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Wednesday, January 27

Unit 23: Prologue

Chicago police and SWAT swarmed the checkpoint, boxing in a perimeter around the warehouse where the White Shadows were supposedly storing rare artifacts and crates filled with Coca Loco.

"You sure it's in there?" asked Jim-Bean, peering through binoculars at their target, a warehouse.

Hammer glared at him. "You're girlfriend gave us the info—"

"She's not my girlfriend," snapped Jim-Bean. "She's…"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Is "mother of your children" better?" asked Hammer sarcastically. more

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Tuesday, January 26

Unit 23 Story Hour: Introduction

This story hour is a combination of the latest Delta Green Mailing List contest entry, "Unit 23," by Graham Kinniburgh, "Two Minutes On High" by Michael P. Nagel from Unspeakable Oath #11, and "Righteous Triad Fists" by Allan T. Grohe from The Triad Sourcebook. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

The odds of someone posting a scenario that perfectly fit the window when I needed something involving tcho-tchos are incredibly small. As fate would have it, Graham posted a scenario that was just perfect. It's not that surprising, given that my tastes in Delta Green action run similar to Graham's. I ended up using his scenario as the glue between At Your Door and what I like to call "Cthulhu Must Die."

This scenario actually draws on a third scenario, Righteous Triad Fists. Instead of having the battle be over The Seventh Scroll of Hsan, we have a Portuguese translation in book form. The goal is simply this: get the book, stop the cultists. Of course, it's much more complicated than that…

I had no idea I would end up with a full host of players that day. Because d20 is level-based, Caprice and Guppy have fallen behind in levels, so I was careful to separate them from the combat initially. What I didn't want was to have a bloodbath where the low level characters get knocked flat while the high level characters pound away on the opposition.

I pretty much butchered Graham's entry – I completely tossed the items he had listed as a homage to Marc McFadden, who recently passed away, along with the allusions to "The Lizard King." I replaced the Banzai 23 with Satan's Sadists, from At Your Door. And most importantly, I wanted to role-play some bidding, which gave our two weaker characters a chance to shine. Since Caprice is involved, that means our favorite cover is back: SNOWDOG!

I've also learned that, although it's fun to place 20 ninjas and 20 thugs on a warehouse map and have them duke it out, it's really not practical to make all those rolls. I learned my lesson running a massive D&D scenario with a similar number of opponents and skipped the boring parts. Narrative combat is key, rather than what miniature is on what part of the page. more

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Sunday, January 24

The End of the Arcanis Story Hour

Well folks, that's it. Even with me posting every friggin day, it took six years to get this campaign published on ENWorld. I'm not entirely sure, but it may be the most read story hour on the board and possibly the Internet -- if not, it's definitely ranked highly amongst them, and I have all of you to thank for that.

It's been a fun ride. But after awhile, posting so frequently was starting to become cumbersome. Toddlers don't like it when you type on the computer, and you can only play Yo Gabba Gabba videos in another window for so long before they get antsy. As much as I enjoyed writing and publishing this story hour, it was becoming a bit of a chore.

You'll notice that there's a little plot point with Sebastian that was never resolved. That was Hell in Freeport, which we still joke that we might play one day. If there's enough interest from players here, we may just get everyone together to do it -- or I may cheat and do a narrative game (where I tell the players what happens, we skip the combat, and just role-play the story and I write it later). But right now there's no pressing need...I'm working on my book, we've got our modern campaign to contend with, and the birth of my second child is imminent.

Oh right. So, the whole reason the campaign ended was because my son was born. That was nearly three years ago! Although the story didn't quite match the outcome (Ilmare's child was a girl) the timing was right...because our second child, due at the end of May, is a girl. And no, her name is not Anulee.

At least for a little while, I'm happy to leave the characters we lived with for so long to their happy endings. Quintus and Ilmare finally have their (admittedly weird) family they always wanted. Kham is a certified pirate with his very own ship. Beldin has respect and power. And Vlad's filthy rich. I like to think they will live out their lives to happy old age. I think they earned it.

Except Kham of course. He'll die a quick death -- if not drugs or alcohol, it will certainly be women. But I digress.

I'm in touch with all of the players in the game, so if you have any questions or you want to hear more about any particular character, I might be able to drag them onto the boards or at least relay your questions.

I've been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately to my son, so I think it's appropriate to quote him here:

But on you will go though the weather be foul.
On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Good night and God bless. more

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I Did It!

Paper & Pixels just cleared 94,000 words. All of my book sources have been entered. Now it's just a matter of revising it all, entering quotes from primary sources, and getting the artwork together in three weeks.

Whew!

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City Under Siege: Part 8c – Aftermath

Bobbin led the strange man up to the Imperial Suite. It consisted of four rooms, the first being a reception area, complete with furniture Ducayne had purchased.

Whoever he was, Bobbin knew he was wealthy. He guessed that Ducayne was a Coryani escaping the war; although his manner of dress suggested an Altherian, his pale skin was more akin to a Milandisian. And yet he had a hint of a Canceri accent. He was probably an adventurer.

Ducayne hesitated at the door. It was painted with the words: DO NOT DISTURB in red.

“In the past, I am aware that you have suffered some unfortunate…incidents, here.”

Bobbin spread his hands over his apron to wipe the sweat from his palms. “That’s true. Between the samat attack and Coombs’ bombs, the Last Resort has suffered quite a bit of damage. But thanks to our arrangement, we’ll be able to pay off all the old debts. Unfortunately, orc labor’s not cheap anymore.”

The stranger allowed a slight smile. “Those days are over. From now on The Last Resort is under my protection.”

“That’s…comforting, sir.”

“That is all, Mr. Brandydale. Thank you for your time.”

Bobbin nodded and stepped backwards. Before the door closed, a squeaky voice reached his ears.

“So I gotta stay on watch all day in here, boss?”

“Not just here, Skiz,” said the man who called himself Ducayne. “I have other work for you to do…”

Then the door closed and Bobbin was glad he could hear no more. more

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Saturday, January 23

City Under Siege: Part 8b – Aftermath

Emric smiled at each of the remaining council members. Twelve seats surrounded the throne. Dirwin Arnig the gnome was there, along with the Altherian Liam Blackhammer, Lady Elise Grossette, Marilise Maeorgan, and the high priestess of Yarris, Sister Gwendolyn. Then he addressed the crowd, more man than boy.

“Freeport has lost much this past week. But in any time of sorrow, Freeport returns stronger than ever before. We mourn the loss of Captain Xavier Gordon, Captain Marcus Roberts, Captain Hector Torian, Captain Garth Varellion, and Captain Buster Wallace.” He nodded at the five empty seats, each represented by a wreath of flowers. No one mourned the loss of Arias Soderheim and no flowers were on his seat. “But in the interest of rebuilding Freeport, I hereby announce the following new Council Members.” He turned to special seats facing the throne.

“Petra Fricke.” The crowd cheered. The leader of the Guild of Craftsmen was a popular choice. Petra came forward, bowed, and demurely took her seat.

“Captain Baldric.” The crowd cheered again. After all his efforts, Baldric had finally gotten the seat he so sorely coveted.

The grizzled old captain hobbled up to the dais, tears in his eyes. He bowed awkwardly and took a seat.

Kham leaned over to whisper to Beldin. “What’s up with Baldric?”

Beldin shrugged. “Something about losing his cat…”

“Morgan Baumann,” said Emric, “Captain of the Kraken’s Claw.” Cheers went up. Captain Baumann had fought heroically during the battle and redeemed herself in the eyes of many, but not all. Morgan’s detractor glowered at her from a nearby seat.

Baumann marched up, her eyes filled with tears of pride. She saluted Emric and then sat down in the Council seat provided for her.

“High Priest Egil Thompson of the Temple of Althares.” A man of medium height and build, with fairly short brown hair, brown eyes, and no distinguishing features, clapped loudly, leading the crowd into applause. It was Steel, K’Stallo’s form for when he wished to walk amongst humans.

Egil was popular but his suspicious connections to ssanu, even if they were friendly, tainted his legacy. Egil humbly bowed before Emric and took his seat. His appointment to the Council paved the way for a bill guaranteeing amnesty for the Hitthkai ssanu. But that was for another day.

“High Priest Peg-Leg Peligro of the Temple of Cadic.” More wild applause. Most Freeporters knew Cadic was the reason Freeport was saved and they venerated him as much if not more than Yarris. Few caught Lady Gwendolyn’s frown.

Peg-Leg stumped his way up to the dais, managed an awkward bow, and took a seat.

“Drak Scarbelly, Captain of the Bloody Vengeance.” There was an audible gasp. Then all the orcs in the room went wild, cheering and hooting, and even crushing humans in bearhugs.

Scarbelly hobbled up to the throne and bowed low, lower than any of the others. He slowly, painfully took his seat.

“And last but not least, filling the Privateer Seat…Kham val’Abebi, Captain of the Divine Fury II!” more

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Friday, January 22

City Under Siege: Part 8a – Aftermath

General Menisis ran down to the area of collapsed wall and wrapped Roderick in the banner of the Pride of Chendo. In moments, the young man’s eyes fluttered to life.

All around Vlad and Quintus, il’Huan bodies lay motionless. Ichor was splashed everywhere, mixed with human blood. Most of Quintus contubernium and almost all of Vlad’s canton were dead.

Quintus, battered and bloody, limped over to pick up Precision. He handed it to the General.

Menisis smiled but shook his head.

Quintus offered it to Roderick, who turned away, tears in his eyes.

“Then it goes back to the Order of the Blade, I suppose,” said Quintus.

Menisis saw Vlad slowly walking towards him, but he made no move to defend himself. “I have a note for your Emperor. Listen well. It is but this: I am coming for you.” more

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Thursday, January 21

City Under Siege: Part 7d – The Return of Leviathan

Kham fired again, and another burst of crystals exploded, wiping a second star off the thing. Leviathan turned towards him with purpose.

Beldin sailed up to the thing’s face. With a mighty roar, he hacked down on the star, cutting it right off Leviathan’s head. Tentacles grabbed him once more, encircling Beldin’s entire body such that he couldn’t even move.

Sebastian sailed past and, with one extended fist, strafed the surface of Leviathan’s head. He struck one of the stars and it sizzled off the thing’s flesh.

“One more star left!” shouted Kham. “Come here you big squid!” He was down to his last pistol. There was no Skiz to reload it for him anymore, but then he wasn’t using normal ammunition either. “Come get some!”

Leviathan lifted one huge, dripping claw and SMASHED Kham and the Divine Fury in half.

“NOOO!” shouted Sebastian. With a roar, he clapped both hands together and unleashed a torrent of eldritch energy from the very depths of his black soul. more

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Wednesday, January 20

City Under Siege: Part 7c – The Return of Leviathan

“I did it!” shouted Enzo, cavorting on the deck of the longship.

The tcho-tchos had turned on the skohiir, slaughtering them and feasting on their flesh. It was an orgy of violence and celebration at the return of their god.

He watched, ecstatic, as a ring of black energy warped out from Leviathan. “Wait…what’s he doing?”

Enzo watched in horror as the decks of ship after ship collapsed, dead. All throughout the fleet, orcs and elves, Freeporters and tcho-tchos, turned to shriveled husks where they stood.

“But master…” was all Enzo got out before he too collapsed on the deck, dead. more

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Tuesday, January 19

Crisis in Freeport: Part 7b – The Return of Leviathan

“Fire!” shouted Kham.

The Divine Fury fired all of its cannons. The blast surged into Leviathan’s flesh but the wounds bubbled and sealed.

Sebastian flapped up and around it, a fly annoying a giant. A blast of cold spread from his hands, scouring Leviathan’s head, but the frozen flesh was merely reabsorbed.

Using Cho Sun’s ring, Beldin rode a tidal wave to engage Leviathan. He hacked at its legs, but the thing ignored him.

Flames came next from Sebastian, and again the endless replicating form swallowed up the burnt flesh.

Beldin rose higher on the wave, and this time Leviathan took notice. Tentacles squirmed outwards and snatched him off the wave.

Sebastian threw an orb of acid, and it simply disappeared into Leviathan’s arm with no effect.

Beldin struggled in the tentacles. One tentacle burst the dwarf’s shield into pieces. Another snapped Windcutter in half before his very eyes. Leviathan was toying with him.

“Damn it, Beldin!” shouted Kham. He concentrated, and suddenly he was in Leviathan’s tentacles and Beldin was on the deck of the Divine Fury.

“Wow, you’re even uglier up close.” Kham drew a bead with two pistols. His eyes flashed, and a swarm of crystals burst from his pistols, shredding one of the stars from Leviathan’s head. The avatar recoiled. more

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Monday, January 18

Crisis in Freeport: Part 7a – The Return of Leviathan

Another ship fell to the mighty sea creature, crushed by its many tentacles. The hideous beast’s maw scooped up the survivors and swallowed them whole. As it did so, its eyes crackled with a dark blue energy. Suddenly, a beam burst forth like a lightning bolt toward the tower in the middle of the sea. The tomb of Leviathan absorbed the beam and glowed with a dark blue light.

Kham looked down at the Leviathan Pistol at his belt. It glowed with the same dark blue light.

“Uh…”

“I see it,” said Sebastian. He was holding the Leviathan Bell and Sextant.

“Me too,” said Beldin, who held the Leviathan Hook and Spyglass. “This can’t be good.”

A powerful bolt of energy left the kraken and shot towards the tower, followed by a deafening thunderclap. The tower began shrinking, collapsing in on itself, as the energy surrounding it grew brighter. Suddenly, the Leviathan artifacts were ripped from their grasp. The Pistol, Bell, Hook, and Spyglas floated in the air toward the tower.

“This is bad,” said Kham. “Very bad.” more

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Sunday, January 17

City Under Siege: Part 6d – The Battle Begins

Quintus’ contubernium charged forward, following Roderick val’Tensen’s attack to engage the forces of his father, Adolphos val’Tensen. And just as he feared, Vlad was leading a canton in his direction.

The two forces collided on the battlefield with a clash of steel. The Milandisian cantons presented a thicket of polearms to the longspears of Quintus’ forces. The longer reach sliced through shields and pierced shoulders. Men screamed and cursed, but they pressed forward.

Then they were face to face. Quintus lowered his shield and drew his gladius, only to see Vlad draw Grungronazharr.

“Vlad!”

“Quintus!”

They locked blades halfheartedly.

“You’re fighting for the wrong side!” said Quintus. “Why are you following Adolphos?”

“Me?” Vlad struggled to push him back. Quintus was stronger than he remembered. “I thought you were loyal to the Emperor?”

“The Emperor is mad!”

“Menisis invaded our lands,” said Vlad, gritting his teeth. “You are siding with a conqueror.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” shouted Quintus. “But I will if I must!”

“Likewise,” said Vlad. They shoved off, disengaging.

Vlad pointed and a blast of flames extended from his finger. Quintus muttered a prayer to Illiir that absorbed the attack.

Around them, their men engaged in a bloody conflict, parrying and striking, with neither side gaining the upper hand.

Adolphos and Roderick met in single combat. After an exchange of ferocious blows, Precision went flying out of Adolphos’ hands.

Adolphos fell to his knees. “Do it! What are you waiting for?” he snarled up at his son.

Roderick hesitated, blade raised. “I can’t!” he sobbed, lowering his blade. “You’re still my father!”

Quintus clenched one fist and it glowed with holy flame. He pointed it at Vlad.

The Milandisian held Grungronazharr high and the flames washed harmlessly over him.

The two stood panting before each other, unsure how to proceed.

“You’ve gained new powers since last we met,” said Quintus. “I’m impressed.”

“And your prayers are more powerful than I remember,” said Vlad.

They lifted their weapons to strike again when a tremendous explosion obliterated much of Enpebyn. The blast knocked armies on both sides flat. more

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Friday, January 15

City Under Siege: Part 6c – The Battle Begins

Enzo Ularaboo did not stand out amongst the crew on the barbarian longship, covered in skins and gaunt as a scarecrow. While most of the warriors stood head and shoulders above him, Enzo kept pace with his drum, beating a hypnotic rhythm that set the oars of the ship in motion. It was appropriate, he thought, given the task ahead of him.

Until the arrival of the elorii ships, the skohiir barbarians were filled with a desperate hope that they might escape. But Freeport was stubborn, and its armada’s galleons much faster than the longhships. The tcho-tchos who led the attack were non-plussed. Like Enzo, this was all part of the plan.

One of the tcho-tchos nodded to Enzo, smiling a mouth full of filed teeth. Enzo nodded back. That was the signal.

Enzo stopped drumming and lifted the horn of summoning, a weapon of immense power that he had spent every waking hour searching for since he fled Freeport that fateful day, hands behind his back and a bag over his head. Enzo was sure those fools who did that to him were out there. They would pay. They would all pay.

The tcho-tchos put down their oars and looked at him expectantly. Enzo’s chest swelled with pride; he had never had so many men look at him with such awe, even if they were short cannibalistic men.

Enzo blew the horn. Once, twice, three times.

Its three deep calls drowned out the sounds of battle. Time seemed to stop as all the combatants looked around them, unsettled by the thunderous noise.

The sea began to roil and splash violently.

“Rise!” shouted Enzo. “Rise Son of Leviathan, and free your master from R’lyeh’s tomb!” more

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City Under Siege: Part 6b – The Battle Begins

After repulsing the attack on Freeport, the Captain’s Council demanded revenge. Emric Ossan-Drac, in his new role as Sea Lord, made his first declaration an act of war. Without delay, Freeport’s fleet set sail after the barbarians to hunt them down and punish them for daring to attack Freeport.

Admiral Rankin took charge of the situation, gathering a fleet of over fifty ships in just two hours. Captains Gordon, Roberts, Torian, and Varellion from the Council accompanied the fleet. Drak Scarbelly pledged two orc ships for the effort, including his own, the Bloody Vengeance.

Kham stood on the deck of his ship, the Divine Fury. The fastest of the fleet, they came upon the barbarian longships near sunset.

As dusk approached, a light fog spread out over the sea, reducing visibility. Through the vapor, the deep red disc of the sun hung low on the horizon. A half mile out, at the limit of vision through the haze, was the barbarian fleet. They began to turn to do battle.

“They are brave to meet their end in this way,” said Beldin. “We greatly outnumber them.”

“The seas will overflow with blood this night,” said Sebastian.

Sebastian took to the air. Beldin simply walked off the side of the deck. Held aloft by Cho Sun’s ring, he kept walking straight towards one of the longships.

“Prepare cannons!” shouted Kham.

“Preparing cannons!” responded his first mate. When they were ready, the first mate shouted. “Cannons ready!”

Sebastian’s tiny form was visible in the distance, raining flames down upon one of the ships. Beldin was sinking a longship with Cho Sun’s ring, a whirlpool churning beneath it.

“Fire!”

“Fire!” repeated the first mate.

The fusillade of cannonfire tore through another one of the longships. Against long-range fire, the barbarians were helpless. It was only a matter of time before they paid the ultimate price for their folly.

Sebastian and Beldin returned. “They must have been desperate indeed,” said Sebastian. “Victory is at hand.”

”Ships ahoy!” shouted the first mate.

Kham scanned the horizon, desperately looking for the new threat. At last he saw them. Moving quickly toward the Freeport ships was another fleet.

“Elorii warships,” said Kham. He recognized the sleek and fast ships.

“Reinforcements,” said Sebastian. “Finally, the orcs will see that the elorii are not their…” he looked up “…enemies.”

The sun, having risen in the morning sky, went out.

“ARROWS!” shouted Sebastian. “Get behind me!”

Thousands of arrows had been launched from the ships with perfect aim. They flew in a volley so thick that the sun itself was obscured. more

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Thursday, January 14

City Under Siege: Part 6a – The Battle Begins

Quintus stood at the side of General Menisis val’Tensen and Roderick val’Tensen, in a secret meeting between the lines of war. On the other side of the fire stood Adolphos val’Tensen, Lady Teodora val’Borda, and Vlad Martell. Between them stood Divelos Norvitecus, senior monk of the Blades of Hurrian.

“I have gathered you here to offer Precision to he who most deserves it,” said Divelos. “During this time of war, it was prophesized that the blade would be used by a val’Tensen. As per Hurrian’s will, I have brought it with me, here, to decide who shall wield it.” He held the sword before him in its scabbard, a delicately as a mother putting her baby to bed.

Vlad and Quintus exchanged uncomfortable glances. It was clear they were on opposite sides. more

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Wednesday, January 13

Crisis in Freeport: Part 5 – Free Drak!

Beldin stood at the entrance to the Fortress of Justice, along with Commander Stern. With a barked command, the guards let them in.

Inside, two hundred and fifty citizens, mainly women and children, huddled together in the training area.

“Who’s in charge here?” demanded Commander Stern.

“I’m Sergeant Lassiter,” said a grizzled guardsman. With the death of Commissioner Williams at the hands of Price Rurbach, it had fallen to Lassiter to lead the Fortress until a suitable replacement could be found. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“You’ve got to let Drak go,” said Beldin. “Right now.”

“Are you mad? He’s a criminal!”

“He’s only guilty of wanting to be Sea Lord,” said Beldin. “And I can think of several other people who you should be arresting if that’s the case.”

“There are orcs on their way here,” said Stern more urgently. “And they’re going to storm these gates if we don’t do something.”

“Fine, fine,” said Lassiter. “But this is on your head.”

They jogged over to the Tombs, where only a solitary jailer and two guards were on watch.

“Open Drak’s cell,” snapped Lassiter. “We’re letting him out.”

“But sir!”

“Now, private!”

The guard complied. Drak Scarbelly hobbled out of his cell.

“Well, well, well, if tis’ not me old friend, Beldin Soulforge.” The orc pirate smiled with a mouthful of yellow teeth. “And what be th’ problem t’day?”

“Barbarians are attacking the city,” said Beldin.

Drak nodded. “So I heard. This all coulda been avoided if ye just gave me th’ sextant. Instead o’ trying to pass it off as evidence o’ that human brat’s lineage.”

“You’re not going to have a Freeport to rule over at this rate,” said Beldin.

“Give me th’ sextant, then.”

“I don’t have it,” said Beldin.

“Then I guess ye’ve got bigger problems.”

Beldin huffed. “If you don’t help us, humans AND orcs will die. All of us! This is Freeport’s last chance!”

Scarbelly looked him up and down with his good eye. “Then I’ll make ye a compromise. I want a guaranteed seat on th’ Council.”

“What?” said Lassiter. “You can’t possibly be considering…”

Beldin put one hand up. “We need to consider everything right now.”

“That’s madness,” said Stern. “From criminal to Councilman? The citizens of Freeport will never stand for it.”

“Citizens?” asked Drak. “There be a whole horde o’ them outside yer gates, and I don’t mean th’ barbarians. Treat th’ orcs like decent folk and ye’d be surprised what ye get back.” He turned back to Beldin. “Swear on Sarish and I’ll see what I can do.”

Beldin stroked his beard, deep in thought.

“Ye don’t exactly have a lot o’ time here,” said Drak impatiently. more

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Tuesday, January 12

City Under Siege: Part 4c – Get Them Guns Blazin’!

Oppius stabbed one of the Inferno’s crew. “Do we have a plan to get off this ship or was this a suicide mission?”

Quintus skewered two men with his longspear. “Would it matter to you either way?”

“Not really,” said Oppius. “I was just curious if I was throwing my life away on the deck of this stupid ship.”

“Get down!” shouted Hervius from behind them.

They knew better than to ignore the sorcerer’s command. Lightning streaked over their heads, frying several of the advancing crewmembers. But more were coming.

“It’s done!” shouted Hervius. “But I used up too much energy…”

“What?” asked Oppius. “What does that mean?”

“It means I only have enough energy to perform one hop,” said Hervius, his features grim. “And there is no platform within distance for us to relocate.”

“Yes there is,” said Quintus. He pointed at the other airship, which was a few hundred feet away.

“That’ll do,” said Hervius. “Mundai ianua!”

They were suddenly in the hold of the Judgment of Nier.

A deafening explosion from the other ship caused the few crewmembers down below to run upstairs, ignoring the legionnaires who had just appeared in the far corner of the hold.

“Great,” said Oppius. “You just teleported us into the holding cell of the enemy.” more

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Monday, January 11

City Under Siege: Part 4b – Get Them Guns Blazin’!

Sebastian flew over Freeport. He could see barbarians closing in from everywhere. Shrill war cries and screams came from the outskirts of Drac’s End. Citizens fled in panic. He could also make out the orc mob, just leaving the Field of Honor and making its way toward the Eastern Gate of the Old City.

Sebastian moved on. His destination was one of the many towers facing the harbor, each armed with a Fihali cannon. In fitting pirate fashion, Freeport had even stolen its own defenses.

The towers stood about fifty feet high. Bodies lay scattered around the gun closest to the harbor. Flaming wreckage from one of the barbarian ships indicated they had gotten one good shot off, but the tower itself was on fire. Sebastian guessed a misfire; Fihali weapons were never meant for human hands.

Sebastian landed. He had the opportunity to inspect fihali technology when he was aboard their ship. That information served him well. To fire, the cannons required life force and magical energy. He threw an enchanted dagger down the barrel, satisfying the first requirement.

But the second was not so easy. Strange hand impressions were at the base, suited for a clawed fihali. Sebastian put his hands in the depressions…

And screamed as the cannon tore magic out of him by sheer force. It felt as if his eyeballs and been strained through his fingertips. The results were spectacular: The gun roared and with a huge kick, belched forth a massive fireball the likes of which he had never seen. The ensuing fireball sailed over the harbor. more

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Sunday, January 10

City Under Siege: Part 4a – Get Them Guns Blazin’!

“Airships!” shouted Quintus.

The Judgment of Nier and the Inferno hovered over Enpebyn, bristling with Altherian weaponry. The cannons slowly winched into place.

“We can’t stop that kind of firepower,” said Tertius, slowly lowering his horn from his lips.

The cannons began blasting away, tearing huge chunks of masonry off of Enpebyn’s walls. Guards flailed like rag dolls off the sides of the fortifications, screaming as they went.

“Hervius!” ordered Quintus. “I ignited blastpowder once. Can your magic do the same?”

Hervius shot Quintus an odd smile. “Most certainly. But I would need time.”

“Can you get us up there?”

“Some of us,” said Hervius. “But we will be spotted.”

“I can conceal us,” said Tertius. “You just focus on getting us close to that ship.”

Quintus nodded to Tertius. “Let’s do it.”

Tertius whispered a spell. Nothing happened.

Oppius frowned. “So much for that…”

“It worked,” said Tertius. “Just stay within ten paces of me.”

“Quintus, Oppius, Tertius,” said Hervius. “Hold onto my cloak.” He was watching the Inferno. “We’re going to have to do two quick hops. I can’t reach the distance from here.”

“Wait,” said Oppius. “Two quick hops? Where’s the first hop to?”

Hervius pointed at a crenellation along Enpebyn’s wall right in front of the Inferno. The floating Altherian gunship would most certainly blast it to oblivion in a matter of seconds. “There: Mundai ianua!” more

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Saturday, January 9

City Under Siege: Part 3b – Barbarians at the Gate

Elabac stood with his comrades, surrounded by bodyguards, at the Forges.

“We are to defend this forge…with our very lives!” wheezed Elabac. “Do not…falter!”

The dwarves stood stoically, waraxes and warhammers clenched in their hands, visors low, shields before them.

The enemy’s numbers were vast. The Legion of Unsettled Quietus, a Nerothian legion, moved in lock step. But for the clanking of armor and the rustling of arms, they made not a sound.

“Undead,” whispered one of Elabac’s young apprentices.

“How can we withstand such an army, Master Elabac?” The young one’s beard wasn’t very long, less than a foot. “They are so many and we are so few!”

Elabac patted the young dwarf on the shoulder. “Have…faith.” more

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Friday, January 8

City Under Siege: Part 3a – Barbarians at the Gate

A battered, bloody member of the watched rushed towards Beldin, collapsing into his arms.

“We are under attack!” He coughed. “The barbarians are at Drac’s gate. We closed the gate in time, but they must have planted soldiers within the city.” He spat up blood. “They surprised us! Commander Stern…” he wheezed, “cannot hold out for long. That gate must remain closed. Please, help us…”

The man let out a long, rattling cough and died.

Beldin gently laid the man down on the ground and stumped towards Drac’s gate.

The scene at the gate was bloody. Two wounded Guardsmen stood amidst their comrades’ dead bodies and attempted to defend the inside of the gate from ten attackers. They were doing their best to keep themselves between the barbarians and the mechanisms that would raise the portcullis and open the wooden gates, but they would not last much longer on their own.

One of the Guardsmen went down as Beldin reached the gate.

“Keep that gate closed!” shouted Commander Stern, the lone guardsmen left. He blocked an axe swing with his shield.

One barbarian began churning the winch to open the gates. more

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Thursday, January 7

City Under Siege: Part 2 – We Are Under Attack!

Kham awakened from his slumber to the sounds of a deckhand screaming out in alarm. Rushing topside, he saw a fleet of barbarian longships moving rapidly through the light mist.

Kham called to his first mate. “How many?”

“Ten, sir, at least, but there are probably more.”

“They’re trying to block off the harbor. We need to open it up so the other ships can get out. Ready the cannons!”

“Readying the cannons!”

Kham turned. “Keep firing, clear that path! I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going sir?

“To warn the others.” He concentrated…

And he was back in the Sea Lord’s Palace. Sebastian and Beldin had just finished arming themselves.

“So you’ve heard?” asked Kham.

“About the orcs?” Beldin fired back.

“Wait, what?” more

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Wednesday, January 6

City Under Siege: Part 1c – Continental Influence

Quintus Aurelius val’Emman stood flanked by the rest of contubernium: Hervius Flavinius Tranio, the legionnaire sorcerer with hair that fanned out behind like a centurion’s helmet; Oppius Camelius Rusticus, the best scout in the legions; Tertius Caprenius Augustalis, the horn blower responsible for drawing the attention of the men and issuing the audible commands of the officers; and four other milites gregarious, the foot soldiers who were vital to the contubernium.

“Hold the line!” he shouted.

The shadow creatures seethed all around them. Thousands of shadow creatures had poured through the rift, attacking both sides indiscriminately. They were no longer fighting for honor; they were fighting for their lives.

Hervius unleashed a blast of force, tearing through a group of the shadow beings. Tertius blew his horn, keeping their spirits high.

Quintus held up his signum. “In the name of Illir, go back to the pits from whence you came!”

Blinding light speared from the signum into the roiling mass of shadow beings. They disintegrated before it like so many seeds in a strong wind.

And still they came. “There’s too many!” Oppius’ arrows had little effect on the incorporeal things.

“Hold the line!” commanded Quintus again.

“Look!’ said Tertius.

A roiling mass of greenish-white spearmen marched forward, heading straight for the shadow portal.

“Their standard,” said Oppius, “but that’s impossible, that legion is long dead!”

“You are correct,” said Quintus, leaning on his signum. “Those are the ghosts of the Doom of Chendo legion.” more

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Tuesday, January 5

City Under Siege: Part 1b – Continental Influence

“Dis is intolerable,” echoed Zoltan’s voice in Kham’s mind.

“Shut up, Zoltan, I’ve got it under control.”

“Under control? Look at dem. Your bat friend is blind, your dwarf friend is wearing bunny slippers, and a giant worm is eating dem. Dis is what you call under control?”

A giant, tenebrous worm had torn through the portal. It was massive, smashing its head up against the twenty-foot high ceiling. Beldin gamely held the thing off by hacking at its maw every time it bit at him.

“You should have listened to me, my friend, and stayed in Altheria. De women. De wine! We could have had such happy days!”

“I wasn’t planning on coming back.” Kham felt as if he were floating over his body, observing it but not controlling it. “But now that my friends are in trouble…”

“You want to be de hero! I can get on board with dat. You seem to be having a bit of trouble, let me help you, no?”

“We should go!” Kham shouted to his companions. “I can get you all out of here!”

Semi-solid skeletons, dressed like pirates, slipped out of the rift. Beldin and Sebastian were surrounded.

“No!” Sebastian shouted back. “Emric is the Sea Lord now and we must protect him!”

“I’m not leaving,” said Beldin.

“They are stubborn, I admire dat! Dese powers I have given you, you do not know how to control dem yet. But I do. Let me show you.”

Kham felt Zoltan’s presence in his mind with razor-sharp focus. They concentrated…

And Kham was back on the Divine Fury.

“What ho, Captain?” shouted his first mate. He was on the ocean again. The pirates were routed, their ship naught but burning wreckage.

“Have we succeeded, den?”

The first mate stared quizzically at his captain. His accent was strange. But then, everything about Kham was strange. “Yes, sir. We did find tcho-tcho barbarians among them. It’s odd that they’re working together.”

Kham nodded. “Yes it is. But we don’t have time for dat. Right now, I need three men to fire our biggest cannon.”

“Fire it at what?”

“Just do it. Go!”

The crew scrabbled to do his bidding. In no time, three Altherians were loading and priming a huge cannon, its maw sculpted in the shape of a dragon just like Kham’s pistols.

“Let’s talk about dese women in your life,” said Zoltan in Kham’s mind. “You seem to be having difficulty settling down. You should pick one.”

“I don’t think now is the time,” thought Kham.

“I disagree. You need to find a good woman, like Black Jenny Ramsey. Now dat was a woman…”

“Yeah yeah, sweet as a peach, fiery as a brand, soft as silk, you talk about her all the time.”

“You have no such woman. What of de Countess?”

“Countess d’Ambose? Dead. Beldin killed her in an assassination attempt. I might have killed her myself if I caught up with her.”

“Oh, dat’s too bad. How about this Touldrix?”

“The undir? I haven’t seen her in awhile.”

“Maybe it’s time you reconnected, eh? Life is too short.”

“Aren’t we in the middle of trying to save my friends?”

“Oh, yes, right…” Zoltan turned his attention back to the events at hand. “Fire.” more

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Monday, January 4

10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling

Seriously. STOP IT. more

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City Under Siege: Part 1a – Continental Influence

Sebastian woke up with a start. Someone was in his room.

“This is all wrong!” hissed a feminine voice. “I shouldn’t be here!”

The dark-kin roused himself from the bed, spreading his wings out before him. “You…you look familiar. Weren’t you Thralen’s maidservant?”

The woman glared at him. The whites of her eyes were showing.

“You recognize me, even in complete darkness?” She pointed at Sebastian’s eyes with forked fingers. “Then I’ve no choice: Cadic take your sight!”

Sebastian screamed and clutched his eyes. “It was you! You were the spy who directed Mentire! You were pulling the strings on behalf of the Emperor!”

“Yes, but…” she stuttered. “I was defecting. This wasn’t…I’m not supposed to be here!”

Kham appeared in a flash of light. He looked surprised. “What the hell?” more

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Sunday, January 3

City Under Siege: Prologue

“You switched the healing potion bandoliers with poison!” growled Gaius at the Hospitaler.

“What kind of poison?” asked the Hospitaler.

“They fell into a deep slumber,” said Gaius. “But that’s not the point—“

“Is it? We haven’t killed anyone. Have you?”

“What are you getting at?”

“We know of High General Dorjan val’Mehan’s punitive expedition to the Temple of Beltine,” said the Hospitaler. “Your men, impersonating members of the Legion of the Defiant Shield, slaughtered many defenseless priests who were tending the wounded.”

The living conditions in Enpebyn had becoming increasingly worse. With eighty thousand soldiers and the local population, too many people were crowded inside the city competing for too little food. Menisis had decided to release the women and children from the citadel, hoping to save food for the fighters and hoping that Calsestus would open a breach to let them go. But Calsestus issued orders that nothing should be done for these civilians and the women and children were left to starve in the no man's land between the city walls and the circumvallation. The Beltinian Hospitalers, struggling to remain neutral, took them in.

“Bah!” shouted Gaius. “You’ve no proof!”

Cunegunda spoke up. “Actually, they do.” more

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Saturday, January 2

I Did It!

I'm going half-blind from staring at a screen for a week straight, but I did it. Paper & Pixels is currently at 81,189 words. This number will of course shrink and grow as I continue to edit the text, and there's still a lot of editing to go. The computer RPG section is massive, and I'm still filling out the LARP section. But it's all coming together, and I now have two months to tinker with the text to get it where I need it by mid-February.

One day after 2009, but close enough. A major milestone has been completed. Here's to an awesome 2010 and hopefully the publication of my book by December of this year.

Thank you and good night!

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Friday, January 1

Happy New Year!

That last decade really sucked, let's do better next time, 'kay?

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