26 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 27

Chapter 27

A lurker in the neighbourhood.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Morning's first light fell on Kazimier.  He offered quiet prayers to the Lightbringer in thanks for the new day.  His sunbeam amulet caught the light, spreading it through the room in a rainbow of colour.  Kazimier knelt on the floor, making sure the amulet remained in the sun's light.  He chanted, a song of praise to the Lightbringer asking for wisdom and clarity.  The kaleidoscope of colour on the walls coalesced, coming together to form the image of a wriggling serpent with scales of red, blue, and yellow.  The image crawled along the wall.  A bright flash of white light struck the snake.  When the light cleared, the serpent had two heads.  The snake reared to strike, then the image dissolved back to the rainbow of colours.

Kazimier lowered his head.  "I understand."  He kissed his sunbeam amulet, then let it go.  The elf got to his feet, straightening his clothes.  A knock came from the door.  Kazimier answered it, opening the door to see Nyssa and Leomund waiting in the hall.  The squire had a hand shielding his eyes from the light.  "Good morning," Kazimier greeted.

"Good to see someone wide awake this morning," Nyssa said.  "Need to break your fast yet?"

"Not just yet."

"Think the lasses are awake?"

Kazimier stepped out of his room, closing the door behind him.  "Only one way to find out."  He led the way down to Jyslyn and Wren's room.  The elf pounded on the door.  Leomund pressed a hand to the side of his head.

25 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 26

Silver Trailing has interesting traffic at night, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 26.

Jyslyn's bout of insomnia leads to a discovery.  Another cloaked figure, skulking in the night.  Getting around like it can see in the dark, much like Jyslyn can see the figure.  Given her background, Jyslyn might be a bit paranoid about who the figure is.  However, there does seem to be dark elf involvement already with the dagger found on the goblins.  So, is Jyslyn over-reacting?  Or does she have a reason to suspect that one of her fellows is in town?

The Outcast Queen Jyslyn threatens is one of the gods of the setting.  I don't have a list, just a rough idea of what I want covered by divinities.  The Outcast Queen led the Accursed elves into an uprising, leading to their exodus or exile, depending on whose legends are to be believed.  The details have been lost to time, but the elves wound up splintering, with the Outcast Queen's followers sent or led underground.  Even the elves of Wildwood are an offshoot, broken off from the main group.  I covered the different types of elves before, but the idea is still evolving.  Right now, the crystal elves look like they are the original, with the Accursed and Wildwood elves the splinters.

If Jyslyn didn't have Wren with her, she would've gone out after the lurking figure.  She would have asked Kazi for forgiveness for going out at night, since it would be easier than asking permission.  Wren, though, is Jyslyn's charge.  Jyslyn would never forgive herself for leaving.  However, that thought process is still foreign to her, so she had to rationalize not going.  Jyslyn is learning, but it's a long process.

The insomnia Jyslyn has and her attempt to get through it is something I've gone through.  Anxiety does not help sleep patterns.  Sometimes, the mind keeps working on a problem it shouldn't even when it should be resting.  Those are never fun nights.  The best I've done is close my eyes, try to focus on something else, anything else.  That trick never works.  I can't focus on anything for long and my mind just does not shut down.  If I fall asleep, it's not for long.  Fortunately, the next night, I don't have the problem.

Friday, insight into who is behind the plot, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 27.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Teen Titans.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Death Race 2050.

19 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 26

Chapter 26

A quiet night of writing for Nyssa
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn stared out the window.  The rain let up, leaving the cobblestone streets glistening under the light of the moon and of the street lights.  The dark elf sighed.  She longed to go out, to explore Silver Trailings, to go be lost so she could find her way back.  Jyslyn held her ink black hand up so she could see it.  She could cover herself up again, but she was growing tired of hiding herself, even if she understood why.she must.

The dark elf's charge turned in her sleep, letting out a loud snore before she settling back down.  Jyslyn reached out to stroke Wren's honey blonde hair, combing it with her fingers.  A twinge of envy coursed through Jyslyn; she pushed it back down, reminding herself that Wren didn't have an easy life, thanks to the dark elf and her siblings.

Jyslyn paced across the room and back.  Sleep eluded her.  Her body was on its own time, not with the rest of the world's.  She considered trying to exhaust herself through casting spells, but she had already cleaned every piece of clothing that both she and Wren owned.  Any other spell she could cast would cause too much destruction.

Movement outside caught the dark elf's eye.  She stared out the window, peering into the night.  Jyslyn started to dismiss what she saw.  Must have been one of the town guard on patrol, she reasoned, except . . . Jyslyn looked again.  Except the figure skulking in the shadows didn't have any light but was still walking around as if it was midday for the ease he avoided obstacles, an ease Jyslyn shared.  "Outcast Queen," Jyslyn cursed in a growl, "if this is one of your wretched followers, we shall have words."

18 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 25

Miscues and misbehaviour, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 25.

Once again, I'm in my cycle of event-reaction-reflection with my characters.  However, Leo isn't in the best of shape to reflect.  Never try to out drink an elf.  They aren't lightweights in this setting, apparently.  He and Wren will be legends for a few weeks at the Inn of the Foxes.

Nyssa's two messages are letters of introduction and requests for an audience.  Nyssa's original mission was to talk to representatives from the Realm Under the Mountain to see why they were threatening Varin.  The mission has expanded, but Nyssa is keeping to the original plan.  She can tell Count Varin truthfully that she tried to contact the reps.  The Niceans are the latest being pulled into Sessarine's plot.  Poor communication kills; Nyssa is trying to open up means to talk with everyone involved.

Galan's Shields are a mercenary company acting as the local town guard.  The dwarves don't care about what happens in Silver Trailings as long as it doesn't affect trade.  The merchants in Silver Trailings like it when their customers can walk down the street without being mugged.  The coins that aren't taken by force can be spent at a number of shops.  Dwarven-craft items, from utensils to weapons, are sold at a premium, but for far less than what they could sell for elsewhere.

Perry is pear cider as Kazi mentions, sort of.  It's not a platypus or a former Canadian game show host.  Perry proper is from the perry pear.  Still, it's a nice addition to the setting; Wildwood has pear trees, not apple trees, and the elves craft cider from them.  The little details make or break a setting.  I got the idea from a King Arthur Pendragon campaign after my character purchased a lot of pear trees for his holding, and perry was one of the items that could be made from the harvest.  My knight didn't hold his religious belief too high, but what can one expect from a family where my knight was the white sheep of the family.  More bastards than legit children there.

Friday, lurking, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 26.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Teen Titans.

12 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 25

Chapter 25

Bridging the cultural divide.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Nyssa pressed her signet into the still-warm wax sealing the second of her message scrolls.  She shook out her hand, trying to work out the stiffness and cramps she earned while writing,.  Nonetheless, both missives were ready.

The door crashed open.  Nyssa spun in her seat, her hand falling to the dagger in her belt.  Leomund lurched into the room, one step at a time.  The knight relaxed.  "Really, Leomund, decorum."

The squire fell across one of the beds.  "Why do dwarves hate us?" he groaned.

"Too much to drink."  Nyssa walked over the her squire's side.  "What happened?"

"I learned to not outdrink an elf.  Birdie kept up with me."

"Haven't I always said that you'll meet your match some day?"  Nyssa helped Leomund roll into bed properly.  "And that you'll pay the price for trying?"

"Never thought my match would be an elf girl."

Nyssa pulled Leomund's boots off.  "It's always the one person you would never suspect."  She slapped the squire's leg.  "Roll on your side."

With effort, Leomund did as he was told.  "What are we doing now, ma'am?"

11 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 24

Miscues and misbehaviour, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 24.

This was Kazimier's chapter.  Part of the reason for focusing on him was to get used to writing from a male perspective.  If you take a look over at the list of works, most of the stories feature a lead woman, particularly the solo leads in Subject 13, Tales of the Soul Blade, and The Devil You Know.  This was a chance to get inside Kazi's head for a bit and to make sure Jyslyn and Nyssa didn't take over the narrative too much.

The first part of the chapter let me show how divine spells worked.  Instead of having to study individual spells like a wizard would, priests pray.  Whether the priest gets the desired spell depends on the deity.  What the spell looks like, its special effect, also depends on the deity.  Kazi is a priest of the Lightbringer; the spells he uses must involved light in some way, whether a soft glow while healing or a wisp of light as a messenger.  Since I don't have many deities fleshed out yet for the story, I'll use examples from the Forgotten Realms.  Auril, the Frostmaiden, if she were in my setting, would use snow and cold as special effects for spells, with healing involving a touch so cold it burns and messages sent through snowfall even in summer.  Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, may not even grant healing spells and messages would be sent via blood.  I wanted to show a difference between the arcane and the divine.

That just leaves the blatant fan service.  A clash of cultures.  A very awkward moment.  Part of the plan for the story is to get Kazi and Jyslyn together by the end.  What happened in the room, though, is more of a setback.  They're still learning about each other.  Jyslyn has some baggage that she needs to deal with.  Kazi isn't looking for a quick roll in the hay.  One of the goals in the back of my head while writing this was to show them growing together.  At the same time, I don't want it to be too fast.  They need something more than saving each other's life to build on.

Wren was a great way to leave some unsaid tension between Kazi and Jyslyn.  Drunk Wren is even better when it comes to awkwardness.  Some of her mannerisms are based on me, though not directly.  The veering away from the straight line?  That.  After a more horrible than normal day working at an ISP that will remain nameless for now, when word came down from on high that techs would have to upsell crap, I poured myself a rye and Coke - it was the only mixer I had in the apartment - with 2.5 to 3 fingers of alcohol in a lowball glass.  I probably should've been eating something, too, but I may have been going out later to do just that.  I only had the one drink, and it was a rare thing for me to do.

Friday, missives and misery, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 25.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Titans.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters.

5 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 24

Chapter 24

A rainy night and a warm inn
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Kazimier laid out his chain shirt on the spare bed in his room.  The change out of his wet clothes and into dry ones helped his already improving mood.  He stretched, working out stiff muscles now that the weight of the armour was gone.  The bed was inviting; a nap would recharge him, but the elf had far too much to do before he could rest.

Instead, Kazimier knelt in the middle of the floor.  He took his sunbeam amulet from around his neck, holding it out so it caught the light of the candles spread through the room.  Kazimier preferred to use the sun's natural light, but with the rain still coming down, he had to settle for the candles.  He closed his eyes and sang a prayer to the Lightbringer.  A wisp appeared, glowing soft yellow and warming Kazimier's face.  "Go to Matriarch Matylla Starpetal in Wildwood.  Tell her that Kazimier is safe, as are the others, and we've arrived outside the dwarven realm.  Go now, with the blessing of the Lightbringer."

Kazimier opened his eyes.  The wisp flashed twice, then left, floating through through the wall and out into the rainy gloom.  Through the window, he saw the ball of light leave Silver Trailings.  Kazimier got to his feet.  With one task done, he set himself for the next.  He returned the amulet around his neck, then left his room.

The young girl had helpfully pointed out which rooms his companions were in and where Jyslyn should be.  Kazimier walked over to the dark elf's room and knocked on the door.  Hearing her call back, "Enter," he opened the door and stepped inside.

"Jyslyn, I think we need to talk."  He closed the door.  "I'm concerned about Wren and your--"  Kazimier's voice trailed off when he saw Jyslyn standing nude in the room.  He felt his cheeks growing hot.  "Um."

4 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 23

Welcome to Silver Trailings, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 23.

It's not a dark and stormy night.  It is, however, wet and rainy because mountains cause air to cool down, condensing water vapour.  I was basing the setting on the southern mainland of British Columbia, where it rains a lot.  Since there hadn't been any bad weather yet, I tossed it in.  Jyslyn, coming from an underground city, got to experience her first rain.  She hated it.  The thunder and lightning just add to the misery.

The Realm Under the Mountain and Silver Trailings got the most thought in developing the setting on the fly.  The Realm itself is inside the mountain, as the name suggests.  The dwarves would be happy to ignore the outside world, except they need to trade.  The Realm produces raw and refined ores and finished goods.  It's big enough that it needs to import food from the outside.  Silver Trailings started as a small trade town outside the gates to the Realm, then it grew.  The city acts as a buffer between the outside world and the Realm, a way to allow trade while still maintaining a separation.

I even managed to work out a few details of the Realm, mostly that there's a few levels inside.  The entry level, the Entry Cavern because I couldn't think of a better term for it, is a second layer of defense.  If anyone gets past Silver Trailings, they then have to get inside the mountain and then figure out where to go from there, all while dealing with crack dwarven troops.  Back in Chapter 3, the Count of Varin wanted to send troops to lay seige to the Realm.  I wanted to build on the idea that the Count's invasion plan was pure folly.

What I didn't have in mind while writing the chapter was an idea of how Silver Trailings was laid out.  There's a main gate, with inns near it to take advantage of tired travellers.  Beyond that, I was still building the city as I wrote.  There is some good news, though.  Older cities, such as London, England, weren't planned out at the beginning.  Roads and buildings were put in haphazardly until the idea of urban planning got formalized.  There are districts, though; it's easier to find a shop if most shops are in or near the marketplace.  There are rich neighbourhoods and there are poor neighbourhoods.  The Bent Coin, seen in the interregnum two weeks ago is in a shadier part of Silver Trailings.

I may not have had an idea where The Elf's Prisoner was going when I started.  The past few chapters, I knew I needed my characters to get to the dwarven kingdom.  I did spend some time trying to figure out what is going to happen, but first, I needed the kingdom to be defined.  The next few chapters will use Silver Trailings; if I had to build it, I wanted to make good use.  This is a section that will take a few in-story days to gather information.  It helps to have a city that is more than just a fuzzy idea.

Friday, miscommunications, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 24.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Titans.

2 Apr 2019

Test Run - The Witcher - The Witcher

It's been a couple of weeks, but I needed a small break.  I'm back with R. Talsorian's The Witcher RPG based on the video game based on the series of dark fantasy novels by Andrezej Sapkowski.  This time around, it's time to create a Witcher, since that's what the game is named after.  Again, I'm not familiar with the setting, only what I've read in the game.  But, the game looks thorough.

So, tally ho!