Diamond Cascade: Ogres and goblins and orcs, oh my!

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(aka Hammer 6: A Fond Farewell to Captain Liability)

…and then, of course, the scouts of the ARMY OF DARKNESS itself creeping across the land. Against these, Diamond Cascade and his companions fought battle after battle, slaughtering goblins, orcs and even ogres in droves. Diamond Cascade himself personally slew dozens of these evil soldiers of corruption.

Yeah yeah yeah, but not before we spent an entire day being annoyed to shit by some dumbass pixies. HELLO small helpless-yet-hard-to-hit annoying things? Does it occur to you to to go and bother the great big army of orcs and goblins and ogres and so forth with your intensely irritating little pranks? Does the thought cross your eeny-weeny little thoughts that maybe, what with orcs and ogres and slimies being a pretty foul-tempered lot, you might for once in your otherwise futile little lives actually even achieve something useful? A reminder, little pixie-folk: We’re talking about orcs and ogres here. Not slimies. Slimies, yes, well, I can see how you might like to let them in just for the fun of annoying them into killing each other other. But orcs and ogres are another matter. These are creatures who will smash your forest flat if no one stops them. You might get a giggle or two out of them on their way, but in the end they’ll leave you with nowhere to hide. And then they’ll pull your wings off to floss with and, eventually, stick you on a skewer, roast you alive and eat you. But no, no, little pixies, instead of sowing discord among people who would like to rape you and then eat you, you’d rather annoy the nine hells out of us, the only people you’ve actually seen trying to stop them.

So, pixies. You remember this day. Remember it well, just as I will. One day you can rue it.

This all started in the morning and just kept on going. By the time we ran into a gang of slimies, I don’t know what I was more grateful for. Having something to take it all out on, or that something as scary as – oooh – a couple of dozen slimies was enough to scare the little winged jackasses away.  Apparently there were a couple of other things, but I was mostly busy with the slimies. Man, a good slaughter of the little buggers was just what I needed. Cleared my head nicely. Got a nice bow off one of them too. Must have been quite a fight somewhere where I wasn’t, on account of how battered up everyone else seems to look. We’ve lost a dwarf (no great disaster), and the walking liability that was Tiarth appears to have blundered off into the woods. After an hour of searching, we’re pretty sure he’s not dead, on account of there being no body. We’re also pretty sure he doesn’t want to be found, on account of him being a blind elf with extra-acute hearing, and us making slightly more noise than the approaching army. Don’t know what we did, but frankly it’s all one great big sigh of relief all round that we won’t have ever have to experience the sheer jaw-dropping horror of watching a blind man throw a greatsword at a stuck-in-the-mud owlbear before then wading in to apparently try and wrestle it to death. No, bye-bye Tiarth Friend-bane and good riddance.

It’s an imperfect world, so of course we don’t get to butcher a band of slimies and ditch Captain Liability without there being some small price to pay. It seems the goblins had some lunch they hadn’t gotten around to eating yet, some doubtless annoying little halfgit woman. Gives us a reason to head south and abandon our current quest, but we’ve abandoned so many before getting very far that you know, just for once, I think we should at least get as far as the Underdark before we realise what a colossal mistake we’re making and run off to be ineffectual somewhere else.


Research and E-books (23/2/10)

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It’s a Tuesday so it must be time to witter about something. There’s not much book-news to get excited about at the moment. Am rewriting the last quarter of the Order of the Scales after finally figuring out what was bothering me about it (yes, something is getting cut). Am waiting impatiently for Thief-Taker to come back from my editor (impatiently because I have free evenings coming out of my ears at the moment and there’s only so much Bioshock a man can play. Well, actually there isn’t, but there probably ought to be).

Still: Last night was the annual Orion bash, and a couple of comments still ring in my ears. Amid the Amazon vs. Macmillan malarkey, iPads and other shenanigans and the poorly advertised possibly-not-actually-a-fact that the e-book version of The Adamantine Palace will have something pushing 60,000 words of extra material in it, I’d somehow gained the impression that e-books were, somehow, well, y’know, important? Apparently not. According to Peter Roche, chief executive of the Orion Publishing Group, there is the possibility that e-books will expand greatly in 2010, possibly up to a whopping great 2% of total sales. Woo-hoo. Yes, the trend will doubtless continue and yes, it will vary from genre to genre (cookery e-book? Better be sauce-proof). But still. Woo-hoo. I’ll do the bonus material but I’ll not be rushing out to acquire a system developers tool-kit for iPad apps just yet.

This was a statement made during the annual Orion state-of-the-union address. The second most thought-provoking comment came from Adam Roberts, which went something along the lines of ‘What? You’re just going as a tourist? You’re not even doing research?’ This in response to me being off on a little trip in a couple of months. I didn’t have an answer to that, and it’s taken me a full day to realise why. So in lieu of being on the panel about fantasy research at Eastercon, here’s my ha’penny on researching for epic fantasy. It’s simple, really. Everything is research. I’m never a tourist. I was doing research last night in the Royal Opera House, listening to the acoustics and looking at the shape of the ceiling. I will be doing research in the Andes, on the look and feel of mountains. Not all that long ago I did some research on what it’s like to stand on the open top of a tall tower (very windy). Right now I’m researching how to share your lap between a laptop and a cat (tricky and prone to typos). Research for fantasy is endless. Go visit every terrain the world will offer you. Master geography. Understand how every culture works and why. Learn how science and technology developed. Get your head around the sum of human history. Slide into the heads of other people and figure out what make them tick. Do all of that and you’ll have everything you need to build worlds that are effortlessly real. “You’re not even doing research?” Doesn’t have an answer because the question doesn’t compute.

Diamond Cascade: The Great Owlbear Fiasco

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Hammer 5: The Great Owlbear Fiasco

Even with the ‘blessing’ of the foul fiend that was the lich-king, Diamond Cascade and his companions still faced many perils in crossing the Haunted Wood, from such mundane creatures as snakes and mischievous pixies to the horror of a MONSTROUS OWLBEAR…

Snakes. I hate snakes. I hate these woods. What sort of dumb snake drops down on a man from up in the trees and tries to eat them in front of their friends. It wasn’t like they were that hard to skewer, but… EW! And then there was the whole trouble of trying to put an arrow through a snake while it was wrapped around someone who, as things go, is as close to a friend as you can be with someone who regularly steals stuff of you.

No, scratch that, actually I don’t think I tried that hard not to put the arrow through the snake and through whoever it was strangling. I can’t even remember who the snake was trying to eat now, but I think from my lack of concern about whether I shot them at the same time as the snake, I can narrow it down to… to… to being anyone I haven’t slept with. Not including The Gnome. OK, so not Wolfgirl.

Now look, here’s a little tale that tells you all you need to know about gnomes. Think about this next one, and then remember that their ENTIRE RACE is like this. Then ask yourself whether we were acting for the greater good by trying to save them from annihilation. Y’see, we found this cart, blocking the trail we were following across the forest. One cart, one broken axle, one chest, no owner. We call out, being good-spirited folks and not wanting to be caught red-handed in any looting that might follow. No answer. So, hey, finders-keepers we figure, and Shifty sets to opening up the chest (locked of course). I don’t know what we’re expecting, but something worth having, for sure. Not a cloud of gas that did nothing more than make everyone nearby fall about helpless with laughter. In the middle of nowhere. WHAT, EXACTLY, WAS THE POINT OF THAT?  That’s a sane question, right? To a gnome, though, it’s a dumb question with an obvious answer. What do you mean what was the point? The point was obvious. Or else what do you mean there has to be a point of some sort? Yeah. Gnomes. Why are we saving them, again?

Maybe the answer is in the owlbear fiasco. Yes, we fought an owlbear. Yes, I largely took it down. Me, largely on my own, keeping well away and sticking it with arrows. Of course, we had no idea what the hell it was at the time, just some great massive bear thing with an enormous beak the size of my arm, waving its arms and squawking and hooting and acting all leery. I suppose you would, if you were the relic of some mad wizard experiment to mix an owl and a bear together. What next? The mosquito-wolf, who hunts in packs and sucks your blood and kills you with strange tropical diseases? No wait, whoever brought us the Stirge probably already did that? OK, the stoat-bat? The ant-fox? A cross between a caterpillar and a cheetah, vastly over-engineered for the lettuce it calls its prey?

Anyway, it come shambling through the woods at us making a fuss and clearly means to eat us, and we all fly into a panic. Scatter and run away is the first thing that comes to my mind, on the grounds that all these short stumpy non-humans and Stalker in his heavy armour are more likely to get caught that fleet-footed me, and maybe by the time this horror has finished eating them it’ll be full and fancy an afternoon nap. What’s it doing out here anyway? It’s the middle of the day and the middle of winter. Bears hibernate! Owls are nocturnal! Shouting its contradictions at merely seemed to enrage the beast, and I was all for riding away, until the Gnome did possibly the cleverest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do. She threw a spell at the monster, turning the ground underneath it into thick mud, miring it down. Bogged down as it was, and with me being the expert archer that I am, you’d think it’s fate was sealed. You’d think that everyone else would have the sense to stand back and pepper it with arrows too until it fell. That or run like buggery and be gone before it hauled itself out. You’d really think that no one would be SO STUPID as to throw themselves into the mud in an attempt to go toe-to-toe with a nine-foot bear armed with a two foot hooked beaked while up to their waist in heavy mud. Or, if you’re a dwarf, up to your neck. But no. Its first one dwarf, then the other, then even the blind elf (sweet gods, how did he ever live even this long) are throwing themselves at the monster, getting stuck, smashed to bits and, in the case of the Blind Elf, nearly drowning. In fact, if I remember rightly, Blind Elf threw his sword at the Owlbear first. I am, truly, at a loss to explain the behaviour of non-human races sometimes. All we humans did the sensible thing and stood back.

So maybe that’s why we’re saving the gnomes. Because, daft as they are, they’re no worse than any other non-humans. And for being, for once, the only other person with any sense, I shall try to remember that The Gnome has an actual name. Holli. Which is probably short for something with about twenty syllables, but it’ll do.


The Black Mausoleum (16/2/2010)

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In theory I’m supposed to be taking a couple of weeks off between completing the proof-reading of King of the Crags and launching into the last rewrite of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice and then the very-far-from-last rewrite of Order of the Scales. So I absolutely haven’t started working on something else and it absolutely isn’t called The Black Mausoleum and there absolutely aren’t 10000-odd words of this already laid down. Absolutely can’t have happened. It’s my fortnight off, after all.

In the meantime, as the UK celebrates(?) its biggest ever lottery win, I note that this would equate to selling roughly 100 million books. I’m estimating a roughly 50/50 chance of achieving this before the sun explodes [1].

For those of you looking for anything more substantial, I have left a mess over on John Scalzi’s blog, in which I fantasize  that there might be some sort of element of vicarious satisfaction or even satire involved in writing stories about enormous fire-breathing monsters burning the shit out of people who badly badly deserve it.

Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen until later…

[1]  All right all right, swells up into a red giant and vapourizing everything, strictly isn’t the same as exploding.

Diamond Cascade: Back-Talking The Lich King

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Hammer 4: Back-Talking The Lich King

The quickest route from the gnomish lands to the mountain tunnels that would lead Diamond Cascade into the nest of evil that was the under-dark led straight through nothing less than THE HAUNTED WOOD OF THE LICH-KING! Without flinching from this most unnatural of terrors, Diamond Casade left without hesitation, riding straight for the heart of this cursed land. Others might have skirted around this evil place, but Diamond Cascade knew that every day lost would mean innocent gnomish lives sacrificed to the slaughter-machine of the under-dark; instead, he and his companions struck for the centre, riding swiftly and directly to the black heart of the Haunted Wood. They found the lich-king’s very tower and burst through its blackened doors. Dark were the things they found there, things not to be spoken of to any but the bravest hearts, yet with courage and fearless resolve they prevailed and, not succumbing to the lich-king’s terror, crossed the Haunted Wood untouched by the supernatural horrors that dwell within its depths.

Yeah. Fearlessly and boldly and without a damn clue where we were going. We’re supposed to be finding the Gnome King and of course, the only person who knows where to go is The Gnome. So we blindly follow as she leads us deeper and deeper into the Haunted Wood. Deeper and deeper and deeper. Until it starts to get dark. Thanks, Gnome.

Did I mention we have a couple of Mad Dwarves. Grimoril and Kiljerk or something. Hurrah. More non-humans. Remnants from the gnomish cellar. With a bit of luck they won’t last too long. Kiljerk. There’s a jerk or two within throttling distance I wouldn’t mind stabbing, that’s for sure.

Yes, she would get us turned into drooling undead monstrosities just for a laugh. There is, therefore, and for a little while, a certain amout of shitting ourselves going on before we begin to realise that all is not quite as it seems. Wolfgirl doesn’t seem bothered either, and Wolfgirl isn’t very high on the party jerk list. By the time we reach the tower of the lich-king (and reach it we do), I have an idea I know what’s going on. And it turns out I was right. Which is just as well, because we really did go to the lich-king’s tower, and we really were pretty fearless about it and we really did kick his door in and face him down, and if he’d really been what he was pretending to be then we’d be undead minions by now, cast into perpetual pain and torment. I’ll say no more, but for those befriended by the gnomes of the Haunted Wood, the undead there are not so terrible. The lich-king, you see, is a gnome and subject to all the whims of foibles that brings, and more than that I shall not reveal, save to remind those who are not friends of gnomes that a lich-king with a twisted sense of humour is still a lich-king.


SFX Weekender (8/2/10)

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Meh. There’s blogs aplenty to tell you about the SFX Weekender. Here, here and here, for example. For those who had to stay overnight in the actual chalets, I offer my apologies. There was an attempt to burn them down about fifteen years ago when the place hosted Euro-Gencon, but my pyromantic powers had not reached their peak at the time and the effort failed. As for the rest, I can’t really comment, having spent most of the time in the bar with the other Gollancz authors, cheering each other on through the readings and interviews there.

Readings. Yes, and in a bar. Having them there caused some debate, mostly of the ‘it’s too bloody loud in here’ variety, but I’m not so sure about that. I’d draw the line at having to complete with the pub televisions showing the six nations at the same time as someone’s trying to read aloud – that was a bit harsh, even for Science Fiction authors – but the basic idea, I thought, was sound. Would I rather listen to someone read and talk with a pint in my hand and a bit of atmosphere, or would I rather listen in a sterile room tucked away in some part of the hotel that I can’t even find (yes, Fantasycon, I’m looking at you)? I’ll take the bar. As for the reading… I can understand why the background noise annoys some people, but set against that there’s the ebb and flow of people, because as panels and movies end (and we readers where certainly a mere sideshow in all of this), the bar is the natural place for people to go. So they come, and we were there to entertain them. So not all bad, and I felt we were honouring older traditions of story-telling by reading in the bar. Sure, some people weren’t interested. There was talking and noise in the background. But people came, and it was down to us and our stories to be interesting enough to keep them. It’s not the same as reading to a room where everyone has come specifically for the person who’s going to read, but I don’t see that makes it better, only different.

I, however, had none of this to contend with. What I had was Tom Baker on the main stage somewhere above me, and you can guess who got the better of that one. My thanks to those who stayed and listened anyway, particularly the two or three people who weren’t from the Gollancz or SFX crew.

I had fun, but then that’s a pretty easy thing to say when all you’ve got to do is show up at the seaside, sit in a bar all day and be offered drinks and Thai takeaway while watching the occasion sith lord order Doritos from the bar. I mean, really, what’s not to like? So apart from opinions on giving readings, go ask someone else what it was like.

Hammer 2: The Inn of Remorseless Arguing

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Weary from battling the wicked dwarf and his fiendish friends, Diamond Cascade rested his head in a nearby gnomish inn, filled with jolly japing gnomish friends. A fine place it was, where Diamond Cascade and his brave friends were able to rest and refresh themselves and take stock of the many urgent quests that justice and righteousness called them to do. Should they pursue the wicked dwarf and seek the second missing letter? What grains of truth lay behind his mad ramblings? Should they begin their search for the Scales of Tyr and restore them to their rightful place? Or should they race to Osmuld, to seek the fell creature rumoured to stalk the land, or solve the riddle of Stalker’s birth? All these things they pondered with grave intent and common purpose, yet before they could set their minds, their quiet respite was set upon by battling dwarves! Diamond Cascade and his friends raced at once to defend their valiant gnomish friends. But worse was to come; for the dwarves were none other than a brave band from the far-off mountains who had battled through the tunnels of the underdark for three days to bring warning: The forces of darkness were on the march, intent on crushing the kingdoms of the gnomes and after them the little folk of the hills. Dark dwarves had fought and bested these bold messengers throughout their journey and they were at the end of their strength; fortunately, Diamond Cascade and his friends were able to turn back the last of their pursuers, and with a little rest the dwarves were quickly back to their strength. With this news, Diamond Cascade’s duty was clear: The invasion must be stopped, and only Diamond Cascade could do it! And so Diamond Cascade and his companions set forth at once, bound for the very heart of the deadly HAUNTED FOREST.

Not that Diamond Cascade particularly wanted to. In fact, Diamond Cascasde was thoroughly enjoying himself in the gnomish inn, thank-you. Don’t imagine for a moment that my opinion has changed and that gnomes aren’t generally irritating dicks because it hasn’t and they are; but one thing I’ll give for them is that they throw a good party. Annoying in the day when you actually want to get anything done, but when you want to let your hair down afterwards, they suddenly become a lot more bearable. And that’s the Vale way. Work hard, play hard. Preferably without too much of the work bit.

So we’d showed up to this inn I’ve never seen before. I’ve been up and down the road to Osmuld several times. The last time I was on my own and on foot and I reckoned I’d stopped in every inn on the way to Nerverrest, but apparently I missed this one on account of it being disguised as a tree. If you crawl into the hollows among its roots, however (and I do mean crawl if you’re human), then underground there’s an inn for gnomes. It’s a bit muddy and dingy, but a damn sight better than sleeping out in the open of the haunted wood with winter coming on. Anyway, they’re welcoming enough and they obviously know Wolfgirl. We have a few drinks to relax and ease our aching muscles and distract ourselves from the rantings of that idiot dwarf. Dragons, coppers, greens. Bollocks, all of it. I might have a look at the books Shifty pinched, but I’m having much too much fun with The Gnome and Wolfgirl. If there’s one thing I’ll say for The Gnome, she has a talent for leading others astray. No need for cards and strip-poker today; a few beers and we’re off for a three-some. Scoring with The Gnome is hardly a challenge (she’s gone through at least two other gnomes by then and to my certain knowledge had the Blind Elf and at least two other gnomes later, although they were all doubtless a disappointment), but Wolfgirl is another matter. Most satisfying. More uses for a Mage Hand spell and a few bits of feather and fur than you’d care to imagine. By the time we’re done, Blind Elf is so drunk he’s tottering. Didn’t think elves get drunk, but there you go. It’s so tempting to try and swipe the armour he took from the ruined tower. I wonder if he even knows it’s magic? In fact I might even have snuck into his room to try. Memory is all a bit hazy. That’s my excuse, anyway, when I deny it.

And the morning, and we get to do what we always do when no one’s trying to kill us. We argue.
And argue
And argue
And argue
And argue
And argue.

Yes, morning brings the usual hangovers and endless debate about what we should do next, although this is somewhat sidelined by a no-holds-barred catfight breaking out between The Gnome and Wolfgirl (I can only assume they’re fighting over me). Frankly I can’t see why we don’t go back to Neverrest with the stupid letter we recovered from the mad dwarf and give it to the priests like we said we would and get the money they were going to pay. Shifty is adamant that we take it north and there will be even more money, but I kind of think that a gold coin in the hand is worth two in the bush. Wolfgirl and I go off for some more practice with Mage Hand and one or two shapeshifting tricks we’ve both apparently been working on. I have no idea what’s going on here: I’ve been trying to get into Wolfgirl’s pants for weeks, and now she’s practically tearing my clothes off. Getting one over The Gnome maybe? Marking her territory like a wolf? But hey – do I care why? And it’s vastly more pleasant than arguing on and on about where we’re going and what we’re doing. By the time we come back a couple of hours later (hey – you know what they say about older women), surprise surprise, the conversation has gone exactly nowhere. In fact we’d probably still be there if it hadn’t been for the dwarves in the cellar.

It’s not like I’m desperate to put myself in the way of someone else’s sharp and pointy metal bits, but by the time Wolfgirl and I have run out of Mage Hand spells they’ve moved on from arguing to recrimination, and anything, anything is better than listening to Stalker and The Gnome and Shifty going on and on and on about who stole what from whom and who can’t be trusted and who’s a thief and who’s not (and let’s face it, the only one of us who isn’t a thief is Wolfgirl). Frankly, I’d rather fight a bunch of deranged dwarves than listen to that, and hey, lucky for us, that’s exactly what’s burst up out of the tunnels under the inn. We pile off down into the cellars where some bunch of dwarves are bashing up some other bunch of dwarves and pitch in. I’m not sure I even knew which ones I was supposed to be thumping or why, so I just take my lead from the gnomes. Stalker is so slow in his clanking metal that by the time he gets there, it’s all over and done and we have a couple of deranged dwarves babbling on about armies of dark dwarves and dark elves and orcs and slimeys and all-sorts, all pouring out of the mountain tunnels like some great underground river of nasty, all heading towards the gnomish kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no love for gnomes. Where I want to be is in Neverrest, drinking beer in the Silver Dragon, tending to the delicates of the luscious Arbelloa and the feisty Wolfgirl, not to mention every other lady of that fair city who’s a sucker for a pretty face, a head full of platinum blond curls, the voice of a whole choir of angels and a mind as dirty as a goblin’s undergarment. I’ve done my share of fighting up in Osmuld and it wasn’t pretty and doing it in tunnels is hardly likely to be an improvement. But since the alternative is to stay here FOREVER arguing about where to go next, and who stol;e what from whom, and since Shifty isn’t going to give me the letter and I’m not ready to be stealing it from him, I’ve got nowhere better to go, and since Wolfgirl wants to go and help the gnome king and I want to keep her hot for me, that’s what Diamond Cascade will do. It’s not like I don’t owe the orcs and the slimeys a stabbing or two.

Oh. Might be worth noting that Stalker is dumb enough to blow the dodgy whistle we found (with a bit of prompting) and hey-presto! Raises a zombie dwarf. Oh how we laughed, especially the dead dwarf’s bruised and battered friends. Yes, they laughed lots.


Diamond Cascade and the Second Quest for a Quiet Night In

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Nightall 30: Bird

Do I have to mention the stupid talking bird? Yes I suppose I do. What is it about me that attracts every bizarre misfit? You know, I thought Elfboy was bad enough but now he’s gone and I’ve got The Gnome and Elfboy II traipsing around at my heels and now this? A talking bird. A parrot, it seems, who was once a pet of a wizard and ended up being able to think and talk. It is a truly annoying creature, but one with possibly many uses. It might, for example, annoy various hangers-on into buggering off and leaving me alone – perhaps it’s just a matter of stamina, to see which of us can tolerate it for the longest before we crack. Or else, if it could somehow be persuaded to be in any way useful, a talking bird might be a valuable ally as a spy. If nothing else, I suppose it would keep starvation at bay for a day or two. Anyway…

Nightall 30: Neverrest, City of Friends

Foul thievery! Arriving at the great metropolis of Neverrest, Diamond Cascade and his comrades befriended another fellow traveller, a jovial and generous chap of dwarvish nature, only to discover that he was nothing but a foul thief and had stolen the message that had been entrusted to them. Nor was this the only thievery afoot, for the great priests of Tyr had finally brought to justice the master criminal responsible for the theft of the Golden Scales of Tyr, only to have him escape from under their very noses in their very own dungeon!

The search for these thieves within the city led to a wonderful re-union with Diamond Cascade’s old friend and alchemist Norch, whom he’d last seen at the Fat Cockerel. All were delighted to renew their friendship and to know that old friends prospered. Diamond Cascade could honestly say that he’d missed the little man.

Yes indeed, welcome to Neverrest, city of gouging. Last time I was here, this was a happy-go-lucky trading city where the money came and went as easily as the whores. Now it’s got religion. Priests of Tyr have pretty much taken over the place as far as I can see, and what’s their idea of justice? Gouging everyone who comes to the city gates with this tax and that tax and the other tax. And then some tax. I’m amazed they don’t have a tax on paying tax, but I’m scared to mention this in case it turns out that actually they do. So we’re queuing up at the gates to get fleeced along with everyone else and I’m still thinking this isn’t so bad, I’ve got plenty of gold in my pockets, I can stand a winter of this and be drinking and whoring until spring before I’m flat broke again. And yeah, there’s this dwarf and we start talking to him and we end up drinking with him in the Silver Dragon and hey, look, I’m singing songs and raising a crowd and doing my thing and the innkeeper is pretty and giving me the eye and then this arsehole dwarf turns out to have nicked our letters. Nicking them off Shifty, which ought to have been no mean feat.

I guess I should come clean about the letters. There’s not just one, there’s two. Shifty had one to deliver to his master in the north and that’s what the shenanigans under the table was back in The Fat Cockerel. I’ve known about this for a while, because Shifty happens to mention it as soon as we get the one from Klengerford. We have no idea what either of them say, but that’s not for want of trying. Have we opened them? Course we have, and they’re blank. No magic, no nothing. Not a sausage. So I’ve fixed up the seals with a little trick I learned up on North Horn Ridge and we figured on delivering them anyway. Except now we can’t. The only thing I can come up with is that they’re written in invisible ink, and since I reckon mister thieving-bastard dwarf is having the same troubles with them as we were, that’s the first place to be looking. We don’t find any dwarves, but we do find plenty of alchemists and one of them is our old friend Norch. I guess I didn’t ever have too much against Norch, and now I don’t have to put up with him every waking hour, and have The Gnome and Elfboy II to put up with instead, well… But missed him? Yeah, maybe. Once. With a crossbow.

Nightall 30: The Thief of Tyr

Unable to bring the dwarvish message-thief to the swift justice he deserved, Diamond Cascade and his friends presented themselves to the great temple of Tyr and to the noble priests who defend the cause of justice through the world. At once he was taken straight to the grand priest Brother Grythan. The thief who has stolen these letters must be found, says the great priest, for nothing less than the fate of the whole island depends on it. What could this message be that carries such weight? Naturally, Diamond Cascade swore to dedicate his every effort immediately and at once to apprehending this wicked fellow.

Diamond Cascade was also aghast to discover that the supposed thief of the Scale of Tyr who had escaped was, in fact, perhaps not the real thief at all but merely some deranged dupe who had taken to claiming it was him for the ‘prestige’ it would bring to him and never mind the headsman’s axe that would surely follow. Not only this, but the true thief, the real foul genius mastermind of this notorious crime, it seems was none other the Brother Grythan’s own brother! Diamond Cascade offered to pursue this wicked fellow, but Brother Grythan politely declined this generous offer noting that his brother was ‘best left buried’ and so is perhaps now dead. After so long, it would seem that even the priests of justice would prefer simply to have their scales back. Naturally Diamond Cascade vowed that he would search for both the scales and the thief during his travels.

Oh. Shit. Big. Fucking. Shit. So, yes, this master-thief, the one who stole the Scales of Tyr. What in the name of the nine hells do I do? I mean, I know he didn’t do it, so what the fuck? Some halfgit who used to leave calling cards after he swiped stuff. Anyone leave a calling card after the Scales of Tyr went a-wander? I don’t think so. It’s kind of a relief that the daft tit has escaped, because if he hadn’t, I guess I’d have watched him hang knowing that it wasn’t true. Knowing it wasn’t true and knowing that Grythan knew it wasn’t true. Not sure which would have been worse. Amazed that Grythan didn’t recognise me too. Or maybe he did, maybe he just didn’t say anything. Strange thing is, this is something I actually really do want to put right. I mean if I could, I would. I’d even go out of my way to do it. I just don’t have the first idea where to start.

If there’s any consolation to be taken from this big sorry mess, at least the general belief that nicking the Scales caused the the Time of Troubles that followed isn’t shared by the priests. Fat lot of use that’ll do the thief, if ever anyone catches him.

He isn’t kidding about getting that dwarf though. We get a sack of platinum out of him and that’s just a down-payment. Dwarf stew coming up!

Nightall 30: Knights of Torm

Having undertaken to quest for the Priests of Tyr, Diamond Cascade was delighted to discover that his quarters in the Silver Dragon were now home to a group of knights from Osmuld, noble warriors of Torm and Helm with whom Diamond Cascade had fought in the wars of the previous years, side by side against the vile orcish hordes; delight that could only be matched by his dismay at hearing that the dead had begun to rise from their graves in this valiant kingdom. Without hesitation, Diamond Cascade swore to travel there and join his former comrades-in-arms in their fight against darkness as soon as his quest for the Priests of Try was done. Most peculiarly, the knights at first mistook one of Diamond Cascade’s comrades for one Master Corren, a missing nobleman from Osmuld, third nephew to Lord Ostmar no less, who was last seen heading for the High Peak of the dwarves to be an ambassador for his king there. Of course, this cannot be and much hilarity ensues from such an entertaining case of mistaken identity, leaving Diamond Cascade with many new and valuable friends. Diamond Cascade’s newest comrade in arms, the valiant elf Tiarth, was particularly overjoyed with this coming together of noble purpose, as his own quest takes him to the lands of Osmuld and the north in search of some fell beast so dire he cannot bring himself to even speak its name.

Or say what it looks like. Or sounds like. Or smells like. Or does. As even the knights of Torm observe, Tiarth is a right jerk. Thing with Stalker fits his story though. There’s an opportunity here, a real big one. Right after we get this dwarf shitbag thief and get the other half of our money from the priests of Tyr. Right after.

Nightall 30: To Catch a Thief!

Without pause for breath, Diamond Cascade and his comrades set upon the trail of the foul dwarf Durmijeron. Few dwarves resided in Neverrest and so the trail is easily followed, and Diamond Cascade soon learned that this Durmijeron is a known villain, a wicked and cold-hearted killer who had been seen leaving the city on foot and heading north that very morning for the ruined tower a days ride to the north that the black-heart called his home.

I have a horse now. I’ve never had a horse. No, that’s not true. I used to have a horse a very, very long time ago. And then all that shit happened and I didn’t have a horse any more. Not for a long time. I’m not sure I even rode on a horse again after Gammersbridge. And now I have a horse of my own. A good, trained war-horse. Makes me feel like I’ve arrived somewhere. This is a special day, a coming-of-age moment somehow. I might have felt even better about it if The Gnome hadn’t bought herself a war-pony at the same time, put pink ribbons in its mane and called it Princess.

Hammer 1: DIE, DIMWIT, DIE

With a mere day’s start and travelling on foot in the winter snows, this Durmijeron’s fate was sure to be both certain and swift. It came as no surprise, then, when a gang of ne’er-do-wells slipped into the Silver Dragon over breakfast and barred the door and set upon separating Diamond Cascade’s head from his body! Naturally they failed and met a swift and final end for their troubles. Not wanting to leave the blameless keeper of the Silver Dragon with her business in ruins, with swift vigour, Diamond Cascade and his noble friends repaired what damage they could before leaving the matter and the few remaining survivors in the hands of the noble warriors of Torm and Helm and set off with all haste and vigour to find the renegade villain Durmijeron.

Boldly and valiantly, Diamond Cascade and his hearty crew sallied forth from the comforts of the great city of Neverrest and into the freezing winter snows. As the cold light of the sun began to fade, the hideous silhouette of the dark tower rose from the horizon. Without thought for their own safety, Diamond Cascade and his friends strode into its dark shadows and in to the murky depths of the old dungeons that still lay beneath the shattered stone. The fiendish Durmijeron had laid many a trap to guard his lair, but these did not daunt Diamond Cascade’s brave quest for justice and were quickly overcome and the beastly fellow and his gang were soon cornered. It quickly became clear that the dwarf was possessed by some foolish madness, believing himself to be a part of some great conspiracy that reached across the island. Perhaps they thought they would be safe when their HIDEOUS STONE GUARDIAN attacked and were doubtless dismayed when Diamond Cascade SHATTERED IT WITH ONE MIGHTY BLOW of his enchanted sword. Or perhaps they thought their MONSTROUS GELATINOUS MASS would thwart such heroes before it burned in magical fire. Dismayed and knowing they had no escape, this gang of villains threw themselves upon Diamond Cascade and his comrades. They were no match for Diamond Cascade’s swordsmanship, but – horror of horrors – in the madness of throwing away their lives they gave the wicked dwarf a moment of respite and with foul magic the wicked fellow vanished and made his escape. All was not in vain, for a band of brigands now lay dead at Diamond Cascade’s feet and one letter was found among their paltry loot; yet the dwarf himself had evaded the justice he so ripely deserved and so Diamond Cascade’s quest would go on!

Score again! Alright, alright, I was a little bleary that morning on account of having spent most of the night attending to the insatiable desires of Arbelloa, our delectable innkeeper hostess. Yeah, the fight did actually happen but I pretty much sat it out, since they were after Stalker for some reason and not the rest of us, and frankly he seemed to be quite capable of taking care of himself. I think maybe the only person I hit was The Gnome who got a punch in the face for threatening Arbelloa. I don’t know where The Gnome gets her ideas.

Of course, the Torm/Helm show arrived after Stalker and Tiarth (largely) had scattered body parts across the Silver Dragon. Maybe it’s worth knowing that the men who attacked us were armed with saps, like they wanted to take Stalker alive and ask him some questions somewhere in private later. Who knows, maybe they would have let him go again. Anyway, they have saps, which don’t generally leave a great big bloody mess behind them, while Tiarth and Stalker have great-swords, which generally, um… do. Oh and not forgetting that Tiarth is blind and can’t tell friend from foe. You want to get into a fight when one of your allies is a blind guy swinging a six-foot blade about the place? Particularly in a confined space filled with furniture, I hope it’s pretty clear why I sat this one out. Yeah, and I was keeping half an eye on Arbelloa in case anyone got any ideas. Anyway, so the Torm/Helm show arrive to see body parts and blood pretty much everywhere and Stalker and Tairth drenched in gore and they’re not best keen on letting anyone leave, and even I can see their point. I mean it’s not like we couldn’t have kicked their asses in a slightly less making-a-mess-all-over-my-girlfriend-for-the-night’s-inn kind of way. Bloody inconsiderate, like most sword-slingers. So we’re all waiting for the guard to arrive to sort everything out and we get to trying to tidy up the mess as much as anything for something to do. I don’t quite know why Wolfgirl and The Gnome felt it necessary to strip down to their underwear to scrub the floor, but it made the Torm/Helm show somewhat uncomfortable, which was amusing enough, and Wolfgirl is certainly easy on the eye that way. Good legs. Comes from all that walking I guess. Anyway, I’m not minding watching all this at all while I cast a few Mending cantrips where I can. Naturally the guard show up and tell us we can’t go anywhere, which means we can’t leave the city and chase the dumbass dwarf which is something we’ve been tasked to do by the priests of Tyr which means the guard can take their control order or whatever it is and use it as a butt-plug. Takes an hour to sort that out though and we’ve already cleaned up as much of the mess as we can clean. Obviously the thing to do when kicking your heels with a bunch of tight-arsed paladins around is to settle down next to them with a deck of cards and a bottle of lamp oil and start playing strip-poker. I don’t know – maybe all that floor scrubbing was somehow a turn-on for the girls. Anyway, I’m not going to say no to Wolfgirl because she’s pretty enough that I’d like to see more. It’s kind of disturbing, but ever since the business down with the Green Dragon hatchling, I kind of have this fascination with The Gnome too. I keep wondering what she really does look like naked.

Yeah. Well. Takes about fifteen minutes and I know exactly what she looks like naked. And with lamp-oil all over her. I need to get better at cheating at cards, too. They keep catching me. Anyway, seems to me this is a most excellent way to pass the time, far better than chasing off after dumbass dwarves. Sadly we get our letter allowing us passage out of the city before I can get Wolfgirl down to her birthday suit. Ah well, next time.

So we get to the tower. Don’t quite know how we know that’s where the blasted dwarf is going to be, but Shifty seems to reckon that’s where he hangs out, and Shifty probably knows about that sort of thing better than any of the rest of us. If nothing else, it’s getting late and it’s as good a place to stop as any. The tower itself isn’t much – a few broken walls and a lot of tumbled stone, but we find the trapdoor down to the dungeons quick enough when Stalker falls through it and lands on the pit of spikes underneath. Lucky for him he wears a lot of metal. By some fluke we find most of the rest of the traps without walking into them and even the ones we find by setting them off we manage not to set off multiple times. Progress!

I don’t know whether we might have made more progress with the dwarf. He ranted on at some length about dragons and the ‘coppers’ and the ‘greens’ and how we are ‘pawns’ (sad but true) and how he was a ‘bishop’ (sorry – bishops have daft-looking hats, not daft-looking beards. Nul points, dwarf) but frankly none of it made much sense and eventually Stalker just laid into them for something to do (or possibly because this was the dwarf who clocked him round the head with a war-hammer and left him so pretty-looking; Stalker claims this is the case, but for all I know this is bullshit. Stalker can be a lying bastard when he wants to be, as we were all about to find out…). Ah, they had it coming, him and his bad-smelling cave-man friend and their dog-faced cohort. Pity he managed to teleport away, really (isn’t there a clue here? The dwarf teleported away. Didn’t occur to me at the time, but later it strikes me that teleporting away isn’t a particularly mundane thing to do). I suppose the interesting part, aside from the room whose walls were embedded with gems were a stack of books that Shifty found. Not that Shifty can read them, but I can. We don’t find much else. Tunnels leading into the underdark (no thanks), and Stalker manages to find a shit-monster living in an underground cesspit and for some reason decides to jump in and have at the thing instead of leaving well alone. He smelled pretty bad under all that metal what with the several weeks worth of stale sweat; now he smells rich enough to set dogs howling all the way to Osmuld. And we get to find out that he’s a lying bastard too. Thieving git found himself a magic wand at some point and refuses to admit it. Hello? It’s called Detect Magic, dimwit? You think I trust you or any of the rest of them to ‘fess up to what they find about the place? Takes days before he admits what he’s got.

Damn dwarf got away but not before he threw one of the letters at us. Shifty reckons it was the letter for his master, but I say that since they were both the same, we might as well go back and give it to the priests of Tyr because they’ll give us MONEY for it. Down-payment, dudes. That’s what Grythan said. Or maybe it was the dwarf himself he was wanting. Can’t remember. Wasn’t listening. Too busy thinking about, er, other stuff.

Also, I’m not quite sure I want to see that particular brother again in a hurry. My heart says maybe I should, but my head says run, run away. Either way, it’s getting dark and Wolfgirl and The Gnome reckon they know an inn around these parts. Must be a new inn because I’ve never seen one. And that, my friends, is where the fun truly began…


Diamond Cascade and the Sunken Citadel

Posted in DC

Nightall 17: Missing Children

Fresh from victory against the terrors of the spider demon-queen, Diamond Cascade returned to find another horror awaiting him. Missing children! Led astray by misguided heroes into seeking adventure and fortune just as Diamond Cascade had been, once long ago! Without a pause to rest, Diamond Cascade immediately set off, heart filled with anxious hope, to their destination, the LOST SUNKEN CITADEL OF THE LIZARD PEOPLE!

Which is, like, about three hours walk from the town down the Old Road and while it might be slimy territory, there’s also a nice pub another hour in on in Oakenridge. All I’m thinking about as we come out of the forest all covered in spider guck is a few beers maybe and then a taste of sweet sweet loving from Shandria or Darlene. But no. We’ve been suckered. Lured in by the honey, now we’re put to work, as all of a sudden we’re the only people who can sort out any poxy little porblem that comes along. This time it’s runaway children. Next thing you know we’ll be rescuing cats from trees. We hardly get in the door when we’re turned around and sent back out again. Waste of bloody time, this. First of all, they’re not children. Just because you’re posh and have a prattish name like Hercal, it doesn’t mean you’re not all grown up by the time your fourteen like the rest of us. Second of all they were lured off by a “paladin” and a “ranger.” Well a ranger I can believe but what kind of paladin hauls a pair of posh shiny-faced wet-nosed novices off into danger without bothering to pass this by the little darlings’ parents. Either a paladin who regularly won the King Stupid award when they were at paladin school or a paladin who’s actually a backstabbing scum-eating faker piece of shit. In which case the little darlings are either lying raped and dead in a ditch, or else they’re a hundred miles away by now and the ransom note is on its way. And even if it’s all true and they’re just following the honest-to-gods King of Stupid, they should have been back days ago. It’s winter and its slimy country. Neither bodes well. Well not if the King of Stupid is in charge.

Still, it’s a day out, there and back, the weather’s OK and there’s a dead or alive reward, so hey. A brisk walk up past the ravine, five minutes yelling out their names in case they’re stuck somewhere, then on for pint at the Old Boar Inn in Oakenbridge and a brisk walk back. Maybe we’ll have a wrestling contest in a few thorn bushes so it looks like we had a tussle with something. Then back to the manor house, with long hangdog faces, much wringing of hands and going on about how heroically we tried and then a nice bottle of wine and we’ll see which one of Shandria and Darlene fancies spreading their legs.

Nightall 17: Taker

Two little hitches spring to mind. The first one is we’ve got ourselves a shadow. Seems like running off from Klengerford in search of adventure and a quick death is catching; having seen Klengerford, I can’t say I’m surprised (the delicious Lady Katrina aside). Today’s runaway calls himself Taker. I suppose he’s no younger than I was when I joined the army. Reminds me of me. Can’t see as I can really hold it against him that he’s tagging along. I’d like to say it’s annoying, but the worst it can be is still a drop in the ocean when there’s Elfboy and The Gnome around. I can’t even think of a name for The Gnome. Gah! I used to think my folks were racist when they started slagging off non-humans, but no, I think I see their point. Elfboy, Norch, The Gnome. All really, really irritating. Is it me? Is it a culture thing? Or is it like I see it and they just think they’re so much better than us?

Anyway, Taker following along probably puts paid to acting like we’d gone looking when all we did was stop for a pint. Then again, Elfboy probably wouldn’t have gone along with it anyway. And in the end, I’m thinking that girls aren’t as stupid as they look sometimes. They can see it in your eyes. Someone’s going to say something stupid (gods knows we’ve got enough candidates in our travelling circus that it’s more a case of which one’s going to win the foot-in-mouth competition most spectacularly) and they’re going to know. Shit. There’s no getting around it. I ain’t going to score when I get back unless we find these two missing dildos. Which is just so immensely unfair, because I would have been so in there after we took down the QUEEN OF THE SPIDER DEMONS.

Nightall 17: Horrors from Beyond Mortal Ken

The abyss lay before them. The earth itself, so offended by the vile rites of the lizard people who had once claimed this land, had swallowed their temple whole. Undaunted by the horrors that surely lay ahead, Diamond Cascade led the way down into the black scar in the land. Sure enough, in the dim twilight that filtered down into this subterranean mire, Diamond Cascade found old footprints, a certain sign that his instincts had led him soundly to the right place. Vaulting nimbly through the rubble, Diamond Cascade quickly scattered all manner of vermin and leapt across ever deeper chasms and ravines to the sinister entrance, etched with the blurred remains of dark and eldritch runes. Inside, dark shapes were moving, evil undead creatures: DEATH KNIGHTS! Ever ready, Diamond Cascade drew his sword and set about making the world a little cleaner.

The rope hanging over the edge was a bit of a clue too. Maybe they really did come here and the paladin really was King Stupid. Campfires all over the place. Slimies by the looks of it. Most likely, if they really did come here, they’re all long dead. We let The Gnome go down first. Screamed like a girl; I keep forgetting that’s what she is. Giant rats all over the place. Elfboy did his usual trick of trying to fight them by having them eat him and then die of food poiosoning. Don’t know why. I mean, just picture it for a moment. Ravine. We’re at the top. They’re at the bottom. We have arrows and bows. They’re giant rats. Their levitation and flying skills are poorly developed. I do the obvious. This works a lot better than Elfboy trying to break their teeth with his skin. Death from above, dude. Death. From. Above!

Sending The Gnome in front is still looking like the way to go when she then finds the entrance we’re looking for. She finds a pit full of more vermin too by helpfully falling into it. I’m all for leaving her there. Maybe picking her up on the way back or maybe not. Lunk and Elfboy spoil my fun and heave her out. Inside there’s dead slimies and a bunch of doors. We have no idea which way to go so we split up and try all of them, and then I’m mucking about with Taker trying to get a stupid spear off a dead slimy when we see some strange writing and then I spot the wall isn’t right, and there’s a hidden door, which is totally excellent, especially since Elfboy and Shifty are elsewhere and there’s bound to be treasure inside, and it’s going to be just the two of us sharing it; so I get the door open and go inside and there’s nothing but a bunch of skeletons, except the skeletons spring to life as I go into have a look around and make so much noise (when you add in Taker screaming his head off) that everyone knows what we found. Not that it matters much since there’s no treasure in there anyway. The Gnome does something vaguely useful and scares them, somehow. Yeah, the undead are scared of The Gnome. You can see their point. We, however, are made of harder stiff and manage to live with her every day for some reason. So we mash them to bits while they cower in a corner and there turn out to be a few crossbow bolts in there that looks a bit shiny for something that’s been buried in the ground for a few hundred years. Yeah, could be magic, and yeah, when I check later (making sure no one else is looking, they are! How cool is that? Magic stuff rocks. Not that I’ve got any use for them, but they’re magic, right, so they must be worth a fortune. Sadly Elfboy spots them and is hanging on to them ‘for the good of the party.’ Eh? The good of the what? Lying thieving git).

And then there was a barrel that I opened. Less said about that the better. Horrible water thing trapped inside. Jumps out, big fight, runs away, much mess. No one seems to have noticed it was my fault. Bunch of sapphires inside which might have made it worth the risk except they’re so small we keep losing them. Still, have a thought I might buy them off Elfboy (yeah, Elfboy’s got them, who else?) and have them made into a set of earrings and a necklace or something like that for Shandria or Darlene, whichever one looks more likely to put out. Treasure single-handedly salvaged from the clutches of DARK MINIONS OF DEATH makes women weak at the knees every time. Actually, with three sapphires, I should make three necklaces and save the other two for when we get to Neverrest. One should be enough shouldn’t it? They’re only maids, after all.

Nightall 17: Used Drool, Queen of the disappointingly Small Lizard People

Single-handedly destroying the death-knights, Diamond Cascade moved on into the halls of the degenerate remnants of the once great lizard-kin who lived here. Their hubris and their wicked sorceries had long deserted them, for they were reduced to a pathetic shadow of the dark glory they had once known. Taking pity on their state, Diamond Cascade agreed to lead them against their goblin enemies in exchange for their help in finding the lost children, and their word to change their ways.

See! I was right! I made the bit about lizard creatures up and here they are. That’s freaking me out, really is. Except there are slimies here too, and the little lizard fellows, evil and wicked or not, are at war with the slimies down here, so I’m with them. Elfboy has some other ideas, but we just ignore him. It’s a well-practised skill, that. Don’t know what these little lizard-folk are, really, except that they’re tiny little wimps, small enough to make even a slimy look tough. Seems like the slimies have desecrated their stupid little holy place, not that you’d notice given the general level of crap and filth they live in. It’s like being in the army again. Oh, and the slimies have nicked their god, apparently. Don’t know what that is. Some sort of manked-up dragon cuddly toy by the sounds of it. What matters is that the lizard-folk have seen the idiot pretend paladin, King Stupid, and his posse of losers. At some point I think it’s The Gnome who turns out to have wasted enough of his life to have bothered learning their language. Or maybe they’re both talking slimy at each other. Words seem a bit familiar sometimes, but it’s hard to tell, and frankly, who cares? Apparently the lizard creatures have a queen called Used Drool, which pretty much fits everything I’ve seen down here. Some sort of deal is done. Don’t know what and don’t much care. I have more important things to do, such as pick my nose. Still reckon the pretend-paladin was probably in league with some dark wizard or something to bring a pair of kids to a place like this.

Nightall 17: Diamond Cascade: Dragon-Slayer

The lowly lizard-kin guide led Diamond Cascade to the hideous tunnel complex of the goblin king and the dark master of corruption who guided him. The tunnels teemed with the vile creatures, but they fell like wheat before the scythe of Diamond Cascade and his faithful friends. Hundreds upon hundreds of corrupt souls were put to an end and the world became a cleaner place. Diamond Cascade did not flinch from ending the foul lives of the mates and children of these evil spawn, certain in the righteousness of his cause. As Diamond Cascade pressed further into this LAIR OF EVIL, stranger creatures came oozing and creeping from the darkness. Wicked tree-men, more death-knights and many other horrors. Diamond Cascade easily slew the goblin king himself, and many foul priests of the dark gods, yet this was not the end of the evil that hunted this place. No, for before Diamond Cascade could face the DARK CORRUPTOR himself, lo, he found himself face to face with nothing less than a DRAGON, whose dire breath of vitreol flayed flesh from bone. Undaunted, Diamond Cascade and his faithful companions threw themselves upon the monster. Many dire blows were given, and many received, yet in the end it was Diamond Cascade himself who drove his shining blade through the creature’s jaw and deep into the corruption of its brain, striking it dead.

Yeah, and this place is full of weird shit. Like some old fountain thing that drips red liquids when you say ‘let there be fire’ in dragon. This is like way more interesting than this stupid rescue mission, but of course, no one else particularly gives a shit. I manage to soak some into a piece of parchment. Yay. Then it’s on with smashing the crap out of slimies. There are a lot of them, and this is like the most fun I’ve had in a while, thanks to the total lack of opportunity to take advantage of Shandria and Darlene. Hey ho. Like there was this one time when the rest of them were mopping up and rescuing some prisoner or other (A gnome. Yeah, like we needed another gnome to slow us down), and I kick down this door and there are six slimies on the other side. Six, right. Six of them and one of me and that’s no shit, that’s how it was. And when I came out of that room, everyone of them was dead and I hardly had a scratch on me. I’ll admit that maybe Lunk and Wolfgirl might have taken one or two down when they burst in the door behind me, and Elfboy was doing his usual trick of distracting the shit out the enemy by falling over his own feet. But still. Six slimies. God of death, me. God. Of. Death.

Right. The dragon. Did I really kill a dragon? This time, no. Truth be told, I pretty much missed the whole dragon episode. There really was one, though. The lizard-things obviously meant what they said. It wasn’t much of one through, not much bigger than a slimy with wings, but still. The real deal. I don’t want to go into how much time we spent afterwards cutting it up, taking every possible but of stuff that might be saleable. Dragon skin, dragon bone, dragon blood, dragon heart, dragon teeth, dragon… yeah every bit you can think of. Really, every bit. Got to wonder, though, where an itty little baby dragon thing like that came from. From what the Used Drool one was saying, it was snatched by slimies and before that it was in a cage held by the even crappier lizard-things. Got to wonder how it got there. Thing can’t have been long out of an egg, and so you have to ask the question about where’s mummy. Not here, I hope and pray. If it were down to me, I’d stop this charade right now, go running back to Klengerford and spread the word that there’s likely a fuck-off big green dragon somewhere about the place and it’s probably mighty pissed off about having its little one slaughtered for parts. I think we mentioned it when we got back. No one said anything about mummy being anywhere nearby. After that, I guess we pretty much forgot about it.

Gods. If we’d know what we’d just done, if we’d had even the first inkling of where killing that little hatchling was going to take us, we never would have gone near that place. Would probably have avoided Klengerford completely, just to be sure. But hey. We did what we did. There are plenty of other things we did that don’t look to good. Just not so many that led to… But that’s a long time ahead of this story. You’ll see when we get there.

Nightall 17: Treasure and Prisoners and So Forth

After that we pretty much cleaned the place out. Slimies all gone. Men, women, children. I mean it’s hard to tell the difference, but even I could be bothered to they all have to go. I’ve seen what they do to our kind when they fall on a village that’s lost its defenders. If I could, I’d kill every slimy in the world. Did we butcher their women and children? Damn right we did. Waded through ankle-deep blood and entrails making sure there wasn’t a single one of them left faking it. What does a baby slimy grow up to be? Someone shooting arrows at my brothers, that’s what.

OK, so if someone show arrows at my brothers, I’d probably applaud. But that’s not the point.

We get a bit of a beating while we’re at it. Can’t be helped. By the time we get to the goblin king, we’re a bit the worse for wear, and he’s got this walking tree thing with him and a couple of them big slimies we call hobbos. Well, doesn’t bother me. I hang at the back and stick a few of them while Elfboy does his usual Flurry of Failure attack, gets whacked on the head by the goblin king and falls over. For once he doesn’t get up. It’s looking a bit dicey for a moment, with Lunk and Wolfgirl holding the line, and for once I actually honestly had to do the hero thing, wading in with cold steel against the goblin king and his priest himself, yeah, the both of them, while Lunk took on the tree-thing and Wolfgirl held off the rest of the slimies. Could have gone either way, but then Shifty and Taker managed to sneak round and take them from behind and after that it was all quick and dirty and bloody and it wasn’t our blood. Got to say that Shifty and Taker both know how to take a man down from behind. Got to keep an eye on them. Curious thing though: In the middle of the fight, Shifty takes a moment out to put a press on Elfboy’s wound and stop him bleeding to death. Kind of good-natured that from Shifty. If that’s what he was really doing. Then he gets his own whack on the head from the goblin priest and he’s out for the count as well, but by then it’s all took late for the slimy bastards. I’d like to say I killed the goblin king, but actually it was Shifty with a knife in the kidneys. I was the one actually facing when he went down, though. I’m the last thing he saw, so that ’s the picture he’s taken to goblin hell with him. Me, laughing in his face.

Nifty thing about the aftermath of killing the gobbo king, what with Elfboy and Shifty both down, is that there’s no one thinking about the chest full of treasure except me and Taker. Mostly because there’s this pit full of creeping vines in the middle of the room that goes down to Tyr-knows-where and Lunk’s sword’s gone flying down it in the middle of the fight and now The Gnome wants to set fire to everything. I don’t ask why. It’s the chest that I’ve got my eyes on, and I see Taker’s got the same thinking going. So we take a quick look while everyone else is arguing about Lunk’s sword and who’s going to try and get it back. Taker reckons he knows a thing or two about locks. Me, I reckon he knows a thing or two about bullshit and not much else. But he swears there’s no tricks or traps on it, so I open it. Being not stupid, I do this carefully standing well to one side. Taker, on the other hand, gets a spring-loaded needle between the eyes. He’s a lucky bastard really. An inch or two to either side and he’d have been Taker One-Eye. Inside the chest is a whole pile of gold. Kid’s got the sense to take my lead on this after the needle-in-the-face thing. There’s a couple of rather nice gemstones and a couple of potions and so we help ourselves to those. The gold we can share. No point in being greedy. Oh, and some weird-ass magic scroll with a draconic love poem on it (you find the creepiest stuff in places like this. Dragon love poetry?)

The Gnome has managed to set fire to some of the vines in the pit by now. That’s what happens when no one else is paying attention. Mostly she merely annoys other people, but it’s surely only a matter of time before Lunk or Elfboy picks her up and throws her in something. Like the next passing big hole in the ground. Especially one that’s on fire. Thing is, by now, The Gnome setting fire to the vines is all that’s needed for me to know that that’s where we need to go. Down the hole.

Still, no harm getting a second opinion. Turns out the slimy priest I thought we killed isn’t as dead as we thought he was on account of Lunk randomly losing his grip on his sword, heaving it into a (now fiery) pit, and having to finish the job with the traditional mailed-fist-in-the-face, a sure end to any argument. A bit of good old-fashioned torture and we find out that the dark wizard or whatever it is that orders the slimies about lives down the hole with some weird magic tree thing. So right, now we know what we’re after. A man who grows evil fruit. There’s probably a word for that. Turns out that the dimmest paladin in the world really was here, too. Prisoner of the slimies, having lost his partner. The two Hercal idiots were still alive when they got here. The boy got turned into a mess right here, but there might even be one of them still alive down the hole. So I reckon that’s where we go. Now that we’ve set fire to it.

Nightall 18: The Dark Corrupter

Having destroyed the lesser minions of darkness and despair, Diamond Cascade and his companions reached the PIT OF EVIL, within which lay the DARK CORRUPTOR and the TREE OF EVIL. Without pause for thought of his own safety and heedless of his many wounds, Diamond Cascade descended the pit at once, certain that his quest was at last nearing its end. More goblin slaves and wicked tree-creatures fell before Diamond Cascade’s sword, before finally he faced the DARK CORRPUTOR himself. And behold, there was the last of the two missing children and the foolish knight who had led her here. Epic was their battle, for all were possessed by the tree of evil, yet finally the dark one fell, riddled with arrows from Diamond Cascade’s bow. Alas it was too late for the dark one’s victims, for they had already been consumed by the tree of evil, and when the tree fell, they too died. With heavy heart, Diamond Cascade took the signet ring from the last of the tree’s victims as proof of his deed, and began the long journey back to the surface.

I’d like to say this is where it all started going wrong, but that’s not true. Still, already proven experts at clusterfucks as we were, I think we found a new level here. Taker, for example. Trap-finder extraordinaire. Not content with the needle-in-the-face affair, Taker manages to be ambushed by a giant orange worm apparently made of lava. How? How you can be ambushed by something that’s huge and orange and singes your hair at ten paces? How? How many senses do you need to be NOT WORKING for that to happen? Right after that he finds a book that explodes in his face. Sucks to be him, I guess, but all this pales in comparison to The Gnome.

The Gnome is MAD. There’s this dragon statue thing we find on the way which she stands by and recites some words or other and then suddenly she’s all sexed up. It’s really creepy. And distracting. And disturbing because it’s distracting. It’s not right, not right at all, but she really is quite… alright, alright, there’s a part of me that can’t help noticing that, for a gnome, she’s about a sexy as it gets, and that’s the same part of me that hasn’t had any action for a month or more and keeps on thinking about Shandria and Darlene and how I can’t wait to get out of this godforsaken hole and get it on with at least one if not both of them. And then there’s the other part that remembers that we’re in a creepy dismal dark underground place full of damp and goblin shit and undead critters that want to EAT US. And that she’s a GNOME, for pity’s sake. But still. But still… Aaagh! Maybe I could live with my own urges and put it down to desperation, but whatever this magic is, it’s gone to her head too. I swear I saw her groping Erky. Damn.

Erky. Yeah, forgot about him. The other gnome. Found him as a prisoner back with the slimies. Got his head screwed on pretty well for a gnome. Can’t imagine he’ll stick around for long.

There’s a few eeny-weeny details about our fight with the Dark Corrupter that won’t make the epic songs I’m going to sing about it afterwards. We won’t mention how the possessed knight of Tyr or whatever he really was beat the shit out of me and Lunk, on account of us being the only ones who apparently could be bothered to face him. We won’t mention that although it really was me that took him down, that was largely because he tripped over Lunk’s bleeding near-corpse on the floor at a lucky moment. We won’t mention the magic sword that used to belong to the knight that now sits on my hip; he might have family after all and they might come asking for it back. We won’t mention the magic wand I managed to half-inch off the druid’s body when no one was looking (yeah, Shifty, you missed it. Ha!) We particularly won’t mention how the possessed girl we were supposed to be trying to rescue got killed by The Mad Gnome before the Tree of Evil was felled. We won’t mention that in the chaos of it all, I don’t think any of us know who did the deranged druid in the end, although obviously Shifty was the first to reach the body and loot it.

Might mention Shifty, though. Did a strange thing. Obviously he didn’t actually do anything useful in the fight as a whole (as far as I could tell while I was having the shit kicked out of me, he was lurking off in the shadows somewhere and did nothing useful whatsoever). But he didn’t keep the stuff of the Dark Druid. There were potions and he poured them down the necks of Erky and Lunk, and there’s a fair chance he saved their lives. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. At least a little bit.

Seriously beat up, we took our rest. And that’s when it all started to go really wrong.

Nightall 19: The Long Long Long Long Journey Back to the Surface

When the epic poems are written of Diamond Cascade and his deeds (and they will be, because I’ll be writing them), none of this will go in there. Not one bit of it.

After a day or so of resting and eating and tending our wounds, we’re just about ready to move on and make our way back to the surface. Now I’d say I’m feeling better at this point, and in terms of blood coming out of holes in me, in terms of aches and pains and bruises why then yes, indeed I am. But something’s not right. I got the shivers and I’m not quite thinking straight. Don’t know if it’s something I ate or something that got in my system. Gods know, in a place like this it could be anything. Taker’s got the shakes too, but I got it pretty bad. Maybe it’s being in the vicinity of The Gnome, although thank all the crappy deaf uncaring gods that whatever weird thing that dragon statue did to her has worn off. Fancying a roll in the long grass with Wolfgirl, despite the fact that she’s old enough to be my mother, is quite bad enough without lusting after a creature half my size.

Or maybe it was the Bat Shit Fever come back for another bite at me. Who knows? Whatever it is, there’s a limit to how long I can pretend to be OK and I don’t entirely trust certain others here not to take advantage of my state. I say this now, as a justification for my actions to come.

It takes us a long time to climb back up to the upper levels and I can’t honestly remember much of why except that everyone wanted to look at stuff lots. Loads and loads of intricate little carvings. Mostly all smashed up but really fascinating to look at. Don’t know why I didn’t notice it so much on the way down. As we go back past, I try to play with the dragon statue that made The Gnome all sexed up, but it doesn’t want to play with me. So eventually we make our way back to the top and find ourselves back with Used Drool and the lizard-kin. Now maybe it’s the fever making me slow, but I’m seeing no particular reason why we need to be fighting with this lot. We’ve done what we came here to do, we’ve got the signet rings off the two dead kids, we’ve wholly failed to bring them back alive. I’m feeling pretty down on the whole business, even if we managed to wipe out a whole nest of slimies and I got myself a magic sword. Don’t see why we need to be fighting this lot. Pathetic they might be, but evil? I don’t think so. They fight with the slimies too, so they’re good with me. The only thing that has my attention is this weird key that Used Drool offered to give us if we returned their dragon hatchling. Well, we can’t return the dragon on account of having chopped it up into little bits. But we can just not mention the bit about slicing their demi-god up into little bits and having most of its internal organs in a particularly unpleasant sack somewhere. Yeah, we can not mention that and hope they don’t notice and bargain for their key anyway. That’s what I thought we were doing. Buying the magic key with the bottles of alchemist’s fire that we found.

Apparently we weren’t. Apparently I missed something. Apparently this was all some elaborate ploy that no one bothered to mention. Around me, it all kicks off (later inquests lay the blame for this with Shifty). Well I have to defend myself, and any lizard-kin that has a go at me gets skewered, but I’m not really up for this and neither is Lunk (hint for aspiring adventurers of the more sneaky kind – if you want to kick off a ruckus, make sure the two people who actually do the bulk of the actual fighting are all bought into your plan next time). But no, I got nothing against these people, even if they’ve got something against me now because of the company I keep. Used Drool, it turns out, is something of a wizard and with some pretty cool spells, some stuff I could even learn from. Now I don’t want to be stabbing my friends any more than I want to be stabbing the lizard-kin queen, but no one wants to listen to me, dammit. It’s a farce. There’s Lunk wiping the floor with anything that comes near him, but not in the least bit interested in fighting anything that’s happy to leave him alone. There’s me, trying to stop the others from killing Used Drool, trying to make peace. There’s her zapping magic missiles into Taker and anyone who has a go at her and there’s Taker, Shifty, Elfboy, Wolfgirl and The Gnome all trying to hack one poor little lizard wizard to bits. Doesn’t surprise me from most of them, but I expected better from Wolfgirl. Five of them, all crazed with bloodlust and just one little old me as the voice of sanity, so the inevitable happens. I can’t stop all of them and eventually they win. I take out my frustrations on some slimy prisoners we find a few minutes later. Slimies are different. Slimies don’t deserve to live.

Oh, and shall we talk about the key? Please let’s not. After all that pointless slaughter, the magic key has somehow gone missing and there’s half an hour of searching and acrimonious argument about who picked it up (Lunk and the Gnome claim to have seen Shifty pick it up, which is no surprise). Now I have a pretty good idea where it is because it’s magic and I’m sensitive to that sort of shit. It’s in The Gnome’s pocket. I’m good natured and wait for a quiet moment to have a quiet word, and the next thing I know she’s making out that I put it there. Could have pretended she found it on the floor in a corner and kept it just between us, but no, she has to make a big accusation thing out of it. And a part of me still wants to jump her. By now I need to get out of there. Need to get some fresh air and some fresh water. My head is spinning and I’m sweating and I’m starting to have some really strange thoughts. Feverish thoughts, where whatever sensible stuff you were thinking (say, maybe, Must not fancy The Gnome, or Must hit Gnome with big sharp thing, or Surely there’s more treasure than this down here or even maybe Why am I here with this gang of crazy lunatics?) sort of hiccups and flips through the walls of your head onto the other side and is suddenly something like This would be a really good place to build a cheese factory. Yeah, fever is really getting to me, I reckon. I remember heading for the way out and then thinking that I ought to try and get some of that dragon blood from the fountain thing we passed on the way in. I’m thinking maybe dragon blood will make me feel better. Can’t be bad, can it? Can’t do any harm. I don’t remember quite what happened next, but then there was Wolfgirl hanging on to me, which was nice, or maybe I was hanging on to her. No matter. Still nice. Think I was sick a bit too. And she was trying to take me somewhere for something. Fresh air and outside maybe, except I wanted the dragon blood, because that was going to make this fever go away and I was really feeling pretty bad.

And then I remembered! I soaked a piece of parchment in the last dregs, didn’t I? Might not be very much, might not be enough to make any difference, but it was worth a go. So I get that out and start chewing on it, sucking out the dragon blood. And wow. WOW! I think maybe I got the wrong idea about this fever. It’s like a transformation. I feel amazing, if still grotty. Like a big change was going on. A lot of pain and feeling bad, but also something awesome growing inside me. And then I look up and what do I see? I see Taker hitting Wolfgirl. My Wolfgirl who was being nice to me. Well that’s not on, no way, so I go after him (possibly roaring something about doing something with his insides – I’m a bit hazy on that) and he runs away and then all hell breaks out behind us as well (much later I will find out that this is nothing more than The Gnome finally suffering a libido overload and throwing herself at Erky over and over again to the point of trying to rape him. If you can use that word when it’s that way round). I don’t care about that, though. Taker’s OK, but he’s got to learn a bit more respect than that. Can’t go slapping about Wolfgirl. So I bolt after him and he legs it and I just get to see him dive through a door where the dragon blood fountain was (which isn’t working any more – we try this lots later). I reckon that’s my point made, so I shout out after him a bit about having some respect and stuff and then this overwhelming urge comes up inside me and I roar at him and then the room fills up with fire and it’s ME! I’m breathing FIRE! All over the place! AWESOME! I am dragon-man!

No one else sees it, but I think Taker gets the message. And then I fall over. Eventually Wolfgirl helps me up again. I lean on her lots. I really don’t feel very well.

Nightall 19: At The Door of Undead Dragons

Yeah. We probably won’t mention this little episode either.

Apparently while The Gnome was trying to molest Erky, Elfboy has had enough. Or maybe it was me and the whole man-dragon thing. Or maybe he was having the same Why am I here with this gang of crazy lunatics? line of thought and it didn’t happen to randomly flip out into something about cheese factories. Anyway, he’s gone. Just dropped the sack of treasure he’s carrying and walked off. That’s the last we see of him. Later I might wish he hadn’t (actually, later I start to wonder if someone didn’t have enough of him, on account of…  well, being Elfboy. Abandoning your friends and running off with all the loot, that makes sense. Running off without it, though..?) Anyway, at the time I’m too busy being delirious and thinking I’m a dragon to much care. Oh, and rooting around in the treasure bag he dropped for  those sapphires we found earlier in it. Some things even delirium doesn’t dampen: I just know that getting hold of those to give to Shandria and Darlene will make a night of erotic pleasure a certainty on our return. That and being half man, half dragon. Wheee!

Did I mention the door made of undead dragon bits? There’s a door made of undead dragon bits that Taker seems to have found and it somehow ends up opened. Don’t know who did that because I was too busy rummaging through the sack of treasure that Elfboy left behind. There’s all sorts of shouting and screaming really quite close by, but most of that has stopped by the time I’ve found those sapphires. Tiny little buggers, stuck right down the bottom. Seems like there was some sort of trap on it that’s sliced up Shifty. Best I can make out, what happened next was that Taker tried to disarm the trap and lost. That would explain why he’s missing a hand and screaming. You’d have thought the needle in the face might have learned him, but apparently not. Oh well. Taker One-Hand it is. Beyond there’s a bunch of sarcophagi and some weird alter thing. “Don’t touch it!” we all shout, even me, so of course Shifty starts prying things open. Guess what? The bunch of sarcophagi have a bunch of skeletons inside them. Shifty goes down. The door slams shut. The trap goes off again, slicing up Erky. Lunk and I go back to arguing over the treasure bag.

I guess, since Shifty didn’t end up dead, someone must have forced the door open again and dragged him out. Being a dragon as I was at the time, it’s all a bit hazy. Wasn’t me.

Since Wolfgirl is being nice, I give her this magic tree charm thing that the kobold queen had. Apparently we now have some magic whistle thing too. Finally we leave. In my pocket, I still have the weird dragon-key thing and we never found a lock to put it in. Hey-ho.

Nightall 28: Oh Gods, As If The First One Wasn’t Bad Enough!

Victorious against the vile corruption of the sunken citadel, Diamond Cascade and his companions returned to the quiet town of Klengerford. Their joy was muted, for the two young lives they had set out to save had both been lost long before; nevertheless, the evil was destroyed and the town was safe for the winter. Refusing all reward save a little hospitality while his wounds healed, Diamond Cascade bid a fond farewell to Klengerford and set out for Neverrest, carrying with him a precious message for none other than the High Priest of Tyr in that great city, and offering escort to blind warrior elf, himself on some great quest.

At least The Gnome is just The Gnome again. Either the magic wore off or there was no magic in the first place and I was just more delirious than I thought. But never mind that. Sapphires did their magic. Score and score! Sandria and Darlene. Surely my wit and charm knows no bounds. Wolfgirl, watch out. Can you feel yourself weakening before that Vale charisma? And score again when we totally rip off the town jeweller with our fake diamonds. I mean, they were fake, right? So there’s not much else to say about Klengerford. Glad to see the back of that little hick town. Erky hangs around with Ironheart the dwarf so much that I have to wonder if there’s some homo-erotic cross-species thing going on there. It would explain Erky’s reaction to The Gnome. Although common sense and sanity would explain it too, it has to be said.

Oh gods, The Gnome. Who cursed us with The Gnome? We have a lovely send-off courtesy of Lady Katrina (we’ll see about here some time in the future when lover-boy Thannis isn’t around, but since he’s showing me all kinds of cool and useful stuff, I reckon we’ll leave that lie for now). I’m having some fun, singing some songs, Thannis is singing some songs, I’m trying to decide which one of Sandria and Darlene are going to see me on my way (OK, OK, I’m thinking of both of them at once, but best to be realistic). Then The Gnome pitches in. Tries singing, which  just isn’t her thing and then she’s dancing on the tables and throwing flans about the place and generally making an arse of herself. Which I’m quietly enjoying although I might well be the only one. And then the town Justicar arrives with this dumbass letter and even more dumbass elf and she starts throwing cakes at him and the next thing you know there’s a knife at her throat (was that Stalker? Might have been. Too drunk to remember) and she simply won’t stop and the next thing you know the whole evening’s gone to rat-shit. Gnome-girl gets her ass thrown out and I get to sleep alone. And the elf? This warrior elf on a great mission to serve his people? What kind of dipshit jackass people send a blind warrior out as their champion? Unless elves have a sense of humour that I’ve missed so far. Elfboy II is called Tiarth. So far he’s every bit as much of a jerk as Elfboy I. Thank the gods we only have to take him as far as Neverrest and then we can be shot of him.

Actually no. Think about this. I can be shot of all of them. Wolfgirl I can live with but I don’t think she’s a city girl and I am definitely a city boy. Stalker and I could do something. Shifty too maybe, except he’s from Gammersbridge and he’s a thief and I don’t trust him an inch.

One little thing. While we’re in Klengerford, I get to have a good long hard look at the whistle. It has a name. Azun-Gurd, the Nightcaller. It calls the dead back from their graves. It’s not exactly nice. One piece of magic I’m happy not to carry, although I’ll admit a steadily growing curiosity to see exactly how it works…


Diamond Cascade and the Quest for a Quiet Night In

Posted in DC

Well so much for that. Money in my pocket I suppose. Can’t wait to get out of this hole and spend it now. Off to Neverrest, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Or at least that was the plan…

Nightall 10: Bad Dogs and Bags of Gold

Roused from his well-earned slumber by his acute sense of danger, Diamond Cascade descended the stairs in his humble abode. In the dead of night, something stirred. Diamond Cascade drew steel. The sight of it glinting in the moonlight must have driven the fiend away, but not before it had time to commit foul murder on the gentle keeper of the Fat Cockerel. Diamond Cascade gave chase at once, heedless of the danger, not waiting for his faithful friends to rouse themselves. The beast was quick and lean and made to blend with the shadow, but Diamond Cascade would not let it escape him, for the monster was nothing less than a creature to make the blood run cold, yes no less than a HELLDOG escaped from the foul pits of the lower realms. Resolute, Diamond Cascade hunted it to its lair and met it in epic battle. Their fight raged for an hour but in the end Diamond Cascade plunged his sword into the beast’s black heart and sent it back to the nether regions from which it came. Bloodied but victorious, Diamond Cascade returned to his friends to find the wizard in whose service Diamond Cascade had just returned from adventure. Little was the reward for little was sought, nought but a blessing, a room for the night and a slap-up breakfast for Diamond Cascade and all his friends to celebrate the success of their great adventure!

Bloody wolf yowling in the middle of the night woke me up, that’s what it was. Too late for Fat Cockerel guy (you’d think I might have asked his name after staying in his inn for the best part of a twelvenight, but no, he was just “barkeep” to me). Throat ripped out, savaged, half eaten, although possibly smelling better than he did when he was alive. Eyes naturally go towards Wolfgirl’s evil beast, but, much as I’d love to be rid of it, I leap to its defence, thinking . . . Well partly I’m thinking that the wolf really isn’t big enough and hungry enough to attack a grown man and rip his throat out, and partly I’m thinking that there would be blood on the wolf’s muzzle, but mostly I’m thinking that I don’t want to sour my chances with Wolfgirl. Gods, but I need to get to a proper city with a proper brothel before much longer.

I don’t know what it was. Helldog sums it up well enough. Big black thing you could barely see in the darkness of the night. Lost count of how many arrows I shot at it and I don’t think I hit it once. Lunk and Thugger was about as useful as bricks. Maybe they could have done something a bit more if Lunk hadn’t been lumbering around in the dark in heavy plate armour. HELLO? You’re chasing after a giant dog, right. Dogs. Known for being quite nippy. A bit speedy. If it had waited for Lunk, there was a good chance the helldog would have died of old age. But hey, we had Wolfgirl and her wolf, who seemed to take offence to the helldog’s mere existence, and then we had Elfboy. Say what you like about Elfboy, but he can move, and he has a strange way in a fight. When we were fighting the slimeys, his technique appeared to be to jump onto their swords one by one. I think with the helldog, Elfboy was trying to climb down its throat to kill it from the inside. Quite persistent he was in this approach. After we put a few holes in it and then lost it when it ran away, we plugged all the tooth-holes in Elfboy. Once it got light, we set off after it again, and Elfboy tried the same thing. I have no idea why. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when he meets something that can actually swallow him. Maybe fighting your way out from the inside really works. Either way, I got a new name for him. From now on Elfboy shall be known as CHU-TOY, MASTER OF THE BREAK-YOUR-TEETH-ON-MY-SKIN STRIKE!!!

We’ll just gloss over the bit where Lunk wandered around in the dark trying to pretend he was a wounded sheep to lure the helldog to him (because let’s face it, there was more chance of that working than of him actually catching the beast). Baa baa clank. Daft bastard.

Most importantly, Evilous (really, that is his name, not just some daft name I gave him) left a big stack of cash for us. Gold. Loads of gold. More money than I’ve seen since… Well, for a very long time. Since I was I something that I haven’t been for a very long time. Too much gold, really. The sort of quantity of gold that gets me thinking all is not as it seems. But hey – it’s in my pocket now, so what do I care. I shall hie me to the nearest bar with some decent women and be rid of it pronto. No offence Wolfgirl.

Nightall 11: Hundred Yard Stone

After the rigours of his great adventure, Diamond Cascade travelled to Klengerford to winter in quiet contemplation and entertainment in the company of his loyal followers and his old friend Thannis the teller of tales under the roof of the delightful governess Lady Katrina.

Elfboy’s got himself a new name. Hundred Yard Stone. On account of his amazing ability to throw a stone a hundred yards. Provided, of course, that he picks it up and throws it like about six times. Yeah, Elfboy thinks he’s so amazingly clever. What a dick. Although speaking of clever, we seem to have picked up a gnome. Getting a gnome is like a chronic disease: mostly you learn to live with it, sometimes it really sucks, and nothing seems to get rid of it. Our gnome is called Ching Dow. She’s a she. I think. I really don’t think I want a categorical answer to that though. It’s a god-bothering sort of gnome. As if that could actually make it any worse.

Still, it could be worse. We’re heading for Neverrest so Lunk and I can spend all our money on booze and hookers, but we get kind of stuck in Klengerford. Klengerford is the sort of tedious little town where you really don’t want to get stuck for the winter on account of it being, well, tedious, small, poxy and no fun at all. And having no brothel. However on this occasion, I’ll live, and this is for two reasons. First reason is a bloke we met on the road called Thannis, who turns out to be a proper wandering adventurer rogue and tale-teller of the first order. Kind of what I want to be. Second reason is his bit of totty, governess Katrina. Naturally, as a friend of Thannis, I get to stay in her mansion. So do the rest of us. In a gesture of overwhelming generosity, they even put up the gnome. Katrina is seriously hot. Sorry, Wolfgirl, but you’re off the menu for as long as we’re here. OK, she’s also a bit spoken for but hey, maybe she likes threesomes. I can share, right? Thannis seems an open-minded kind of guy.

She also has a couple of maids. Shandria and Darlene. Less hot but definitely on the stove. Reckon I’ll start there and work my way up.

Thannis has a couple of other friends who are of absolutely no interest. Someone called “Cat” who slinks about in a robe and is never seen and a dwarf called Ironheart who thinks Elfboy’s stone-throwing joke is actually funny. So quite dim then.

Nightall 14: Diamond Cascade: Master of the Arcane

As Diamond Cascade contemplated the powers of the universe, a revelation came to him and lo, great arcane mysteries revealed themselves.

Yeah. You know how you watch someone do stuff for hours and hours and then you try and do it yourself and it doesn’t work and it’s really really annoying and completely sucks and then six months later it just sort of comes back and clicks and works? Well that. Only with magic and it’s taken three years. But seriously, if you’ve spent half your life wearing boots with holes, having notches in your sword and rips in your cloak, Mending is just the best spell ever.

No. Actually second best. Best spell ever is probably Dispel Gnome.

Nightall 16: The Spider Demon

Foul Murder! The good people of Klengerford arose from their beds to discover that an innocent visitor to their fine town had been murdered in his bed, and that the killer was no jealous lover or bitter rival, but a SUPERNATURAL BEAST FROM THE FAR PLANES! Naturally the good people of this fine town turned to their noble governess for help, and she in turn called upon the only force for many days ride that would have the strength of arm and stomach to face such nightmarish monstrosities; yes, upon Diamond Cascade and his fine companions. Ever willing to fight for the causes of right and justice, Diamond Cascade waved away all talk of reward and ran at once for his trusty sword and bow. Upon eyeing the victim’s body, DRAINED OF ALL VITAL FLUIDS and WRAPPED IN SPIDER-SILK, Diamond Cascade immediately recognised this as the worth of Lulth, QUEEN OF THE SPIDER DEMONS! Without pause for thought to his own safety, Diamond Cascade pursued the beast at once into the night, eager to put an end to its vile existence on this plane before it could strike again. The stench of its foul ichors revealed the beast it its lair. With fire and steel, Diamond Cascade faced the monstrosity and, in epic battle, struck it clean in two, never to trouble the good people of Klengerford again.

Well the bit about waving away any reward is right, unless you count the reward of getting into the pants of some of the fine array of skirt on offer at the moment. We have to put up with the town chief god-botherer (Tyr. Of course it has to be Tyr) getting in the way, Justicar Market. It’s the old story. Some out-of-town bloke comes into the inn with a bit of totty on his arm. She keeps her face hidden in her cloak and the only reason the innkeeper knows she’s a she and not some bum-boy is she’s got a half decent rack on her. Twenty-four hours later she’s gone and he’d dead, dry as a lemon in a desert and there’s spidery shit everywhere. Silk and stuff. The rest, well, it’s pretty obvious who did it, it don’t take a genius to work out that she’s obviously some sort of spider vampire demon thing. What’s less obvious is how in the nine hells the wolf managed to pick up its supernatural scent after we’ve spent half an hour tramping around in all directions without a clue what to do. And even less obvious than that, why we decide to go traipsing off after it into the deep dark woods with night closing in. Sometimes we are truly a bunch of dickheads.

Anyway, what we find, as the last glimmers of twilight piss off over the horizon and we’re left in the middle of god-knows where hardly able to see our hands in front of our faces, never mind the trees we’re about to walk into, is a young girl living in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. She’s not that keen on letting us in and frankly, with us and a spider-demon on the loose, you can’t really hold that against her. But it’s cold and dark and we’re starting to brick it about the spider thing having a whole pile of friends and so we pretty much kick the door in so we’ve got a place to sack down for the night and get looking for the demon thing in the morning.

I’d like to say we saw her for what she was straight away. Or even at some point. But the sad fact is that the only person who had much of a clue that she wasn’t right was the wolf. If wolfie hadn’t gone mental and she hadn’t just run away and then turned into a spider-monster, well then we’d probably all have sacked down on the floor and woken up all wrapped up in spider webs and drained of blood. Or rather, like that but without the waking up.

But she’s stupid or rattled and so we see what she is and all hell breaks loose. Mostly I think the fight was between the spider-demon and the wolf. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of us were all there, but stripped down to the bare essentials of landing blows in the right places, getting rid of, say accidentally stabbing your friends (Lunk), tripping over your own feet and falling over (Elfboy) and shooting arrows into pieces of furniture (me), the fight was between the spider demon and the wolf. Really. Like we might as well not have been there. In fact, since it was the wolf who tracked the thing from the town and the wolf who recognised what it was, we could largely have stayed at home in the warm in front of the fire and sent the wolf out to do the dirty work. Maybe with Lunk to do the bit where we violently forced our way into the home of a frightened and alone fifteen year-old girl.

Maybe right at the end, Elfboy accidentally hit it on a nerve cluster with his own head while he was busy tripping over again. She goes down, stunned. We’re thinking, maybe she really is a young girl possessed by a outer-plane demon thing on account of the strange lump on the spider-thing’s back. Maybe there’s something we can do. Maybe we can save her…?

Shifty cuts the lump off. It turns out that was its brain. Oh well.

Since it’s dark as shit after a night on Black Tar Stout outside, we sack down in the cabin anyway. There’s a nice vegetable stew on the go. Kind of weird thing for a spider-demon to be making, but hey, what do we know? Next morning we lug the remains back to Klengerford. Fuck knows why we did that but we did. To prove we’d put the demon down, maybe. Possibly money came into the matter. Like I said, all I’m thinking about is a few beers maybe and then a taste of sweet sweet honey from Shandria or Darlene. Both if I’m lucky.

But no. The gods of fortune haven’t yet pulled up their pants to and continue to piss on us. We hardly even get in through the door. Turns out Klengerford is some sort of nexus for bad shit and we’re the latest lug of snot trying to plug the hole. We’re off again before there’s even breakfast on the table. Much as I would like to stay behind and spend my time working my way in to the Governess’ bed, this clearly isn’t going to happen if I’m the only one who’s not off doing the ‘hero’ thing. Man, whatever happened to payment in advance?


Diamond Cascade and the Quest for Bat-Shit

Posted in DC

I’ve had many names. Cosaliades Ebron vel Huyma in the west of Demir, except that might get me killed. Ebra or Caltrop in Gammersbridge. Both wanted men in their own ways. A few wizards from North Horn Ridge might remember me as Tip-Tap. In Osmuld the soldiers called me Vale. If you like, you can call me what the women in the streets of Neverrest called me: Diamond Cascade. On account of my eyes, they said. Pale and glittering and hard. I’m seventeen years old, full of piss and vinegar, I’ve walked a hundred miles to be here and I’ve got nothing except a battered old lute and an urgent need for some new boots. That story’s worth a mug of half-decent ale. Buy me another and I’ll sing you a song.

Nightall 1: Running out of options

I’m in the Fat Cockerel for the fifth night running. I’ve pretty much outstayed my welcome. Free board and lodgings has gone out the window. I’m down to a few free drinks from the bar. I get the message. Pay your way or piss off. Which is going to be a problem. I got enough for a few nights, if I don’t mind eating leftovers, and that’s it. Can’t go back to Gammersbridge. Still too hot. I’ve had enough of scraping a life out here in the country. Quiet it might be, but talk about dull. Same boring dumb-as-shit yokels come in every night without half a clue about what lies over the next hill, never mind other lands. Travellers come through. They throw me coins and looks of pity and next day they move on. Time I did the same.

Nightall 4: Wizards are crazy

Diamond Cascade surveyed the floor. There was a good crowd tonight, come to hear him sing, but that wasn’t what he was looking for. The Fat Cockerel had been a good place to rest his weary feet and take a break from adventure, but the restlessness was upon him once more. With care he chose his new companions. A hunter, mighty of arm, pure of heart. An elf, honed and disciplined in arts both mental and physical. The Wolfgirl, nature’s warrior. There was a wizard too, lurking shyly at the back as if he already knew the Cascade’s desire. When the singing was done, Diamond Cascade approached him. “Wizard, I seek a quest, a mighty one, a test of my strength and will.” And the wizard smiled. “I have one for you, mighty warrior. One whose songs will be sung for a thousand years. If you succeed, that is.”

Well that’s it. I’m broke. I got enough for tonight and then I’m sleeping in the woods. At least, that’s how the evening started. Not how it finished though. Weird crowd. A strange collection of strangers. Let’s start with The Lunk. Big ugly bastard with a misshapen face. Looks like he was on the wrong end of a warhammer. Says he’s looking for a dwarf. Pale with red hair. Didn’t mean anything to me, but I sat and listened and told him about a few dwarves I saw a while back. Got a handful of silvers out of him for a couple of songs. Enough for a couple of nights, I reckon. Then the was Wolfgirl. Caught my eye a bit. Quite pretty. Unusual clothes, not something I recognise. And a pet wolf. Not something you see every day. A shifty looking fellow (we’ll call him Shifty). Hadn’t seen him in there before. Something a bit familiar about him, though. I’ve seen him somewhere before, I’m sure of it. Just don’t know where. Makes me uneasy that. Got too many people don’t much like me.

But what takes the biscuit tonight is Elfboy and his big brother, Big Scary Elf Wizard. They sit and listen and I can see them watching me. And then after I’m done with a few songs and I’m taking a break, Wizard comes over and drops a whole gold coin in my hat and asks if I want to run an errand for him. Well not really, but I can’t sit in the Fat Cockerel for the rest of my life, and anyone who’s throwing gold around has my attention. Had Shifty’s attention too and before I know it, he’s all over us. Wizard says he’s after bat shit and he’s willing to pay a silver piece an ounce if the quality’s right. Best I can tell, it’s four or five days travel to the caves where said bat-shit can be found. We have a bit of a discussion about this. I don’t know exactly where he means, but I get the drift. Seventy odd miles away, all on foot. Most of it’s in friendly enough country but not all of it. And then seventy odd miles back hauling sacks of shit. For a silver piece an ounce.

Why am I even going to entertain this? I mean, he’s asking me to shovel shit. Literally. And then carry it. Well, OK, a number of reasons. First, I reckon I can carry a good fifty pounds of shit. That’s eight hundred pieces of silver for a couple of weeks work, and that’s not to be sniffed at, if you’ll excuse the pun. Then there’s Wolfgirl, if she’s up for it. Wolfgirl is pretty enough to shovel some shit for. Then there’s the Wizard himself. I mean, he’s a wizard. He might know Nommonic. Or maybe not know, but he might have heard of him, or what happened to him. Not that I got much use for a big brother any more, but you never know. If he made it as a wizard, he’s probably got money. Yeah, I know. Not likely really. But hey. No, mostly it’s the money, that and I’ve had enough of trilling tunes for dumb-shit ears in the Fat Cockerel. And it takes us closer to Neverrest. If I’m going anywhere next, it’s there.

So what’s to say about the company I’ll be keeping for the next couple of weeks? Wolfgirl I’ve certainly no objection to – only a matter of time before I slide between the sheets with that one I reckon. Lunk neither  – big, dumb and has money – my kind of travelling companion. Not so sure about Shifty. But if I have to find out his story, better we do it out where there are no witnesses. Having Elfboy along hardly fills me with joy -  looks like a stuck up arse like most elves are. But I can hardly object if Mr Wizard wants to send his agent, can I? So that’s the way it’s going to be. No more Fat Cockerel tomorrow. Can’t say I’ll miss it.

Nightall 5: I made a map

Diamond Cascade arose early from his sleep and set about a plan for his new expedition. Success would bring glory, failure would bring doom, and the lands they would cross were fraught with mystery and peril!

Since I got up early this morning, I made a little map. Lets them know I know my way around. Lets them know I can read and write too. Not sure if that’s such a good idea around Shifty, but we’ll see what happens. I know the road to Neverrest if they want to go that way, but why would you? It just means fighting your way up the river and it’s not exactly the centre of civilisation up there.

I’ve never actually been along the Old North Road further than Leather Bottle Bridge, but they don’t need to know that. From what I hear, there’s still a few farms here and there right up to the mountains. Probably cross-eyed inbred country peasants who’d sooner rob us and eat us than break bread with us. The old bandit camp can’t be that hard to find, though, can it? And I don’t think we want to find Hooky Cave. They say something bad lives up that way. Probably peasant nonsense – maybe someone saw a dwarf and got scared. Still, probably best not to be stopping anywhere near there for the night.

Right. It’s a long day’s hike to get to Leather Bottle Bridge and we’ll have to be leaving pronto to get there before it gets dark.

Nightall 5: Goings-On

Diamond Cascade and his new-found companions quickly made their preparations and set off upon their quest. Little did they know that eyes filled with ill-intent were watching them.

When I’m done with making maps, it’s off to breakfast. Some baldy bloke is sitting down there stuffing his face. Calls himself Barnav. Now, baldy blokes in and of themselves are generally not very interesting. Usually they’re a bit fat, a bit long in the tooth, pretty grumpy and are often found running shops or bars. Come to think of it, most of the time I part with money in a considered and carefully judged sort of way (that is, it wasn’t nicked and I didn’t lose it on a wager), it’s to some overweight baldy bloke. As a breed, they’re simply not interesting.

This baldy bloke wasn’t in the taproom last night though. That makes him interesting for about thirty seconds. There are limits, though, to how stimulated a man can be watching a fat baldy bloke stuff his face. I figure if he tries to follow us, we’ll know. And then it occurs to me that we’re off on a poorly paid expedition to dig up bat-shit and carry it across the country, and the only possible reason anyone would have for following us is so that they can laugh at us.

My mood is not improved by this thought, nor by the realisation that that a) We’re about to hike off towards the middle of nowhere b) It’s winter. c) I have no trail rations. d) I have no tent. e) I have no money to buy these things f) It’s still winter. Elfboy, it seems, has no such concerns. Apparently it’s all “mind over matter”, but that doesn’t stop him hopping off for a backpack full of hard bread, cheese, dried meat and fruit. I’m following him around on the off-chance that some sort of advance payment might be in the offing, but elfboy’s brother seems to have teleported off about some wizard business or other and is nowhere to be found. We’re still looking for him (and for food) when Wolfgirl sort of sidles up to us with a wink and a whisper.

Wolfgirl: He’s up to something dodgy, that bloke.

Me: What bloke?

Wolfgirl: That bloke. In the Fat Cockerel.

Me: Ah. The baldy bloke.

Wolfgirl: Yes. He’s doing something dodgy. Under the table.

Me (somewhat surprised now): What? The baldy bloke?

Wolfgirl: Yes.

Me: Ah. So. Um. What’s he doing?

Wolfgirl: Under the table.

Me: Ah. So. Um. What’s he doing?

Wolfgirl: Something dodgy. Under the table.

Me (getting rather excited by now): What? What’s he doing? Has he got his hand stuffed down his trousers? Is he playing with himself? What? What IS HE DOING?

Eventually it transpires that he’s passed something to Shifty. Or else Shifty has passed something to him. Maybe it’s the secret route to the caves full of bat-shit. Yeah, because that must be really valuable, right? Because if just anybody could find bat-shit then they’d all be doing it. The whole bottom would drop out of the bat-shit market.

Or maybe not. Let’s face it, the bat-shit market consists of one wizard who’s already pissed off somewhere else. Probably gone to send some poor buggers to launch off on a quest for lemur piss.

Nightall 5: Slimeys

Diamond Cascade and his band of loyal companions were travelling along the Old North Road, singing gay songs and speaking eagerly of the mighty deeds they would do while on their quest. As night began to fall, Diamond Cascade’s ears twitched, for over the merry voice of his company he heard a distant cry of distress. Without a pause for thought, Diamond Cascade led his band helter-skelter through the bushes and found a family of honest farmers beset by goblins. Heedless to his own safety, Diamond Cascade wrought slaughter and terror upon the slimeys with his arrows and his songs. Diamond Cascade’s brave followers dispatched the few that remained. The helpless farmers were saved and their injuries tended. They offered up great treasures, all they had, to thank Diamond Cascade for saving them, but Diamond Cascade took only food and shelter and was quickly on his way, for the virtue of saving these noble folk was reward enough.

Actually, Diamond Cascade and his band of loyal companions were travelling along the Old North Road, bickering about the weather, how much shit each one of them would carry, whether the reward would be shared out equally or in proportion to who carried what, and who would do the actual shit-shovelling with the one and only spade that they turned out to have. And it wasn’t a cry of distress from the farmers we heard, it was the squealing of the pigs that the slimeys were trying to steal.

Anyway, without pause for thought, I wondered where Elfboy had gone while Lunk let out a low growl of battle-range, launched himself helter-skelter at the bushes, got stuck, scratched himself to pieces on the thorns and finally sort of bounced off back into the road. Eventually we found a gate.

There really was a family of honest farmers beset by slimeys. I hate slimeys. Lunk, it seems, hates slimeys too. Me and Lunk and Wolfgirl had at them, screaming and shouting and waving our swords. Slimeys are none too brave when it comes to it, and the farmer was laying into them right and proper. We had at them anyway. I think Lunk might have taken one of them down before they broke and fled, but the farmer was more deadly than the rest of us put together until he got a slimey spear in the gut for his trouble. Not too deep as it turned out, since he was still alive and kicking the next morning. Don’t know what happened to Elfboy and Shifty. They showed up when it was all over, Elfboy half cut to pieces. Guess they found more slimeys. Places was crawling with the little buggers. Elfboy looked a right mess, but he was all “mind over matter” again. We got the family back into their house and barricaded the doors in case the slimeys changed their mind about running away. Little bastards. Then we helped ourselves to some food and shelter for the night on account of us not wanting to spend a winter night under the stars with no food and only a blanket to shiver under. We’d have helped ourselves to more too, probably, except the poor bastards were as destitute as us. They had a nice suit of armour lying around. Too heavy to walk off with this time, but noted anyway. We’ll be coming back this way I expect.

What I know about my travelling companions: Lunk

Lunk, it turns out, actually has a name. Or at least, he thinks he does. Stalker. Well now that’s not a real name, is it? That’s a bit like me calling myself Diamond Cascade when I get out my lute and strut onto a stage. If I ever strut on to a stage. If I ever see a stage. As far as I can see, the only thing he’s managed to stalk with any success was a dwarven warhammer, which he stalked right up to when it hit him in the face. Says this happened to him somewhere near where we’re headed, up by the High Peak Mountains. Says he doesn’t remember anything from before that. Well if that’s true, then I already know more about him than he does. I know, for example, that he’s an idiot. I suppose I have to admit, though: He’s not afraid of a fight.

Nightall 6: If you thought wizards are crazy, you haven’t met any Halflings

With light steps and brimming hearts, Diamond Cascade and his crew crossed the Leather Bottle Bridge and began to climb their way into the hills. Rain and thunder did not lower their spirits. Soon they came to the picturesque halfling town of Littlehillz and came upon a scene, wherein one Norch, a halfling of unusually adventurous wit and inquisitive mind was best by an angry mob. Seeing only the flaw of arrogance and not the greatness of intellect beneath, the townsfolk were set upon driving their kin away; and with few possessions of his own, the bewildered alchemist was soon ready to leave. Diamond Cascade watched this sorry scene and his heart filled with pity for the defenceless Norch, who in his wanderings would doubtless quickly fall prey to banditry, beasts or worse. Despite the words of caution from his companions, Diamond Cascade knew it was his duty to protect the sorry fellow. And thus, for a time, an alchemist joined their fellowship.

It pissed down. Cold heavy rain, the sort than finds its way into every crack and crevice, every seam that isn’t oiled and stitched tight. The sort that sucks all the joy out of your soul and leaves you too apathetic and miserable to even sneer at the idiot standing next to you. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, we found ourselves surrounded by halfgits, on account of having blundered into the middle of their settlement without really even noticing. Well, little annoyances, if that offends you, that’s what you get for burrowing into hills and not living in proper houses with walls and stuff. There’s a whole gang of them, all laying into one of their own shouting at him to leave town. I’m just standing there thinking move along everybody, just move along. Nothing I want to see here. Halflings are the most irritating people in the world. Apart from maybe elves, who are pretentious wankers most of the time. A lot of dwarves can be arseholes too, and, come to think of it, so can humans, but halfgits? After about five minutes, all I can think of is how much more I’d enjoy their company if I was chasing them around with a huge mallet and squishing them. I want nothing to do with them, and so of course Elfboy decides he’s going to take pity on the little git who’s about to be evicted from his town.


Now look here. If there’s one thing about halfgits that I know apart from how annoying they are, it’s that they’re fairly peaceful folk. They’re not the sort to throw one of their own kind out of his house unless he’s some kind of serious trouble. So if there’s someone I’d prefer not to spend my time with even more than I’d prefer not to spend my time with a common-or-garden halfgit, it’s a halfgit who’s been thrown out by his own kind for being a troublemaker. Yeah. So what does Elfboy do? Invites him along. So we stand in the rain for the best part of an hour, waiting for the little runt to load about seventeen thousand tons of pointless shit onto the back of a tiny little cart pulled by an inadequate pony that’s probably going to get stuck in the mud about five minutes after we’re out of sight from any help. And hey, guess what, turns out the little runt is being thrown out because he’s an alchemist, and he just blew up most of his house and half a hillside with it. So the cart probably explodes too. Despite my remonstrations, Elfboy is insistent. I suppose I can always walk half a mile behind or in front.

On the bright side, if the halfgit happened to have an accident and all his rubbish were out of the way, you could put an awful lot of bat-shit in his cart. Hmmm.

Nightall 6: The shittiest inn in the world

Bouyant with the speed of their progress, Diamond Cascade and his faithful companions quickly reached the edge of the civilised world, the characterful and colourful Cat and Fiddle Inn. As the setting sun licked the tops of the High Peak mountains and set ablaze the autumn russets of the Haunted Forest, they ate and dined on hearty food and planned their adventure into the wilds.

Meh. A shit-hole but at least it was cheap and I got a room that didn’t leak under the endless barrage of rain. Bloke who runs it could play a few tunes, too. Can’t say I’d recommend the place though. Rat stew and horse-piss beer. Been to enough places like that not to mind, but also been to enough that were better. Am starting to think that bringing the halfgit along wasn’t such a bad idea. For some reason he’s really good at winding up the Elfboy, and that earns him credit from me. Takes my mind off the interminable ramblings of the innkeeper about Thorak au Keldar, high god-botherer of the shorties, righteous buttlicker of Moradin. Am also finding myself seriously thinking about how to get into Wolfgirl’s pants. Still, not going to be proceeding without an invitation, so to speak, as long as she’s got that bloody wolf around her. Good as a chastity belt that monster. She’s called Emerald, she’s a bitch and she clearly doesn’t like me. What can you expect, eh? We all know that diamonds outshine emeralds, right? Stupid dog.

Nightall 7: What everybody needs

Diamond Cascade and his companions made their jaunty way to the log forgotten ferry across the great river, heedless of the perils that might await. The ferry lay stuck upon the other side, beached by the last poor soul to cross and not return. As Diamond Cascade prepared to swim alone across the raging torrent in order to retrieve the ferry for his noble travellers, he spied a brute, a monster, nothing less than a vicious orc. Many of these fould demonspawn had Diamond Cascade slain in the bitter wars of Osmund, yet pity filled his heart, for the poor creature was clearly lost and far from home. With soft words and gentle songs, Diamond Cascade tamed the brutal beast’s heart and it freed the ferry and followed Diamond Cascade, loyal as a dog.

Yeah right it did. Fucking orc. Fucking grunter. Slimeys are bad enough, stab you soon as look at you, but they won’t stand and fight. Grunters, they’re vicious and mean and liable to turn on you at any moment. Looks like this one is only half grunt, but that’s a half too much. How many men have I seen butchered by these bastards? Too many to count. I’ve seen whole companies cut down by ranks of grunters with crossbows and then the same bastards pick up their axes and their clubs and charge. They’ll cut you to ribbons if you don’t take them down first. Only thing I’ve seen break up a good wedge of grunters was cavalry. And then there were the towns and villages. Halfgits hauled out of their holes and burned in great piles. Woman and children thrown on still alive by all accounts. They get into a village, everyone dies. Except sometimes a few of the women, the tough ones with the stamina to take being raped over and over and the luck not to be skewered for their troubles anyway. Then you get things like this fucking half-grunt walking behind me. Ill-conceived monster should have been put out of its misery at birth. I heard a lot of women do that and I reckon they got the right of it. The only reason this one is still walking is that Elfboy insists. Reckons he’s in charge that one. Reckon he’s got a surprise coming one day soon. But he can have the half-grunt if that’s what turns him on. Maybe he likes a little bit of rough this elf.

Got to admit the grunter’s got a broad back, too. Could carry a lot of shit for us. About all they’re good for anyway. If he’s got a name, he hasn’t bothered to share it, so I’m going to call him Thugger.

Nightall 7: Bugs

At last the object of their quest drew close. Diamond Cascade bravely led the way into the hungry doom-laden caves, his companions close behind. Treasure glittered and gleamed, but it was not unguarded, no, and a mighty battle ensued. Diamond Cascade’s troupe were sorely pressed but in the end prevailed and the day and the treasure were theirs!

A cave is a cave, right. Dark and damp and smelly, and yes, there was a pile of “treasure,” a vast and rank pile, and yes it glittered and gleamed, but that was just the reflection of our torches from the shiny shells of the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of creepy-crawlies that clearly think of bat-shit as the best place to live ever. Some of the creepy-crawlies turned out to be quite big. It’s not all that often, after all, that you find yourself shooting an arrow at a centipede or a beetle. That is a seriously over-big creepy-crawly. Elfboy managed to get himself bitten a few times and got quite poorly. As if that wasn’t amusing enough, the halfgit gave him a “potion of healing” that did seem to perk him up a bit. It was probably no more than a good shot of strong spirits, but Elfboy imagines it to be magic. Which maybe it was, since Elfboy has subsequently turned green and warty. Ha!

Stuff like that makes me think twice about the halfgit. Maybe he’s not so bad. Given he’s up against Shifty, Elfboy, the wolf that hates me and a half-grunt, it’s not hard to look good, but he’s not so bad. Calls himself Merlock the Magnificent now which is a laugh. Oh, and I swear I saw him throw handfuls of fire at the creepy crawlies at one point. Took that to be an alchemist trick at the time but now I’m not so sure. Neat, either way.

Nightall 9: Bat-shit Fever

Victorious and laden down with plunder, Diamond Cascade and his companions made their return, scattering wealth and joy wherever they went.

Might have been what happened. Don’t remember it that way. Remember shivering and shaking lots. Maybe one of them creepy-crawlies bit me after all, or maybe that’s what you get for walking off out in the wilderness for days on end in the rain with winter coming, no tent and no dry clothes. Yeah, a dose of the shivers. As I hear it, Thugger threw the innkeeper from the Cat and Fiddle into the river and Lunk has acquired the farmer armour we spotted. Scattering wealth and joy all right.

Still, back now in the Fat Cockerel and I’m starting to be able to focus on my fingers and by tomorrow morning I might even be able to count them again. And then I’m going to count all that gold. All that lovely lovely gold. I worked it all out. Hundreds of pieces of gold and for what? Bat-shit? Got to be more to it than that. Got to be. But once that gold is in my pocket, I ask myself, why should I even begin to care?


Diamond Cascade

Posted in News

A quick warning for anyone taking an RSS feed off me: There’s about to be (in the next few hours) some restructuring and part of that restructuring is going to mean that the Diamond Cascade pages are getting converted into a blogroll. Which means that, for better or worse, they’ll be streaming your way soon.

A report on the SFX Weekender may follow later.

A Tale of Four Covers (2/2/2010)

Posted in News

…or how, after weeks of nothing much apparently going on, all the buses arrive at once. Yes, today there’s actually some news. In fact, there’s news about four different books and a couple of appearances…

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Firstly The Adamantine Palace is officially released in the US by ROC today, which seems as good a reason as any to show off the extremely gorgeous cover yet again. Love the Gollancz cover as I do, the little collection of first-edition ROC hardbacks now has a special place in my book cupboard. To, er… celebrate, there are a few interviews and articles from the last few weeks that are starting to surface. Here (interview with someone who actually read the book first!), here (complete with opportunity to win an autographed map) and here (so far). Also spotted: a late review in from Australia. Nothing that hasn’t been said before in a different way, but I did like: “Mr Deas has, in my opinion, created the most terrifyingly natural and malign dragons to have ever graced the page.” Thank-you. My work here is done.

At the same time, yesterday was the official UK release  for the mass-market paperback edition of The Adamantine Palace, and for anyone who’s been waiting for the pocket-sized version, this one comes with the map. I’m not sure why, but it does. The Adamantine Palace is Waterstones’ fantasy and science-fiction pick of the month for February, which is  a bit mind-boggling. It’s also one of the local store’s picks of 2009, but I think that might have more to do with local prejudice than anything. Credit where credit’s due, though, they’ve been immensely supportive over the last year and I shall continue to sneak into their coffee shop with my laptop from time to time. There may even be an author signing event thing in April for King of the Crags – more on that when it happens.

On the subject of which, the proof corrections for King of the Crags are almost done. OK, not very exciting after all, so here’s yet another pretty cover that you’ve seen before. King of the Crags will have the map in it too, by the looks of things. Sounds like an excuse to show off another gorgeous cover…

Cover first draft

And then there’s the SFX weekender coming up next weekend, in which I shall orbit like a piece of small cosmic debris around such collossi as Al Reynolds and Joe Abercrombie. If you want to come and snooze for a while in a quiet and largely empty room, I shall be reading from various works, some of which might even be my own, on the appropriately named Slaughtered Lamb stage at about 2:30. If Fantasycon was anything to go by, this will be a fine place to come for a bit of peace and quiet, and I promise not to read too loudly.

thieftakers apprentice cover

Covers. Yes. The big news of the week, of course, is the revolutionary, ground-breaking cover to The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, in which we bring you not one, but TWO hooded men. This audacious leap away from genre convention should be in the shops come August, and will doubtless be followed by a slew of imitators, culminating in covers with COUNTLESS HORDES of hooded men. When that happens, just remember who took that first leap of faith…

Work on book two, recently re-titled The Hooded Hordes will begin shortly.

Skipping ahead to The Order of the Scales, the first rewrite is all done bar the shouting. For anyone who’s interested, this is a structural rewrite (if anyone cares, largely around the story-arcs for Kemir and the Adamantine Spear). The horrible snapping rending grinding noises are the sounds of plot-bones being snapped off and attached in different places. Despite the sound effects, though, the story feels much better for it. There’s no cover I can offer up for The Order of the Scales, but I think we’re seeing a pattern here, so I’m guessing a deep red background (so the series will colour-coordinate with your Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD set, which is only right and proper after all) and three dragons this time. I’m thinking two facing each other like on the Crags cover (green and blue to match the backgrounds of the first two books) and  a third one behind them, the white one, wings spread, coming out of the page. And increased cripsyness at the edges. But I know squat about designing covers, so don’t imagine that any of that actually means anything.

In the absence of the actual cover for Order of the Scales (and I really can’t wait, because so far these Gollancz covers have been great), here is a picture of Niagara Falls in the winter of 1911. My wife showed me this, having been passed it via a friend, friend of a friend, etc. etc. (so sorry, original photographer, copyright owner, and subsequent toucher-upper, but I have no idea who you are to attribute any credit) with the observation that it was a) a magnificant picture and b) would make an excellent fantasy cover. Just stick a sodding great dragon peering down at the man and there you go – the opening scene of King of the Crags (almost).

Niagara in ice

I can’t quite tell, but f you look closely enough, is that fellow wearing a hood? Or is it just a ninja outfit?