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

    BAM!
    BAMBAMBAMBAM!
    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.
    "Aye."
    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 others...you 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


    Rattle.
    Rattlerattlerattle.
    Slowly. Cautiously. The pair glanced around the corner into the room.
    Rattlerattle.
    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.
    Robes.
    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.
    "~~~~"
    Nothing.
    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.
    "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.
    "Why?"
    "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-"
    click
    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.


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(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!)