we every meet them again.)

Ezekiel is taking first watch, kneeling a little ways from the fire, praying.

He doesn’t show it, but I know he gets tired of never getting an answer. I’m sure sometimes it feels like talking to himself…

****

Right after breakfast, we investigated the huge rock pile by the site of the battle.

It’s got to be fifteen or twenty feet tall, and made of boulders – some as big as my head.

Even after all this time, the ground underneath it looks dead and shriveled, as though by fire. Elmo tells us this is where they burned the bodies of the Evil Creatures after the battle.

We circled the pile a few times, but nothing seemed disturbed. Nothing that would indicate it was anything but the memorial of an old battle.

Nothing that would point to something Evil and Sinister crawling out of it, or disturbing the rest of the abominations burned to ash underneath.

No leads. Nothing.

So…we head for Nulb.


Find the previous entry here.

Read the start of the adventure of Hommlet here.

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