Dear Diary….mosquitoes worse than undead

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

[rough sketch of corridors and rooms]

Finally a chance to get down my notes in some kind of understandable fashion.

Let’s see. Ezekiel, Yeti, and I went into the room with the harpies – but probably should have put something in our ears, since we all were…stunned? when they started singing.

Fortunately, the ghouls that came in to attack us didn’t want to get too close to Yeti (he says it’s the careful cultivation of a virtuous life), so Ezekiel had time to shake himself awake and dust them.

When we’d dealt with the harpies, Ezekiel checked out the little room where the ghouls came from – but besides the old clothes and filth they’d been “nesting” in, all he found was a chain-mail shirt about the size of an elf (they pointed out it was too small for anyone except me, and I said it wasn’t that funny).

As we were examining the borders of the room, the grate rattled and raised itself back up automatically…so that’s handy.

Raven checked out the part of the floor that must be the trigger for the mechanism, and he thinks the grate isn’t activated until someone steps off it into the room, so we could all join up in the harpy room as long as we were careful.

Corby flew up to one of the pillars where the harpies used to perch, but she didn’t find anything “shiny” in the dirty nest up there.

There was a door at the north end of the room, and as soon as Ezekiel opened it I spotted a ghoul and launched my ready arrow at it. The ghoul spotted him, too, and slashed at him with its claws.

Yeti and Mikael also got hits in before Ezekiel could wrestle his holy symbol out of its pocket to turn them (he thinks there were four total). (Never hurts to be prepared to act.)

A chest against one wall had a bunch of old clothing, plus hefty load of copper, silver, gold, and platinum coins.

Yeti opened another door in the wall where we’d come in, and we found an anteroom with the remains of upholstered furniture and pewter tableware. It would have been a comfortable place before it was trashed and filled up with undead…although the frescoes on the walls are obscene and deserve to be smashed. Maybe if we find time heavy on our hands.

Yet another door led out across the room, and Yeti insisted on opening this one, too (he says he’s sturdier than Ezekiel is, and Ez shouldn’t have gotten scratched by that ghoul).

Beyond, we spotted two pale, shriveled figures – when Ezekiel did his thing toward them, they didn’t crumble into dust immediately, but shrieked and cowered.

I tried to shoot an arrow, but smacked myself in the face instead. I’m just glad I didn’t break anything.

Raven showed off and bounced one of his daggers off the wall before it skimmed past one of the undead. Then when he threw a second dagger into it, Yeti followed up – driving it in with his hammer.

I nailed the other one through the throat (which is apparently lethal even for undead like these).

The remaining undead scampered away and scrabbled at a wall sconce, opening a secret door to escape through…but Raven ran after him (he’s very fast, after all) and even though he started gagging at the undead’s smell or something, he distracted it enough for me to nail it with an arrow.

Ezekiel calls these creatures “ghasts.” I just wonder what the world needs with so many different kinds of undead!

Well, the secret door led out into the harpy room…so we’ll be glad these creatures didn’t decide to join the skirmish outside. The ghast room must have once been a bedroom, as it has a collapsed bed among the other broken furniture. The walls here, too, are covered with horrible, ugly pictures…Yeti says they’re in an “earth theme,” and I guess I can see what he means if I think about it (which I don’t want to).

Ezekiel dug in the wall at the head of the bed and found a loose block with a huge gold cup filled with gold coins and three onyx gems. The cup is covered with disgusting engravings, and I tried not to look at it while we put it in the bag of holding.

Well, with that done, we used the harpy bodies to weigh down the pressure plate by the door to help us all get safely out the gate…and then we spent a smelly, tiresome half hour plucking the harpies.

Harpies really are ugly creatures…never trust something that looks too-human and not-human-enough at the same time.

It was late afternoon when we came in here, so it must be pushing evening by now. We decided to leave the horses in the care of Yeti’s amazing warhorse, and look for a defensible room here to hole up in (but not any of the undead rooms because none of us could possibly sleep with that stench).

We continued along the passage to the north [see sketch] until we came to another right turn – which Ezekiel took. That led to a hexagonal room, with a ceiling so high we could barely reach it with our lights.

Ezekiel and Raven checked for any sign of a grate across the doorway, then advanced with the others while I waited with my bow in the doorway.

Well, we should know by now that something is always waiting to drop on our heads. This time, it was mosquitoes-from-hell also known as stirges. We fought some in the marsh on the way to Explictika Defilas’ lair…but that was only three of them. They are much more irritating in large numbers.

I had an arrow ready, so I knocked one out of the air right away…but it felt like a drop in the bucket when at least four of them latched onto Lydia and a few others got their icky tube-line mandibles in our other companions.

Lydia smashed an egg down on the floor, and a green cloud billowed out from her, spreading as far as the doorway where I was.

I coughed a little, backed up, and worked to line up my shots while the others fled the cloud…except for Raven, who was on his hands and knees gagging, and Lydia, who was weighted down with a collection of the huge bloodsucking beasts.

The stirges started glittering and flashing as Mikael cast faery fire, and as I sniped a couple off Lydia, one of the stirges who wasn’t overwhelmed by the gas made a swipe at my head (and missed).

Lydia came coughing out of the cloud to join me in the doorway. She pulled a flask out of her pack and threw it, splashing a pool of what looked like oil.

Ezekiel charged across our field of vision, grabbing Raven and dragging him out of the cloud.

I caught a glimpse of Corby chasing after a stirge.

And then…Lydia lit a torch and tossed it, the oil ignited, and the remaining stirges popped and sizzled in death.

(Except for the one buzzing at my ear, and I grabbed my sword out to slice it in half.)

Well, with the excitement over, Mikael could take his time healing the wounded (Lydia and Raven were the worst off) while Yeti “laid hands” on Corby.

Well, the room has six sides, and the only furniture seems to be a big throne of brown marble veined with black. Both arms are broken off, and it looks in bad shape.

Yeti went around the room “detecting Evil” (useful thing to be able to do) and while Lydia was still by the wall resting, she found a ring with comets or something etched on the outside.

Ezekiel thinks it’s something to do with the “Far-Wanderer,” and the magic users who revered him. Once he said that, Lydia remembered hearing about a ring that lets you cast certain spells like Light, Lightening, and Faery Fire.

(I pointed out it wouldn’t let me cast those, and we all agreed she should probably hold on to it.)

While Corby was chowing down on a nest of baby stirges (she brought me one, which Raven says is a thoughtful thing to do), Mikael cast Detect Magic to help us find anything else in the room…but pretty much the ring was the only magical thing we noticed (though we found some copper pocket change).

When I made a fire behind the throne (plenty of debris on the floor to keep it going) we spotted what seems to be a secret door…so Ezekiel said we have to keep an eye on that, as well as the main door.

We’re keeping watch in shifts, and I get the third watch with Mikael (was really afraid I’d be assigned Lydia for a minute there).

She said she was sorry for casting the stink cloud on us all, and we all said you gotta do what you gotta do, and it all worked out (and she got hurt the worst, anyway) but I’m not quite comfortable with the way she keeps setting things on fire.

Ezekiel says dying made me paranoid, and I said what else is death good for – but really not ready for that discussion.

I wonder what else lurks in this labyrinthian place.


Find the previous entry here.

To start at the beginning of our adventure in the Temple, go here.

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My 27 Happy Birthday Things

Today – April 27 – I turn 27 years old.

(That’s right, isn’t it, Mom? Right? [math]…okay, yeah.)

My day-job is still on quarantine shut-down – along with most things in my state – but I figured I could still have fun by coming up with 27 things that I like.

Read on to: 1) find some things you might like to try; 2) rejoice that something you like is enjoyed by someone else; and 3) find out more about me! (Because who wouldn’t want to!)

1. Jesus

He’s the most wonderful Person in the history of ever. Not only does He put up with me when I’m being a selfish, petulant baby, but He rescued me from my own selfishness and is going to marry me one day.

(In a spiritual sense, of course. It’s not weird…talk to Him about it!)

2. My family

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

The famous brother!

Well, a whole lot of things have to tie for second place. But I think the cake has to go to my parents and my kid brother.

(Just kidding! I eat the whole cake myself!)

While they’re far from perfect, I think my parents’ success can be boiled down to two basic parenting choices:

A—They boldly lived their Christian walks in front of us kids

…the times they doubted, the times they came up short, the times they didn’t have the answers. They communicated their love of Jesus – not only in their words – but in the actions and decisions they made every single day.

B—They took us along for the ride.

We were never excluded in a little box of “innocence,” and they never made us feel like the adult world was some boring place we didn’t belong. Whether visiting the OB floor where my mom worked…or sitting around with our church-friends talking heavy theology stuff…or going over math sheets together…or taking two weeks for an “American Government” field trip on the East Coast because homeschooling lets you do that!…we were always included, valued, “one of the guys,” and shown the “adult world” as a place we absolutely belonged.

And my brother…well, I could talk all day about this complicated and precious dynamic we have.

3. Dorothy Sayers

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Amazon

She had to come sooner or later.

If I were to list only one author whose work I would want with me on a desert island, it would be the lucid, intellectual, witty, and soul-searching novels of Dorothy L. Sayers.

She doesn’t just write mysteries…although they are such clever, twisty, and satisfying mysteries.

Each of her works is infused with a philosophical bite, a keen insight into human nature, glorious British banter, colorful flesh-and-blood characters…

I could go on, but I’ll just recommend my personal favorite: Unnatural Death.

4. One Punch Man

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: One Punch Man Wiki

Another tie for 2nd place, this anime blew my mind and skyrocketed to the top of All Things Amazing in my life.

Yeah, probably don’t show it to the kids (there’s sprinkled coarse language and borderline male nudity), but there’s so much else awesome here!

Genos! Saitama – a noble (though bored) hero with the Daddy-like power to crush any bad-guy! Crazy monsters, and truck-loads of professional heros. Genos! A snotty telepath chick who kicks Captain Marvel in power, attitude, and characterization. Simple plots with deep themes – oh, such themes! Heroism! Self-sacrifice! The harsh reality of mob mentality, attacking the very heroes who saved their lives! Genos!

Enough already. Just go read why Genos is totally adorable, then maybe find it on YouTube or your favorite streaming service (or even buy the DVD and a t-shirt to match!).

5. Baking

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Pixabay

When I was a kid, I always found baking frustrating because it took so much time and energy to produce something that…would be consumed and gone before you could turn around.

Now, it still takes time and energy…but I just need those chocolate cookies, man. Whatever method delivers my hit.

Oh! I’ve also figured out yeast-bread. For the longest time, breads with yeast were always frustrating because they took longer, you had to get your arms all flour-y with kneading them, and 90% of the time they wouldn’t even rise!

Now, though, I have a few secrets:

a) Use yeast that’s not old and kaput. b) Knead on the kitchen table (which is just the right hight to be comfortable for my arms). You still have to get flour all over your hands, but if you knead it long enough the dough goes all soft and squishy and elastic and it’s lovely. c) Arrange the dough beside and above a ROARING WOOD-STOVE to rise!

Now…well, my baked goods still seem to disappear shockingly quickly. But I’m having enough fun experimenting with the process that it’s not so terrible when I only get one or two rolls.

(ALTHOUGH I STILL WANT MORE THAN ONE ROLL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)

6. My coworkers

I like my day job. I really do. Yes, it’s work, and yes, it’s makes me tired and frustrated…but that’s what adulting is about.

And part of what makes it all worth it is the great people I get to work with! They really are like family 🙂

7. YouTubers: Lindsey Ellis, Filmento, Overly Sarcastic Productions, Literature Devil, The Closer Look

I watch way too much YouTube. One of the reasons I’m always baking (or washing dishes) is it gives me an excuse to watch.

My pattern over the past year or so is: I find a video I like (usually on story theory, movies, or human nature) and then I go obsessively watch the creator’s entire back-list.

I forced myself to narrow it down to just my absolute favorites. Go check them out…maybe you’ll discover some new content you love!

(And one of these days I absolutely need to put something in their Patreon tip jar, ’cause – come on! – I want them to keep eating and keep making content!)

Overly Sarcastic Productions—My favorite of their videos is their series “Trope Talk” on various commonly repeated story elements/tools/building blocks, like this video on Paragon Characters (language caution for this one)—official site

—Literature Devil—His series of videos on “Is #ComicsGate Wrong?” asks the question: “Should comics focus primarily on Telling Stories, or on Politics and Social Issues?” Entertaining and thought-provoking!—official site

—Lindsey Ellis—I first found her channel through her ruthless critique of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake. She may be a woke lib chick from California, but even when we don’t agree I still find her arguments interesting and thought-provoking (LANGUAGE cautions, though!)—her channel homepage

—Filmento—This guy has an adorable little accent – I mean, also he analyzes movies from a story-telling and craft perspective…like this video where he explains why Captain America: Winter Soldier is amazing (language caution)! He’s also good because, when he critiques a movie, he gives suggestions for how it could be done better – like in this video for how the Men in Black reboot could have been stronger!—his Patreon

—The Closer Look—I first found this guy because of his video on how pushing a political viewpoint in a story alienates your audience…though I also like his video that discusses the unique immersion opportunities video games have versus other forms of media—his channel homepage

8. Wadjet Eye Games

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Gemini Rue

Maybe should have gone higher on the list but I refuse to overthink this.

This outfit consistently puts out amazing, high-quality point-and-click games.

The puzzles are intuitive (most of the time) and make you feel clever.

The stories and powerful, emotional, and feature jaw-dropping twists.

The voice work is top-notch, the music is addictive, and the graphics range from retro low-res to beautifully evocative.

How much do I love them? I finally bought one of their games NOT ON SALE! (Okay, it was a Christmas present from my brother, same difference.)

If you are in any way interested in point-and-click indie games, then checkoutmyreviews, and then give them your money so they can keep doing this!

9. Visiting nursing homes

It’s…strangely fulfilling and addictive. Of course, I haven’t gone to see my little friends for at least a month…but I’m still praying for them, and can’t wait to get back at it!

You, too, can visit nursing homes and brighten someone’s day!

10. Pretty yarn

My work-place has started carrying these super cute skeins that have multi-color swirls of different colors, and they look so adorable all wrapped up (and feel so soft and fun when you touch them) that I’d have a hard time actually using any of them.

But they’re still super adorable.

11. Columbo and Mission: Impossible

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

Tied for 5th place (don’t try to make the math come out…I’m not) are two amazing TV shows.

Columbo is a knuckle-biting (and sometimes humorous) murder mystery starring the smartest, frumpiest police lieutenant to ever be perpetually underestimated.

Mission: Impossible is packed with suspense, intrigue, slow-burn plots, keep-you-guessing double-agents – all held together with amazing teamwork!

If all you know of M:I is the movies…you’re missing out and you need to see the TV show!

12. My Hero Academia

My brother and I only recently cracked into this show over quarantine…and, well, I guess it lives up to the hype.

I know I put it after Columbo and M:I, but it might actually be my #2 favorite show. (It’s way better than Avatar: The Last Airbender YES I SAID IT.)

I really need to write a full review. Suffice to say that it handles a large cast expertly, builds slow-burn friendships and character arcs deliciously, offers pay-offs on things you didn’t even know they were setting up…all while exploring the explosive concept of a super-human society with creativity, humor, and plenty of action.

Perfect? No. But 100% worth $5 for a month of streaming from whatever service you can find it on. (And maybe when they finally come out with full-season or multi-season DVDs we can get those, too.)

13. Buckeyes

For those not in the Midwest, these are basically half-and-half frosting and peanut butter – rolled into balls and coated in chocolate. (Although they also work just plastered on a cookie sheet and chopped into slices.)

Chocolate and peanut butter. The only downside is the calorie price-tag.

14. Our dog and cats

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia WoodTied for 5th place (just give up…I have) is our dog (Border collie mix) and cats (our current ones are all-black American short-hairs).

My family never owned a dog until we moved to the country when I was…well, over 20 – and now I don’t know what we did without him!

Wag wag SO FLUFFY wag snuffle *stroke ears*

15. Knitting

I’ve been trying to rotate lately, to cut down on hand pain (really hoping this isn’t early-onset carpel tunnel), but I love knitting.

Probably especially since I can do it while doing something else (reading, watching a movie, talking with people) and feel like I’m being productive (or “extra productive”).

I’ve been knitting since age 12, and have made countless hats, scarfs, afghans, sweaters, shawls, doll clothes –

My bad. The doll clothes I’m thinking of were crocheted.

I also do cross-stitch, am getting into sewing, and have done embroidery in the past.

I probably like knitting the best, but it depends on the situation. (And I’m constantly having to talk myself out of picking up a new project.)

16. Research

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Mike Popovich on Unsplash

Part of the fun of being an author is researching stories!

Back when I was writing Sons of the King, I lived to hunt through all the obscure websites about castles, swords, poison, and other info about pre-Conquest Great Britain.

Hayes and Hayes, of course, required me to learn A LOT about the Drug Enforcement Administration, gangs, and meth. (Reminds me of a funny story from Sociology class…also I wrote a Statistics paper about meth-rehab clinical studies!)

And of course, White Mesa Chronicles let me dive head-first into societal collapse…what urban environments might look like after 50 years of neglect…home-steading…prepper culture…how you could rebuild Western civilization with a 3D-printer in your basement (ahem – you really can’t, but having 50 other families with 3D-printers in your neighborhood is a good start)…parasite epidemiology…I lose track.

Ooh! And if you grab my latest release (Transmutation of Shadow, publishing TODAY!), you’ll find out why I researched jails; the CIA headquarters at Langley, PN; the strength tolerances of bullet-proof glass; when Dunkin’ Donuts opens; and other cool stuff like that!

(It’s so much fun sometimes you don’t write the actual book…*cough cough*!)

17. Fire escapes and sewer grates

That reminds me. I have an unnatural attraction to fire escapes.

Not like I want to do parkour or anything… Maybe it’s just the draw of the forbidden.

Like those “Staff only” and “No entry” doors, and the little packets at stores that say “Silica gel Do not eat Throw away.”

What would happen if you ate one?

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: es.Valve.wiki.com

As for the sewer grates, I’m pretty sure that’s 85% to 90% of me worried a head-crab is going to appear at any moment.

18. Halo and Half-life 2

How could I call this a “list of things I like” and totally forget two of the greatest games to ever grace the digital world?!

While I have written about how, in some ways, Halo is superior to Half-life 2…they both played huge, HUGE roles in my development – mental, emotional, and creative – and I will always owe them a great debt.

(Honestly, though, the Master-chief beats Gordon Freeman. Totally.)

19. Steve Taylor

My favorite singer/songwriter ever.

My family teases me that you can’t understand a word he says…but if you take the time to dive into the lyric sheets, you’ll find words that cut deep to the soul of humanity – and then stake that soul out to roast on the solid rock of Biblical Theology.

He’s also sarcastic, which is delightful.

20. Kristen Lamb

This Texan lady is a blogger on story structure, author business, marketing, the publishing industry, inter-personal social dynamics…

She’s so very different from me. She’s aggressive. She’s a go-getter. She calls it like she sees it, and doesn’t care what extra characters (@#%&) she uses in her posts.

She’s also remarkably right about a lot of things…and I find her call-to-arms inspiring.

My favorite post is probably this one, talking about how content providers (authors, singers, artists, performers) actually do deserve compensation for the services they offer.

Check her out! Maybe even buy her books (or check out her tip jar if you really like her stuff).

21. Magnolia flowers

Every spring, the tree in the front yard blooms, and my heart sings.

22. also Tulips and Daffodils

Everybody talks about how wonderful roses are, but tulips are gorgeous and amazing and come in so many different colors and have such a pleasing shape! (Also our property is coated with rose bushes that are all thorns and will grab you at the most unexpected times but I digress.)

23. Marvel movies

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: BrianOverland.com

My favorites are Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: The Winter Soldier!

My mom’s favorite is Avengers: Age of Ultron because of the scene on Hawkeye’s farm. She could probably just watch that scene over and over and be happy 🙂

24. RWBY soundtrack

I think I might like the music more than the show itself, even! As I said in my review, it’s like cinematic orchestral smashed with rock with a smattering of ballad…and also jam packed with clever words and emotion.

(Note to self: buy the CDs one day in case YouTube is down…)

25. Cleaning things

Sounds weird, I know. I think the fun comes from the visual progress of seeing dirt and grime peeling away and being magically replaced with clean surfaces.

(I also have a perfectionist streak, so whenever I start cleaning something, I get wrapped up in doing it all.)

26. Our D&D campaign

My dad and brother have gotten more “into it” than I have (which is strange, since re-launching our campaign was kinda my idea), but it grows on you. (Maybe dying has a way of increasing emotional investment?)

It has taken over my blog in some ways. Or rather, it’s kept the blog alive during some dry creative patches!

Go ahead – check out the Ranger Journal (at “Season 1: the Cult of the Reptile God,” “Season 2: the Village of Homlette,” or the in-progress “Season 3: the Temple of Elemental Evil“).

When it’s less about rolling dice – and more about creating a story as friends – it’s more fun!My 27 Happy Birthday Things — Kimia Wood

27. Blogging

Tied for #10, I love my blog.

Though I started it to promote my author career, I have fun jabbering about whatever I care about, formatting it prettily, then PUBLISHING it for all the world to see!

It gives me a place to process things I want to think about, and encourages me to articulate it in a way that makes sense to other people.

So…look around, make yourself at home – and maybe find something that entertains you and makes you think!


My 27 Happy Birthday Things — Kimia WoodKimia Wood turns 27 today!

She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest. She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

If you like lovable characters, gripping action, siblings who would die for each other, mysteries, questions, emotional adventures, and asking “what if?”…then you will enjoy any of her books!

Her latest novel just PUBLISHED TODAY, and features a lovable “Jason Bourne Jedi” – who works as a government assassin – finding out some of his targets weren’t on the approved list! Give me a birthday present and grab yourself a copy 😉 😀My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Dear Diary…not my day

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

We arrived back in Homlette in time for Needfest. Mikael is very excited to get to collect mistletoe (apparently collecting it this time of year helps it be more potent – Druid thing).

The inn was pretty crowded, but Master Osler had no trouble getting rooms for us. It’s nice to be liked.

Noticed a tall fellow in travel clothes with a bow and long sword; also several merchant caravans have stopped here for the duration of the festival.

Ezekiel says it’s a good chance to “live a little” – whatever a Cleric means by that.

****

So. This is going to be hard to write.

We were in the common room at the Welcome Wench. I remember that.

The tall guy beckoned me over him, and since Ezekiel is always saying “If you don’t ask you won’t know,” I went over to talk to him.

He said he had a “message” from my “friend down the road” but he couldn’t give it to me there, so we went outside – and yes, I told Ezekiel where I was going, and he said something like “you don’t need me to hold your hand.”

I remember the one full moon, and the cold.

The man said our “adventures had attracted some powerful enemies.” I remember that part.

And then…then I remember I was on a stretcher, and it was hard to breathe, and a Cleric of Pholtus was shining a light in my eyes and saying words that didn’t make much sense.

Well, finally my breathing seemed to get easier, and then Ezekiel and Raven showed up and Ezie was thanking the High Cleric with all the pomp and bowing he could muster. And the High Cleric said it was a pleasure to serve a Ranger of Ehlonna, but especially since Ezekiel had offered them such a valuable scroll.

Anyway, they tell me Ezekiel found me dead in the back yard, and hauled everybody over to Verbobanc to find a Cleric with enough standing and learning to raise me.

I can still feel a mark, if I push just under my rib. I’ve never felt such a mixture of rage, humiliation, and amusement.

Whatever else, there’s no way “eighteen inches of steel” would have gotten me out of this (unless I suppose I was wearing it from my eyes to my knees…though probably not even then).

Something tells me I should not be alive again…but I will focus on being grateful that Ehlonna is not done with me yet. And that Ezekiel cared enough to shell out to bring me back…

Although I will never forgive myself for ignoring my One Single Personal Rule: NEVER TRUST ANYONE.

Ezekiel thinks “someone” connected me with the death of the Drow Cleric, but the closest I ever came to “talking” to anyone was admitting to the merchant that we rescued some prisoners from some “bad guys” (never trust a man who price-gouges like that).

Raven says that, before they left town, he had a talk with Master Osler, who said the tall man showed up while we were in Celene and called himself “Strider” (don’t they always?).

I just think that if they wanted to take out the deadly power-house responsible for the Drow’s capture/death, it should have been Ezekiel! (Maybe not fair – he’s already been dead once.)

And, true, Ezekiel points out that no one else can nail orcs or chop up rats the way I can, and I suppose that’s likely true.

Still furious (the man had the audacity to speak in Lawful Good to me!), and still determined to never talk to anyone ever again about anything unless I’m covering them with my bow.

Raven is out doing some shopping while we’re in the “big city,” and we’ll return in the morning.

Because Ezekiel is right about one thing…if they wanted to scare us away with this, well, they guessed wrong.

It at least tells us we’re barking up the right tree.

****

Got back to Homlette with no problems.

Ezekiel told me to “keep a low profile.” I told him I’m the shortest in the party and just what does he want me to do?

Master Osler says the so-called “Ranger” hasn’t been seen since that night.

If we head to the campsite tomorrow, we can go from there to the site of the Temple and arrive early enough in the day to get some exploring done (sure is nice to have mounts of our own!). We’re also bringing the cart because, after all, we might find something we want to haul away (like rescued prisoners or something).

Oh – when Yeti came back from training with his Paladin higher-ups, he brought this huge, muscular war horse that seems to understand whatever he tells it. He says it’s like Lydia and Grumpsh (the toad) or Mikael and Corby…they are “best friends” in a professional sense.

Must be nice to have an animal companion.

****

Notes on the Temple of Elemental Evil

-sent Corby to scout from the air; saw a couple ravens hanging out by the tower (NW corner) but the tower top is completely sealed up, though ruined; no getting in and out through the roof, looks like

-Corby spotted a gate in the western wall, so we could get the horses into the inner court; so glad the poison oak has finally died

-leaving horses in the charge of Yeti’s war horse…apparently he’s smart enough to protect them/lead them in a retreat if necessary; very useful

-ruined out-building in the north-west area of the courtyard; burned, tumble-down, surrounded by twisted usk trees

-staircase on the W side, but the lower steps collapsed; dark hole at base

-huge rat nest! However, Raven talked with them and bribed them with rations to tell him that “lots of people” have been coming through here “all the time.” Not super helpful, but definite confirmation is good. Also we’re on the right track so far.

Ezekiel charging head-first for the Temple because of course he is…

[rough sketch]

So ugly!

Three doors – west, south, east. West and east are locked, and barred from the inside.

South…is unnatural. The huge door seems covered with runes that light up, but I can’t really look at them. It’s too horrifying.

Ezekiel and Raven say the chinks are filled in with soft iron…and that suggests to me that someone really, really doesn’t want anyone/anything opening this door (specifically anything evil).

R picked the lock on the east door, then L knocked on it and the bolt undid itself (or something like that).

Inside is quite nauseating. Floor is reddish brown slate, and the walls are covered with ugly images of horrible tortures and murders and other Evil things. There are narrow stained glass windows high up in the walls, but the light only makes the whole place look sickly and diseased.

Unbarred the W door (in case we need a hasty retreat toward our horses) and continued up the nave.

-floor is actually divided into several huge squares, each with different colored tiles

-about a third down, two side passages branch off, and there’s a line where the tiles change color

-center has pillars of some kind – white marble veined with red. There’s a seven by five altar.

-west branch of “sanctuary” (if you can use such a word for this place) – sandstone; hard to see in failing light

-east: green pillars and floor; Ezekiel went here first

-circular dais in the middle, almost two feet tall

-altar on dais, Ez says there’s a depression with blackened liquid, seashells, and a broken bronze knife

(Clues for the “key pieces”??)

-side room opens from SE corner of this wing…vestry with broken trident, moss green robe (filthy of course) and other broken items; also red floor and stairs down

Ez decides we’ll go down, even though it’s getting toward evening.

Try to keep arrow nocked.

[sketched map]

Two right turns. Corridors here are lit with torches, so obviously someone’s been here.

Approached a room and could smell the refuse; maybe that’s what tipped Ez off. That and the high ceiling, and the bones on the floor.

He was sure something was on the ceiling in this room (we have had bad luck with things dropping on us) and Yeti pointed out a harpy in the corner.

At my suggestion, Raven and Lydia plugged their ears with cloth while I tried to hit the harpy (I guess I wanted to be able to hear Ezekiel’s instructions).

I winged it, then we spotted a second one…so Ez had us move in together to get an angle on it while the other three stayed by the door.

As soon as we moved away from the door – clang – a grate dropped down (that’s getting old) and the harpies began to sing.

(I remembered that they had terrible voices – except maybe terrible in a beautiful way – or maybe just because it’s so strange you just have to listen –

Anyway, what I do remember next is a ring of ghouls – standing around us in a perfect ring around Yeti – and crumbling into pieces.

Ezekiel tucked away his holy symbol again (keeps it in a pouch on his belt, now that he’s in full plate armor). Yeti pulled out his crossbow, and I managed to take out the two harpies (though Ez had already wounded one of them).

Note to self: Paladins are so very useful.

Lydia says harpy feathers can be very valuable. (Also tried to dig at me for “falling in love” with the harpies’ song, but got no time for that nonsense.)

[hurried sketch of harpy room, with secret door where ghouls emerged]


Find the previous entry here.

Read the start of the Homlette adventure here.

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Open Letter to Chick Publishing

Open Letter to Chick Publishing

Dear Chick Publishing,

I grew up with your tracts. My mom handed them out every Halloween.

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJV

Image credit: Pixabay

I’ve often cried real tears while reading them because I see the beautiful story of my Master Jesus and His love for His people. And now that I’m grown, I’ve made your tracts a part of my own “passive evangelism” strategy (as opposed to the times I actually have conversations with people).

Which is why I feel I have to write this letter. I feel you (as an organization, maybe not as an individual) have a blind spot that’s hurting your witness and your relationship with your brothers and sisters…and our common Lord.

Is the KJV Really Your Hill to Die On?

I don’t mind if y’all prefer the King James Version of the Bible…but the anger and bitterness with which y’all 1) defend your preference and 2) attack others who make a different choice is frustrating.

Quite apart from the ways in which the KJV is a poor reflection of the original Greek, the things y’all write in your newsletters (and even in some of your tracts!) make it sound like you believe God sent an angel down in 1611 with golden tablets inscribed with these words, and to translate them would be a heresy!

Dude! Seriously?! What– Is this seriously how you want to be remembered? If even I, a Christian fundamentalist patriarchalist, thinks you sound cray-cray, what are unbelievers who run across this material going to think?

But let’s break it down. Because it’s not even rational. The KJV is the only valid Bible? Really? Are y’all for real?

God’s Literal Words…in English

Okay, so…your company (Chick Publishing) prints Spanish tracts.

SPANISH tracts.

People. You print tracts…in SPANISH.

Those tracts ARE NOT USING THE KING JAMES.

When Paul of Tarsus sat down and dictated to Silas, he wasn’t using English…they were speaking (gasp) GREEK. Literally Greek.

Were the things Paul, Peter, Luke, Moses, Jeremiah, etc. said/wrote all wrong until some random guys in Great Britain came along to “translate” them into the words God actually meant (meaning the KJV)?

What about the Bible translation work going on around the world?

This very moment, as I write this, Wycliffe Associates is supporting more than 1,550 translation projects, translating the Bible into languages around the world.

Not a single word of those translations is going to be KJV.

Do y’all seriously, honestly, intellectually believe that no one can be a “good Christian” unless he reads the Scriptures in 17TH-CENTURY ENGLISH?

I guess I’ll just go give the bad news to, like, literally 99.9% of Christians who have ever lived in the history of the world!

If We’re Here to Communicate…Shouldn’t We Speak Their Language?

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJV

Image credit: ThisFragileTent

Not all English is created equal.

Meaning, many English-speakers (even those who speak it as a first language) have trouble with the phraseology of the King James.

I’ve heard a pastor preach about how bad “diver’s weights” are…not realizing the Proverb is talking about “diverse weights” AKA “weights of various (lying) measurements.” (Prov. 20:10…note how the ESV renders it…)

There was also a girl who was turned off from Jesus because she though He wanted children to suffer (“Suffer the little children to come unto Me…”). Using a translation that actually spoke her version of English helped her see that Jesus meant, “Let the children come to Me…”

We want to show people the real Jesus. I believe we can do that without compromising the truth of God, while still speaking in language people actually understand.

Incidentally…

Your tracts are written in modern English.

The cartoon on the back of one of your recent newsletter shows a “figure like a man” on a shiny throne, and he’s saying, “What are you doing with my words?”

Not, “What dost thou with My words?”

So is he really God if he’s using modern English sentence structure?

Oops! I was sarcastic!

Check out the tract “The Big Spender,” which y’all just published/republished.

It devotes a lot of text to explaining the Bible verses it quotes.

If it just used a translation that spoke modern English, it wouldn’t have to waste that space.

You apparently understand that the KJV doesn’t clearly communicate your meaning a lot of the time…so why do you insist on clinging to it? I’m honestly mystified.

“Do Not Add ANY Words…”

One of the things y’all complain about with other translations is “taking away” or “adding” words that aren’t in the original languages.

But honestly, the KJV isn’t immune, either.

Take this addition:

In John 8, we find the story of the woman caught in adultery.

The crowd asks Jesus to rule on the matter, and He ignores them to write in the dust.

Then the men, beginning with the oldest, left (vs. 9).

The KJV mentions they were “pricked in their consciences.”

The problem is, that phrase isn’t in the original Greek!

It helps with understanding the passage, but it’s an ADDITION to the literal words of Scripture! Those responsible for the KJV used their own interpretation in how they chose to render the passage.

To an extent, every translator makes choices like this.

But if you’re going to get bent out of shape over “adding or subtracting” from the word of God, you should at least apply the same metric to your own favorite translation. (Not even touching on the fact that Rev. 22:18-19 technically applies to “the book of this prophecy” AKA Revelation…)

Anger

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJV

Image credit: pinterest

Y’all might have picked up on some “passion” from this writing. You might even read in a tang of bitterness, anger, or frustration.

That is not my intention. I’ve tried to speak as frankly as possible to take away some of the sting of my point…and because, if you are born again in the blood of Jesus Christ, then we are brother/sisters.

And that’s what siblings do: smack each other around, yell at each other, and be willing to die to protect each other.

So don’t mistake my sincere frustration for anything more hostile than sisterly care for the state of your witness and mentality.

I’ll be blunt…I don’t feel that care from your material.

When I open your newsletter and see a cartoon man guiltily holding an ESV, it hurts.

The ESV is one of the best translations for balancing the sense of the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic) and communicating clearly with a modern English audience.

If Cartoon Man had been dropping the KJV for a TNIV or a Jehovah’s Witness Bible, I would agree with your condemnation.

But the ESV?

Attacking a solid translation isn’t fair.

You’re dying on this hill…and it ain’t pretty.

You’ve dedicated countless newsletter articles to this issue…You even have entire tracts dedicated – not to sharing the Good News of Jesus our Savior – but to the KJV!

I get you love it…but is it really so important to tell everyone that every single Bible translation is corrupted by some Satanic Catholic cult except your precious gold-plated King Jimmy?

(That sounds like the pop-up on that website I visited telling me about Jesus’ super secret cure for diabetes!)

The unbelievers are watching. Weak Christians are watching you. What do you want them to hear you say?

“Jesus washes us from our sins and teaches us to follow Him!”

or

“You need to be using my Bible or you’re a degenerate, reprobate heretic who’s probably not saved to begin with.”

One of these feels a whole lot more loving to me.

Your reasons are your own.

I don’t care if you really, really want to use the KJV. Whatever. You be you.

Maybe that’s what you grew up with, so it sounds familiar…maybe you like how it renders this or that passage…maybe it’s in the public domain, so can be used in new publications without any costly licenses or contracts (well, at least in the USA!).

You can defend your own preferences and make choices for your own publications without demonizing fellow sons and daughters of God!

GOD Builds His Church, Y’all!

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJVAnd God preserves His word.

Just look at the Septuagint.

This Greek translation of the Old Testament was pretty inaccurate in a lot of ways…even so far as changing the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis so that they no longer add up!

And yet, when people in the New Testament quote the Scriptures (Jesus, Paul, etc.) they use the Septuagint! (In Greek, by the way.)

Are y’all really saying that the All-powerful, All-wise God of the Universe can’t get His point across unless we use specific English words (words that even some native-speakers have trouble understanding)?!

Again, if you want to use the KJV, more power to ya.

Whatever floats your boat.

But stop telling every other Christian in the English-speaking world that we have to use some hundred-years-old translation commissioned under a Catholic king.

(Oh, yeah…y’all hate – Catholics, too. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

God speaks to the Christians in Tanzania…in Bolivia…in Indonesia…in Russia…and in Kansas. And He uses His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to do it.

Yes, He calls us to faithfulness.

Yes, He calls us to follow to the best of our ability…to holiness…to love and patience and grace.

But…He’s like the literal MAKER AND KING OF THE UNIVERSE who sees the end from the beginning and if you’re honestly saying He needs your specific translation to reach the English-speaking world – then I have one question for you:

Whuht?

What Did God REALLY Say?

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJV

Image credit: Unsplash

So…I wrote this section title, and suddenly remembered the person in the Bible who’s quoted as using those words.

Hint: he had a forked tongue.

Yes, there are bad translations. Some translations are better than others. But God in the person of the Holy Spirit hammers home the lessons He wants to teach each and every one of His children, and you’re not going to mess that up by reading the “wrong” Bible.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to get as close to the original as possible. But by “original” I mean the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic that the original authors penned their words in.

It’s good to be concerned that we’re learning from reputable sources, and that we’re following God to the best of our ability.

But we’re all going to fall flat on our faces…and Jesus has to pick us up and help us walk again.

Remember Job: Satan is a dog on God’s leash.

Don’t you give that liar more credit than he deserves. He’ll try to twist our Scriptures, pull our pastors away after riches and sex, and confuse us with constant arguments about tiny details that don’t matter.

He’ll try.

But he can’t touch us unless our King and Master allows it…to test us, to teach us, or to teach someone else something.

So stop being so afraid! God’s got it!

The vibe I get from your material is that you’re so controlling and fixated on this particular aspect that you’ve taken your eyes off some other things that are equally (or perhaps more?) important:

“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.”

“You Pharisees have abandoned the teaching of God in favor of man’s tradition. Foolish hypocrites!”

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

“The one who is weak should not judge the brother who is strong…and the one who is strong should not despise the brother who is weak.”

“Little children, love one another, for love comes from God.”

(Those are “off-the-top-of-my-head translations” of Exodus 20:1-4/Deut. 5:6-8; Mark 7:6-13; 1 Cor. 13:1-2; Rom. 14:1-4, 9-13; and 1 John 4:7-8)

I hope, hidden in my words here, you can feel the love…somewhere.

And I write this message with the firm conviction that y’all will…do precisely whatever you please.

But I had to write because I would hate for you to hum along without ever being confronted with an alternate perspective – AKA never being given the chance to choose differently.

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJV

Image credit: Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Just as, in my own walk, I would far rather my church family bring issues to my attention so I can grow and improve…rather than let me float along in error without a clue.

Because the other thing the Holy Spirit does is He puts people in our lives to challenge us, irritate us, have painful conversations with us, and rub off our rough edges to make us more pure for our Father.

So to anyone who actually reads this…thank you!

Keep up the good work!

Fear not…God is king!

And if God starts poking you over something…well, it’s best if you listen the first time, is all I’m sayin’.


Featured image credit

Open Letter to Chick Publishing — Kimia Wood — King James Version KJVKimia Wood is a Christian – fundamentalist – patriarchalist.

She also writes novels full of lovable characters and mysterious plots. She’s currently living with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, 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 exploits.

Dear Diary…the “bunny’s” lair

When I had recovered as many arrows as I could, I stood guard while Mikael healed up Yeti and Ezekiel took the others to help him search the rooms along the corridor.

The room nearest the secret door was some kind of storeroom, with barrels, blankets, tablecloths, and other household goods.

The second room was a bedroom, with a carpet, bed, a locked (and trapped?) chest, and two crossed swords decorating the wall.

The last room before the corner was a long bunk-room, which I guess is where the orcs slept (before they slept in peace).

I didn’t see much peeking through the doorways, and the others had only just started ransacking the place when someone shouted in through the secret door, “How many times do I have to tell you ‘no fighting’?”

We all froze, and Ezekiel gestured us all into the rooms.

Yeti and I jumped into the bunk-room – where our orc prisoner was tied up – and closed the door almost all the way – leaving enough to hear through, maybe.

Someone came stomping down the passage-way, not sounding happy. I felt sure this was our scary magic giant.

Then he shouted out, “Who’s been in my room?!”

I knew from the banging and clanging that our party was engaging, so the two of us charged out to join in.

The guy looked pretty imposing, with a glowing sword and everything…but we had him flanked, and he went down much like a ton of bricks.

When I could take a closer look, I realized he was a half-orc – although he looked remarkably like a human in his face – so obviously he wasn’t the master of the house.

Ezekiel searched the body, finding a silver ring and a ring of keys in addition to the glowing sword and the half-orc’s splint mail, and then we finally went around the corner to find the prisoners.

There’s a door facing down the corridor, and around the bend are cell doors – two on each side, and one on the end.

Raven and Ezekiel were able to open the doors (they just had to point out that the barred window in each of the banded doors was above my head), but they didn’t find anyone alive.

Raven found a dead dwarf, who had somehow scratched words in the wall with his belt buckle: “Armory next door…avenge me.”

Ezekiel found a skeleton (not that kind, though) with a set of lock-picks hidden in its boot…pity the owner wasn’t able to use them.

In the door at the very end of the prison we found what we were looking for…seven men – in various stages of abuse, but alive.

One of them was, sure enough, Brannod Colnet – so at least we can get him back to his father and uncle.

The others searched the cells one more time on our way back up the corridor, and then we unlocked the door at the head of the passage.

Sure enough, it was quite an armory: weapons, axes, three suites of human plate mail, chain mail, and several boxes of spices bearing the Colnet mark (so we found our stolen goods, anyway).

The rescued prisoners, while in no condition to fight, could still walk – and they equipped themselves with armor and weapons to give themselves more of a chance should the need arise.

There were still three men missing, and while I don’t feel much hope for their chances, we of course can’t leave without searching the rest of the house for them.

Raven and I carried the dead orcs into the armory, so that if the master of the house came along, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious that something was wrong.

Meanwhile, Mikael used Detect Magic to determine that the half-orc’s sword and splint mail were both magical.

We’ll lock ourselves into the armory tonight, sharing rations with the rescued prisoners…and in the morning, we shall see.

****

Quiet night. We left the prisoners with the key to lock themselves into the armory, and set out to explore the rest of the house – hoping to find the missing men, of course, but also to find some kind of proof against the Valentas, or at least some kind of answer about that.

The roasting meat was gone from the front hall (understandably) and the doors were closed.

Two other doors led out of the front hall – one to the south (about seven feet high) and a pair of double doors to the east (about twelve feet high).

Since we were still leery about meeting the Furbolg (although Ezekiel said we’d have to deal with him eventually, so this didn’t happen again), we went with the shorter door. The passage beyond led to two guest rooms and a kitchen.

Raven investigated a trapdoor in the kitchen – he told us there were big blocks of ice, several deer corpses, a human body, and a giant blue frog toad.

He had just closed the door on the toad when we noticed a man with a big black beard, wearing a brown robe and a two-handed sword, advancing toward us from the front hall.

Lydia threw her rotten egg, and greenish smoke filled the doorway. Raven rushed to the edge of the smoke to fling a dagger, while Mikael chanted his spell and lit the enemy with Faery Fire.

I started filling our opponent with arrows while Yeti and Ezekiel stood at the edge of the cloud, ready for when they could enter the battle.

The Furbolg called out, “Simba” – and then a lion appeared from somewhere and charged forward…as well as it could “charge” while wading through the gas, choking and gagging.

Yeti wound a cross-bow and took a shot at the giant – who was staggering back to get out of optimal range – while Raven hit the lion with such a blow I could almost see it stagger and shake its head.

The Furbolg – who was actually big, now, by the way – batted a few of my arrows out of the way.

Mikael had tried talking to the lion and make friends with it, but apparently it didn’t care about that – because suddenly he whacked it hard with his staff.

Yeti got off another cross-bow bolt. The giant deflected another of my arrows, and then the cloud dissipated.

Mikael hit the lion so hard it disappeared, while Raven charged into the hall and swung at the giant.

As I distracted it with a couple more arrows, Yeti sped forward and struck with his war hammer…bang.

The Furbolg collapsed…dead.

When we searched him, we found a gold figurine of a lion (Lydia’s carrying it in her pocket) and the two-handed sword, but nothing else of value.

We explored the rest of the house. Through the double doors to the east was a huge anteroom or sitting room (the ceilings must have been twenty feet tall – Raven says they were “four Elwyns” which is not all that funny).

The door beside the fireplace (on the north side) opened into a lavish library, complete with carpet, oil lamps, and maps between the bookshelves on the walls.

One of the maps looked like the local one the Colnets had given us, and one was of the Flanaes. Another map, though, I didn’t recognize at all.

You could practically see Ezekiel drooling, and we had to drag him out and remind him that we didn’t have much time and had to get the prisoners to safety.

The other door out of the sitting room led to a bedroom – and the bed was at least eight by twelve feet. (Do giants have their own carpenters? Or is all their furniture custom? Turning into a human form must help with that.)

Ransacking the giant’s chest, we found a velvet pouch of gems, a small jewelry box, three potions, and mountain of gold and electrum money.

Ezekiel checked over the potions and pocketed them – he thinks they’re a fire resistance potion, a flying potion, and a healing potion.

I searched the desk and found what seemed to be signed contracts – between Vasl Valenta and Gador the Furbolg. One was paying Gador to kidnap and hold Brannod Colnet, while the other promised him payment for plundering caravans from the Colnet merchants.

If I were ever to engage in dirty business, I’d do better at giving myself plausible deniability…

Well, we had everything we came for.

Raven took me and Mikael (and Yeti) with him back to the trapdoor in the kitchen, as he wanted to recover the corpse of the man, and he wanted us to stand by to deal with the toad.

Raven tried talking to the toad, but apparently it didn’t like us very well. Mikael Summoned Insects, and two giant ants appeared (I don’t know how they got there!) and fought with the toad while Raven dashed down to unhook the body.

I think the ants died, but Raven climbed back up the stairs with the body and nothing worse than some serious frostbite on his arms and legs.

One of the cloaks we found in the giant’s wardrobe should make a suitable shroud for this poor fellow.

We decided it was late enough in the day, we’ll rest another night (and feed up the prisoners) before trying to return to civilization. Raven helped me check on the horses (who seem to be getting along with each other all right). Mikael used Detect Magic to confirm that the lion figurine and the potions are magical…but none of the other new treasure is.

Ezekiel and Raven spent some time in the library together, and came back laden with books. Frankly, I don’t think we’ll make it through the mountains like this.

The Colnets will doubtless want to recover their merchandise, so maybe we can return here with a cart.

At least we found Brannod and most of his men alive. And those orcs will never harm another person again.

Ezekiel says he plans to set our imprisoned orc free when we leave.

****

Journey back to Gurdikar as smooth as could be expected. Saw Druid Kun-tworna on the way out, so we could let him know the prisoners were safely rescued.

The Colnets were of course delighted to get their son/nephew/heir back safe and sound. They gave us an old wooden trunk as thanks, and inside we found a new mace for Ezekiel (it’s got a ram’s head on the end with some kind of rune between the horns), a magical rope (they said it was a Rope of Climbing), and a magic ring (Raven put it on and said he felt warm and toasty).

They told us some ancestral stories about these items – although they also pointed out the stories might not all be true.

One of them was something about how the wielder of the mace struck a zombie or skeleton or something, and the mace “disrupted” the magic that held the undead together, and it collapsed.

Master Colnet says he’s sure the details aren’t quite accurate, but Ezekiel looks eager to try it out on something evil.

****

Bought a cart (since we’re living the high life now) and retrieved the rest of the treasure without a hitch. We also helped the Colnets recover what crates of spices we could find in the Furbolg’s house.

(Wonder what will happen to the Valentas? Fortunately, we don’t have to stick around to find out.)

What’s more, besides the reward the Colnets paid us for rescuing Brannod – and finding the incriminating documents – the city of Gurdikar paid us bounties for all the orcs we killed – and for the Furbolg.

[page of numbers and calculations]

I’m almost not comfortable walking around with this much cash.

Yeti feels like he has such a good grasp on his skills as a Paladin, that he wants to seek out a Master to help him hone his craft even further before we continue.

Ezekiel suggested we go to the capital of Celene for that. I think he wants to find some elves to talk to about Ao.

Maybe I can convert some of my new wealth into a really, really high-quality pendent of Ehlonna.


Find the previous entry here.

Start at the beginning of the Homlette adventure here.

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SHADOW Now Up for Preorder!

Yes, Transmutation of Shadow – my action-packed story of government intrigue, sci-fi mental abilities, and the assassin-turned-fugitive trying to uncover the truth – is now finalized!

You can order the paperback right away – or preorder the ebook from your favorite retailer! (Amazon doesn’t have preorders available for paperbacks.)

It launches on MY BIRTHDAY April 27, 2020 (I’m turning 27, so it’s my “golden birthday”).

More good news: if you do preorder, you can message me with your order code and/or which retailer you used, and I’ll send you a collection of deleted scenes and alternate endings! (I’m thinking of them like “alternate time-line” versions of how the story went!)

SmashwordsAmazon KindleKoboBarns & NobleOverdrive

A super-soldier assassin. Wrongful deaths. An agency cover-up that endangers a child.

Eric is the best. (Okay, maybe not the best, but one of the best.) He can walk invisibly through a crowd, scale buildings, become anyone. He kills his country’s enemies with precision and without hesitation.

But there’s another side to that coin – accuracy. And some of his computer-fed, handler-approved, briefing-verified victims weren’t on The List.

(Well, obviously they were on someone’s List…just not the right list.)

When Eric finds his own Agency targeting him, he determines to uncover the truth for himself…no matter where it leads. No matter what the cost.

Even if it makes him the bad guy.

As exciting as The Matrix, as adorable as One-Punch Man, Transmutation of Shadow is the pulse-pounding, heart-touching adventure you’ve been waiting for!

Smashwords — Amazon KindleKoboBarnes & Noble

Dear Diary…a “bunny” trail

It took a week before everyone was back on their feet. At first, Raven and Mikael didn’t want the town to know what defeated us…but I think whoever cared to know figured it out.

I’ve been practicing in the yard out back, throwing a big net I found. Ezekiel says I’m more likely to rope myself or one of the others than trip up an enemy in it, but that’s why I’m practicing.

After all, it might not be ravens next time…it might be wolves, or huge rats, or something else we’d rather not have attack us all at once.

Oh, yes, something interesting happened this morning, while we were all having breakfast together.

A merchant caravan came in last night, and two men approached us with leather bags…they represented Anthrax and Zorbin, the two merchants we rescued from the Moat-house, who each sent a present as thanks.

We said that was very nice of them, and then one of the messengers asked to speak with us about something else.

He says his name is Eskin Kolnet, and he and his brother Kallan run a small merchant operation, mostly dealing in spices, and based in Celene (no, he’s not an elf – we all looked closer to see).

But he says lately their shipments have disappeared en route – the caravans have been attacked and burned, and the escorts killed. But this hasn’t happened to other merchant families he knows. (I forgot to ask him about the time-frame for all this.)

Well, not long ago Eskin’s nephew (Kallan’s son) Brannod went on a hunting trip with Vasl Valenta – who’s from another merchant family.

Valenta came back alone, saying the party had been buried by a rockslide, and only he escaped because he was riding a little ahead of the company.

Eskin Kolnet and his people went to investigate the site, and sure enough they found the rockslide, and the remains of their retainers under it…but they didn’t find any sign of Brannod Kolnet.

Well, after that, they got a letter from one of the escort who escaped…and he said the party was actually attacked by orcs, who captured Brannod (the retainer says he broke his ankle, so played dead after that and wasn’t finished off).

He says there was a man somehow connected with the rockslide, and that he’s currently stranded in a small village in the mountains near where this all happened.

Master Kolnet has heard of our adventure against the cult of Explictika Defilas, so asked if we would be willing to help out. He and his brother would prefer to have their nephew/son back alive, but they’d also like some kind of proof of what happened to him.

Apparently this Vasl Valenta guy seemed on good terms with the orcs – and with the stranger who ordered them around. He must have been, to escape alive…and to then lie about what happened.

Ezekiel thinks we should check this out before we investigate the Temple further, and it makes sense. After all, this poor young man might be strung up somewhere, a prisoner of orcs. The Temple can wait.

Master Kolnet gave us a map of the area in question…looks like it’s about 40 leagues from Homlette, so it won’t be a quick trip.

Well, he had barely left when this absolutely stunning young man came over to talk to us. Lydia batted her eyelashes at him (which, she does that with everyone) but really…this guy was something else.

He said he couldn’t help overhearing that we were heading out to fight orcs. He’s from the March of Bissell, and came along with the merchant caravan because he wants to fight evil.

He’s a Paladin of Ulaa, so Ezekiel trusted him immediately. Well…at any rate, if he tries to pull something, I guess all the rest of us can take care of it. A Paladin isn’t going to have a “Sleep” spell, if you know what I mean.

Gotta pack enough rations for two weeks, just in case. Glad we don’t have to count Corbi for rations, since she can hunt for herself.

Yeti (the Paladin) has a horse, so we’re going to keep the other two horses for now (Ezekiel really needs one to move at a reasonable pace). Still arguing with Lydia about what their names should be.

****

Reached Gurdikar in four days, which is the town the Kolnets and Valentas operate from. Celene pretty friendly so far.

Decided as a group that we’d go faster if more of us were mounted, so Mikael went and bought two more horses (very nice of him!).

Lydia promptly claimed one and named it Ralishaz…I guess she is a girl, after all.

She’s glaring at me now.

Feels like we’re real adventurers now! We’re all mounted except Raven, who of course has those boots that make him just as fast as a horse anyway.

I remember I always wanted my own horse when I was little, but of course that wasn’t practical. I wanted to be a Paladin back then, too, just like Father and Alpheus…but some of us just aren’t built for that.

Archy and Clarence might have some firm ideas about that, but the older I get the less I care what they think.

Should have time to practice in the target yard before bed.

****

We got a good start from Gurdikar, and reached the little village in the mountains after just a couple hours.

We asked at the inn for the Kolnets’ man at arms, and found his room.

He backed up everything Master Eskin had said, and added that some of the company had surrendered to the orcs…only to have boulders thrown down on them to fake the rockslide.

He also gave some more details about the “man” he saw standing up on the hill right after the rock slide. He had a beard, a brown robe, and a two-handed sword – and V.V. called him “Bator” or something like that.

That certainly implies that this “Bator” guy and the Valentas had some kind of understanding or relationship…but it’s still only one testimony, not proof.

The man says there were about ten prisoners led away by the man and his orcs, so we all agreed to keep going for as long as we could.

Will grab quick lunch, and keep moving.

****

The map was a cinch to follow, and we easily found the valley that was partly blocked by a bad rockslide (I suggested we ride a few yards apart so they can’t try the same trick twice).

Ezekiel told me to investigate it at once, but it was starting to get dark, and I couldn’t see much except that a lot of orcs and animals had been everywhere at all kinds of times, and there were bones and armor remains buried under the boulders.

We made camp in a shelter of one of the hills. Five men with bows and spears came by from the south; they had a boar to take home.

When Ezekiel wished them well, they said “Earth Mother guard you.” That must be Beori.

Lydia cast Continual Light on Yeti’s shield.

****

Quiet night. Luna was full, and made the frost very pretty. Didn’t do anything to make it more comfortable, though.

Started out south, until the valley divided – east and west. I tried looking for prints, but given the rocky terrain and the time lapse, I could only say that orcs had been here…not how many, or how recently, or where they had gone from there.

I also found signs of human hunters, which makes sense – and a large bear.

We returned to the rockslide, where Raven and I climbed to the top and tried to find any clues to this man who led the orcs…but saw nothing, not even the distant smoke from a campfire.

Raven talked to some of the little birds there – even bribing them with some hard tack from his rations, but they apparently couldn’t tell him anything useful (and Corbi didn’t see anything useful, either).

We were just returning to the cross-roads when Raven pointed out a one-armed old man watching us through the trees up the hill.

We decided to say hello, but sent just Mikael, Yeti, and me to do it (after all, Yeti worships an earth goddess, and I figured if the man was a local, they might be able to connect over that).

We each kind of said a cautious “hello,” and when we asked him about orcs, he said the orcs knew better than to give him trouble…which of course showed what calibre he was.

Mikael started talking in a way where the words didn’t quite make sense, but the old man seemed to understand, and eventually invited us to “visit” him.

So Mikael sent Corbi to call the rest of our party to join us (she must be pretty smart, since he’s teaching her so much in such a short time).

He led us to a well-kept grove and introduced himself as Druid Kun-tworna…he lost his left arm while adventuring years ago, and retired to these mountains with his brown bear (Mikael was a little disappointed that the bear was already befriended).

(Apparently the master also has an understanding with the giant ants – some four-foot specimens wandered through, but he shooed them away.)

We explained our situation in more depth, and Master Kun-tworna told us we weren’t looking for orcs, but Gador – the one commanding them. (Made sense.)

He warned us that Gador was a Furbolg – a magical giant who wears human form. I saw the wheels turning in Ezekiel’s head as he tried to figure out how we would fight such a creature, but we sure weren’t backing down.

Master Kun-tworna told us where to find the Gador’s hall, and after Raven shared the rest of his ration with the bear (he said he was saving it for birds, anyway) we set out.

Found the place quite easily, after just a couple hours’ travel. It was getting closer to sunset, but Ezekiel insisted we keep moving while we could.

There’s a slight path that winds up from the main valley track, and reaches a huge stone building set into the side of the mountain.

A smaller building with two doors stood to the side, and when we checked that out, we found stables with warhorses, tack, and fodder.

We decided to hide our own horses there – they could snack on the fodder, and would be out of sight and the elements. Raven persuaded them to all be friends, and shared around some oats from a bag.

After Raven picked the lock on the double oak doors of the main house, Ezekiel led the way with Yeti.

Some kind of dining hall was directly inside, lit by oil lamps, and a fireplace complete with roasting meat.

The table had fifteen chairs, with the chief one being much larger than the rest.

We only saw two doors at first – to the south and east – but while Raven was checking them for traps, we heard a “click” in the opposite corner.

The wall slid back, and an orc entered from a secret passage in the north-west corner.

He didn’t really have a chance. Raven sprinted forward and hit him with that palm-punch of his, and then before the orc could move at all, Ezekiel charged across the room (you wouldn’t think he could move so fast) and clubbed him.

That won’t wash out easy.

Ezekiel checked him over, but his armor and weapon weren’t very interesting.

He and Yeti advanced into the secret passage, where a muffled voice yelled, “Invaders!”

Raven ran forward, and Mikael and I followed – he to throw Faery Fire over them, I to launch arrows.

Gotta start carrying more arrows.

Raven smacked one to the ground. Yeti swung his war-hammer, but the orc deflected it and it whacked Ezekiel (big surprise).

I kept firing arrows. Somewhere down the passage, a door opened, letting out more orcs – but they had trouble getting at us because of the narrowness of the passage.

In fact, Mikael and Lydia didn’t have much to do, since Yeti and Ezekiel were blocking the passage between them and the orcs. Corbi did finally figure out how to get off the ground in the narrow space, and made some vicious jabs at some of our enemies.

I am so…so…so happy I’ve been practicing. I did have to pause to grab my second bundle of arrows from my pack, but it was so satisfying to nail those ugly brutes.

The last orc threw his weapons down and wailed, “Mercy, mighty heroes!”

So Ezekiel took some of my rope and tied him up, asking where the prisoners were.

The orc said, “Around the corner – don’t hurt me!”

The down-side of hitting my target so often was that recovering arrows was a stickier job than usual…

To be continued…


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Dear Diary…Dedicated to Nori

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

We reconvened after a week. When I got back into town, I found the others at the Welcome Wench. Apparently Mikael also spent a week “in nature,” sequestered in the Grove with Druid Master Geru – and they don’t talk about the “druidy” stuff they do.

Sounds like Ezekiel and Lydia hit the books all week – or rather, Ezekiel focused on his one book, while Lydia went to ask Master Bern questions at the tower.

She’s learned Continual Light – as well as some other cool things – so that’ll be helpful! Ezekiel has asked her to put light on our two shields.

Lydia asked me “How were the elves?” and Mikael mentioned that he actually learned Elvish, but hasn’t really had the chance to try it out yet.

I’m not sure it’s something I can articulate yet. I was really struck how they described everything – the forests, the creatures, the trees – as a gift from Ehlonna. It makes sense…and fosters a sense of gratitude.

Raven says the Lady Master Monk was heading to Orlane once she left here, so he was able to send a donation with her to the Temple of Merikka. He also says he knows how to fall twenty feet without getting hurt (he says it’s in the roll at the bottom) and made us all go outside to watch.

A young man came up to us while we were hanging out (apparently he’s the son of the village elder) and asked us if we would kindly come to a meeting at the elder’s house that evening.

That got Raven and Ezekiel talking about the situation. It was nice to bury ourselves in other concerns for a while, but now we have to remember why we’re here.

What were those weapons being stored for? There were far too many for the number of “bandits” we fought in the dungeon, but who else could be involved?

After Orlane, it’s even possible that some people in the town are “bad.” But it’s hard to tell…everyone knows that we took men-at-arms to the Moat-house, and brought back a huge load of weapons. After all, the shop-keeper questioned me about it.

(Speaking of him, Ezekiel and Lydia – and maybe Raven – also spent time getting all our treasure appraised and converted, so when the rest of us got back, they had our shares all divided. So I can rest easy that the presents I gave the elves and Elmo was money I was actually entitled to give away. Fair’s fair – he let me try out some of his gear part of the week, which was super cool.)

(Huh…”gifts” again…)

Anyway, we’ll head to the elder’s house after an early supper, and see what he has to say. I sure hope he approves of what we’ve been up to around here.

****

Well, we had a very interesting meeting at the elder’s house.

Sounds like the entire village council was there — Druid Geru, Brother Celmert, another Cleric of Cuthbert (who we figured out pretty quickly is Canon Turjon), Sir Rufus, Master Bern, Constable Fred Renton, Master Osler Gundigoot – innkeeper of the Welcome Wench – Mitch the Miller, and of course the village elder himself.

They told us they’ve done a lot of thinking after we caught that Drow Cleric in the Moat-house. They say they’re worried that things are stirring again – and even though none of them were personally on the scene when the Temple of Elemental Evil was broken and sealed, they don’t like the idea that someone might be trying to open it up…or even worse, has already done so.

They gave us some background on this whole thing, which was quite useful: apparently when the heroes and armies of Veluna, Verbobanc, and Furiundy came to smash the armies of monsters and humanoids who were swarming from the temple, they imprisoned the demoness responsible within the temple.

They also left a cryptic poem behind – I guess to give anyone who came afterward a hint for how to finish the job, if possible.

The elder is going to transcribe the poem and send us our own copy for reference, but here’s the gist:

Evil Demon Goddess (of Fungus) built the Temple and made a “Key” with her Evil Boyfriend. The Key is some sort of bridge (maybe?) but is made for destroying the Good.

When the Temple fell, the Demoness was left behind, and they broke their own Key (I think?).

The good guys hid the four pieces of the Key (and then there was something about sea – earth – fire – sky), to keep any bad guys from reassembling it and freeing the Demoness and her Bad Boyfriend.

So, there might be a way to reassemble the Key and use it to reach the Demoness and/or her Boyfriend and defeat them for realsies, but more likely they’d be unleashed which is why any mortal human followers they have would be wanting to hunt down the pieces of the Key (why the humans would want to follow a Demon-Deity, the poem didn’t say).

Ezekiel says I’ve got some parts wrong, but that’s close enough for now. He also says the Bad Boyfriend is probably someone so incredibly powerful and horrifying that we shouldn’t even be saying his name…you know, the one who’s super old, and has bound himself to the Prime Material Plane.

This all sounds very terrible – especially when Canon Turjon or someone speculated whether this demon-duo has an alliance with the Spider Goddess of the Drow.

However, the council told us all they’re really looking for us to do at this point is investigate the Temple (and pretty please tell them no one’s been messing around and trying to re-open it and free the Demoness).

There might even be more clues at the Temple about where to find the four pieces of the Key (although I agree with Mikael, that the only reason that makes sense for hunting the Key is so we can break one of the pieces and keep the Demon-Duo from ever using it again. Ezekiel asked “couldn’t they just make another one” and we pointed out that it took both of them to make the first one, and now the Demoness is locked up, and the Evil Boyfriend is Somewhere Else Not There).

Constable Renton said that “Elmo says we’ve been getting quite powerful,” so they’d all be grateful if we’d do this thing for them.

I think Ezekiel and I especially got a little bashful at that, since it’s always nice to hear that someone kinda big and scary thinks you might turn out all right.

Ezekiel kinda asked whether Elmo would want to come with us – but we all agreed that we’d made quite a splash by trucking all those weapons into town, and it might be smart for Elmo to not be too tight with us for a while.

One of them (I don’t remember who) said that if we thought we might need back-up, the blacksmith in Nulb might come with us for proper compensation.

(Fortunately the blacksmith is one of the people in Nulb who doesn’t hate us.)

Master Osler said that, ten years ago when this all went down, he’d reached as far as the outer walls of the Temple with the armies, but never set foot inside. However, he described the earthquakes and downpours and random fires that hit back in the “bad old days,” and I really hope we don’t have to face anything that dramatic.

Even Mikael looked upset when he heard about that. Upsetting nature, overturning balances, putting things in their wrong spots…that kind of thing. Chaotic Evil just ruins it for everybody else.

I can tell Ezekiel is pumped to put any up-starts back in their place. Sort of like that Spider-Goddess…if she must exist, she might have the decency to stay in the Under-Dark, where she belongs.

****

Good first day. Got up in time for Raven and Lydia to go buy us some more rations (since I think they’re the best bargainers among us) and Raven came back with some saddlebags for the horses, which is very smart of him.

We weren’t sure we were going to keep the two horses from the Moat-house, but so far it’s working out and I think it’s a really good idea. Ezekiel can ride one, which makes him go at a more reasonable pace, and Lydia is riding the other one, because she’s a girl (I guess).

We reached the campsite Elmo showed us so long ago. No sign of bugbears so far. Our hope is to go straight through Nulb and head for the Temple without running into trouble.

We did discuss whether or not to talk to the blacksmith at this time, but Ezekiel thinks we’ll just do some quiet reconnaissance to see if it’d be worth his time. After all, the HOPE – the pretty-please-just-tell-me hope – is that nothing is wrong and everything is fine and ship-shape and still locked up and abandoned.

I can taste it in the air…there’ll be frost tomorrow. Better than snow, which is about what we could hope for at this time of year.

I think Nori is teasing the horses (still no names agreed upon), but Raven is “meditating” so I can’t ask him for sure.

****

I can hardly believe all that’s happened.

When we started out this morning, mists rose from the Gnarly Forest, just visible beyond Nulb.

We made it through the town without clashing with anyone (still smells as bad as ever) and took the road that heads south-south-west out of town.

It was immediately evident that this road is much less used – there are some old wagon ruts, but what with the weeds and tracks in the mud, I’m pretty sure nothing but foot traffic has been down there recently. I couldn’t make a guess as to what that traffic is at this point.

We reached the Temple grounds by late morning…and right away we knew why everyone treats this place with such horror. Why just its mere presence would leech evil and chaos into the surrounding landscape.

The Temple is surrounded by a wall about twenty feet high and maybe thirty feet thick. It’s broken down in places and filled with holes from siege engines…but it’s still a massive structure that seems to loom over the surroundings.

Even the trees are skeletal and shriveled. You’d assume they’re all dead, except that they still haven’t fallen over in the wind and rain.

The shrubs are twisted, blacked…overgrown mounds of dark weeds and grey stone cover the ground. The very grass is disgusting. Here and there, we spotted skulls and bones of humans and humanoids, bleached by the elements. I’m just glad the horses didn’t bolt right there.

And yet, with all that decay and unhealthiness, huge black ravens wheeled far above us. I wondered at the time what they could be hunting in this wasteland.

Ezekiel pointed out the remains of a tower at the other end of the wall, and we started toward it…but the wall was longer than we had first assumed, and we must have gone a mile to travel from one corner to the other.

Right away, we spotted two black birds that looked like crows or ravens, perched on top of the tower and staring down at us. Ezekiel thought there was something unnaturally about them, like they were an illusion, or like they were something else pretending to be ravens.

Mikael took a look at them, and said that, yes, they certainly appeared to be ravens.

They weren’t the only weird thing about this place. I at least had started to catch dark things moving in the corners of my vision – except that, when I tried to look at them, there was nothing there.

When I mentioned it, the others seemed to know what I was talking about…but no one seemed really confident about what was going on.

Raven climbed up the wall, and pointed out that some of the breaks would let us climb through pretty easily – only we’d have to leave the horses on the outside.

I wasn’t very comfortable about that, but we decided to leave Nori on guard, since she was so good at that. Wow. She sure was pretty good at that…

So we picketed the horses (although if I was a horse I wouldn’t want to eat that vegetation) and climbed through the wall after Raven.

As soon as we did so the two ravens on top of the tower started cawing loudly – which of course I’ve learned is probably a warning signal. But I didn’t know who or what they were warning, so it didn’t do me much good knowing that.

The courtyard beyond the wall is absolutely trashed and overgrown. Every weed has thorns, or burrs, or stinks like dog, or looks (and feels) like poison oak.

And that’s not even mentioning the Temple itself. At least, I assume that huge building was the Temple…it looked –

[rough sketch, scratched out]

I can’t even begin to describe. It’s like it has a shape that doesn’t belong on our plane of existence. I’m dreading when we actually have to go that far.

But we had our hands full where we were.

We started by examining the tower on the north-east corner of the wall, since Ezekiel thought it would be a good vantage point – and also didn’t want to leave an unexplored space at our back where something could sneak up on us.

The ravens on top were still carrying on, so I pulled my shield around and got ready. Arrow slits framed the doorway, and I didn’t trust the blackness beyond.

Ezekiel and Mikael tried peaking in the arrow slits, with the help of Ezekiel’s newly-lit shield, but they couldn’t see anything useful.

The door itself was at the top of a stoop of shallow steps, and chained heavily on the outside. Raven examined the chains, and said he doesn’t think (in his professional opinion) that they had been handled for a long time.

That was good enough for me – since we’re not here to break into everything and kill everything, after all, but just to find evidence of anybody else trying to break in. We’ll see if Ezekiel is satisfied with that.

Anyway, next Raven tried climbing the tower, but before he reached the top those two obnoxious birds pounced on him, and he had to slide back down again (and, all right, his monk-ish roll at the bottom was pretty cool).

The raven-birds came after us, and Mikael smashed one so hard with his staff that it bounced against the wall of the tower.

I brought my bow up and winged it, while Ezekiel called out, “These might not be real birds – but if they are, Animal Friendship would work on them!”

And that was perfect, because we’d just been talking about how Mikael could tame another animal friend if he wanted to, and how it might be smart for him to find a bigger creature than Nori as the monsters we were fighting kept getting bigger.

Poor Nori…

Well, Mikael called out to the second bird, and it came and perched on an outcropping of wall near him and listened to him with its head cocked.

The other bird tried to dive-bomb his head, but I took it out with another arrow, and then we all stood and watched him convince the bird to be his friend.

I guess we were all kinda amazed to see it happen. I’m not sure exactly what he was saying to it, but finally it started rubbing its head against his shoulder and cooing.

Makes me kinda jealous, actually.

Well, I pulled my arrows out of its brother, and Raven went to climb the tower again to try to get a good view of our surroundings.

If we had only known…

He had barely climbed onto the top when he leaped dramatically off again…followed by a black swarm of wings exploding into the air.

Raven kicked himself off the side of the tower and rolled into the middle of us as a cloud of raven-birds dropped down toward us, claws extended.

It really was a dramatic moment. Lydia agrees with me.

While I launched some more arrows into the birds, Lydia threw an egg into the air and said, “Boom!” Green smoke – or maybe more like a green cloud – filled the air…but fortunately, it didn’t drift down to where we were.

I shot a bird through the throat and ducked to avoid the birds raining out of the sky.

One of the birds who apparently didn’t breathe in the stink went for Mikael’s new pet, and I was worried for a little bit that if she went flying around to counter-attack, I couldn’t tell that she wasn’t an enemy bird.

Ezekiel, of course, figured out that if he attacked the birds gagging and fluttering on the ground, he could avoid that problem, and he went stomping back and forth with his mace.

Raven stabbed a bird through with his spear…but don’t think they’re delicate little things. Lydia got a pretty vicious gash from one of them – and after all, their wingspans are like six feet across! They may be real animals, but they’re certainly not like the ravens you might find in your back garden. They’re twisted somehow.

They’re huge, and vicious, and determined.

I kept dropping them with arrows, but not nearly fast enough. Mikael lost a big chunk of skin to one, and they seemed to think Ezekiel looked especially juicy (or threatening) and wouldn’t leave him alone.

Then, my bow slipped from my hands, so I drew my sword to save time. Maybe Raven had a similar idea, because I saw him punching at the birds with his bare hands.

I caught a glimpse of Ezekiel, dropped to the ground, but before I could worry I also saw Mikael reaching out toward him, chanting his Heal Light Wounds spell.

The stunned birds were just pulling themselves together and launching into the air again when Lydia pulled out a SECOND egg and threw it up after them.

One of the birds started coughing and dropped to the ground right in front of me…it looked to me like its back was broken by that.

Just as well for me, because when I tried to swing my sword, I felt it hit something…maybe a bone, maybe a rock. I didn’t really have time to check…the balance was off, so I shoved it into the scabbard and snatched my bow up.

I heard scrabbling on the stone wall, and caught a glimpse through the cloud of angry birds of Nori, pouncing to the attack. She must have heard us fighting, and come to defend her Best Friend.

What if she hadn’t? What indeed? Well, we can never really know how these things “would have” gone. That’s what Alpheus used to say…that you can’t waste too much living in the “would haves.”

An arrow bounced off the wall of the tower and tried to hit me in the face (but didn’t). Just about then, I ran out of arrows, and while I was dumping out my backpack for my spare bundle, I saw Ezekiel quaffing a potion and Lydia swinging at a bird with her silver dagger. (She totally pierced it through the rib cage and sent it spinning into the weeds, twitching. So glad she’s on our side, if you know what I mean.)

I started snatching arrows from the ground, and caught a glimpse of Mikael smashing a bird to the ground with his staff.

Lydia said some words, and a horse appeared out of nowhere, and she sent it running. There were only one or two birds left at this point, and they started chasing after the horse.

You’d think it’d be easy to track after something just going in circles, but obviously it wasn’t since Raven and I both missed, and Mikael and Lydia had to work together to put the last enemies down.

Finally, all the bad birds were dead. Lydia’s horse trotted over to her, and disappeared.

Ezekiel staggered forward, bleeding from several places, and told us to clear out…looking mad enough to eat his own mace.

Raven says he tried to unlock the chains outside the tower, as a refuge from the attacking birds, but he couldn’t get it undone. He says he’s glad, though, since he heard something laughing from inside while we were fighting.

I hustled to get my party members back over the wall…although Mikael took a little longer than the others.

I found him kneeling by Nori. He said he’d used Cure Light Wounds on her, and she still wasn’t moving. His new raven friend (says her name is Corbi) was also pretty badly hurt, but he’s got her wrapped up in bandages to keep the bleeding down and the breaks contained, and so far she’s still breathing.

We couldn’t say the same for Nori…especially since she’s, y’know, a spider, and they don’t breathe the same way. It felt wrong to just leave her there, after all she’d done for us, but we didn’t want to spend too much time there, and frankly I had my hands full helping Ezekiel across the broken wall.

I would have said Ezekiel was the worst hurt, since he actually lost consciousness once, but I’m not sure. Raven did his best to walk normally, but he did sway a little.

I asked Lydia if Mikael could ride with her, and of course she said yes, so I was able to get them through Nulb all right without having to stop for anyone.

I was kinda scared we were going to have trouble, since as we came up on the town square we saw flames rising. The smithy was on fire, and a huge crowd was gathered around it, but we managed to skirt the crowd and move on, minding our own business. (After all, it wasn’t our business…and we were in no condition to give help, even if it was needed. I can only imagine how badly a fire could spread in a ramshackle place like Nulb.) I hope everything works out all right…

When we finally reached the campsite, Ezekiel explained one of the reasons he looked like he was trying to eat his own teeth. Apparently the potion he drank was supposed to be for “Animal Control” (which for obvious reasons would have been Super Helpful), but apparently it was for FISH only (I’m not sure how he knows this, and he doesn’t look in the mood to tell me).

I feel much better now that I’ve got them all back to our campsite here. Frankly, none of the guys look fit to swing a weapon for any length of time, and Lydia has blood on her head-scarf, though she’s trying to not make a big deal about it.

I have a scratch or two here and there, but this poison oak is what’s going to drive me out of my mind.

It’s only afternoon, but we’ll have to stop and rest. In fact, we’ll probably have to go back to Homlette…to buy me more arrows, if for no other reason. I’m so glad I had a reserve supply, but I’ve never had to crack into them before.

I’ll be really mad if my short sword was damaged. It’s the magic short sword we got for fighting the dwarves, and has been super useful.

Well, maybe I can figure out some base defenses – like a barrier of sharp sticks – so I can keep watch and we can not get killed by bugbears in the night.

Ezekiel is poking the fire and growling about how he couldn’t even hit birds that are literally flopping on the ground.

But, you know what, if Ezekiel has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t blame your deity just because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to.

Nori was a great spider. She was a wonderful gift to us. She died engaged in battle for the defense of her master.

And if Corbi’s brothers and sisters are anything to go by, she will be a great gift to our party, as well. She does look kinda cute and pathetic bundled up beside Mikael.

All the humans are still alive, and that is also a gift. I do not intend to squander it.


Find the previous entry here.

To read the start of the Homlette adventure, go here.

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Friendship—Casualty of LGBT Agenda

Friendship—Casualty of LGBT Agenda

Friendship is about so many things.

Having fun doing the same things. Encouraging each other to be better than we are. Feeling safe with one another.

It’s not mutually exclusive with Romantic Love…but it’s something special, distinct, and different than Romantic Love.

Which is why, when I saw several works of fiction dirtying this platonic ideal, I had make a stand.

Can’t a girl have a friend who’s also a girl? Can’t two guys feel a brotherly bond – and nothing more complicated? Do these authors have to boil everything down to sex – sex –sex?

And if they do…what a sad, tiny world they must live in. In fact…a world without Friendship. Continue reading

Dear Diary…complications, and complicated things

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

Let’s just say it’s been a crazy couple days.

Let’s see. We were in the dungeon, and the evil Drow cleric was disarmed, dis-armored, bound, gagged, and blind-folded (can you tell he made us nervous?).

We searched the dead bandits and their living quarters…we recovered a decent amount of money, and I found that one of the lieutenants had been using a long bow. (Y’know, a long bow that wasn’t BROKEN – so that’s mine now.)

We catalogued the weapons, and discovered the armory that had been moved from upstairs was here…so that’s a big relief. I’d hate to have to track down another secret base.

There was also plenty of brandy, weak wine, salted meat, and other dry foods…so I had plenty to make dinner with.

Elmo and Lydia helped themselves to a couple of the couches in the cleric’s room (where there were also dishes of treats and other things).

Ezekiel took off his magic chain-mail of Merikka – that he’s been wearing since we cleaned up that mess in Orlane – and offered it to me – since he figures he’ll be better protected wearing this black plate armor. I hope he covers up the spider somehow, unless we make it clear it’s Nori now.

Well, I saw no reason not to upgrade to Ezekiel’s chainmail. Also, my poor old shield doesn’t have Continual Light on it anymore, so there’s no reason for me to prefer it over the magical shield.

Ezekiel gave Mikael the cleric’s staff that hit Elmo so hard, and when Mikael cast Detect Magic he confirmed that it is indeed magical (so are the plate armor and the phylactery, but not the cleric’s mace or the black opal he was wearing).

Ezekiel and Lydia examined the phylactery, and they think it’s something to do with paralysis – Ezekiel thinks it’s a very rare artifact called a Phylactery of Action that protects from paralysis…and I figured, “just so long as it doesn’t cause paralysis.”

Ezekiel also asked Spugnoir about the little spat with Lydia, but all he would say is that there was fighting, and he was scared, and then Lydia burned him, and as he was running away Raven grabbed him and slammed him.

Well, we’ll see…

I barricaded the door at the south end of the corridor with a table and barrel, and so while there were some sounds in the night, nothing bothered us.

When Raven woke us all up at the end of his watch, we got up and considered how we would get all this junk out of there.

Oh, yes! The “bandits” had two light horses in a stable off their main room, so we could use them to carry at least some of the stuff.

Mikael cast his Heal Light Wounds spells, which got some of us feeling more like ourselves, and then (after much discussion) Mikael, Raven, and I went out the door to examine the grate and see if we could raise it, since we certainly couldn’t get the horses up the ladder, and we weren’t sure how else we would get out.

Well…

No sooner had we stepped into the outer passage, than I was sure I smelled the outdoors…mud and plants and that indescribable quality that speaks of outdoor spaces.

So we turned to the east – down the corridor we hadn’t been before – and within 400 feet it had sloped up enough to emerge among boulders and weeds. I could see the sky through the tree-branches above our heads.

Raven climbed a tree and said he could just see the Moat-house building off to the west, which meant we should be able to find the road pretty easily. In fact, this was probably the entrance the cult actually used, which would explain why the main floor of the Moat-house still looked so uninhabited.

We briefly discussed pretending that we had worked long and hard at the grate first, but I figured that would make us sound more stupid than we actually were.

Anyway, with that worry out of the way, we returned to our companions and started preparing to load as many of the weapons on the horses as we could. It was still early enough in the morning, we figured we could make it as far as the tower, and then return with a cart and maybe some men-at-arms to clear out the rest of the armory before nightfall.

Well, I was right in the middle of figuring that out when Elmo was shaking me awake.

According the Lydia and Mikael, Ezekiel had just un-gagged the Drow to give him a drink of water. Spugnoir cast a spell, and suddenly everyone else fell asleep – except the Drow cleric, who also said something in a strange language.

Mikael ordered Nori to “catch” Spugnoir, so she wrapped him up in spiderweb while Lydia woke up Ezekiel and Elmo (who were the other people in the cleric’s room at the time).

Ezekiel checked the Drow cleric, and found him not breathing, with no heartbeat.

“Oh, very funny,” said Ezekiel. “There’s a Cleric spell called Feign Death.” And he dragged him out so we could load him onto one of the horses.

So we finally set out – Raven carrying Spugnoir, after Ezekiel had taken away the scroll we got from the crayfish’s lair (that just sounds odd). Apparently Spugnoir had been carrying the scroll, but Ezekiel says Lydia can have it now.

I still can’t figure out Spugnoir. If he was afraid of being attacked in the dungeon, why put his party to sleep? If he wanted to help the Drow cleric escape, why do it there – when the cleric was wounded and bound, and might not escape being put to sleep – and they would still have to get out to the road to escape?

Eh, it’s not my problem anymore. Lydia and Mikael (and Nori of course) didn’t fall for it, and they’re out of our hands now.

We reached the fort in pretty good time, only three hours, and we waited at the future site of the gatehouse while one of the men there sent for Sir Rufus.

We’d put one of the decorative rugs over the cleric, so no suspicious characters could just casually see he was there, and Ezekiel gave Rufus a peek from under the rug.

I can’t tell if Sir Rufus was surprised to see a Drow Cleric of Lolth show up on his doorstep or not.

But he did let us bring our comatose cleric and our load of weapons up to the tower, where he called out Bern (apparently he’s a “Most Worshipful Mage”) and asked him to cast dispel magic.

Well, Master Bern did, while some of the men there helped unload the weapons which we were turning over to them (not like we could use that many, after all).

When Master Bern was done with his spell, the Drow still didn’t seem to have a pulse, but Ezekiel suggested they lock him up securely just in case.

We also turned Spugnoir over to them. There was a lot of discussion about that – putting us to sleep is pretty rude, even if you could call his fight with Lydia a “terrible misunderstanding” – and we decided that we definitely didn’t want him talking about what was going on at the Moat-house. So Sir Rufus agreed to lock him up for a while, after confiscating his spell-book.

Ezekiel also asked for a cart to go retrieve the rest of the weapons before anyone else got there, and Sir Rufus 1) not only gave us a cart, but 2) four mounted men-at-arms to assist us, and 3) horses for all of us.

I guess that’s what happens when you have actual resources!!

With so much help, it didn’t take long at all to get the rest of the armory safely into the hands of Rufus, and then Elmo went home – after agreeing to return with us to the dungeon tomorrow. Ezekiel and Mikael have some kind of scheme to get past the grate, and we don’t want to put off getting through there too long, just in case there are more prisoners to be rescued or anything pressing like that.

Our return to the Welcome Wench was a little dramatic.

As we approached, we noticed a huge scythe leaning by the door. Raven examined it, and found the blade covered with agricultural scenes from different seasons – he said the depictions of harvest were especially well done.

And right there, he announced that whoever this guy was, he liked him.

Well, we went inside, and looked for a table. The early-afternoon crowd seemed especially heavy to me, but two people especially stood out.

One was a woman in the robes of Merikka with bobbed black hair.

She was sitting with a dwarf in plate armor – and it was kind of hard to miss him, because he started yelling at Lydia to take off her veil. Apparently he’d heard about a party like us – with a funny-looking cleric and the “ugliest girl you ever saw” (he said it, I didn’t, because of course he’s never seen Lydia’s fire-finger up close, if you know what I mean).

Ezekiel went over to talk to him (because of course), and the dwarf said he’s “Doug Rocksinmysox,” and he was hunting for Ezekiel Sentinel because some gnome in Veluna thought he’d be interested in this strange book they found.

Apparently Mr. Rocksinmysox (Raven couldn’t keep a straight face) was mining in the CrystalMysts, and unearthed this book in the middle of a silver vein. It’s a big leather book with clasps and strange writing…Mikael and Lydia both said they don’t even recognize the script.

Rocksinmysox said he’d throw in an arcane scroll in a case – Lydia got very excited, and says it’s Comprehend Languages – for 4,500 gold.

Well, of course I was thinking 1) this dwarf we’ve never heard of is 2) trying to sell us a book he “dug out of a silver vein” for the sum of 3) three times what I spent at my first Ranger school.

But Ezekiel was already rubbing his hands together and bouncing up and down, so I guess I’ll let him spend his share of the treasure as he sees fit. After all, we’ve recovered quite a lot…we’ll have to appraise the jewelry we got from the “bandits,” a silver serving set and a box of unguent we took from the cleric’s room, etc. but I’m not worried about that.

Mr. Osler is still giving us room on the house. I guess Fernok of Ferd was really annoying to him.

Oh, Raven says the lady monk just earned the title “Master” in Greyhawk, and she’ll be staying in town long enough he’s hoping to get in some training with her.

****

In the morning, Ezekiel and Mikael headed to the river to find some clay. I took the opportunity to go buy some more torches, since without our shining shields I wanted to make sure we had plenty of light.

The shopkeep was pretty talkative…he said he’d heard of our triumphant return with an armory-worth of weapons. I told him we found some “bad guys” that we killed…

He didn’t seem to have strong opinions about right and wrong, and I agreed that it’s not very practical to ask about the alignment of everybody who comes through your shop…but still, everyone has to have standards of some kind.

I wonder where the battle lines are drawn in Homlette…

Using our two new horses, we made pretty good time back to the Moat-house. I had hung a decorative rug by the entrance of the sloping passage, so it was a synch to find.

We had to leave the horses shortly afterwards, which slowed us down quite a lot. Ezekiel is super slow in his new armor – and even after Raven loaned him the Boots of Speed, he and I were still the slowest people in the party.

Well, we made it to the grate without encountering anything (although I thought I heard moaning off in the distance…undead?), and Mikael plastered his clay along the stone to the side of the grate and cast a spell.

Gotta say, it looked pretty cool. The stone actually…warped? shifted? changed shape?…anyway, it moved away from the grate just far enough that we could all squeeze past – even Ezekiel in his plate armor.

We followed this narrow corridor up to a secret door, and when Raven opened it, we found the tiny room with the twisting staircase – and the second secret door that opened into the ogre’s room (I hope some giant snake or something eats it soon, ’cause it’s really starting to reek).

I wasn’t sure why anyone would gate off this passage…Ezekiel had a theory, but I’m not sure I understand it.

Anyway, at least we’ve determined there’s nobody here waiting to be rescued.

We also made a sweep through the crypt again, and Elmo says there’s been nothing “with a body” in there since we were last there. Even Ezekiel agrees that ghosts are not our business, so we returned to town – taking a few of the nicer-looking rugs and furniture and other fancies from the Drow cleric’s room.

We got back to town just after sunset, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get our gems appraised and figure out who gets what treasure.

On the whole, though, it’s good to have something actually completed and accomplished.

****

As soon as he had his share of the cash, Ezekiel couldn’t wait to rush down to the bar and buy his new book.

He brought it – and the scroll – back up to our rooms, where Lydia said the scroll had five copies of the same spell on it…and she wanted to “try” to copy it into her spell-book before reading it for Ezekiel. (I wasn’t sure why she had to “try” to copy it, but maybe when the letters spin and flash in strange ways, even Magic Users have trouble.)

So the book is called “The Music of the Holy Ones,” and it talks about “Eru” – the “One” – the “Father of All” – who created the Holy Ones by thinking about them and taught them to sing together.

And they sang, and they sang changing music…and the Father of All listened to them.

Seems like there was a problem of some kind – some of the Holy Ones kept changing up the music, and confusing the others so that they stopped singing…in fact, there were three “storms” of music where the one called Mighty started up a totally different kind of music, and then the Father of All raised his hand, and the music changed in a way they didn’t expect.

There was something about an Immortal Fire, too…I didn’t catch all of it, and when Ezekiel tried to explain it to me I couldn’t really make out his notes. But he says he thinks it’s like what Mr. Prettypebbles (of Veluna) read to us out of the Book of All Gods…where all the gods were bowing down to something too bright to see.

Ezie and Lydia are going to go over it at least once more this week, and he’s going to try to take more complete notes. Lydia said that, even with the Comprehend Languages spell, she had trouble communicating what the book said into Common Speech.

Ezekiel is just so…passionate. He’s over at a table now, with a mug of ale and his “letters” that he’s always writing, but never mailing. Maybe I don’t quite get it, but there’s something about the fire in his eyes…

It makes me think of Mother, talking about Ehlonna. And it makes me wish I had been paying attention better when I was that age.

Elmo says he wants to take me into the forest to “show me some things.” He didn’t specify if “things” means footprints, or fighting moves.

I might as well, though. Ezekiel, obviously, is wrapped up in his studies, and Raven was last seen heading for the back yard with the lady monk.

Mikael mentioned he’d like to go ask Druid Master Geru some questions, and Lydia asked if she could go with him on her way to the tower. Says she’s got some questions for Master Bern.

Elmo says he knows where to find some elves, too…and he says they aren’t nearly so intimidating in person as they are in theory. Especially once he tells them that I serve Ehlenestra, too…Ehlonna as we would call her.

It might be nice to leave this cult business behind for a few days, and focus on some other things. I definitely need to do some bow drills again.


Find the previous entry here.

Find the start of the Homlette adventure here.

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