Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 6) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

Artwork officially owned and copyrighted from the 4th edition Monster Manual

    Braum and Ember stood dead silent for a tense moment, their eyes locked on the interior of the wardrobe door. The little beasties on the outside were pounding with all of the force they could, but none of the kobolds seemed to be trying to open the door. Either they were too dumb to try, which honestly seemed unlikely to Braum, or they were smart enough to know that actually opening the rune-locked door would end badly for all involved.
    The battering of the wood lastly a only few more seconds, though it felt much longer.
    It was only after all had fallen quiet, the silence broken only by the sound of scampering feet pattering out of the room beyond, did the two adventurers explore their surroundings.
    Turning away from the battered armoire, Ember openly groaned. The illusionary wall had dropped them into yet another stone hallway.
    "Ants. I'm saying it now: you're all descended from ants."
    Braum grimaced as he stared at the hard, cold stone but for much different reasons than the pissed off summoner. The earth and rock of the hall was a comfort to him given the sheer amount of time he'd spent on the surface since he had become a paladin. All the same, they had just passed through a magical barrier into an unknown hall and officially had no idea where they were going.
    Much like the halls before, this one twisted and worked its way downward and deeper into the earth. However it turned out to be much shorter than anything else they'd dealt with. After just a couple hundred yards, the hall emptied out into a dark, cavernous void.
    "Stay here." Braum grunted to Ember who was idly glancing into the darkness while holding the little celestial monkey.
    The mage offered no qualms and, past the precipice of the hall, Braum was happy to make out shapes in the darkness. Great long shelves ran along the edges of the room and disappeared into the darkness beyond. There was another, similar one at the top of a great stone stairwell nearby that seemed to run parallel with the stairs.
    No. Not shelves. Braum thought as he got closer.
    The stone structures protruded from the walls and along banisters but they weren't flat. Instead they seemed to be filled with something. Not shelves, but a basin perhaps? They all seemed to be topped off to the brim with sort of brown and tarry liquid whose pungent aroma stung his nose as he approached it.
    Petrol? Lamp oil?
    He recognized the smell but couldn't place it. Whatever it was, Braum felt pretty certain it would burn though.
    "So let's light it." Ember said nonchalantly after Braum returned to explain his findings to him.
    "Could be a trap."
    "Could be."
    They stared at each other for a long moment before their gazes fell down to the celestial monkey chittering away in Ember's arms.
    "Let the monkey do it." they said in near unison.
    And so, a minute later, the little celestial monkey was wandering into the darkness grasping one of their misbegotten torches from earlier. It clutched the flaming stick in both hands as it waddled on its hind legs towards the nearest basin, occasionally glancing back with a look of disdain and annoyance. Braum was happy it didn't look afraid; he might have felt guilty otherwise.
    It clambered up the side of the closest basin awkwardly and, with no fanfare outside of one last glance back at Ember and Braum, tossed the flaming torch into the petrol.
    The oil caught fire instantly.
    To their surprise however, nothing seemed to explode or detonate or punish them in anyway for their actions. Instead, the fires spread cleanly and seamlessly down the the length of the basins; connecting in multiple areas and working quickly to illuminate a truly massive room far larger than either of them had imagined. The flaming petrol extended as far as they could see and what they saw caught Braum's heart in his throat.
    Treasure. Literal mountains of it.
    The paladin could not even guess at the size of the room, but he didn't doubt it could fit a small townscape in it, at the very least. Hills, plateaus, and mountains dotted the "landscape", but instead of being made of rock or mineral, they were constructed out of piles of long forgotten coins and loot; many of them so old they didn't even appear to be made out of modern day precious metals. There was certainly some gold and silver, but piles of iron, copper, nickle, and lead seemed to shine back tenfold for every one that glinted gold.
    And, at the center of the room, a pedestal stood towering above it all. Upon it was a spherical gem. The sphere seemed to light and spark and crackle with energy despite its smooth, ruby-red surface. The serene globe was at odds with the internal torment of arcs and bolts of magic that the gem contained; a veritable maelstrom beneath a thin shell of calm.
    "Me thinks that's our prize." Ember commented.
    The pair stepped forward, heading towards the large stairwell that lead to the base of the room, when a loud clattering sound interrupted them. Along the Eastern wall, a large pile of iron coins and scrap seemed to be moving all on its own, pressing inward from against the wall.
    "Looks like we're going to need to earn it though." Braum muttered.
    As if to punctuate his point, the high, squeaky voices of kobolds could be heard screeching somewhere beyond.
    Ember's face hardened in recognition.
    "Cover me." was all the normally witty summoner said in response.
    The man snapped his fingers and, with a crack like a thunderbolt, the celestial monkey that had just began to paw at a nearby pile of copper coins disappeared in a flash and a blast of blue smoke. A single, echoing screech of defiance fading into thin air was all that remained a half moment later as mage brought his hands together and started to chant.
    Had Braum decided to keep watching, he would have seen the runes form on the ground and the distinct shape of the eidolon begin to materialize.
    But he didn't have the time.
    They had no way back, no way forward, and had to retrieve that orb and get the hell out before they were overrun or something even worse showed up. He already knew from having seen Ember work with the monkey that it would take him a good minute or two to summon the big guns and that meant it was only him between the mage and whatever the hell was coming to get them.
    Barreling down the stairs, he once again drew his hammer and raised his shield; this time certain they would see use. And, at the bottom, he planted himself firmly to the ground; ready to keep from anyone or anything that might try to get past and up to the defenseless summoner above.
    He would hold the line no matter what.
    The screeching reached a crescendo and the hoard of iron treasure gave way to a wall of bodies. Scrabbling, skittering, and  yelling, dozens of small, dragon-like humanoids pried their ways past the treasure that had been blocking the previously hidden hall. Their roars filled the chamber as they rushed him, weapons held high.
    And, as the first creature was brought to the floor in a single swing of his mighty hammer, Braum roared back in defiance.


(Hello Lovelies, I do hope you all enjoyed Part 6 of Dragon's Maw. I wanted to give you a heads up based on some comments I've received that I'm only going to put out one more part of Braum's story for now as that will be the end of this little arc. I will definitely be picking it up later, but I want to move on to other work to regain some inspiration. I need to return to Little Island Tales and I have a few other smaller works that I'd like to put out as well. So, keep your eye out for the last entry here shortly and I hope you enjoy what will be the climax of this dungeon adventure!)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Hello Lovelies,

With all of the challenges we've each faced this year, it seems like an eternity since last Christmas. But the year has come and gone and we're all different for it. Some of us are stronger. Some of us are wiser. And some of us are just new, like a caterpillar who's grown its wings. I won't begin to elaborate on or even imagine all of the different challenges we've each faced individually, but only acknowledge what has come from it; we're better for it.

As such, rather than sharing a story today, I just want to acknowledge the Holidays. So, with that said:

Merry Christmas
From my Home to Your's

While I acknowledge that not everyone might celebrate Christmas (Hell, I'm not even a Christian), I've personally found that I do treasure the holiday. The ideals of friends, family, warmth, and giving all appeal to me and hold a very special place in my heart. Many of us are working so hard, pushing towards that imaginary finish line only to keep dragging ourselves forward to the next one up the hill. I feel that this is a good time to stop, to breathe, and to acknowledge all of those struggles. Take some time to enjoy the touch of those you love, maybe share a drink or two, and don't forget that there are people out there that love and cherish you as I'm sure you do the same.

Be kind to yourself and to deserve it more than any of you fully accept.

We'll return to the stories shortly. For now, I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and just a good day and week. I love you all and wish you the best.

- RB

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 5) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

    Slowly. Cautiously. The pair glanced around the corner into the room.
    The celestial monkey had the armoire's knocker in hand and was pulling hard on it to no avail. It let out a few little frustrated screeches before turning and glaring at the both of them as though they were pulling some sort of prank and it only just realized.
    Judging them.
    "It's locked." Braum commented thoughtfully, trying to ignore the horrid little simian.
    "Didn't think of that one."
    In the room, they both found themselves just staring at the large cabinet once again. Given the other traps they'd already found, they were pretty certain it was going to go off like a bomb. However they'd never considered that maybe the magic was holding the damndable thing closed.
    After a moment of pondering, Braum was the one to take the lead this time.
    "Take a look around. Whoever this belonged to had a way to open it."
    Maybe it was some divine will. Maybe it was some sort of magic of the cabinet. Maybe it was just raw curiosity. No matter what it was, he felt determined to open the damn thing now. Earlier it was just a mild need to know what was inside. Now it was a mission.
    They spent the next several scouring the room looking for anything that stood out or might aid them in popping the cork on the cabinet. After nearly turning over the desk and actually turning over the chest, Braum noticed that the very edge of the bed seemed slightly higher than the other. And, with nothing else to go on, flipped the mattress.
    To his surprise, he found a journal and-
    A symbol of Trudd.
    He picked up the small, silver trinket. The masterfully carved symbol of a throne with a shield upon it's gleaming back was well worn and covered in five, large runes on either side. He felt his heart sink.
    This had been the home of a priest of Trudd.
    While it might have explained his desires to keep searching the place, it hardly forgave blowing up the man's chest or trying to crack open the armoire.
    "Ooo~" Ember cooed. "Found something?"
    "Maybe." Braum said half-heartedly, still examining the trinket.
    The symbol was nearly identical to his own but the scrawl of Trudd's name along the sides of the throne were in old Dwarvish. It was a language that he didn't speak and-
    And was on the armoire.
    Staring at the little symbol in his hands and carefully examining the runes, his gaze drifted back and forth from it to the large cabinet on the far wall. All of the symbols, the runes that he didn't initially recognize, were in old Dwarvish. And while he couldn't speak or read them, he had an idea.
    "Maybe." Braum repeated as he walked over and carefully cross examined the symbols.
    Hand shaking, he reached out to touch the first one. The first rune of Trudd's name in old Dwarvish.
    "Whoa, whoa. What're you doing?" Ember remarked.
    "Opening it."
    "Yea. Just in case. I'm going to be outside." the summoner said, already high-tailing out of the room, his monkey right behind him.
    Braum waited just long enough for Ember to leave the room. His fingers touched the glowing symbol gently and, to his surprise, the rune lit up a different color. It didn't explode or burn him or even set off an alarm. Just turned a different color.
    Emboldened, he did the next one.
    One by one. Five runes. Braum touched each one and each time felt a wash of relief when he didn't die. After the fifth one, there was an audible click and the door popped open.
    The old wood creaked as he opened it. Unfortunately, what he found inside was neither exciting nor surprising.
    The robes of the priest of Trudd hung neatly and cleanly in a row, albeit some were covered in a soft sheen of dust and cobwebs. There was a small broom and dust pan off to one side and a pair of well oiled, leather boots beneath the robes. But, aside from that, the armoire was empty.
    "Damn it." he cursed low under his breath.
    "What've you got?" Ember asked from outside.
    "Just a closet." Braum returned, unable to mask the disappointment in his voice.
    "Color me surprised."
    The summoner rejoined him, the monkey chittering softly as it sat on his shoulder, and shared the same look of disappointment that Braum was certain he wore as well.
    Something inside had told him getting this thing open was important. So why was he supposed to care about some musty old priest robes; Trudd's or otherwise.
    Ember dejectedly poked through the meager belongings, his annoyance plain on his face, when suddenly something at the back of the armoire caught his attention.
    "Wait a minute..." he said, reaching deeper into the cabinet.
    "What is it?"
    "This wall isn't real. It's an illusion..." Ember began before being suddenly cut off.
    A loud, horrible screech filled the hall outside. It might have been a roar short for the fact it came from a creature too small to produce such a fearsome cry. The cry was met and echoed by hundreds of others that called out in unison accompanied with the banging of shields, the thudding of boots, and the clanging of weapons far-too-nearby.
    Glancing outside, it was plain to see what caused it.
    A horde. No. An army of kobolds was advancing on them from the city. Literally hundreds if not thousands of small, dragon-like men brandishing bronze and steel armor and weapons were whooping and hollering and charging their direction from the unexplored city beyond.
    And the men were trapped in a room barely bigger than a broom closet.
    "Shit!" Braum bellowed, slamming the door not moments before the first wave of the fearsome dragonesque humanoids ran headlong into its simple wood.
    "Where the hell did they come from?" Ember demanded.
    Braum didn't answer. He had already drawn his massive tower shield Khadgar, using it to brace the door, and his lead-lined warhammer Magna waiting for the fight to come. The door was bowing and cracking beneath the force of an army and splinters and shards rained from its quickly collapsing doorframe despite his efforts and soon it would only be him and Ember against a thousand.
    But the fight didn't come.
    Instead, he suddenly felt Ember grab him from behind, tugging hard as the summoner pointed towards the armoire.
    "Here! Get in here!" he ordered Braum.
    The paladin spared one more glance at the collapsing door, at the vicious, snarling faces that could be seen through the cracks and holes in the splintering wood, before turning and following the mage into the armoire.
    They dove through the old, musty robes and through the illusionary wall into the darkness beyond. Just as the door finally gave way, Braum reached back through the false back and slammed the magically locking armoire shut from the inside; sealing the kobolds out. Or, perhaps, sealing themselves in.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 4) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

    Braum had to give the carpenter credit.
    That armoire held up surprisingly well given the circumstances.
    He slammed into the heavy wood full force, propelled by the fireball spell that had been triggered. Had it not been for his thick, steel armor, he would have likely suffered a lot more than he did from the trap. As it was, he hit the armoire like a brick wall and crumpled to the floor under the weight of his full-plate and the pain of taking an explosion to the face.
    It was only after a few moments of staring blankly at the floor and listening to the distinct ringing in his ears that he considered whether Trudd had decided to punish him for something.
    Hell, perhaps Ember wasn't even a person. Maybe he was some kind of avatar of torment that had been issued for some unknown crime.
    That had to be it.
    Braum could see the summoner's boots approach out of his peripheral vision and promptly rolled onto his back. The act took considerably more effort than he expected but, to his surprise, didn't hurt quite as much as he thought it would.
    Small blessings.
    "~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~" Ember seemed to say.
    His lips were moving but it sounded like he was speaking underwater with a mouthful cotton.
    "What?" Braum asked, shaking his head.
    Standing up, Braum shook his head, stuck a finger in his ear, hummed, and did everything else he could think of. After a few moments, the world finally stopped ringing and he had some semblance of hearing again.
    "Look out. Fireball." Ember said flatly with a wry smile.
    "No shit."
    Ember's smile only widened in response.
    "Do ya think you could NOT set off every gods foresaken trap down here?"
    Ember shrugged before quickly adding, "Hey. You set off the first one."
    Braum groaned and shoved his way past the smiling summoner to take a look at the box that had just knocked him on his ass. The lid had been blown apart and he could clearly make out the tiny, intricate runes on the debris that had been broken when Ember opened the chest. All about him, the walls, bed, desk, and everything else within range was scorched with black smears of heat and ash.
    Inside the chest was a different matter.
    The interior of the box was seemingly untouched by the damage. There were several small torches, an old cast iron cooking pot, a few random bits of clothes and cloth, a broken compass, a single gold ring, and, to Braum's surprise, a Dwarven long sword.
    He picked up the sword reverently, gripping the pommel and inspecting the blade. He could feel the buzz of magic running through it, making his beard hairs stand on end.
    "What's something like this doing down here?" he asked.
    "Good question." Ember commented. "Better question: what does it do? There are several veins of magic running through it. Looks like one is from the Evocation school, but the other one is-"
    "Divine." Braum said, cutting him off.
    He had been touched by enough holy magic to know it sizzled through the blade. Hell, he wielded the blasted magic himself in a pinch. It would be hard to mistake it as anything else. The sword's ephemeral power seemed to radiate out and buzz in the back of his head.
    Without another word, Braum began taking most of the contents of the chest and placing them in his bag. For some reason, he felt like it was important to retrieve these things. The pot, the compass, the torches; all were grabbed up and stowed away quickly. He only stopped for the briefest of moments on the ring.
    The ring was small and golden but plain in appearance. While it featured no etchings or runes, it seemed to buzz slightly as well. Or was he still feeling the sword?
    He glanced at Ember who was already distracted by yet another thing. At least it was the armoire this time. They could figure out what was going on there.
    Braum pocketed the ring without another thought and quickly joined the summoner.
    "What've you got?"
    "A lot of magic." the summoner commented, his gaze locked on the armoire.
    Ember pointed towards several areas across the hard-wood surface. "Veins" as he called them. It seemed that each rune was hooked up to a different vein and, based on what he was saying, quite literally EVERY school of known magic was securing this oversized cabinet.
    "So what you're saying is, if we open it's gonna knock us on our ass."
    "And so much more."
    The pair considered for a moment and Braum came up short. Ember, on the other hand, had a very inventive take on the matter.
    "I need a monkey."
    "Come again?"
    "I need a monkey!" Ember repeated with far more excitement than Braum thought a monkey warranted.
    "Because I don't want my eidolon to blow up!"
    Before Braum could ask anything further, the summoner was already out the door and performing some sort of spell. By the time he left the room, the massive, ethereal monster was already disappearing; fading away into nothingness. In its place, a circle of glowing blue and purple runes had formed on the ground.
    No. Not on the ground.
    The magic symbols hovered very slightly above the ground by just a few inches.
    As he watched, the runes began to spin; softly at first but quickly picking up speed until they blurred into a solid line of flashing color. A single, glowing ball of light burst into creation like a minute star being born. It hovered just above the center of the circle and soon blossomed and bloomed; taking shape.
    Half a moment later, the magic faded and a small, brightly colored monkey remained in its place.
    While Braum had seen a couple of these hairy critters in his travels, it looked only vaguely like what was in front of him. The simian creature was roughly the right size and structure, but the colors were all wrong. The normal tones of browns and blacks were replaced with whites, creams, and even some gold here and there. Its fur was strangely matted, braided, and designed in various locations; particularly around the face, neck, legs, and arms. And the commonly vacant but curious expression was now, what Braum could only describe as, 'intense judgement'.
    "Monkey!" Ember declared gleefully as the creature jumped from its place on the floor onto his leg, up his torso, and quickly settled on his shoulder.
    "Care to explain?" Braum finally asked again.
    "Well obviously I'm gonna have him open the armoire. So if he dies in the process I can just resummon my eidolon afterwards."
    Braum just stared at the creature for a moment.
    It stared back.
    Judging him.
    "Ok, yeah. Sure." he shrugged.
    Braum really had no idea where this fell on the moral spectrum. But given the magical cannon fodder had no problem with it, then screw it. It didn't seem like any of the summoned creations were really alive persay, so he didn't feel like there would be any loss if Ember carried out his intended plan.
    It did make him wonder why he needed a monkey versus the eidolon though.
    Why not just blow up and resummon that?
    Ember quickly explained to the little creature that he wanted it to open the armoire in the other room and, as soon as the creature entered the small bedroom area, they both promptly took cover behind the wall.
    Shutting their eyes and covering their ears, they heard a distinctive rattle as the monkey gripped the armoire's handle and pulled hard.
    Maybe if they hadn't been bracing for an explosion at that very moment, they'd have heard the soft clanking of weapons and the muted shouting of orders far off down the passageway from the ruined, unexplored city.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Clearing Something up real Quick

Hello Lovelies,

I wanted to address two questions that I received since my last posting of "Chronicles of Braum Stormforge". While, as normal when I'm doing this responses, I won't address the exact individuals, I will say that their questions pretty much equated to the same thing and so I figured I'd just answer it in one blast.

In short, your pacing seems strange in Braum's story 
and different from any of your other work?

To acknowledge the critique, the simple answer is: Yep.

I touched on this early on, but it wouldn't surprise me if it had been forgotten by time or perhaps the blocks simply hadn't been put together. Braum and his story are based on my Dungeons and Dragons character (Pathfinder if you want to be really specific). While the original stories with his introduction were completely me, everything in 'Dragon's Maw' is actually FROM the game that we're playing with some minor clean-up/alteration to make the results more palatable within a written format. Just as I've touched on before how D&D serves as a collaborative story effort, now you actually get to see that effort translated to a real world piece.

So what does this mean?

Well. Two things.

First and foremost, the pacing. While I'm taking great effort to naturalize and alter the baseline of the game to feel more like an actual novel/tale, there are some elements that come off strangely. Checking random doors, walking this way or that, and, to use Part 3 as an example, traps. These are all gameplay elements from Dungeons and Dragons that make perfect sense within the context of a GAME but translate very oddly when put to paper. There's definitely a few more coming in the nearby future but I'm taking great pains to try and make those gameplay elements feel like they belong versus interrupting the readers' enjoyment. Hopefully I do a good job.

Secondly, and more to the point regarding it being 'Different' compared to my other works: it's not entirely my work. Once again, with D&D being a collaborative effort, the only actual influence that I really have is some minor touch up and Braum as a character. With that said, the real respect for the interesting and new story should be shown to author W. Doyle, a good friend of mine and rather talented storyteller in his own regard. I felt very lucky to be able to play under him as he tends to be a great deal more selective and prepared in the creation of his content/works versus my first-draft word vomit that I so often share with all of you. So, with that said, while I am controlling Braum specifically and doing some minor touchups to translate game mechanics into novelization, the real respect for the different storytelling should be directed at W. Doyle.

Now that I've cleared the air a bit, I hope to punch out the Part 4 in the next couple days and Part 5 soon after that. Both are going to be extremely exciting and provide payoff to the slinking, creeping warnings that you received in the earlier sections. I hope you'll join us and that you have yourself a wonderful day!

- RB

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 3) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

Image Credit: BioWare and Dragon Age Game Series.

    "This bloody cave reminds me of an anthill." Braum spat.
    "So kind of like all Dwarven cities then?" Ember offered with a snide grin.
    "Not like this. Whoever put this place together must have been drunker than a fish in a tub of whiskey."
    "So, like all Dwarves then?"
    Braum shot him a brief glare.
    The door they'd passed through had led them through a drastically smaller tunnel. Unlike the previous, monumental passages, this was more akin to a large hallway than anything else. Worst yet, it appeared less like it had been carved out by a skilled group of engineers and more like it had been accidentally formed by a giant, blind, mildly idiotic worm with a tendency to lean to the right.
    The hall twisted, turned, went up, went down, double back on itself, and even featured one, lone secret door that led literally nowhere.
    Braum, not for the first time in the last day, felt a fire starting to light in the back of his mind. In a decade of service to Trudd, he'd never felt particularly disrespected by the deity's plans, but ever since this recent, rather cryptic dream, he'd felt outright wronged and like someone was yanking his chain. Everything about where he was, who he'd been with, and just the general lack of clear directions was quickly getting under his skin.
    "You know," Ember began. "It has a sort of a majesty to it in a way. Like a piece of art. Made by a very stupid per-"
    Braum didn't really hear the depressing stone as much as feel it and immediately, unconsciously regret what he knew was coming next. He'd been in a few of these ancient ruins and it always seemed some designer or architect liked to leave little surprises for those who would come later. Normally there was at least a reason; a logic to the wheres and whys a trap might be laid.
    As far as he could reason in that brief millisecond of thought, whoever put it here was just an asshole.
    The slab of stone shot out of the cross section of the hallway like a hydraulic press and hit him with surprising force. With a distinct clatter and clank, he found his head and upper torso brief slammed into the far wall. He saw stars and tasted copper but, to his surprise, he wasn't dead; more beat up than anything.
    He was bleeding lightly from the forehead where he'd slammed it into the stone and he couldn't quite remember the alphabet, but he wasn't much worse for wear. All in all, he could have been in much worse shape. Apparently the trap had either lost its edge over the years or it hadn't been built to try and crush such a heavily armored assailant.
    The enchanted steel of his platemail was already rebuilding the cracks and dings by the time he crawled up from the dusty stone.
    "Son of a rotten troll fucker..." Braum growled through the taste of blood and dirt.
    "You really should watch out." Ember commented dismissively.
    Braum glared a warning of pain and suffering at the summoner who, despite having just watched him slam into a wall, had remained rather cool about the whole thing. Ember and his massive, ephemeral beast simply stared right back.
    Mentally, he added that to the list of offenses he'd had to deal with in the last day.
    "Fine. Fine. Let the..." he stared at the eidolon that was hovering just next to the summoner, searching for the right word.
     He didn't find it.
    "...Let the thing go first."
    "What?" Ember said with the first look of surprise and emotion he'd seen on the man's face. "You can't be serious!"
    "What're you talking about? Of course, I'm serious."
    "But what if there's danger!" Ember demanded. "He's not immortal after all. If he dies from some beast or some trap down here I'm gonna have to STOP. Then I'm gonna have to summon him. And then we're going to have to start walking again! I just couldn't bear it if something happened."
    For just the briefest of moments, Braum wondered if they would be lucky enough to find a Dwarven tomb. This was quickly followed by considering whether or not he could fit the summoner's corpse in it.
    Ember let out a laugh and waved his hand dismissively. The man's monster pushed forward through the cramped tunnel and soon they were pressing on through the hewn-rock maze.
    Braum, despite his feelings of frustration, continued to keep himself between the mage and any potential danger that might appear from their front however he decided to let the eidolon have a good distance this go around in case they tripped on anymore traps.
    Soon enough, the tunnel widened once again into another large hall. Unlike the ones before, however, this hall actually appeared functional. Two doors could be seen, one on the left and one on the right, both made of simple wood. Additionally, there was a wide expanse shrouded in darkness further beyond...perhaps the main area of the city?
    With the exception of their echoing footsteps, however, absolutely nothing stirred.
    "What do you think?" Braum asked with a motion towards the vast expanse beyond.
    "I think we should figure out what's behind these doors before we move on."
    He considered for a moment, glancing back and forth from the void just outside of the realm of their visibility and the simple wooden doors and quickly agreed with the summoner. After all, it wouldn't take to have something sneak up on them from behind. Nor would it pay to accidentally pass over the orb that they were looking for because it was in some study or storeroom that they just walked past.
    What they found in the first door in the left was hardly exciting, however.
    A little room with a desk, a bed, a single chest, and a large armoire sat quietly in darkness, seemingly forgotten by time. The bed was made while the floor and everything else appeared relatively clean and undisturbed short of a fine layer of age and dust that seemed to cover everything.
    Braum wouldn't have given a second thought if not for Ember.
    "Ooo~" The summoner chortled as he approached the chest at the end of the bed.
    With a shrug, the paladin joined him in the little room and began to take a closer look around. The table was made of a fine cherrywood; smaller but well crafted. The bed appeared to have woolen sheets. The armoire-
    He blinked in surprise.
    Braum hadn't noticed it the first time, but the armoire's face was glowing softly. A ring of runic symbols that he couldn't readily recognize had been carved out of the wood; the diameter of the ring having been intersected the by doors' seam.
    "Huh." he thought outloud. "Hey Ember, what do you thi-"
    But he didn't get to finish his question. Behind him, Ember had been tinkering about with the chest at the foot of the bed. At the same time Braum was turning to ask the summoner about his thoughts on the runes, the thunking and clanking of Ember's mechanations were replaced by very hasty footsteps exiting the room.
    A half second later, the world was on fire and Braum found himself airborne.


(Hey all, sorry about my absense for the last two weeks. In short, it's one of those times that life just catches up to you and grinds everything else to a halt. As it stands, I'm working to play catch-up and hope to punch out more of Braum's tales in the next few days; hopefully with a return to regular releases. I hope everyone's doing good and that you have a wonderful day!)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 2) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

Artwork Property of CubeHero -

    The cave system was massive.
    Braum held his shield aloft in one hand with his hammer ready and primed in his other. White hot flames sparked and licked across the head of the enchanted weapon, giving off strange and monstrous shadows that hid in every corner and seemed to seethe around them as they moved. As a dwarf who'd lived for over a century in the darkness of mines and caves, he could see the specters of darkness for what they were, yet it always made him just slightly uneasy.
    Some shadows should be feared.
    They had been walking for a short period. The cave had narrowed slightly but still seemed large enough for an entire troop of wild bull elephants to pass unhindered and it always seemed to be moving downward in a soft corkscrew shape.
    Whether it was the shadows, the thought of a dragon, or some pre-programmed requirement to be the first into danger, Braum moved in front of Ember. This put him lockstep with the hovering beast that the summoner controlled and in full range of snark for it.
    "You know that's completely unnecessary."
    "Old habits." Braum responded shortly.
    "You realize we have a beast of extraplanar capability, right? Quite literally a monster from another dimension. Why do are walking AHEAD of it? Just let it deal with whatever we find."
    "I'd think you'd be happy having someone else willing to throw themselves ahead of you."
    "Well, when you put it that way. Lead on. Make sure to step on any funny shaped rocks. Particularly if they make a loud clicking sound when you do."
    Braum gave the summoner a sideways glance but said nothing in retort. He'd learned over a decade of travel that mages, no matter their school, had a certain way about them. Perhaps it was the innate ability to unravel and reweave the laws of the universe as one saw fit that made most mages act like certified assholes, but Braum had long since stopped letting it get to him. If the worst he dealt with from someone who could quite literally summon monsters into being by sheer force of will alone was a bit of smart-assery, he could certainly take it.
    They walked on in silence for a few minutes more before something caught his eye.
    The walls of the cave seemed to be shifting as they moved deeper into it. The change wasn't stark, but among crags and uneven marring in the walls, he started to notice pillars. Stonework. Signs of handcarved architecture and structural engineering that struck too close to home.
    "What?" Ember asked in confusion.
    "The walls. The stonework. There." he said with a few jabs of his hammer. "And there. This looks like Dwarven work."
    Ember, to his surprise, didn't say anything. Instead, they kept walking in silence.
    Everytime Braum glanced at the walls, they progressively became more and more solid. More and more carved out and resembling an actual Dwarven city. Pretty soon, he might have just been walking through the darkened, abandoned halls of Ironcore or Kaldoran themselves except that he knew those cities were much farther East and most definitely occupied.
    More to the point, they still had all their treasures. Unlike the massive, empty horderoom they'd just entered.
    "The five hells is this?" Braum asked, glancing around the echoing room they'd just stepped into.
    The room passed cleanly from the cavernous hall to create an even more monumental space. At first, it gave the impression that they'd entered a new cave system, but a few sparing glances around showed drag marks, scuffs, and lost and scattered coins from the treasure that had once been here.
    There had been chests here. And gold. Enough treasure to fill the coffers of the human kingdoms for generations.
    "Looks like a party." Ember commented offhandedly as he picked up and pocketed a loose gold coin that had somehow been overlooked. "And we missed it."
    "I guess we know where the other adventurers found their lucre."
    "Could have left some for us."
    The tinkle of disturbed rocks grabbed both of their attention in the near vacuous silence. For the first time, Braum noticed that the room had a pair of doors, both tucked away at the far end of the room. One, a massive set of double doors near as high as the imperceptible ceiling, were made of stone and metal and set into the far wall. The other, notably smaller and made of simple cherrywood, was off to the left.
    "Well now." Ember commented as he glanced at the massive set of doors. "Think that's where they keep the good stuff?"
    Braum thought that's where they kept the dragon, but kept that to himself and approached it anyway. As he did, he noticed something in the dirt on the floor.
    "We've got some footprints here." he commented, staring down at the scuffles in the collected ages of rock and dust.
    Ember snapped at the monster that followed him and it joined Braum in examining the marks.
    "What's that about?" Braum asked tentatively.
    "The..." he pointed at the massive eidolon and then back to Ember before imitating the summoner's snapping.
    "I'm telling him to look at the footprints. That's pretty obvious."
    "O...kay. And you don't because...?"
    "Because, unlike some of us, I can't really see without his help. It's a bit dark in here, afterall." Ember shot back snidely.
    Braum just stared at the man who'd just followed him perfectly through the caves and ruins for the better part of an hour before scratching his head. The summoner answered the unasked question.
    "I'm ok with SOME dark, but you might have noticed it's pitch black in here and the most light you have is that." Ember said, motioning towards the softly flaming hammer.
    The enchanted weapon cast a glow, but did nothing to actually light the way.
    "I see through his eyes." he quickly added, with a nod towards the monstrous creature.
    "Got it." Braum said with a nod, although he didn't understand the intricacies of the magic. "We'll see about getting you a torch."
    The summoner shrugged dismissively and Braum returned to examining the footprints. There were a wealth of marks around, entering, and exiting the smaller door on the lefthand side. The massive double doors, however, only featured a single set of tracks that entered and no sign that they ever left.
    "Way less traveled." Braum regarded towards the single set of tracks.
    "Sounds fine to me." Ember agreed. "It's not like we actually know where we're going down here."
    With considerable effort, Braum and the Eidolon were able to forcibly open one of the double doors. Even with all their combined strength, they were only able to get it open a foot or so, but it was enough to be able to slide in.
    And what they saw...was nothing.
    The other side of the double doors was simply a void. The footprints continued on into utter darkness; an inky black that even his trained eyes couldn't penetrate. Stepping past the door, he could make out the walls near him and a good couple dozen feet away, but that's where it stopped.
    It was as if he was staring into nothingness.
    "This is enormous." Braum commented, his eyes falling on the sheer emptiness.
    "Yea..." Ember agreed before quickly adding. "Other door?"
    "Other door."
    They started back on their way before Braum quickly added.
    "Let's make sure this is closed. Don't want anything sneaking up behind us."
    "Good idea."
    With a little more straining, they were able to reset the massive door back into place with a hollow, echoing boooooooooom that they could feel in their very bones. A few moment later, they were on their way through the other door and following a small, winding path through rough hewn stone, completely unaware of what they had woken up as the echoing sound reached its sensitive ears.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello Lovelies,

As I'm sure you can already tell, no stories today. Instead, we wanted to take a moment and wish you all a very

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now, I know more than a few of you aren't American and certainly don't celebrate this holiday, however I want to wish it all the same. As it stands, it's a holiday with a very awkward history and every year it gives me pause. It was a day born of some pretty horrific shit, like a lot of American holidays are, but I still find myself treasuring the day. To me, I find myself thinking less about American history than I do about my own. I find myself reflecting upon the things that I've been granted and those things that make my life better. I'm thankful for my wife and my brother. I'm thankful for my education and the work that I'm doing now, both personal and professional. I'm thankful for the food on my plate, the roof over my head, and the reminder that, once upon a time, I didn't have either of those things.

So, American or not, reflective upon the horrific state of this country or not, take a moment to think about what you're thankful for. In the light of so much anger, hate, and negativity, we have a bleed going on that is poisoning and draining many of us past insanity due to the non-stop assault on our senses from news, politics, and peers alike. Take a moment and consider where you are in your life and the good that exists there. Family, friends, fortune, or something else...consider and be grateful for what you have and dream of, just maybe, where you will go from it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful day.

- RB

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 1) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

    "Well...this looks to be the place."
    The man by his side, a mage of sorts by the name of 'Ember', shared a sidelong glance with him as they stood before the mouth of the cave. The towering entrance was a good forty feet wide and almost as high, halfway up a mountain.
    Braum, Ember, and two others had been tasked about a day ago with not only finding the cave, but to retrieve some sort of magical object within. Roughly a week prior, Trudd, Braum's God, had appeared before him personally in a dream, telling him that a great calamity was to befall the world should he not help intervene.
    The words still echoed in his skull as though he'd heard them seconds before.

Destruction looms on the horizon, carried swiftly on the wings
of a multi-hued beast. The First of Her children awaken, stirred by
those that seek the greatest of Her treasures. Treasures that might
allow a mere mortal power over Her children. Should all of these
treasures be brought together and the ritual be completed, Her reign
shall begin and the world shall know peace no longer. You must
travel to the Northern Kingdom, to the city of Emberfall. There you
will set forth to save the World. You will have companions and 
you will know them when you see them. 

    He woke in a cold sweat, a strange amulet he'd never seen before tied to his travel pack. A golden bauble with the image of silver dragon emblazoned across the front.
    The message irked Braum fiercely. His god had always been nothing, if not direct and to the point. But if Torag's son was passing on this strangely cryptic message, he knew that other gods had to be involved.
    It was only when other deities with their cryptic bullshit worked within the pantheon that he wasn't given a straight answer.
    And so, a short week later, Braum stumbled across a mysterious man in a dingy little tavern in Emberfall; a Chosen of Bahumet, the dragon god. The three others, all called by similar matters but apparently not so by their own personal deity, were tasked with retrieving a strange object: the 'dragon's orb' from a nearby cave by this "Chosen".
    Supposedly, the cave was an old dragon's den that had since been abandoned and even looted repeatedly by several adventuring parties, but that didn't make him feel any better.
    Braum had no love for the beasts. Anywhere that once held a dragon might still and gods know he had no desire to dance with one.
    He also felt no particular love for the band of fools he had been tasked to work with. While arguably, he truly felt no ill will towards Ember, the mage-like individual that called himself a 'Summoner', or even the man with the bow and arrows whose name escaped him, there was a certain, instant dislike towards the man in black who seemed to crackle with negative energy.
    The necromancer.
    Bardoon was all he'd called himself but the name stuck in the back of his throat like phlegm that slid down his throat yet refused to quite leave. It made him want to spit, to vomit like he'd swallowed a poison. Everything about the man was unpleasant even if he held no initial respite for the man's position to begin with.
    He'd worked with necromancers in the past through one adventure or another over the decade he'd served Trudd. Hell, he'd even liked a few of them. Each time, he had a quiet moment of review and consideration as to why his god would place him in lieu with someone of that nature and, over time, he'd realized that necromancy was little more than any other magic. While it technically was bending the unnatural to its will, there was nothing inherently more evil to animating a skeleton than there was to summoning fire or acid out of thin air.
    It was an abomination against the laws of the universe, but technically, so was all magic.
    And so, by his God's decree, he would just deal with it.
    Much to his relief, Bardoon was left behind on the trail after only a half day's travel. They had been accosted by goblin's along the path; a feral, wretched little group of green skinned monsters that flung spears, shot arrows, and were generally more of a nuisance than an overt threat. It was when the fight was finished, however, that Bardoon decided to stay behind and use the mangled corpses of the foul little creatures that had attacked them to raise them as his own personal body guards.
    Braum shuddered at the thought.
    Luckily, the spells took time, and so Ember and Braum continued on up the path while Bardoon and the one with the bow stayed behind to perform whatever unholy ritual needed doing.
    They would surely meet up once they were done. Hopefully not for a while though.
    Now, standing before the cave's entrance, he had to wonder if that was the brightest idea. While he had Ember with him and the beast that was bound to the Summoner, it seemed like they were walking directly into a dragon's maw.
    Braum glanced over his shoulder at the beast Ember had called an Eidolon.
    The massive, powerful looking creature seemed almost ethereal in nature; like a specter that was stuck in the world of the living. It towered over him and seemed to hover slightly above the ground. More to the point, each hand was tipped by vicious looking claws that seem to spark and arc with electrical energy. Everything about the monster screamed power.
    And yet...
    Braum found his eyes wandering the interior of the cave's maw. The ragged edges of the rock gave it the appearance that something very large had dug the rock out by hand. He could still see the raked out grooves of massive claws through solid stone.
    The sight made him feel very small despite his heavy armor.
    "Shall we?" he said with more steel in his voice than his nerves truly offered.
    "Yes. Let's."
    The trio stepped past the precipice of the cave's mouth and down into its waiting gullet as the path curved downward, deeper into the mountain. Deeper towards their mandated prize. And somewhere within, something massive shifted as it sensed trespassers in its territory.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 9

    "What is it, Nani?" Tula asked.
    Diego glanced nervously back at Johanas who returned his look with a big smile.
    "Want me to go for a walk?" he offered.
    Diego immediately regretted his apprehension as he stared at the crippled man. Johanas was certainly able to get around, but only slowly and painfully. Sending him for a walk from his own home because Diego felt nervous talking to his mother infront of him seemed downright cruel; particularly since the problem really was minor in the scope of anything.
    "No no! It's fine!" him and his mother both declared in unison.
    Johanas laughed.
    "Wow! What's that old phrase?" he asked. "Getting it in stereo?"
    Diego didn't know. He'd never heard of a stereo before nor had any idea what that actually meant. But Johanas didn't seem offended in anyway and so he turned back to Tula.
    "What's stereo?" he asked.
    "No idea. My pop used to say it whenever he heard the same two things at once."
    Diego considered that for a minute and shrugged. He then turned to his mother, his stomach in knots.
    "I was hoping...well. I wanted to ask you..."
    Each time he started, he trailed off. He found himself shifting and moving like his body just couldn't get comfortable.
    Tula said nothing. She simply stirred her stew and waited.
    "I guess...I don't know where to start."
    "The beginning seems like a good place." Johanas interjected and chuckled between a drag on his cigarette.
    Diego nodded absently. And then the flood gates loosed.
    "A little bit ago, Ka'lani started working on a flute. And you know she already has a flute but she plays a flute so maybe she wanted a new flute... but then she told me that she was making the flute for someone else and I don't know who she's making it for so I said "Ka'lani, who are you making it for?" and she wouldn't answer so I kept asking her and she keeps not telling me and it makes me feelreallyuncomfortableandI'msicktomystomacheverytimeItalktoheraboutitandIdon'tknowwhat-"
     Tula put her hands on her son's shoulders to try and quell the boy's word-vomit, worry in her eyes.
     "Slow down, sweetie. What are you saying?"
     Diego opened his mouth again but felt himself choke on the words. A million things came to mind, but he settled on the obvious.
    "Ka'lani won't tell me who the flute is for and it makes me feel sick and I don't know why!"
    Both the adults nodded to each other for a moment and shared a knowingly smile. That smile just made Diego feel worse. Not worse in a sick way. Worse in a mad way. Like they had all the answers and he was just some dumb k-
    "Well," his mother began, "you like Ka'lani, don't you?"
    "Yea." Diego agreed absentmindedly.
    "And you like spending time with her?"
    "Yea." he agreed again.
    "Well maybe you're starting to get to that age..." Tula offered with a wry smile. "That you really like her? And maybe she likes you back?"
    Diego stared at his mother blankly.
    "I just said I like her." he commented, his confusion apparent.
    Johanas couldn't help but laugh and Tula just looked embarrassed.
    "Of course, Nani." she said, her tone softer and more girlish than he often heard it.
    They sat in silence for a moment, Diego feeling confused, his mother looking embarrassed, and Johanas smoking his cigarette. The quiet progressively stretched out, growing more and more awkward with each passing second before Johanans decided to break it.
    "Well, if you like her, why don't you go help her with that flute?"
    Diego felt his back tighten and his face burn hot all of the sudden, his shoulders hunching unconciously.
    "She's with her sister. And they're on the beach. I mean, I was with them earlier when the warriors found the tracks but I don't know..." his voice trailed off again.
    "Tracks?" Tula asked, jumping on the new topic in a surprisingly desperate attempt to change the topic.
    "Yea. The warriors found some tracks in the sand. They came up off the beach and headed towards the mountain."
    The information was by no means new, but having gotten up some of the feelings that were plaguing him earlier about Ka'lani, he suddenly found renewed interest flooding his mind.
    "Really now?" Johanas asked, leaning forward in his chair.
    Diego nodded vigorously.
    "It was really weird too. The tracks were human, but the boots were weird. They had these ridges and valleys and markings like nothing else. The warriors hadn't seen it before either. And they came up out of the water, but there wasn't any boat."
    "So how'd they get there?" Johanas asked excitedly, his own tone matching Diego's boyish enthusiasm.
    "I don't know! Ka'lani and I were looking at them and couldn't figure out where they'd come from! Oh. And Tamah. Tamah was there too. But it just didn't make any sense!" Diego declared, his voice getting louder and faster the more he thought about the mystery that had captivated his thoughts earlier before quickly adding. "The warriors are checking out the mountains."
    "Than I suppose we'll just have to let them look for whoever is on the island, Diego." Tula said softly.
    It was clear she wanted to calm Diego, but Johanas had other intentions.
    "Or we could go after them too!" Johanas offered.
    "What?" demanded Tula.
    "Or maybe just I could?" he quickly corrected. "Diego's right to be excited. When's the last time we had someone new on the island?"
    "It's probably nothing." Tula quickly shot back. "Besides, the warriors will find them."
    "You're right! Good for me I was a warrior."
    The two adults stared each other down for a second; Johanas with his perpetual grin and Tula with a strangely motherly-like look of disapproval.
    Finally, Tula spoke first.
    "If you want to go wandering around on your leg, please make sure someone knows where you are, Joe. Preferably you have someone with you." she said with a sigh. "And let's make sure you have some lunch first."
    "Sounds good to me!" he said with renewed vigor.
    "Diego, would you like to join us?"
    Diego agreed with a nod, although he was wondering what he'd just instigated.
    With that, the three of them shared bowls of fresh stew and quickly gobbled it down. Diego hadn't realized how hungry he was and his mother's stew always hit just the right spot. Apparently the same could be said of Johanas because he ended up eating three bowls compared to their one before letting out a loud belch and leaning back in his chair.
    That was where he left the crippled man, along with his mother, when he left the hut to return back home. And, despite his excitement, he didn't really expect Johanas to have any more than a mild interest in the tracks they'd found.
    Perhaps that's why he was so surprised when there was a knock on his door and he found the man, cigarette hanging from his lips and weight heavily to one side as he rested on a cane, asking about the tracks in the sand.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remakes Blogfest - The Lord of the Rings

Hello Lovelies,

Today I wanted to take a moment to step outside of my normal format and join in on a little fun. If you're not aware, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner are hosting a little thing they're calling the 'Remakes Blogfest' today. And yes, I AM releasing this a day early, but only because of my normal blog format of leaving a day or two between posts. Either way.

The idea behind this blogfest is to identify those books/movies/tv/etc. that you feel actually improved when they were remade. Now, while most people think about remakes across the same medium (example provided The Thing from Another World (1951) versus The Thing (1982)), remakes also count with regards to adaptations from the original source material. And, while most would probably expect me to delve into the horror scene with something like The Thing, Dawn of the Dead, or some other title, I decided to go a different route.

Lord of the Rings.

To those that don't know, I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I've actually read the entire series three times now, quite literally have the One Ring as my wedding ring, and have drawn massive inspiration from the concepts, styles, designs, characterizations, and more in a number of ways. A lot of the time, the inspirations are only more obvious personally due to their involvement in my game design for Dungeons and Dragons. Once in a grand while they're noticeable in any fantasy series that I work on, but that is what it is.

Now, while both the books and movies are enjoyable, I feel that the movies are actually a large improvement upon the original source material. Before anyone screams 'Blasphemy!', allow me to explain. There are a few areas, particularly in the range of tone and characters (both entire characters and character design), that the movies really improve upon in comparison to the books and really make it the high-epic fantasy story that we all know and love.

First and foremost, let us talk about the tone.

To those of you that have never read the books before, allow me to clarify that the books are much slower and longer than the movies. Now, I'm sure those of you who have tried to marathon the extended movies like I have are shouting "THOSE THINGS ARE ALREADY OVER 11 HOURS LONG! HOW CAN THEY BE ANY SLOWER?!"

The answer? The original books were only half-fantasy-epic.

The original intent behind the books had less to do with high-adventure and had more to do with world creation. To those unfamiliar with Tolkien's history, the books were partially written in the trenches of war. They were an escape. Tolkien devised and created this massive, incredible world with all of these creatures and beings and cities and customs and the books themselves ended up being an exploration of that world. Literally. The books are essentially a mashup of a geographic travel guide that talks at length about the world and people that are being met and experienced with just a hint of 'Oh yea, war and evil.' There are certain sections of the books that are as much of a slog as actually going on a trek across the world. While there are plenty of amazing visuals and a hell of an adventure story, there's also plenty of areas that feel like 'a review of middle-earth's foliage in a million words or more'.

The movies, in turn, decided to largely cut this element out. While there's plenty of huge, sweeping shots to show off the landscape and the travel, it's nothing compared to the books. The movies, instead, focus on the adventure of this fantasy epic.

Now, while many will likely agree with me that the movies improved in this element, I feel the next section needs clarification because of the focus. There were a number of characters in the books that were either glazed over or entirely removed. The one that I'm going to focus on has actually gotten a lot of heat for NOT being in the movies. I'm outing myself as a horrible person (supposedly) for supporting that the character in question is not present, so fire away if you hate me for it.

Without further ado, let's talk about Tom Bombadil. 

As previously mentioned, the original books are an exploration of the world of Middle Earth. There are plenty of characters that make little to no impact and simply don't need to be explored within a cinematic version of the film. However, there is also ONE character that makes WAY too much impact while doing LITERALLY nothing. Insert Tom Bombadil.

Tom Bombadil, to those unfamiliar with the books, is a character that shows up in the middle of 'The Fellowship of the Ring'. He is a 'merry fellow' the lives in a small valley with Goldberry. Frodo and Sam meet him on their travels and, if there's one thing Tom is good for, its bringing the story to a grinding halt. While the entire scope of the story is about the travels across Middle Earth and the overwhelming threat that is the One Ring along with Sauron and his armies, Tom is introduced as a character that not only doesn't care about this, but genuinely isn't effected and can even SOLVE the issue. In essence, this character is basically a God and we spend a significant period of time with him just fucking around. This character not only isn't influenced by the One Ring, but literally has power over it like no one else short of Sauron does.

So what comes of this character that surpassed all others in power? LITERALLY NOTHING. He there. They meet him, they dick around, and they leave. He serves absolutely no purpose within the story other to introduce himself as existing. I genuinely have no idea what Tolkien was thinking with Tom's introduction, but if there is one character that is not only worthless but annoyingly worthless within the scope of everything, it is Tom Bombadil and I'm very happy the movies ignored him.

Finally, I want to talk about characterization.

Briefly speaking, the movies did a better job of providing more memorable characters for most of the individuals in the story. I clarify most because there were a few missteps. As stated, the books were largely exploration focused rather than epic focused. This caused one character in particular, Aragorn, to somehow be examined and subsequently ignored when he shouldn't have been. The books touch on Aragorn's lineage, his age, and the fact that he has a pretty amazing history as both the one true king and a hardened ranger, and yet make Aragorn into this incredibly placid character that doesn't act as much as is acted upon. He doesn't push forward in the same ways as he does in the movies and is largely just pushed along by the plot. It's an incredible miss.

HOWEVER, if there is one thing that the movies do make a mistake with, it's in the characterization of a specific few. Merry and Pippin, characters that seem almost interchangeable within the films, are actually explored in a more in-depth manner and really make a name of themselves singularly. They deserve special mention. The character that doesn't deserve as much love but goddamn does he get it is Legolas.

Oh fuck me Legolas.

While there's nothing really wrong with Legolas in the books or even with the initial characterization in the first movie, something happened somehwere in Hollywood that turned Legolas into this God. I don't know if it had something to do with the actor or the actor's agent or Peter Jackson or what, but Legolas becomes this Mary Sue character that can do no wrong, essentially has super powers, and is so 'critical'(?) that is literally shoehorned into a story HE'S NOT EVEN INVOLVED WITH, i.e. the Hobbit movies. While it's one thing to note that Tolkien was not focused on specifics of any given battle outside of the fight itself, it's another thing to have Legolas shield-surfing down stairs or murdering an entire team of Oliphaunt riders ALONG with the Oliphaunt. 

In short, much like Tom Bombadil, it just feels so out of place in comparison to everything else. Honestly, the wizard is more believable.

And so, ignoring God-King Legolas, I feel that the Lord of the Rings movies are overall superior to the books. While, again, the books are by no means bad, the necessary trimming and cleaning up of the story really helps to make it the fantasy epic that we know and love today. It does a tremendous job of filling in areas that need it, cutting off areas that aren't needed, and just giving us a wonderful tale of adventure, fun, magic, and heroism.

I hope you all enjoyed. What was your favorite parts from the books and movies? Was their one you liked better? Share in the comments below.

- RB

(Additionally, I have no idea what happened with the copy paste of the links to the other authors, but I hope you'll forgive its odd appearance and join these authors as they explore their favorite remakes.)
1. Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
2. Heather M. Gardner
3. Diane Burton - Adventure & Romance
4. Christine Rains
5. Tamara Narayan
6. Juneta @ Writer's Gambit
7. CineMarvellous!
8. Tossing It Out
9. Stories I Found in the Closet
10. Spunk On A Stick - Diane
11. Pat Hatt
12. The Write Game
13. PepperWords
14. XmasDolly aka Marie Moody
15. Writing Off the Edge
16. Sharon M. Himsl - Shells, Tales and Sails
17. The Warrior Muse
18. Michelle Gregory at Dust Kittens in the Corners
19. Elizabeth Seckman. Author
20. Birgit
21. The ToiBox of Words
22. Shah Wharton
23. Spacerguy
24. Michael Abayomi
25. Stephen Tremp Breakthrough Blogs
26. Madly-in-Verse

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 8

    Despite what Diego had told Tamah, he had no 'stuff'' to do. He honestly didn't even know why he was walking away. He just knew that the prospect of sitting down with her and Ka'lani made him a little sick to his stomach and he didn't know what to to do about it.
    And so he walked back into the village. Away from the boot prints in the sand and away from his friends on the beach.
    It was strange. He felt conflicted.
    He had known Ka'lani for basically his entire life, but in the recent months, it seemed like something was changing and he just couldn't put his finger on what. She was acting oddly and, even more, he found that this upset him for some reason.
    Why wouldn't she tell him who the flute was for? Better yet, why did that stupid detail seem to matter so much?
    The feeling he'd had a couple days prior when they were sitting under the coconut trees returned and he really didn't know what to do with it. It felt like his guts were tied into a knot and he just kept asking himself the same questions.
    Even with the discovery of tracks in the sand, human boot-prints that the warriors didn't recognize, his mind drifted elsewhere and that fact alone made him even more upset with himself. But he just couldn't knock away his distracting thoughts.   
    So Diego decided to turn to the person he always turned to when he didn't know any better.
    And within a few minutes, he had found his mother.
    Initially, Diego had checked a few places in town. He knew she wasn't at Grammy Koula's, since he'd just been there, and ended up checking at home at around the town center. It was as he was walking around the pyre, watching several men pack wood onto the flames, that she called out to him from Johanas' hut.
    He couldn't help but grimace.
    Walking up to the little wood shack near the town center, Diego was immediately struck by the smell of the place. Despite the fact the cookpot his mother was working in front of was producing a wonderful aroma of roots and vegetables, the house still smelled.
    Diego loved his mother's stew. While the recipe changed slightly depending on whether they had meat available and on what kind of vegetables were in season, his mother always mixed in a hefty amount of spices and potatoes that gave the dish a unique flavor no matter any minor alterations in ingredients.
    But that just didn't matter in Johanas' hut.
    The smell was something that had always been unique to the man that lived there and, for that reason, Diego often avoided the home despite it being so deep into the town proper. It wasn't anything rancid like rotting meat or foul like stooled fecal matter. It had a husky, deep scent that one adult had referred to as smelling like a 'skunk', though he had no real reference to the accuracy of that claim. Much like the incense the town burned every month, the stench came from the plants that Johanas grew, dried, and smoked in his meager little garden.
    While cigarettes and smoking were uncommon overall, it seemed Johanas pretty much always smoked. He could regularly be seen with a hand-rolled cigarette hanging from his lips, a smile on his face, and a glaze in his eyes.
    Today was no exception.
    "Hey Diego." Johanas greeted with a genuine smile and a wave, the smoking cigarette dangling precariously from his widening grin.
    "Hey Johanas." Diego responded with a quick, cursory nod as he made his way for his mother.
    Johanas leaned back in his chair and smiled wider, his mind clearly elsewhere.
    Diego couldn't help but stare for a moment, though.
    The man was not too much older than him really, maybe a few years at most; however he looked like he'd aged decades. He had been a relatively promising warrior despite a more carefree attitude, however some said that same attitude led to his failure. And his attack.
    Now, sitting there rocking back and forth, his wood chair covered in pillows and blankets, Diego found it fascinating how the man tended to stay so calm and happy. The once powerful, albeit stocky, ex-warrior had shrunken away from his short-lived prowess. His left leg was shriveled and destroyed, forcing him to walk with a cane and a semi-permanent splint around the leathered remains. On top of that, his left eye had been gouged out, leaving an empty, staring socket, and his left arm had been equally mangled although it was at least still usable.
    Supposedly it had all happened when he was caught out along by a aka-akua. Yet, to everyone's shock, he had somehow survived the encounter, albeit far from un-marred.
    The longer he stared, the more Diego thought that Johanas resembled a ghoul; some sort of monstrous creature half-alive and half-dead. Except for that permanent smile.
    Diego had been young, but he still remembered seeing the mangled remains carted in off the beach and into Grammy Koula's hut. The smoking started shortly after he'd returned home; roughly half of what he'd been still functional.
    But Johanas never stopped smiling. Never stopped laughing even if the laughter was at his own suffering.     "Hello Nani." Tula said with a soft squeeze of her son's shoulder and a kiss on his forehead, drawing his attention away from Johanas. "I saw you wander by a few times."
    "I was looking for you." Diego answered his mother's unasked question.
    "You found her." Johanas confirmed with a widening grin.
    "What did you need, dear?" Tula asked with another squeeze of his should, her free hand still methodically stirring the stew.
    "I guess I just wanted to talk... 
    Diego glanced back at Johanas who was now rummaging about in a bag next to his chair. His mother stared at him expectantly.
    "'s ok though. I know you're busy." he said quickly, changing his mind about speaking near Johanas. "It's nothing important. I can talk later."
    "Are you sure?" Tula asked with a look of concern.
    "You alright, kid?" Johanas asked as he retrieved several pale white sticks from the bag.
    "Yea..." Diego commented half-heartedly and watched in confusion as the older set several of the sticks aside. "What are those?"
    At first glance, he had thought the sticks were another kind of cigarette. Just a different version of something. But they seemed hard. Too solid. They didn't look like wrapped paper as much as some sort of small carved stick.
    "Ha!" Johanas explained. "These? They're cane."
    Diego glanced up at his mother who started to smile knowingly.
    "Yea!" the older man said excitedly. "Here. Try one. Its the only cane in this house that doesn't suck to use."
    Tula chuckled a bit as Diego hesitantly took one of the little white sticks.
    "I mean, I guess it doesn't suck as much as you do." Johanas quickly added.
    "I...what?" Diego asked in exasperation.
    As an example, Johanas took one of the little sticks and popped it half way into his mouth. He proceeded to demonstrate biting down and sucking on the stick.
    "I...I'm not sure I want..."
    Tula gave her son a little nod as if in confirmation that Johanas wasn't insane for chewing on sticks.
    Diego tried in turn.
    The result was a blast of sweetness like Diego had never experienced. It made him openly gasp. Even though the stick itself seemed to be just that, an actual stick, the rush of sweet was more than enough to take his mind off it.
    "Wow!" Diego exclaimed.
    "Pretty sweet, eh?"
    Tula groaned at him and Johanas laughed harder. He proceeded to go back and forth for a moment between his quickly dwindling cigarette and the chewed 'cane' stick as he called it, sucking on both with equal fervor.
    "This is really good!" Diego told him after sucking on the little white cane a few more times.
    "I like 'em." Johanas confirmed with a chuckle before closing his eyes and drifting back into a quiet stupor as he rocked back and forth in his chair.
    Diego sat in silence for a few minutes, chewing and sucking on the 'cane', just watching Johanas rock and his mother cook. That simple exchange had made him feel a little better and, when he'd thoroughly gnawed upon the little stick, he turned back to his mother.
    "Mom, can I talk to you for a second?"

Sunday, November 5, 2017

NerdWordApparel and the Folly of Distractions

Hello Lovelies,

I wanted to provide you one last side-note update before I got back into the swing of Little Island Tales and other assorted works. Sometime back, I very briefly mentioned via our Twitter account that I had made a little shirt design out of boredom. Well, fast forward a week or two and I've actually found that making little graphic illustrations for shirts and apparel is actually a lot of fun and might want to make a little side business out of it.

Enter NerdWordApparel.

As all of you veteran readers might imagine, me being me has the tendency of diving head first into projects and such because I'm a horrible person who might actually be a workaholic. That aside, given a number of issues I'm having with the game design for Uncanny Valley, I've decided to redouble my efforts in this area for the time being and am now putting my snark and nerdisms to good use outside of regular writing. With that said, outside of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, this has been where my energy has been focused for the last week.

I bring this up for three reasons: One, I like to share what I'm doing and where I'm going when it comes to the matter of any of you going "You know, I haven't seen any actual new content...what the hell is Robert doing?" I'm deciding that coming up for breath isn't fun so why not drown in creative works projects. Two, because I know many readers are, by definition, nerds with passions and loves of their own, some of you might actually like the work I'm doing at NerdWordApparel and find some desire to get yourself some fancy/snarky graphic design shirts/mugs/etc. Last, but not least Three: to keep my writing and my graphic design works separate and not antagonize one group or the other, I wanted to do a one-time shout out regarding NerdWordApparel with all relevant links to those that are interested and let you follow them from there (if you so desire).

With that said, here is where you can follow us. Please note, the TeePublic link is the current 'shop' until I set up a more permanent website storefront.


To those that are interested, just a quick word of note: I intend to release new designs twice a week every Sunday and Thursday (I'm actually going to be releasing one later today, wouldn't ya know). I currently have a few Dungeons and Dragons related items, however designs will not be limited to this and will be all across nerddoms and fandoms. Perfect example, Thursday's launch will be a very cute dinosaur design that is more fun for all ages then perhaps snark about Dragons. I intend to have everything from fantasy to adventure to non-fiction and pretty much anything that makes me fellow nerds' hearts go pitter-patter-pitter. If you like the concept, give me a follow and see if anything catches your eye as the weeks roll on.

Finally, I want to assure everyone that there shouldn't really be any loss in or change of schedule to RBPublishing. The hows and whats for the my creative process for both projects actually mesh pretty well, particularly since a lot of my creative writing is performed when I'm away from home whereas a lot of my designs are done at home. In turn, it more means I'm intentionally shorting myself free time for movies/games/etc. than anything else, but that's self inflicted and is what it is.

I hope you guys enjoy it (if you're interested) and promise that we should have the next Little Island Tales out here shortly.

Love you all,

- RB