Thursday, September 21, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 3


    Karlo closed his eyes and fell backwards.
    His fall was cushioned by the soft grass and the loamy soil beneath him.
    He was on the side of a hill and the sun was glowing overhead just as it started to dip towards the horizon. The smell of trees and grapes was heavy in the air and floated over him in wafts of warm breezes from the nearby vineyard. In the distance, he could just make out Krapina through the hills.
    If he really wanted to, Karlo could make his way over to Krapina and join his friends and family. They were all attending the Festival Kajkavske Popevke like they do every year but this year he just couldn't muster the interest to join them.
    He had too much on his mind.
    He was thinking about everything that happened. Everything that he'd been told.
    Only a few days before, he'd been told about an exciting new prospect. A reidite mine had just been dropped on the "moon" of Proxima and they were looking for people willing to risk their lives for some serious money.
    Karlo thought he was just one of those people.
    He had to laugh though.
    Proxima didn't officially have a moon that astrologists ever agreed upon. Instead, where the mine had been dropped was on an asteroid that seemed to maintain a relatively standard orbit around the planet.
    Thought it was technically name ISO-83256a, a few of the people he'd spoken to had taken to calling it "Paradise Valley" for some reason.
    All the same, the idea of riding a trillion tons of rock hurtling around the Centauri B solar system sounded both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
    And then there was the money.
    "Hey there, mister. This spot taken?"
    Karlo opened his eyes again to find his sister, Miljenka, standing over him. She was wearing a big smile along with her summer dress.
    In response, he patted the soft ground next to him.
    "What're you doing all the way out here? I thought you were going to join us at the Festival." she said, curling up next to him.
    Miljenka was his little sister by several years. Despite this though, there had always been a huge size difference between the two of them. She had always been exceptionally petite; taking after their mothers side. At a whopping five foot tall and ninety pounds soaking wet, Karlo liked to make jokes that a large bird or a strong gust of wind would carry her away one day.
    He, on the other hand, was well over six feet and heavily built from years of day labor.
    As such, with no husband or boyfriend yet, his sister always seemed to take comfort in hiding under his imposing shadow.
    "If that's the case," she would tell him. "You better keep me from flying away."
    A pang of guilt hit him as he looked down as his sister.
    God, he was going to miss her.
    "I was just thinking." he offered in response.
    "About your trip?"
    "Yea."
    "Yea." she echoed somberly. "Me too."
    That sat in silence for a minute. If he strained his ears, he could just make out the music from the Festival over the gentle breeze.
    "You okay?" he finally asked her.
    "Mmmhmm." she said with a small nod of her head as she gently nibbled on her bottom lip.
    "Come on, mali rotkvica. I know that look."
    Realizing what she was doing, she quickly stopped and pulled away slightly.
    "How long are you going to be gone for?" Miljenka asked quietly.
    "A few years. My contract is officially for five. One year to get there. Three years working. Another year back."
    She watched him, trying to muster a small smile but failing.
    "If you really think about it," he quickly added, "It's really only three. I'm getting paid two years salary to be asleep."
    Miljenka chuckled a little.
    "Only you could get paid to be so lazy, krumpir."
    "It's not like I'm going to go do real work." he shot back.
    They both laughed and leaned back onto the grassy hill, staring up at the slowly dipping sun. A few sparse clouds were drifting like torn cloth across the bright blue sky.
    "I wish it was only three." she said softly.
    "I know, mali rotkvica. I know. But Earth is running short on opportunities these days. Especially if you don't speak English or Chinese."
    "You know English." she shot back.
    "OR if you don't want to be some snob wearing a suit and handing out pink slips to actual hard workers."
    Miljenka shrugged at that and then sighed.
    "Mega corporations are dumb." she said.
    "Yeah." he agreed. "They are."
    They sat quietly for a few more minutes, simply watching the world drift by, when Miljenka finally pushed herself to her feet and stood up.
    "Well, come on." she said, the fire and steel that Karlo felt defined his little sister quickly seeping back into her. "If you gotta leave, we're not spending our last Festival in five years on some hill."
    He glanced from her back to Krapina in the distance.
    "Besides," she quickly added. "I'm sure mom and dad are wondering where we are."
    "Yea, alright." he said, reaching up to take her hand.
    Bracing to pull himself up, he took her hand, pulled hard, and tore her arm off.
    In surprise, Karlo just stared at the severed appendage in his hands. It was still gripping him tightly but it had come off clean at the shoulder. There was no blood. No sign of damage. It was just...not on her anymore.
    "Come on, Karlo." she insisted again and seemed to offer with an arm that was no longer attached to her body.
    He stared at her and then at the limb.
    The hand was twitching. Grasping.
    "Karlo?" Miljenka asked, a look of confusion on her face.
    She seemed completely unphased by the fact she was missing her arm. Or that he was currently holding it and that it seemed to be trying to grab at him.
    "Karlo?"
    The hand was moving. It was grabbing and crawling up his arm. Going for his throat.
    His sister was smiling reassuringly.
    He tried to throw the thing away. To pull it off of him. To get away.
    "Karlo?!"
    He screamed, tearing at the monstrous thing on him. The piece of his sister. It had moved up his arm past his shoulder while she just stood there smiling. Its fingers were closing around his neck and...
    "KARLO?!"
    Karlo shot up in the chair screaming. The room was dark and musty and a bay of computer screens in front of him showed nothing with the exception of a command line on one and a text messaging box in another.
    The last messages were frantic.

    Hello?
    Are you there?
    What's going on?
    Hey? Karlo???

    "Come on Karlo! Answer me please!" the panicked voice of Dr. Lethe came through over the loudspeaker.
    She sounded like she was sobbing.
    "Yeah, yeah. I got it." he said to no one in particular

    I'm here. he sent to her.
   
    "Oh god! Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou." he heard over the speaker; quickly followed by, "What the hell just happened?"

    Turn off the mic. he typed.

    In response, there was an audible click and the microphone static cut out above him.

    What was that? she demanded.
    I don't know. I guess I fell asleep.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 2


    The security room was smaller than he would have liked, but he entered all the same.
    He could barely stretch out his arms without hitting some set of buttons, blinking servers, glowing monitors, or half a dozen other technical apparatuses that he really didn't understand
    Maybe the room was actually larger, but as it stood, he couldn't imagine more than a single person fitting in the tight space semi-comfortably. 
   A single office chair, high backed and squishy with extra padding, sat directly in the center of the high space. Its well worn leather and small tears here and there showed a subtle impression where many hours of someone's life had whittled away watching the monitors in this room.
    He shook off the the thought and sat down.
    He had to admit: it was a pretty nice chair.
    Behind him, the security door slid to a close with a soft whoosh and the click of a lock.
    Glancing around, he looked from screen to screen, trying to figure out what exactly he was supposed to even do with this equipment. He knew what he was looking at. Keyboard. Computer. Monitor. Server. Biometrics scanner. Video camera. Speakers. But he didn't completely remember how to work them or, much less, what he was supposed to do.
    Who the hell was that woman?
    Even if he remembered how to use the equipment before him, he had no idea who he was trying to contact.
    It all made his head hurt.
    "kkkZZZT!"
    The speakers chirped loudly, coming to life in the eerie silence of dust and whirring machines and making him jump.
    "Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me? GodIhopeIgottherightchannel...Please. Please be the right channel. Hello???"
    The young woman sounded nearly as panicked as the first time he heard her. Once again, she seemed as though she were half talking to him and half to herself. Or perhaps someone else?
    "Hello?" he responded, looking expectantly from monitor to monitor for some kind of sign that he was doing something.
    None of them seemed to react. With the exception of a black screen flashing a white cursor in the bottom left corner, all of the other screens had "EREWHON: Butler v.1.32" plastered across them and that was it.
    "Ok. Ok...Breathe. It's alright." The woman continued on although the man wasn't sure if she was talking to him or herself. "It looks like you should be in the security room. At least, I can see a silent alarm going off in there. So it's either you...or...one of them."
    Her shaking voice betrayed her swelling when she said the word "them".
    "Look. If you can hear me, there should be a mic in there. Say something."
    "Something." he responded before smiling to himself.
    He knew it was ridiculous for some reason, but it felt satisfying to respond like that.
    All the same, the woman waited without hearing. Until...
    "Alright, nothing. So here's what I'm going to try. Look at the monitors. You should see me typing on one of them."
    In tandem, one of the monitors blinked to life; changing from the fabulous EREWHON splash screen to some sort of text box. It displayed an ever growing string of nonsense that resembled "SADGASHGASDJGKSFGDIFBBAG" like someone was just banging on a keyboard.
    "Can you see it?" the woman asked frantically.
    "Yea, I can see it." he responded with growing exasperation. "I can see it."
    Hesitantly, he reached out and grabbed the keyboard. His memory seemed to be returning more and more with each passing moment; perhaps as his brain thawed, he wondered to himself. Tapping one of the keys, a patented "A" appeared within the text box below the woman's line of gibberish.
    "OHMYGOD!" she screamed so loud that he grabbed his ears. "YES! YESSS!"
    The man clutched his aching head for a moment before reaching back out for the keyboard. To his surprise, the words flowed naturally from his fingers and actually was easier than speaking.

    "Jesus Christ, woman."

    This elicited another frantic scream of joy and he could swear he could hear her jumping up and down and banging things wherever she was.
    "Yes! Yesyesyesyesyes!" she cheered again. "Ok. Ok. Here we go. Can you hear me?"
    As she spoke, she typed.

    "Can you hear me?"
    "Not technically, but yes." he shot back.

    "YES!"

    He could hear her cheering again over the loud speaker.

    "Ok. I'm gonna turn off the loud speaker for now. We can talk through here."
    "Ok." he agreed and heard an audible click followed by silence. 
    After a long moment, he typed again. 
    "Hello?" he asked. 
    "Sorry, Mr. Nadohs. Was just getting everything turned off."
    "Mr. Nadohs?"
    "This is Karlo Nadohs, isn't it?"
    "I don't know."
    "Why don't you know?" 

    The words were simple and logical, but he couldn't help but feel as if they were a touch incredulous.

    "I just don't." he shot back.
    
    Another extended moment passed in silence as Karlo stared at the blinking text screen. He was about to ask if she was still there when she began typing again.

    "It must be the cryo freeze." she said.
    "Cryo freeze?"
    "Yea. You were cryogenically frozen for the trip. All of the miners were. You don't remember?"

    Karlo stared down at his hands as if they would somehow provide him a response to the hundred questions that just entered his mind. All that stared back were soft, pink pudgy things with a hint of callous.

    "I just said I don't."
    "I suppose you did." the woman agreed before quickly adding. "Sorry."
    "No problem. Can you tell me what the fuck is going on though?"

    Another pertinent question. Another long gap of silence.

    "No. I don't think I can." slowly scrawled across the screen followed a moment later by. "But I'll try."
    "Ok. Let's start with this. Who are you?"
    "Oh! Sorry. My name is Dr. Mara Lethe. Nice to meet you. :)" 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 1


    The sounds of electronics waking, gas hissing, and alarms blaring brought him to consciousness.
    He was cold inside as if he'd been frozen for an eternity and even in waking couldn't be warm. He couldn't feel anything. His limbs and fingers refused to work how he wanted. They were heavy as lead, tingling only ever so slightly with a faint buzz like electricity.
    Leaning forward from his metal coffin, the previously sealed tube, Adam coughed hard.
    It did little to help his condition, but at least he was still alive.
    His eyes didn't work though. His vision was bleary.
    Where am I?
    He could vaguely recall a brief moment of people standing above him. He had been on a table: cold and hard. Who were they? Doctors? Surgeons? Someone had been working on him but he couldn't remember how or why. He remembered the hot, bright lights and the sensation of their hands digging around in his chest.
    Tenderly, he reached up and touched where he remembered those hands had been. He found nothing. Not even a scar.
    No wound.
    Had it been a dream?
    "kkkkZZT!"
    Above him, a speaker chirped to life.
    "Hello? Hello?! Can you hear me?" the voice of a terrified young woman called out.
    The man jumped, gasping in surprise at the sound over the loud-speaker. His numb hands latched onto the sides of the tube and he gagged in shock.
    The woman continued overhead unabated.
    "Oh please don't be dead. Please don't be dead. Please don't be dead." she rattled frantically over the sound of someone tapping ferociously on a keyboard before suddenly. "YES! You're alive! He'saliveyou'realive!"
    The man's breath hitched in his throat and he found himself staring up at the loud speaker. His vision was clearing but he couldn't process what was happening.
    "Can you hear me?" she asked, her voice softening but still high strung. "If you can hear me, please say something. Please?"
    For a long minute, he thought about that request. How does one speak? Something about lungs and a tongue. A breath and a thought. He coughed twice more before the words formed with little coherence as to their meaning.
    "H-H-Here. I'm h-here."
    No response.
    "H-Here." he tried again. "Hello?"
    Still nothing.
    He was trying to form the words again, to think what to say and how to say it, when the loudspeaker again chirped to life.
    "I can hear...something. But it's not really coming through. It's just static." the woman said, her voice hollow through the speaker as she, once again, seemed to pound away on a keyboard. "Something didn't go wrong did it? No? No? Ok. Ooookay."
    She seemed to giggle almost hysterically before turning her attention back to him.
    "Ok. Just give me a second to think..."
    The man stared at the loudspeaker for a few moments more before looking around. The room he was in was sterile and empty, devoid of anything warm or human even in appearance. Nothing but machinery; hanging tools, dangling wires, medical tables, and more. There were a few other large tubes like the one he had woken up in, but they all appeared empty.
    He was just about to climb out when he heard the woman return.
    "Ok. I got it. If I remember right, there's a little security office down the hall from the recovery lab. There should be a mic in there. We can try again when you find it."
    "Okay." he agreed, though he wasn't sure why since she'd already said she couldn't hear him.
    Weakly, his limbs still heavy, the man pulled himself forward out of the tube.
    It was only as he stepped out onto the tiled metal floor that he finally realized he wasn't as cold as he thought he was. The floor was. Not only that, but wasn't wearing anything.
    "F-f-fuck." he rattled out hoarsely, his teeth chattering involuntarily.
    Glancing around the rather spartan room, he saw very little in the way of anything helpful. More wires. More tubes. More bits and bobs of electronics and gizmos that he had no hope of ever understanding. Things and stuff. Medical equipment and robotics.
    However, as he padded across the icy tile floor wondering if he would be the first person he knew of to freeze to death in a naked and alone in a hospital room, he found small box of various garments in a cupboard near the front.
    Hospital pants and gowns did little to offer much protection, but they were still sealed and sanitary. He threw on several sets of both followed by two pairs of non-slip socks that he found in the bottom of the box.
    All in all, the layers made him look a touch ridiculous, but they at least helped him feel more like a person and less like a meat popsicle.
    Hesitantly, he exited out the only door in the room and, despite any creeping thoughts of monsters or aliens waiting to spring, he found himself in a perfectly ordinary hallway. There were a number of doors in either direction and the hall to the right curved out of sight a couple dozen yards away but that was it. With the exception of a small plastic sign, there was nothing that stood out.

<---                     Assembly
<---  WetWear Integration 
Recovery
Security                      -->
Management               -->

    Following the sign, the man made his way down the right hall.
    Many of the doors that he passed were labeled with letters and numbers. "AH-321" and "AH-322" went up sequentially on one side while "R-5" dropped down to "R-1" before he reached the curve in the hall. Just around the bend, a heavy set door that stood out with its black and yellow striped frame and "SECURITY - AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY" blazoned in small, blocky letters stood out from the others he'd walked by.
    Only one problem...
    There was no door handle.
    The man walked up to the door and simply stared at it. How was he supposed to open it? There was no handle or any other obvious means to pry it open. The door itself was set into the door frame and was likely made of heavier stuff than he had in him. What was he supposed to do?
    He glanced around the empty, seemingly endless hall to no effect. There didn't seem to be anyone around.
    "Hello?" he called out in vain.
    No one answered.
    It was then that he saw the security panel set into the wall. It was slim and recessed into the metal, but stood out by its jet black coloring and small, red LED that glew brightly even in the fluorescent glare of the hall.
    And, as he stared at it wondering what even to DO with this knowledge, he watched as the red LED turned green with a soft chime. The door slide open with a woosh and inside a bay of computer monitors lit up.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Please be Safe - Hurricane Irma


Hello Lovelies,

I was working on the first entry to the 'Uncanny Valley' novelization piece (for helping me build the game), but I couldn't rightfully find the will to finish until I tapped this out.

Right now, my fellow Americans, literally millions of Floridians, are being pounded by one of the worst storms known to man and the worst hurricane to ever hit the United States. Millions are without power. It's getting dark. The winds are tearing apart the countryside, devastating homes, and have already killed a number of people both through direct damage and through attrition by emergency services being unable to save them.

Please. Be safe.

It's unlikely that any of the men or women being subjected to this will read this until afterwards, but I really do wish you the best that I can. The millions of people that will be without power will be experiencing a different beast all together when they are trapped in darkness with the hurricane pressing in. While I'm a fan of things that go bump in the night, when you don't know whether that bump is something that's about to tear through your home, that's a level of fear I don't want wished upon any of you.

Not only that, but Texas, Cuba, the Caribbeans, and more have already been devastated by these events. Texas by the recent Hurricane Harvey and Cuba, the Caribbeans, and many more island nations by Irma. Millions more have been rendered homeless, jobless, carless, and have been stripped of their worldly possessions after days of torture by the onslaught.

What am I asking here? What am I saying?

Please. If you're in the storm. I beg you: stay safe. If you've been hit by the storm, know that there are men and women that are here and will try to help how we can. And for those of you watching this on the news like me, I ask that you take a minute from your day and see if there's anything you can offer for these people. If you can give your time to go and help these ravished communities, that's amazing. If you can give money to help them rebuild, that's wonderful. If you can give blood to help those hurt, that's fantastic.

And again, if you're in the storm...please be safe.

I know this is far from my normal post and more of a ramble, but I've been watching this footage for going on twelve hours, not to mention the destruction in the Caribbean and Cuba, and my heart goes out.

If any of you know charities or way to help, please share. Additionally, if you intend to give blood, don't forget that blood has a shelf life and while giving at the time of crisis is wonderful, giving a month later is even more helpful.

Oh...and Hurricane Jose might be right behind it...

Please be safe everyone.

- RB

Friday, September 8, 2017

Updates on What's to Come



Hello Lovelies,

I considered trying to put this on the Twitter account but realized it would just take too long with the character limit. So, with that said, there's a few things oncoming.

First and foremost, I know that the stories regarding Braum Stormforge were relatively well received. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed it and, as such, I'm going to be continuing to do little 'adventure tales' regarding Braum's life on the road. So keep your ear to the ground regarding that.

Secondly, in that same vein, I intend to fill out and release a "character overview", i.e. a list of character generating questions to help me personally get to know exactly who I'm dealing with. Recently, I've been encouraged by my beautiful wife (as she is want to do) to try and expand my capabilities and horizons. While the original topic at hand was regarding making my characters more relateable and interesting in my stories, it gave me pause overall. You should be seeing something very soon with regards to a more character driven story (namely in the vein of my normal writing style, i.e. monsters and horror)...but more on that to come.

Last, but certainly not least, with regards to the game I've been working on, code-named 'Uncanny Valley'. I've run into a little bit of a roadblock when it comes to working on it because I simply can't seem to wrap my head the dialogue issue. As it stands, it's not the coding that's stopping me, but the writing (yea...didn't expect to run into THAT). The dialogue feels very hollow and false and I think it's because I'm unable to picture the world around it and really what's going on.

So I'm going to try something different.

As already mentioned, I'm intending to do bits and pieces of the Chornicles of Braum. However I think I'm also going to try to novelize things for Uncanny Valley if for no other reason to help me visualize everything that's going on. Story board doesn't seem QUITE like the right terminology and it's definitely not going to be a permanent product (although I guess what is), but I feel like having it written down novel style like I'm used to will make me more comfortable to explore the world around the characters. Obviously there's no way for me to really explore ALL of the dialogue options in one shot, but I feel like this will, at the very least, let me wander through the primary story.

At that's it for the day Lovelies. I hope you enjoyed and expect more to come very soon.

- RB

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Paladin’s First Steps | The Chronicles of Braum Stormforge


A Paladin’s First Steps
The Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

Bruam’s first days away from Wyrms-horde were ones of confusion, despair, and a deep sense of loss. By all accounts, it was his decision to leave the mountain; to venture from the depths of Myrepeak in the name of the Trudd. No one had forced him and it was not as if he’d been coerced by the deity to do his bidding. If anything, he had been unconsciously searching so long and so hard for a cause that he truly felt drawn to that the reaction was practically reflex. A knee jerk reaction. Something that he’d thirsted after for decades without knowing what that thirst was.

Yet, with the initial thrill of acceptance dying down, it was replaced instead by the aching of his sore feet and a deep, gnawing feeling in his gut. And as he trudged through the long, forgotten halls traveled only by the few humans and even fewer gnomes that ventured down to the Dwarves’ great halls, all of the weight and fear of the decision was hitting him full force.

He didn’t know what he would do.

Sure, Braum had heard the tales of paladins. They had done many great things. He’d seen the Greataxe of Journ, the paladin of Torag from the third Eon, glittering in its perfect, Mithril splendor as sharp and gallant as the day the dwarf had fought and defeated the Scourge centuries earlier. He’d seen the statues of Lon and Glon, the twins in the service of Pelor that had slain the Great Crimson Wyrm Faranak whose home and treasure piles would give way to the tunnels of Wyrms-horde. He’d even listened with wholesome intent to a young human man by the name of Kalen Nodworth who claimed to be tasked by the god Zohls to procure the recipe to everlasting life.

Braum always chuckled at that one; wondering if, to a human, everlasting life was just living past their formative years and making it to a rich age of forty or so. It seems like their race was too foolhardy to get much further than that without divine intervention.

Still, Braum thought with a furrowed brow as his feet throbbed in their steel boots, there are a lot more stories of horror than of wonder.

For every tale of magnificence that he could recall about a paladin of this God or that, Braum could think of a half dozen stories that he’d heard in passing about the mistakes of following one’s god. Hell, it was just another reason his family was always disinclined to the cloth.

For every Journ that stood gleaming in the night against the forces of evil, there was a Koveg that was killed by his followers when they decided THEY were the chosen followers of some damned deity. Or there was a Thurdag who got beheaded in the name of some holy crusade to the Eastern Kingdoms. Or there was a Wennoki, or a Thentrol, or a Javi… All of them met their end horribly in some dank hole in the world because they’d been driven forward by some divine light. Even Journ, glittering and fucking perfect as he was supposed to be, died of the Scourge that overtook his body after he slew the Lich Pathos.

Braum swallowed hard as he thought about the implications.

The tunnel that reached out before him sloped upward. Cold and hard, it was little more than baren, quickly carved stone and a paved flat surface so carts could pass into the Lower Cities. He’d never seen the entrance or the Sky beyond, but he knew it was there based on the stories he’d heard about it. He could feel the wind rushing down in little gusts and bursts that rustled his beard and the air around him felt far colder than he was used to.

And here he was walking towards it.

In his left hand, he held his shield, the weight always so comforting now seemingly unyielding. Khadgar it was called. “Trust” in his dwarven tongue. In his right hand, Magna. “Protector”. He could trust his shield most of all and, with his hammer in hand, he’d protect those that would need it.

Braum felt the fear well further up in his throat.

No. Not just fear.

Something else far worse that boiled the bile at the top of his gut.

He craned his neck back to look down the tunnel he’d been following for the last three days. The way that led back to the Lower Cities of the Dwarves. To the Heart of Myrepeak and the capital city of Wyrms-horde. Could he really just abandon it? Abandon everything he’d done in the name of some god on a whim? Just do what the supernatural bastard wanted?!

As if response, Braum felt a soft warmth grow in his chest. At first he thought it was Trudd listening to his thoughts somehow and judging him for it. He would punish Braum for some perceived heresy and destroy him right here and now. A dead paladin before he’d ever even gotten out of the mountain because he’d dared question the will of his lord. A reminder to never question a god’s will again.

But, upon looking down, he saw that his armor was glowing softly. His god was listening and Trudd was sending a message, but not one of anger...but of reminder.

Braum touched the glowing spot on his armor and chuckled in realization as to what it illuminated.

Much like his hammer and shield, he had named his armor as well. Inscribed with the same dwarven runes, quite literally molded into the armor at the time of its birth, Durmgrist. “Home”. He had always felt safe within the steel and something about the name always brought comfort to him in the darkest times. It had seemed perfect when he named it.

And now it did again.

Braum looked back down the tunnel one more time before continuing onward up the tunnel, his feet no longer aching as they had a moment before.

He still felt afraid. Only an idiot wouldn’t be. And the thought of how he would die and what terrible fate this decision would lead him to still swirled about in his mind. However, the biggest one...a feeling that he couldn’t quite put his finger on...was beginning to fade.

Braum no longer felt homesick. For he carried his home with him. He carried his armor and his shield and his hammer and, he supposed most important of all, he carried a faith that Trudd would watch over him; not just as some angry, vengeful spirit that demanded retribution in his name like some, but as a benevolent protector. Just as Braum would defend the innocent with all his power, he knew Trudd would watch over him in his own travels.

And, when the time came, he would not be wrought with fear at slipping into the void. He would be welcomed to eternity by the very father that watched over him.

Braum smiled to himself.

These thoughts stayed with him for many miles, washing away all other anxieties and terrors of the dark, as, for the first time in his life, Braum stepped out into the sunlight beneath a wild blue sky.

===

Hello Lovelies,

I was quite surprised to see how well Braum's story was received earlier. Surprised, but happy. My Dungeon Master not only liked it but also wants more information. He's encouraging us all to highlight the in-between the origin of the character and when the story of the game that we're playing actually starts. While I don't think anyone is quite tackling it to the length I am, I find that actually fleshing out the character's story makes me feel for them and understand them more than just going "Braum fought this badguy" and leaving it at that.

I do hope you enjoyed. I intend to do more but I guess I'll see if they get posted or not.

Love you all and have a wonderful day,

- RB

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Braum Stormforge

 
Braum Stormforge
Character Background/History
 
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Braum Stormforge was born the sixth child and fourth son to Olanna and Gorm, the second heir to the Stormforge clan. He, like his brothers and sisters, are direct descendants of the matron of the Stormforge line: Bronnah Stormforge. Although, at that time, the young bastard woman was known as Bronnah Whitestone and she officially worked as a low-wage, forge-scraper for the Metallurgists and Smithing Guilds. Unofficially, Bronnah was a whore, and her free time was often spent in the back alleys of the Haglin Palace and marketplaces, doing anything she could for the coin just to eat.

The matron’s luck changed when the Drow, who had been battling on and off with the dwarves of Myrepeak for a dozen years at that point, broke through into Wyrms-horde through a series of forgotten and unpublished mines. Their intent was simple: to kill, maim, and rape as many dwarven civilians of the great city and inflict as much potential damage as they could while the soldiers on the front line scrambled for a footing and doubled back while trying to fight back against the Drow who were already knocking at the gates in the adjacent cities of Hratholm and Vergis-Hold. There were many guards in Wyrms-horde, but plenty were killed in the initial attack when they were caught unprepared by the onslaught of heavily armed and armored Dark Elves and Dryders. The tide changed, however, when Bronnah, thinking quickly and using her knowledge of the pipes and systems of the great, interconnected forges, used the very city against the assailants. With the help of several acquaintances, savory and unsavory alike, Bronnah led a group of civilians to cool and heat key areas of the massive forge networks that ran through the city like a spiderweb. The result was a ‘storm’ of exploding pipes that rained down fire and fury of molten metal onto the Drow; hurting some, killing many, and giving the weakened militia and guards enough foothold to slay the Dark Elves before fleeing from the city. Then, under Bronnah’s insistence and with the support of her future husband, the then guard-captain Ogrinn Shieldsong, the offending mine networks used to assault the city were filled with the remaining molten metal and used to flush out any remaining Drow while simultaneously adding their own assault to the front line of the war some thirty miles down.

After that day, the bastard woman Bronnah was officially dubbed ‘Stormforge’ by the King of the Myrepeak in honor of the ‘storm of fury’ she had wrought upon the attackers. She was granted all of the titles, rights, and lordships of a minor noble and was even granted the right to live within Haglin Palace for the services she rendered in saving the city. While she accepted the titles and even the hand of Ogrinn several months later, the man who was key in helping her save Wyrms-horde, Bronnah did not elect to join the majority of other nobles in the Palace. Instead, she worked to rebuild the forge networks, relight their fires, and eventually was integral in the discovery of ‘Living Steel’ later in her life. To this day, her clan is at least a hundred strong, some by blood but many by marriage, and it is considered an honor to work within the Lumos Forge Network in honor of the clan’s matron or to act as a guard for the city should evil ever strike again.

Braum, influenced by the tales of old, decided to take up the mantle of Guard of Wyrms-horde while many of his brothers and sisters took to the forge.

He, like his family, were small for their ilk, even by Dwarvish standard. It made them wonders in the forge; strong yet dainty hands crafting keen pieces of the finest Dwarven steel to come out of Myrepeak, but Braum knew he had another calling. He had never been able to back down from a fight and more often than night found himself rushing in to stop an injustice rather than look around for help. He always felt the calling to protect and, after decades of training his body, trying to achieve perfection, he was accepted into the specialized Guard platoon known simply as ‘The Wall’. They were a group of Shield Bearers, born long before the time of Bronnah by Ogrinn’s clan, the Shieldsongs. They specialized in the use of weapon and shield combat, specifically phalanx tactics, and were seen to be the living embodiment of protection for the citizens of Myrepeak. Even should the roof of the mountain crumble and the walls of the city fail, ‘The Wall’ will always stand as a barrier to those that would seek to do evil. Immovable and invulnerable, they will serve as a living shield to drive back the threats of the dark at no matter the cost.

Clad in the Living Steel full-plate armor with the molten-metal-splattered tower shields of his family, Braum served in ‘The Wall’ for over a century.

While he worked diligently to be not only a protector but servant to his people, Braum was dissatisfied over the years to learn that his doe-eyed impression of ‘The Wall’ and the guards themselves were not all he hoped they would be. Heavily influenced by politics and nobility, he realized slowly, but painfully, that ‘Law’ did not always equate to ‘Good’. Depending on who had the coin, Justice could often be avoided with a simple piece of fresh paper for those in the power to wield the pen. As time rolled on, Braum witnessed more and more moral tragedy and started to recognize trends. The guards, despite being sworn to serve, often had an inclination to imprison and punish lower class clans and individuals, treating them with extreme and unnecessary harshness under the claim that they’re “just more likely to be criminals”; ignoring the obvious self-fulfilling prophecy that was that mindset. Likewise, the nobility, those that could change laws to suit their needs with a little help from a soft word and a bag of coin, always seemed to be treated with utter respect and velvet gloves; even when their crimes were far more heinous than those in the lower wards.

The realization sickened Braum and, for a time, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He had sworn to uphold the Law, but had realized after decades of servitude to that Law that it only served those in power; it didn’t serve those in need.

As his life dragged on, the answer to the questions came from the place he had never expected: the Gods. Braum had never been religious. None of his family was. With a history of bastards raised to good fortune through hard work and men and women that dedicated their lives to the crafting of swords and shield and their usage, not but a few of his clan had ever taken to the cloth whether half-hearted or otherwise. Those that did often favored Torag, father of Creation, as he was well known by all within the Dwarvish communities and held a special place in his heart for smiths.

Braum had never even heard of Trudd before that day.

While on a routine patrol through the lower mithril mines, his heart heavy with woe and his mind reeling on the topic of justice and law that had plagued him for over two decades, dipping him further and further into depression, he heard a sound. A mix of sobbing, roaring, and yelling echoed down the tunnel to him and, upon reaching it, he was surprised to find an older man clothed in fine silk running away from a small contingent of orcs at least a dozen strong. A young man, a servant or lower clan based on his appearance, was on the ground bleeding with a laughing, half-tusked monstrosity roaring his pleasure and beating his own chest with a great wooden club.

“You can’t help him.” the noble said. “We have to alert the others. More are on their way!”

It made sense. The other man was clearly worse for wear and he was but a single guard. “I can’t just leave him.” He responded.

“Please! He’s just a Slagshed.” the noble begged, confirming that the other man was, quite literally, a shit-cleaner. The lowest of the low. “He’s not worth our lives!”

“He’s worth mine. Get the others, I will hold the line there.” Braum told the man, pointing directly at the group of orcs. “Make sure you bring a medic when you do. For the Slagshed.”

And so Braum fought. He charged directly into the group and planted himself before the bleeding out lower clansman. He fought and bled and screamed and triumphed, never letting even one of the orcs slip past him. He was a wall. He was “The Wall”. And no man, monster, or beast would harm those he stood before, Slagshed or otherwise, while he still drew breath.

After what felt like hours of fighting, but only really equated to a few minutes, Braum collapsed next to the man on the ground, hurting but victorious. The other man, bleeding but alive, smiled his thanks and, to Braum’s complete surprise, stood up and dusted himself off.

“I see I chose right afterall.” the Slagshed said.

The man, bloodied and broken, changed to a new appearance. One that Braum instantly recognized as a thief that was convicted for “stealing” when a nobleman had literally taken the man’s gold pouch off his belt and condemned the ‘thief’ as a liar and a scoundrel for trying to take back his own belongings. He changed again and again Braum recognized the whoremonger that had tried to claim she was raped by one of the highborns only to be literally laughed out of the Palace. Four more times the man altered his appearance and four more times Braum recognized them immediately as being one of the many injustices that fueled his own depression. The last change was to that of a rather young, rather powerfully built dwarf that reminded him heavily of how he always imagined his clan patron Ogrinn to look as a young man. Powerful, intimidating, yet good natured.

“Who are you? What are you?” were the first words Braum could ask.

“I am Trudd.” the shapechanging dwarf explained simply in a gentle yet deep voice. “But I suppose that bears further explanation.”

Trudd went on to explain his stance in the pantheon of the Dwarvish deities, a topic that Braum was largely unfamiliar with given his own personal history with religion yet he felt himself dedicated to listen to all the same. In the dark, musty tunnel, surrounded by the slain bodies of orcs, he explained that he was the son of Torag and, despite being the youngest of his brothers and sisters, he is also known as being the strongest. He is tasked with guarding his father’s Halls and is dedicated to the protection of the innocent and the doing of good. Finally, Trudd explained that he has been watching Braum for some time now, even testing him occasionally, for at least a decade, and had finally come to a decision.

“And what is that?” Braum asked.

“I have chosen you to act as my paladin.” Trudd told him simply.

It’s not well-advised to openly laugh in the face of a deity; particularly not one that is known for their capability in martial combat and the fact that they can probably turn you into a fine jelly with a few well-chosen swings of a warhammer. In retrospect, Braum felt Trudd handled the slip up with good humor given Braum only realized several moments afterwards that the fit of giggles could have very well been his last.

“But I’ve never prayed to you. I didn’t even know you existed.” Braum explained sheepishly.

“Perhaps not consciously. But you have more than you know. Each time you raise your shield to the wicked in the name of those that cannot, you bear my sigil for all to see. Each time you speak out against injustice for those that would use the mortal law for their own gain, you speak my words for all to hear. Each time you ask the world ‘Why do I go on through that which I have seen?’ you whisper these words in my ear and I show you the answer.’”

This simple thought brought a smile to Braum’s face. There was something comforting about the idea he had been watched. That he had championed a cause of good and righteousness even as he felt like he was falling away from that very path by being disinclined to follow the clearly fallible laws of the land. And it was true, many times he had seen something immediately after the most breaking of trials that proved there was still good in the world. It was what kept him going for so many years.

His smile drifted away as the next thought hit him and he asked. “But what would I do as a paladin? I’ve known only my home and all the stories I hear of paladins are that they wander the world and die in, frankly, pretty horrific ways.”

“Paladins are bound to the will of their god. They spread their word and do the deeds of their god as if they were walking in their gods boots for they would become an avatar for their power. You would become an avatar for my power... and my pride. There are wrongs that need righting, there is good that needs doing, and, when your time comes, whether it bloody and horrific or quiet in your sleep, you will be welcomed into my venerable halls for the remainder of eternity.”

Braum thought of his family. He thought of his friends in the lower wards and his comrades in the “The Wall”. He thought of all of the men and women that he’d grown up with, lived with, fought for, and killed for through his many years. He was not young anymore and his head had long grown bald while his beard had began to silver. He had borne no sons or daughters nor even taken a wife, his life having been dedicated to the shield. And if he were to accept this calling, he would likely never see his home again nor ever have a true family for the rest of his days.

But it didn’t matter in the scope of the world…

“I’ll do it.”

“Then repeat after me these laws. You will repeat them every day. You will live them, breathe them, and they will nourish you as no other thing in this world may. They will be your food and your wine when you are hungry, they will be your lullaby to which you will rest, and they will be your anchor when the winds of the world seek to throw you off-course.

My strength is my sacred offering. I will maintain my body as I would a sacred relic and use it only for admirable pursuits.

To ensure the safety of those I protect, I will be among the first to charge and the last to retreat, save when such tactics would place those I protect at undue risk.

I will hold any defensive line if it will save innocents or the homes of my people.

Even the young can accomplish great things. I will never dismiss someone on account of youth.

And so Braum repeated them and in his belly burned a fire like nothing ever had. He felt the diminishing strength of his youth return in a flourish of bulging muscles and cracking bones. He felt a fervor that burned away the aches and pains of his age, healed the open, bleeding wounds of his battle, and made him feel as hot as a mithril forge. He felt the power of his God, of Thrudd the Mighty, surge through him like pipes filled with molten steel and he bellowed in a mix of agony and delight that echoed through the empty mine.

When the nobleman appeared, five other guards in tow and one very weary looking cleric of Torag, they were unable to find Braum. Using the tunnels he knew so well from his patrols, he had already disappeared and doubled back, cutting through the rock to the main road just outside of Wyrms-horde. From there, he left the mountain and, for the first time, ventured into the daylight of the world above. The power of his God burning in his belly, the words of his oath playing over and over in his mind, and the willingness to do more than he’d ever imagined for a world that needed a champion of might pushing him forward into the shining sun above.

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Hello Lovelies,

To all of my regular readers, I know I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of playing Dungeons and Dragons. In general, I pretty much always run the games and act as what's known as the Dungeon Master, which basically equates to the storyteller. For the first time in a VERY long time, I actually am getting the chance to play and, as such, dedicated myself to creating a character that I found really interesting. Because I'm me, the character needed to be more than just gameplay stats and numbers, and so I started writing down a history for who he is and where he's from. While it started off as just a 'here's some history', the entire thing started flowing into an actual story. As such, I figured I would share it with all of my lovely readers because why the hell not?

I hope you guys enjoyed.

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