Diamond Cascade: Interlude on the Elvish Border (part one)

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“I reckon they’re diplomats on an important mission. I reckon they’re in disguise.” Expendable Elvish Border Guard Number One began to lower the ladder down from their lookout post, high up in a tree on the edge of the forest, looking out towards the hills and plains of North Horn Reach, land of human abominations.

“I reckon they’re lost.” Expendable Elvish Border Guard Number Two stopped for a moment and cocked his head. “Do you hear something?”


“I hear you two making a load of noise,” grumbled Number Three from inside.

Number Two frowned. “I swear I hear something.” He got up, went to a window.

“I’ll just lower this on my own then shall I,” muttered Number One. He finished lowering the ladder. Down below, the two unexpected visitors tied their donkey to the tree and started to climb. At the top, they brushed the snow off their cloaks and shivered.

“Well met.” Number One eyed them carefully, looking for clues that they were who he thought.

“Well met.” The first elf peered into the tree-house. There wasn’t much to look at. “I’m Levinchius. This is Unthal.” The second elf up had all the looks of a wizard in the making. The first one, Number One thought, looked a bit shifty. Ah well. Diplomats.

“There is something out there,” said Number Three. “I saw something.”

“We saw something too. Or heard something,” muttered Levinchius. “That’s why we came up.”

“Oh. Not because it’s freezing down there and night is falling and everything is covered in snow then?”

“And that.”


“What was that?” Number Two and Number Three were both peering out the window.

“Can’t see. Bloody weather.”

“Right.” Number Two picked up the chamber pot. “I have a plan. I’m going to drop this on the donkey. Then the donkey will bray. Whatever it is that’s out there will come towards the noise. Then we’ll see what it is.”

“It’s probably a deer,” muttered Number One.

“Right.” Number Two shook his head. “We’re called Expendable Border Guard Number One, Two and Three, a couple of mysterious strangers show up and you reckon the strange groaning noises and the unidentifiable shape moving out in the darkness is a deer. It’s zombies.”


“It’s zombies.”

Number Three shook his head. “It’s always zombies. Can’t it be skeletons for once.”

“I still say it’s a deer,” said Number One. “Hey!”

“Oi!” shouted Levinchius “Don’t . . .”

Number Two dropped the chamber pot. They watched as the donkey jumped in surprise and ran away into the forest.

“I thought you tied him to the tree,” said Unthal once they couldn’t see it in the gloom any more.

“Oh! Looks like that worked!” shouted Number Three. “They’re coming closer.”

“I did tie it to the tree,” shouted Levinchius. “Shit! My bedroll was on that.”

“My backpack was on that!” swore Unthal.

“Your backpack?” Levinchius shook his head. “Why’d you put your backpack on the donkey? It’s supposed to go on your back. You know, like it says in the name. Back pack”

“It was heavy!”

They stared after it.

“Zombies! I knew it!” shouted Number Three.

“Skeletons!” said Number Two.

Number One went to look. “Are you sure it’s not a . . . Oh.”

“Zombies and skeletons.”

“I need to get my backpack back!” Unthal clenched his fists.

“Well that’s us fucked.” Levinchius went and crouched in a corner. He might have been trying to hide, although Number One couldn’t quite tell who or what was supposed to be fooled.

“We’re up a tree-house,” he said brightly. “They can’t get us up here. Let’s shoot them with arrows until they’re dead. Again.” He frowned. “How does that work?”

“It works,” grumbled Number Three. “Trust me, I’ve been guarding borders since before you were born and if I’ve seen an undead horde coincidentally show up at the same time as a couple of mysterious stranger once, I’ve seen  it a hundred times. Arrows work.”

“I just shot a skeleton and the arrow went straight between its ribs and came out the other side!” said Number Two.

“In the head, obviously. Idiot.”

“Oh crap, they’re climbing the tree. How’s that work? They’re mindless undead minions, they’re not supposed to be able to climb trees. That’s ridiculous. Oh, wait. That one fell off.”


“That’s not the point. Look, another one’s having a go! And another! How in Mother Nature can re-animated skeletons climb trees? Look! The zombies are at it too!”

Number Three paused. He leaned on his sword and looked out the window. Skeletons were indeed climbing his tree. “Let me get this right, Two. They’re skeletons. They don’t have eyes, yet they can see. They don’t have ears yet they can hear. They have neither muscles or ligaments yet they move. They have no brain, yet they can fight about exactly as well as an Expendable Border Guard. Nothing about them makes any sense or stands up to any scrutiny whatsoever. And in the middle of all that, what you don’t like, what you have an issue with, is that they’re climbing a tree?”

“All I’m saying is that climbing twenty foot of tree trunk with no branches to give you any purchase is a pretty mean feat even if you’re alive and in the pink of health. As opposed to the, er . . .” He peered down. “Sort of yellowy grey of un-death.”

“And what I’m saying is that when you stand that next to being able to sling a sword when you don’t have any tendons in your wrist or any skin to grip the hilt is also a mean feat, and one of considerably more relevance.”

“Er . . . Excuse me . . .” Levinchius had come out of his corner. He was pointing. “Don’t mean to interrupt this fine debate, but . . . behind you!

Vale and the people he reluctantly travels with his friends will be back in the new year.


Diamond Cascade’s Magic Shop

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The Crown of Resistible Humour

The Crown of Resistible humour is usually found wrapped in a gaudy parchment canister. When opened, there is a small (non-damaging) explosion, and a folded piece of golden parchment will will emerge – this, when unfolded, takes the shape of a crown. When the crown is put on, the wearer must immediately begin making a will save every round. Each failed save compels the wearer to abort any other actions and tell a joke. These jokes are bad, causing all who hear them to make a Will save (DC 5) or fall temporarily insane (this includes the wearer, who has to save merely for even thinking them – silence may save everyone else, but not the poor fool wearing the crown). These crowns are, apparently, produced in large numbers and distributed for free around the festive seasons by Gnomes for reasons of their own. Gnomes are affected by the crown just as anyone else, but do not need to make a will save to avoid insanity – they’re used to it.

Once removed, the crown loses all enchantment.

Ring to Avoid Disappointment

This ring works only in conjunction with scrying devices and is completely useless without one. In conjunction with any kind of scrying the wearer is able to place a geas on the adventure location at the other end, preventing any other adverturing party from looting the location until the wearer and their friends has arrived.

Construction cost: Usually free, but with a monthly tariff of around 1000gp (operator charges may vary)


Diamond Cascade: You Picked the Wrong Bard, Ogre Boy

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Alturiak 17: … and the vile scouts and foragers of the armies of evil, yadda yadda yadda…

Its the middle of the night. The wind is howling, rain lashes down, the sky is filled with clouds. I can barely see my hand in front of my face it’s that dark and if you shouted in my ear, maybe I’d hear what you said or maybe not. Still, apparently if you’re an elf, none of that matters and you can still here an orc creeping towards the pile of wet wood that would be your camp-fire if you had any means to light it a hundred yards away. At least none of us are asleep.
It comes down to us and a few orcs, creeping around each other, all browning our trousers not knowing who you’re about to walk into. Now and then there’s a flash of lightning. You hear the odd shout. Sometimes, in the flashes, you see something move. If it looks like an orc, I shoot it. If I’m not sure, I shoot it anyway. Better safe than sorry and we’ve already established that I wouldn’t miss half this lot I’m with.

And then there’s a flash and about thirty feet away from me there’s this ogre, standing there, looking right at me and I’m looking right at him. In my mind’s eye, I go all Legolas on his ass, shoot an arrow in his knee to bring him down, another one in his thigh to use as a step and a springboard to somersault over his head and shoot him through the eye as I do and down he goes. What actually happens is that one arrow hits – I hear the grunt – I shoot a second one in the dark and then, when I don’t hear a big ogre-hitting-the-dirt sized crash, I stand there and cower and creep and hide. Come morning, there’s a scattering of dead orcs and a different ogre who ran into Caleb Knight of Something and we’re all still alive. Cold, wet, short of sleep and probably all about to go down with hypothermia, but still alive.

Except me. Apparently I’m the only one with a potion of Resist Elements.

The ogre with two arrows in him ran away. Booyah!


Diamond Cascade: To the Victor, the Spoils

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Beyond the corpse of Captain Shark-face, a bounty of treasure awaits. Chest upon chest of it. Like a gang of starving street-urchins set upon a rich man’s table, we fall upon it. . .
. . .BOOOOM! goes the first chest in a ball of fire as Wizard Daftboy smashes it open . . .
. . .HISSSS goes the next as the Halfgit forces the lock. . .
. . .SMASH goes another as Crazy Dwarf throws it down the stairs. . .
. . .TING goes some poison-dart-like-thing as it narrowly misses Shifty’s face

Eventually, someone bothers to look through Captain Shark-Face’s personal stuff and finds the chest keys under his bed. After we’ve smashed them all and set off their traps. After we’ve been charred, poisoned, mangled and, in the case of the Halfgit, tripped so far out on hallucinogenic gas that there’s probably no coming back. All but one chest is smashed. We have no means to carry most of this treasure. The tide is coming in. The only ways out are either underwater and full of sharks or up through a tiny hole in the ceiling that’s almost impossible to reach.

Still, eventually we do. (Am I the only one who can Spider Climb?) So now we’re down to trying to pitch the one tent that we’ve got with us on a windy cliff-top in a storm. That’s about when it occurs to most of us that we never found the thing we were supposed to be looking for in the first place.

To recap:

Most of my stuff is covered in salt-water and is probably going to rot. There’s a big pile of treasure underneath me that we can’t reach and couldn’t carry even if we could. We’re out on an exposed cliff in the middle of the night in freezing rain and a howling wind with no shelter to speak of. At least I’m not too bashed up.

Unlike everyone else, who are either battered, smashed, bruised and burned or raving mad.

Our lift back to civilisation is waiting for us out at sea. Waiting for us to bring them a ship that we can’t sail and happens to be stuck in a tidal cave filled with sharks. We are at the wrong end of a cliff and the only way down involves being able to breath underwater and body-wrestle said sharks.

Oh, and we smashed up our only boat.

And this black pearl, the whole reason we came here in the first place, is distinctly not in our possession. Presumably its somewhere back in the submerged caves covered in salt water and yet more sharks.

And the only reason we were looking for the damn thing in the first place was to give it to some dodgy bloke who would then, MAYBE, tell us something about some shit about which I DON’T CARE AT ALL.

I’ve had enough. The rest of them can do what they want. Wolfgirl’s already pissed off somewhere doing her own thing and I reckon she had the right of it. Shifty, he’s got twenty-four hours to sort his shit out or he can stay behind. The rest. . . I don’t even know the rest of them. Wizard Daftboy, Mad Monk, Crazy Dwarf, Caleb Knight of Something, I don’t even know who these people are. What happened to my friends? There was a point to all this once, wasn’t there?

Maybe there wasn’t. Maybe I just wanted gold. Wine, women and song and a few friends to share it with. What am I doing here, out on this godforsaken cliff? Gods, Ebra, what am I doing?

As soon as we get back, I’m out of here.

And that’s when a band of orcs and ogres stumble into our camp.


Diamond Cascade: Shifty vs. The Shark

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Alturiak 16(?): …Cleansing, as he passed, the filth of the undead and the unnatural from the secret caverns and grottos of the shores…

Here’s a shout out to all wizards who are really, really stupid. Not the ones who are just a bit stupid, but the ones who simply have no capacity to think before they act. Here’s the situation: You’ve just climbed out of an underwater tunnel that’s now filled with sharks, cutting off your only retreat. You’re in a dead-end cave with assorted aquatic undeady things that you know damn well can paralyse everyone around you and a pirate captain who just might well be nowhere near as human as he seems. The only decent swordsman nearby literally has his plate-mail pants around his ankles (underwater cave, remember). He’s also the closest thing you’ve got to a cleric (y’know – for the undead turning thing and for the making you better after you’ve had your head ripped off and your brains eaten and so forth). You have one spell left and no, it’s not Dimension Door. The only thing going for you is that Captain Eats-Elves-Raw-For-Breakfast seems to want to talk a bit before he feasts on your vital organs. Do you:

a) Parlay and see if you can find grounds for co-operation or at least compromise and barter?

b) Engage in conversation while your comrades strategically position themselves, readying spells and items for maximum tactical effect.

c) Engage in conversation while your tank at least pulls up his pants.

d) Magic Missile the fucker and then think about what to do next afterwards.

If you answered d), then you are clearly meant to be adventuring as part of our thing-we-laughably-refer-to-as-a-team. If your answer is e), do what it says in d) only without the thinking bit, then congratulations, you are, in fact, Wizard Daftboy.

So there we have it. And this is how yours truly came to be sandwiched between a gang of aquatic ghouls and a ravening pirate psychopath who also turned out to be a wereshark.

Hang on a minute.

Now if I hadn’t been too busy making aquatic undead heads explode with my swanky new arrows of explody-goodness (What? So I’m the only person with magic arrows?) then I might have stopped to wonder about that. A wereshark.

That works. . . how, exactly? As far as I can tell, the creature that’s happily ripping my so-called friends to pieces has turned into what is basically a big man with a shark’s head. With gills on his neck. Not having any trouble breathing, I notice, although I think he has to keep running and he might suffocate if he stood still for too long. Certainly seems to have the whole blood frenzy thing going for him, judging by the state of Mr Pants-Still-Round-His-Ankles.

I’m about as far as wondering what happens if you take a wereshark into a desert, and whether there are fresh-water weresharks and salt-water weresharks by the time it became apparent that ordinary swords and sticks and absurdly shaped dwarven axes aren’t actually having much impact. And, because in a moment of bizarre charity I gave the only other magic sword we ever found to someone who turned out to be a murderous doppelganger (I hate you, Stalker), I’m the only person with an enchanted weapon.


Obviously there’s only one thing for it – lend it to someone else for a couple of minutes – but that’s starting to be a problem. Caleb Knight of Something is lying on the floor with his plate-mail pants still round his ankles, only now it’s in a big pool of his own blood. The Mad Monk’s more likely to cut himself than anyone else, Crazy Dwarf. . . Well, he’s crazy, and that leaves Wizard Daftboy, who’ll probably just wet himself, and the Halfgit, whose most likely course of action would be to bolt back to the town and sell it as fast as she possibly could.

So this is how I end up toe to toe with Captain Sharkface or whatever his name is. I’d like to say I fought him hard and I fought him well and in the end I sent him to hell. But what actually happened was that Shifty snuck round behind him and stabbed him in the neck lots with a silver dagger. Apparently that works too.

Afterwards, there’s only one thing left to say.

“So am I the only one who can do any healing magic?”


Diamond Cascade: NPC Jones [1]

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Alturiak 16(?): Thus, Diamond Cascade continued to engage the most noble of the North Coast, those few who had not sunk into the depravity around them, to his cause…

So anyway, there’s this big cave full of water and sharks and we’re on one side of it up on a slightly burned ship, and on another side of it, the tide’s gone out enough to reveal a half-submerged tunnel that’s clearly the way out and the only way we can get to it is either swim and be eaten by sharks or scramble around the rocks and hope we don’t fall in, and I’m like “So am I the only one who can Spider Climb?” And then when we manage that with some ropes and a bit of shark-distraction, I’m like “So, am I the only one with a light spell?” And then there was some more climbing (or falling, on the dwarf’s part) and then there were some caves that were still filled up with water and I’m like “So am I the only one who can breath underwater?” And then after all that there’s the shark-man thing and I’m like: “Oh crap, you mean I’m the only one with a magic sword?”

Admittedly there was the bit with the underwater corpse-things and then Wizard Daftboy and the Mad Monk were all “So are you telling me we’re the only ones immune to paralysis?” But none of the rest of us were in much position to answer that.

I do hope Wizard Daftboy gets on and has an accident soon so we can go back to the good old days where I’m the only one of us who knows magic when he sees it.


[1] Anyone remember NPC Jones? CUDADS newsletter, issue 1, from about 1987 applies. Also my first official editing post…

Diamond Cascade: Well, it was about time we had some pirates in this story

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Alturiak 16: Thus, Diamond Cascade engaged the most noble of the North Coast, those few who had not sunk into the depravity around them, to his cause…

Turns out that while me and the Knight Of Something were putting out the Wizard Daftboy’s fires and patching up those of The Monk’s victims who hadn’t been separated from any organs they couldn’t afford to miss, Wolfgirl had gotten back to talking the bloke who’d cause all the fuss in the first place. Turns out the captain of the White Wyvern is suddenly and unexpectedly short of a few hands, on account of some bunch of completely insane… Oh, wait, that was us. I don’t know how all this worked out. I was more than a little drunk, and then there was some other place and then another place and some more wine and some ale and maybe some brandy and some other stuff that frankly could have been anything and then there was the bawdy house with the mermaids, or maybe I made that up, and then something to do with the Halfgit and the discovery that three-foot-tall women can do things you really wouldn’t think of. Or maybe I made that up too. Possibly some mushrooms were involved. I’m not sure I had any sleep. And then there was supposed to be some other bar that was down the bottom of the cliff by the sea, only it turned out it was a ship and then I think I spent the rest of the day alternating between being passed out in a corner and throwing up over the side.

Apparently we’ve struck some sort of deal. In exchange for a ride to where Captain I’ve-Already-Forgotten-His-Name-And-Why-We’re-Looking-For-Him, we’re going to deliver his ship. There’s some sort of blah-blah about reefs and tides and secret channels and sharks and being back by a certain time and then there’s some rowing and all of a sudden we’re coming up to the shore and nosing our way into some half-submerged caves and there’s a ship in front of us, hidden in the cave. Can’t help noticing that the cave entrance is about twenty feet about the water and the ship has a sixty-odd foot mast. Maybe they take the mast down and row out? If any of us had a clue about ships or sailing, I’m sure that would help.

Mr sea-cave is suspiciously empty (apart from the sharks in the water), but that doesn’t stop us from  managing to smash our little rowing boat into a rock and sink it when a rather more appropriate course of action would have been to nose up to the ship and tied up gently alongside. Ah well. I know exactly how I’m getting back.

Mr sea-cave is also suspiciously devoid of other ways out. Mad Elf has a go at kicking something off by setting fire to the ship to see what will happen, but pretty much all that happens is that we watch our one and only remaining way out of here burn for a bit and then get the idea that maybe we should put the fire out. There’s some arguing and some searching and some shark-baiting, but I’m too busy sitting on a ledge making up a song.

There once was an elf, a very fine elf
And a very fine elf was he,
He sailed on a ship, went on a trip
And now he’s at the bottom of the seaaaaa
Playing with a shark?
Oh what a lark!

There once was an elf, a very fine elf
And a very fine elf was he,
By the light of the moon, he found an underwater tomb,
And now he’s an elf zombieeeeee
Eaten by a ghoul!
Oh what a fool!

There once was an elf, a very fine elf
And a very fine elf was he,
He said he was a wizard, now his home’s a whale’s gizzard,
What a sorry end for a fine fairyyyyyy
Don’t have a moan,
Just should have stayed at home!

There. See. Much more useful. Mad Elf Monk and Wizard Daftboy certainly seem to think so.

Actually, doing nothing at all would usually be more useful than anything we do.

Eventually the tide goes out and we get to figure out where the pirates went. On account of certain things not being underwater any more.


Diamond Cascade: Wolfgirl Says Something

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Alturiak 15

“The Valdas killed my parents.”

“OK. For some reason I’d been thinking it was a vampire. You said it was a vampire.”

“It was a vampire wearing the sign of the Valdas.”


Not sure if Wolfgirl is mad, delusional or simply immensely unlucky. My parents were killed in much more normal ways, involving swords, rape and burning, I imagine. Rather I was here and able to speculate than had been there to say for sure but only to a cleric with that still-conspicuously-absent-from-our-repertoire power to Speak With Dead.

The Monk drags us off to some diviner to try and find out something about the Valdas. She’s way too expensive for any of us to afford, but The Dwarf sort of lost his purse last night after I choked him out and so I buy a question from her anyway. Easy come, easy go. I ask here where the creature that killed Wolfgirl’s parents can be found. Bleedin’ miles away, that’s where. “Upon the earth of his home he rests, by a river that runs bright red.” Well the only river I know that runs bright red is the Crimson River and that’s over the other side of the mountains, not to mention all the orcs and the slimies and whatever else is crawling around the borders of Osmuld. So in short, bugger that.

Ah well. At least I get a good night out of the diviner’s receptionist and what’s left of the dwarf’s gold.


Diamond Cascade: Some Bandits When You Need Them

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Alturiak 14: Thus, Diamond Cascade engaged the most noble of the North Coast, those few who had not sunk into the depravity around them, to his cause…

Look, in the big scheme of things, in the grand world-spanning story of Diamond Cascade, greatest troubadour of the land, hero of the people, saviour of kings and crap like that, the whole sordid business of a visit to the North Coast will be a footnote. Diamond Cascade helped deliver a letter. Whooo-hooo. All the thieving and the drinking and the whoring and the less we talk about any of that the better, no one wants to know about that. Sure, there might be a little twinkle in the eye as I sing my made-up tale, but no one wants to know that what Diamond Cascade actually did was spend a month and a half so drunk he could barely remember what colour the sea was, routinely woke up in a pool of his own vomit, contracted several diseases and only left to seek his fortune again because he couldn’t afford to pay for a cleric to make them better on account of having spent half his money on strong drink and loose women and lost the rest playing dice. Even if that’s pretty much what I’m aiming for here. I don’t know why. I just want to forget the whole shitty business with Stalker and Holli. Wipe it all clean and start again. Gods know, I’ve done that enough times.

Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem. Stalker would have done the same and so would The Gnome, only with more sex and less drinking. But sometimes, when I don’t pay attention, when I least expect or, frankly, want it, my erstwhile comrades actually manage to achieve something. Maybe it comes down to having all this new blood around us. By the time I emerge the following afternoon, bandy-legged and a little sore around the edges, they’ve been up, had breakfast, tied their shoelaces all on their own and then gone to see someone who’s something to do with the ships about some of the stuff we’re supposed to be interested in and now, apparently, we’re looking for some pirate bloke called Serious who sails around on a ship named after a musical instrument and stole some treasure off the something-to-do-with-ships bloke, who will, in return for the return of said treasure, tell us some stuff that apparently we want to know. Or someone that we know wants to know. Or something. It’s all a bit confusing, and mostly what I pick up is the the Caleb, Knight Of Something doesn’t like the something-to-do-with-ships bloke one little bit on general principle. Can’t see pirates working out much better for him, but we don’t have time to get into that question, because by then it’s getting dark and (yes, look, I had a good night) we’re off to some place that has a name but which we’ll call Seedy Dive because that’s what it was. Seedy, loud, full of smoke and noise and the smell of beer and sex. And more naked people than you might have imagined.

My kind of place, if a little low-brow. I’m all for settling in and seeing whether I can score for free, but no, Wolfgirl has to go asking questions and find herself a pirate to talk to (given the track record of my companions, I make a big and generous assumption about the talking bit) and the next thing I know there’s half a dozen men moving in on her and Mad Dwarf is hurling himself at them like a rabid gerbil with an axe the size of a church and The Monk is right behind him, and I still haven’t got around to having the conversation with any of them that until one of them learns to Talk With Dead, launching into a homicidal mania at the first sign of… well, anything at all really, isn’t going to help us find things out.

So I try to stop them. As does Caleb, Knight Of Something and the wizard. Three against three. Admittedly with some pirates in the middle who are nominally in the fray too, but their role in this turns out largely to involve tripping over each other and getting serially stabbed and thumped, oft as not by accident, until they fall down.

It’s only later that I begin to wonder whether jumping on the back of a frenzied berserker dwarf and choking him out in the middle of a fight was such a good idea. At the time I’m too distracted by Caleb, Knight Of Something realising that the Wolfgirl he’s grappled to the ground is called Wolfgirl for a reason (two, actually), and Wizard Daftboy trying to stop the amazingly fast and agile Mad Elf by rolling an amazingly slow and cumbersome ball of fire about the place. And setting fire to the Seedy Dive.

Unfortunately, my dream outcome, in which Wizard Daftboy and Mad Elf have at each other, Caleb, Knight Of Something tried to separate them, ends up killing them both and retires to a life of sorrowful penitence somewhere far away, fails to happen.


Diamond Cascade: Shifty’s Friends

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Alturiak 13: Strong was Diamond Cascade’s desire to leave this sink of corruption and return to battling the vile hordes of darkness sweeping the land; yet as he prepared to leave, word came of one of Diamond Cascade’s most dire foes. No less than the wicked dwarf Durmijeron might be found within this place, for he is a servant of the seventh house of the city, the house of Valdas whose symbol is the two-headed serpent, and in matters of this house, many strange deeds are afoot. Diamond Cascade vowed to bear the stench of this City of Sin for as long as it would take to bring the “white dwarf” to final justice.

No hurry though.

So Shifty takes us to some place he knows, The Flying Goose or some-such, not that I much care apart from needing to know where to stagger back to once I’m done partying. I have to admit, I’d kind of thought the whole letter delivering business was Shifty’s problem, since he’s the one carrying it, and the rest of us would be left to our own pleasures (or whatever substitutes for them in the case of The Monk and the Knight of Something). But no, there’s a mad dwarf (can we meet a dwarf who’s not mad, please, one day? Or mad in a has-a-fetish-for-stamps sort of way, instead of mad in a has-a-fetish-for-severed-heads kind of way? Or do dwarves have the same social management principles as the elves and the reason we only ever find lunatics is because they’re the ones who weren’t allowed to stay at home)? Mad Dwarf recognises Shifty but not before The Monk has to kick his butt in an arm-wrestle and thus piss him off (because the loony social outcasts of elves and dwarves getting together is, like, a total recipe for social harmony. Not). The Mad Dwarf has a  friend (Karallis Fane? But I’ll remember him as the man who thought that wearing a deep purple cloak over dark red clothes mad him look cool instead of making him look like he’d just crawled out from under a bad accident involving several tuns of wine) who has to show up and we all have to walk off to some swanky house run by some Lord Smelly Arse (Aros Reekiel, was it?) who then proceeds to ask all sorts of questions that I, for one, would prefer not to answer, such as ‘who are you and why did it take so long for my letter to get here and what have you been up to on the way’? We tell him some bollocks, but here and there the odd bit of unguarded truth slips out. On the plus side, Lord Smelly Arse shares our dislike for Durmijeron. On the minus, well, now everyone knows about the stupid riddle the Gnomes left for us.

Afterwards, Shifty and I go to a pawn shop and offload the shit we lifted from the dark elves while we were busy pretending to help the Gnomish Kingdoms. Got to say, the plus side of having half your old friends killed: You get to keep their share. Never seen so much gold. Ever. Or so many pornographic paintings of dwarvish ‘ladies,’ but that’s another matter.

Downside of half your old friends getting killed? New friends. Yes, The Monk, The Mage and The Knight of Something, all still here. Come on bandits, where are you when I need you?

After that, maybe some more shit went down, but if it did, I was in an alcohol, sex and I-have-more-gold-than-I’ve-ever-seen related coma, and it went down without me. Unlike my temporary friends Romana and Tallulah.


Diamond Cascade: The Most Beautiful City in the World

Posted in DC

Alturiak 13: The cesspit of the north, they call it in the more civilised cities of Osmuld. The Strip. Those who live there call it the Beautiful City, yet it is to beauty as a whore it to a lady. The miles of unadulterated, undiluted vice that lie along the far cliffs of the North Coast. Yet here, amid this nest of corruption, amid the endless bawdy houses and taverns and drinking holes and gambling dens and smoke houses, all wreathed in gaudy faerie fire, brazen as the strumpets within them, lay Diamond Cascade’s destination. Delivered at last, the letter carried from Gammersbridge, was like a weight taken from Diamond Cascade’s back. An onerous and repellent duty, finally discharged. Outside, the kingdoms of the isle groaned under the crushing weight of the evil bearing down on them, yet here it was as if no such peril awaited; indeed, should an army of darkspawn approach this place, they would doubtless be welcomed with the same open arms as any other and fleeced of their worldly goods.

Ah, man, can I stay? Can I just live here? Like, forever? Why am I running about getting myself nearly killed when I still have gold in my pockets and a place like this exists in the world. I so don’t want to leave.


Diamond Cascade: What do you mean he’s not actually dead? Oh, he is now.

Posted in DC

Alturiak 12: It was with a heavy heart that Diamond Cascade and those of his companions that remained buried their fallen friends. Many a word was said in praising their honour, their courage and their virtue. Lord Corren had fallen in defence of his kingdom, and the valiant gnomish priest had fallen at his side, in defence of naught but the freedom of a people who were not her own, but who had fought for hers as she now fought for them. Toasts were raised in their memories, songs were sung and yes, tears were shed. Yet duty and honour still called, and all too soon, Diamond Cascade’s eyes turned to the north, to the den of vice and thievery that is the north coast, where Diamond Cascade had one duty left to discharge: To deliver a letter carried all the way from Gammersbridge to the dread lord of thieves that might yet issue a call to arms among those most lowly of fellows against the rising darkness. Inspired by the valour and the courage of Lord Corren and the righteousness of Diamond Cascade’s cause, many flocked to his banner and pledge their swords, yet to face the evils that awaited them, only the most noble were chosen.

Yeah. Many offered to clamp Diamond Cascade and what were left of his companions in irons and let them rot in some oubliette. Or else simply hang them and get on with it. Thanks, Stalker, my erstwhile friend. And thanks to you to The Gnome, in whatever afterlife you’ve found. Thanks a lot. Now even more people want to kill me. Dammit, all I wanted was a quiet life of wine and loose women and maybe some good music. And here I am, traipsing all over the place in the middle of winter, freezing my bits off because we can’t manage to stay in one place for more than a few days (or minutes, sometimes) without pissing off the locals so much that they try to have us arrested.

So. Right. New plan. No way am I hauling my frostbitten arse all the way up to the North Coast in the middle of winter with hordes of Slimeys and Thuggers and gods-know-what else rampaging about the place, not without some serious protection. And the last bit of protection (stalker, yet, this means you) turned out to be more of a liability than an asset. So don’t blame me for being picky this time. It’s not too difficult to convince some of the town magistrates (for ‘magistrate’ read, ‘occasionally useful enforcer of the law’) to up sticks and leave. I mean, who’d want to hang around in a town whose gates don’t fit properly when there’s an army on the march? Of course, we couldn’t be at all straightforward about it. Who do I want to travel with? Well, a posse of the Knights of Tyr, that would do. Hard as rocks and about as bright, too. Just the sort to stand in the way of all the arrows when we’re ambushed by bandits on the road and then be too up themselves afterwards to even notice any looting that might happen to happen. What do I get? Another elvish monk. Whoppee-Doo. Like the last one was such an amazing success. I become more and more convinced that the elvish race has a laudable and straightforward attitude towards those of their kind who don’t quite ‘fit in.’ They kick them out into our lands and hope they’re never heard of again. Just why they all have to land on me is a mystery. Maybe one day, when I meet an elf who isn’t either a blind swordsman on a quest to defeat some mystery monster that he can’t even describe (although presumably what matters is that he’d recognise the smell when he finally blundered randomly into its path) or a bloody monk, someone will explain.

Oh, and a wizard, which is so going to spoil all my fun. Crapsticks. Someone else who knows magic when they see it. I’d like to stab him in the back while he’s sleeping, but that’s not really me. What I’d really like it for someone else to stab him in the back while he’s sleeping.

After those two, when a knight does finally show up, I almost don’t care whether he’d a knight of Tyr or a knight of the Monkey-Headed God of Rhyming Gibberish. It has a sword and it can swing it. Good enough. With a bit of luck they’ll all last just long enough to not quite get to the coast.

So. Stalker killed half the town guard. I’ve taken the best men it can offer. The gates are broken and there’s an advancing army less than a day away. Gods. I don’t even know what the place is called. Doomed, probably, but I’ll remember it as Wonkygates.


Diamond Cascade: Interval

Posted in DC

Imagine some tinny music. Buy yourself some ice-cream and some popcorn. Diamond Cascade will now return in September. Dungeon Master permitting.


Diamond Cascade: Things That Aren’t Supposed to Happen

Posted in DC

Alturiak 9: Stalker goes into the cells. I spend the evening talking to the magistrates. There has to be a way out of this, right? Stalker, maybe he was possessed. There’s something not right with him, I can tell. But all I get out of the townsfolk is talk of gallows. Give them half a chance, they’d hang us all. Except they can’t do that, can they? He’d the king’s nephew. King’s nephews don’t hang for merely murdering a few guards.

Murdering a few guards. As if they didn’t matter. That’s what he did. That’s what Shifty did to The Gnome, crazy mad bitch that she was, it was still murder. I’ve killed men. I’ve killed slimeys and thuggers and other things besides. I’ve done a lot of things that were wrong. But I’ve never murdered someone. Not like that. Not with no reason.

And then in the morning, when we go down to see him, when go down to the cells to shake our Stalker by the throat and demand to know what the flying FUCK he was thinking, he’s gone. There’s a dead guard in his cell, the night watchman, and Stalker’s gone. Just like that. And the gibbering halfgit in the cell next door is telling us that what we brought back out of the snow wasn’t Stalker at all, but face-eating shape-shifting monstrosity. Stalker is gone. The Stalker we knew was gone a long time ago, but this is what he’ll be remembered for. Not for the noble things he did, even if most of them were by accident or to fill his own pockets, but for the pointless murders of a monstrosity while the real man we knew is out stiff and cold somewhere in the snow.

No, I’m not having this. I’m a bard. A slayer of stories as much as a maker of them. I can’t bring him back, can’t even find where he fell, but I can change how he ended.

Swayed by the wisdom of Diamond Cascade’s words, the good soldiers of Osmuld quickly galloped away to sound the alarm and call forth the good swords of the north, but it is not before the mystery of Stalker’s memory is solved: It seems he is none other than Lord Corren, nephew of the King of Osmuld himself! This joyous news flooded our hearts, and as the sun set, we bent our knees to the noble lord of this land and pledged, as did he, that our blood would feed the earth before any evil would pass us that night; and so we steeled ourselves to face the orc once more.

Nor did they disappoint. Goblin wolf-riders came, drawn to our lures. Then foot soldiers. Orcs, too many to count. Long and hard, Lord Corren and his valiant company fought them off, slaying many. Many a wound was given, and many taken too, until in the dead of the night, under the glare of a gibbous moon, a great ogre strode forth, a mighty monster, a champion of champions, scattering Diamond Cascade and his friends aside. Yet Lord Corren, alone, had the courage to face him, and one against they other they fought, in a cataclysm of blows that shook the very earth and made all else seem futile. Around them, the victorious goblins paused, transfixed by the fury of their duel, and yet, in the end, it was the ogre who fell with a mighty moan, and Lord Corren who stood victorious, drenched in blood that was not his own. And the goblins and the orcs wailed and shrieked and slid away into the night, so many, yet so afraid of but one man whose strength and spirit would not break. And thus Lord Corren, blood of Osmuld, served and saved his land unto his last breath, as he stood, still like a statue, glaring into the darkness until every last goblin was gone before he too fell dead beside the monster he had slain.

There. Let that be the story we sing of him.


[In fact, Diamond Cascade will be taking a short break, but should be back, with luck, by the end of the month]

Diamond Cascade: Probably the Worst Thief in the World

Posted in DC

And another thing. The daft halfgit who thinks he stole the Scales of Tyr is languishing in prison here. Well, I say languishing. Languishing in the sort of nipping-out-to-steal-the-guards-supper-whenever-you-feel-like-it way. As far as I can tell, he sees prison as being a handy sort of free hotel. Obviously hasn’t been in some of the prisons up north. Well he’s in for a surprise tonight.


Diamond Cascade: Finally, after so many tries

Posted in DC

Alturiak 8: For anyone planning a career as a thief, bandit or other profession that is likely to get you hunted by a posse of irate armed men whose treasure you’ve stolen, here’s a clue. Don’t run off into the night across open country after a heavy snowfall. It’s cold, the going is hard, and you won’t get very far. However, if you absolutely MUST go, then at least do SOMETHING about the monstrously obvious trail in the snow you’re going to leave behind. I mean, hello, fly spell? Pass without trace? At least a switchback and a false trail or two.

So Stalker and The Gnome. So good at running away and hiding that even we tracked them down before the middle of the next day. The fire and the thin little column of smoke were the biggest give away, at least after the trail in the snow and the fact that they’d basically followed the one road out. So we catch up with them. There’s a little bit of a ruckus for a moment as The Gnome kicks off and lobs a spell in my direction and I lob an arrow back and then we’re all like Stalker, dude, what was all that about? and Stalker is all, Ha HAA! I have a power you cannot imagine now, which was a bit odd and a frankly bit lame, and so we’re all what are you talking about, dude? I mean, could we at least talk it over next time before you do over half the town guard, and we’re not mentioning the fact that several of us would probably have happily joined in a night-time wealth-enhancement caper or two, but only not mentioning that because we’ve go a couple of town magistrates with us, and there’s a certain level of wondering whether we bring Stalker and The Gnome in like we’re supposed to or do we turn on the magistrates, only that would make us all outlaws in Osmuld, which wouldn’t be great, and anyway, Stalker is the nephew of the king now, apparently, so wouldn’t that be OK because they’d just let him go in the end and let’s face it, none of us liked The Gnome anyhow, and I’m paying a little bit of attention to all this talk but mostly I’ve got my eye on where Stalker’s loot bag is stashed. It’s all a bit uncertain where this is going and who might actually side with whom…

Until Shifty slips around the back and sticks a knife in The Gnome’s ribs and it’s all downhill from there.

Stalker goes for Shifty, the magistrates go for Stalker, I’m piling in trying to separate them, thinking… I don’t know what. That I might save The Gnome from bleeding to death? That Shifty is every bit as much a murderous bastard as Stalker? That I might stop anyone from killing anyone else? Could have done nothing and watched. Didn’t. All I can say as to the whys of that is that no one else did die and that somehow, in the confusion of the melee, Stalker’s treasure bag wound up on my horse without anyone noticing how it got there.

So now we’ve got him. Question is, what, by all the gods, do we do with him? He’s a murderer. He’s the king’s nephew (possibly) and he’s what passes these days for a friend.



Diamond Cascade: The Madness of Gnomes

Posted in DC

Alturiak 7: I’d really like to think it was some sort of dark magic, but it wasn’t. I’d like to say it was OK. All the stories of the epic heroes have gaps in them. And then Diamond Cascade got to wherever he was going. They all gloss over the dull bits where nothing much happens. And for some reason Stalker and The Gnome weren’t with him any more. That doesn’t smack of nothing much happening. I suppose I could make up something heroic for them, but there are too many people know the truth for that. A whole town of them. Don’t talk about it, that’s probably the way. And then Diamond Cascade got to wherever he was going. And spin something dramatic from whatever events occur there and never mention who’s dropped out of the story and why.

So what really happened? I’ve seen it before. Tired, bruised, bloody band of heavily armed wanderers come in to a small border town late in the day. Town guard take one look at them, don’t like what they see, and demand that swords are handed over, oh and by the way, that pair of wolves you’ve got, they’re dangerous wild animals and they’re not coming in. Now if you’re me, you’re thinking yeah, whatever, all I want is a tavern with some half-decent wine and a bed with a passable mattress and if I’m in luck, someone to warm it with me. Maybe, if you’ve got an old head with a bit of wisdom, you can see their point. There’s a war on. Band of strangers wander in. Could be anyone. Could be who they say they are, could be agents of the enemy, here to slaughter the night watch and open the gates in the middle of the night to gods-know what that’s out there. But then maybe, if you’re Stalker, what you’re thinking is that the sword you’re being asked to give over to some stranger is the one thing that;s kept you alive for the last week. You’re thinking that there are corpses of a dozen slimeys and thuggers out there, and that your sword still has their blood on it. So you answer back, no, you’re not having these swords, why don’t you have a couple of gold coins instead, go enjoy your evening and leave me alone. And then if you’re the town guard, you’re thinking no, that;s the sort of thing that a band of enemy spies would try, so no, actually, now you;d be much happier if this gang of over-armed strangers was locked up in the cells until you had a chance to find out a little more about them. And now you’re Stalker again, who’s stared at death one time too many in the last few days, and no, you’re not giving up your sword, not to anyone, not for anything. And then the next thing you know, before anyone can do more than stare open-mouthed in disbelief, someone idiot draws and there are five dead guardsmen lying around the gate.

The Gnome pitched in, warped the gates and the two of them fled back out into the night. There’s a span of snow on the ground and a lot more comes down in the night. Chances are they didn’t get too far. The rest of us, we had over our swords and meekly spend out night in the cells. So much for a bed and a bottle and a woman. In the morning, they kick us out. Chuck us back outside the gates and close them behind us. Surprisingly generous, really. Other places might have hung us simply for someone to hang. It’s pretty clear that we’re not getting back in unless it’s with Stalker and The Gnome in chains between us. I can’t even bring myself to ask what the bounty is fro bringing them back. Don’t know whether I want to or whether I want to let them go. But we’ll go after them, that much is for sure. Don’t know what we’ll do when we catch them, but we’ll go after them. They’ve got our loot.


Diamond Cascade: The Making of Kings…

Posted in DC

Stalker the nephew of a king? Hard to credit, all things considered, but the soldiers seemed to believe it. They called him Corren. Same name we heard in Neverrest. For better or worse, we’re in the game now. Stalker with a crown? King Stalker? The possibilities are endless . . .


Diamond Cascade: And My Other Name Is…

Posted in DC

Alturiak 5: Even as Diamond Cascade and his brave friends prepared the defences that would hold the orcish hordes for those precious few hours, a ray of hope descended. Soldiers from Osmuld, a small party of mounted men watching the borders. Appraised of the situation and of the desperate plight of the Halflings, these brave men at once offered to stay and add their swords to Diamond Cascade’s own. A fine offer, yet one that was refused. Let them ride, away to spread the word, let them rally the brave swords of Osmuld against the invader, let them spread the word of Diamond Cascade and his deeds so they might inspire others to follow in his path. Let the tale of one brave sword and noble heart that stands in the invaders way forge a hundred, and those hundred each forge a hundred more! Let righteous might and thunder rolls through these hills and scatter evil to the sea!

Swayed by the wisdom of Diamond Cascade’s words, the good soldiers of Osmuld quickly galloped away to sound the alarm and call forth the good swords of the north, but it is not before the mystery of Stalker’s memory is solved: It seems he is none other than Lord Corren, nephew of the King of Osmuld himself! This joyous news flooded our hearts, and as the sun set, we steeled ourselves to face the orc once more. Nor did they disappoint us. Goblin wolf-riders, drawn to our lures. Long and hard Diamond Cascade and his valiant fellows fought them off, slaying many. Many a wound was taken too, yet in the end, Diamond Cascade prevailed and the orc was turned away. For good? No. But for long enough for the poor beaten halfling wretches we had seen on the road? Yes. Tired, battered, bruised, bleeding, yet with soaring spirit, Diamond Cascade and his friends turned north once more to Osmuld.

We find ourselves a hill overlooking the refugee road. A place we can defend. We set some traps and some alarms and wonder why we are doing this. I don’t think half of us know. But I do.

I reckon I was fifteen years old. You lose track of time in the army, and what with half of us trying to make out we were older than we were so we could join the regular foot and the other half pretending we were younger than we were so we didn’t have to, it all got a bit confusing. We’d been fighting for most of the summer. We’d been pushing the slimeys and the the thuggers back. Didn’t know much about where we were. March here, march there, draw battle lines, a mad few hours of fighting, that was about it. Even the locals hardly knew whether we were pushing forward or pulling back, and I came from the other side of the island. But I’d say we were winning. We’d had a few skirmishes and one hard pitched battle and we’d come away intact. I’d seen a lot of dead slimeys by the end of that summer, a lot more of them than of us. Most with our arrows sticking out of them.

Late summer. We were on the march again. Hard and fast, off to some town called Barresford. Never heard of it. What I can tell you now is it’s a place you can cross the river that marks the border Osmuld. We’d pushed the enemy right back to where they’d come from. Didn’t know that then, though. Two days of marching, all the time being told we were up for the biggest battle yet, that this was going to be the end, we were going to trap the enemy and slaughter him, put an end to the slimeys and the thuggers once and for all. We’d driven them back, there was nowhere left for them to go and now we’d dam the river with their corpses. That sort of thing. We were ready.

We were a day late. They’d crossed the river already. Mostly. Twenty thousands soldiers, waiting for us on the other side. An advance force had arrived, though, a few days earlier. A thousand men. Freed the townspeople and told them the war was nearly over, that the last horde of the enemy was about to be broken, right on their doorstep. Whipped them up into a mad fervour. So when the horde came and the Osmuld regulars still hadn’t arrived yet, the townspeople and that one regiment of the King’s Guard, they stayed. Didn’t run away like sensible folk, but stayed and fought.

They were slaughtered. A thousand men-at-arms, as many again men, women and children. All of them. Slimeys didn’t have time to do much more than kill them and then set the place on fire; they knew we were coming and they knew they couldn’t face us. So they heaped up the bodies or just left them where they lay and torched the place and crossed the river. We caught up with them while the rearguard were still holding the town. Fought them through the ash-blackened streets, choking in the smoke and the stink of burned flesh. No battle lines drawn, no choreographed cavalry charges. No mercy, no remorse, no quarter, no pausing for breath. Just raw hate.

Barresford. It’s reek sank into our clothes. We stank of it for weeks. Burned flesh.

The slimeys, when they come, are cautious and disciplined. Not the sort of slimeys we’ve faced before. If they were anything else, I might even have some grudging respect for the way they fought. It was a long, bloody, brutal skirmish in the dark. I don’t know if we even killed any of them. Hurt a few, and they hurt us too. In the end they withdrew. Don’t know why. As soon as they were gone, so did we. We did our bit. Barresford or no, I’m not dying for bunch of lazy fat halfgits.


Diamond Cascade: An Outbreak of Virtue.

Posted in DC

Alturiak 5: The woes wrought upon the land by the hordes of evil were everywhere to see. Filled with righteous virtue and courage, from his victory, Diamond Cascade nevertheless knew that the blow he had struck against the villainous creatures of the mountains had been but a small one. A new war-leader would soon arise, and it was but one warband of many that had suffered Diamond Cascade’s wrath. Pledging his sword and his skill against the invader once more, Diamond Cascade and his brave band continued their quest north, to deliver letters and messages that would rouse the sleeping nations of good and seek out ancient sorceries that would batter the ancient evils behind this invasion back into their deepest darkest holes. But a day had gone by before the road ahead grew clogged with refugees, wretched Halflings, spirits broken, bodies battered, helpless prey, driven from their lands by the orcish terror. With orcish warbands but a few hours away, Diamond Cascade and his companions vowed to hold off the innumerable hordes for as long as it took for the last Halflings of the north to make good their escape and seek protection in the lands of fair Osmuld, even if it were to cost their lives . . .

And The Gnome turns the road into mud for no reason other than petty amusement, and she and Lena and Wolfgirl argue and fight and I can’t bring myself to much care. What do I do? I give Buttpoker to Stalker. Why would I do that? Fine, yes, I have a better sword now, a sweet peach of a blade stolen from the dark dwarf warrior who defended the drow priestess and got squashed by a falling roof, but still –  why do I give something away that could have bought me a winter in Neverrest with all the women and wine I could wish for? You’d have thought we might have learned, you really would, but oh no. I’d like to say now, for the record, that I don’t know what I was thinking. Carried away by my own stories, I think.

That or remembering Barresford again.


Diamond Cascade: The Thin Line Between Heroism and Stupidity

Posted in DC

Alturiak 4: After a well-earned rest courtesy of Diamond Cascade’s good gnomish friends, Diamond Cascade and his companions continued on their mission: To travel north and deliver a letter, long overdue, and to continue their quest for the noble priest of Tyr, their hunt for the devilish dwarf Durmijeron. But what horror awaited? Slipping out from their dark dwellings among the mountains, fiendish orcs and vile goblins had swarmed forth while Diamond Cascade and his friends had brought justice to the venomous drow of the underdark. In the green and pleasant hills of the Halfling tribes, normally so warm and welcoming, naught awaited them but scene after scene of vicious unspeakable slaughter. Overwhelmed by this ashen tragedy, this dire destruction, Diamond Cascade and his comrades set themselves upon the trail of the closest of these despicable warbands and descended upon it in a whirling blur of sorcery and steel and righteous vengeance. Many fell to Diamond Cascade’s sword, many vile orc and goblin, yet their numbers were of such magnitude that even the master swordsman himself could not defeat so many. Sickened by the slaughter of his own making, Diamond Cascade set to in single combat with the foul leader of this orcish band and brought him down with a single mighty blow. Leaving the orcs reeling in disarray from the terror wrought upon them, to lick their wounds and slink back to their vomitous lairs, Diamond Cascade continued onwards.

Actually, no. Actually, what happened is we saw this large orcish warband, kept well away from it as any sensible person would, then slunk into their camp while they were all sleeping and murdered their war-leader in an effort to sow confusion and dissent.

Actually no, not that either. Ok, so the plan was to swoop in upon the orcs and kill their leaders and swoop away again while disabling their pursuit with spells. With flaming spheres and entanglement spells and a hail of arrows and SOME SORT OF CO-ORDINATION, it was a plan that might even have worked.

OK, look, if there had been a plan, there are many things it would not have included. For example, it would not have called for The Gnome to fall off her horse, Wolfgirl to stand around wondering what to do, or for Shifty to curl up in a ball and hope no one could see him, even as they walked right over where he was and trod on him. It would not have called for Stalker to rider around in aimless circles trying to control his horse while thousands of goblins threw javelins at him. All of these things. Would NOT have been in the plan. If we’d had one.

Unless, of course, the plan called for us to get captured and for our amusing ineptitude to arouse a certain degree of orcish curiosity, thus preventing our immediate execution. If the plan we didn’t have had been that, then it would have worked quite well. Same for the part where we escape from captivity while all the orcs are sleeping, murder their chieftain in his sleep (thanks, Shifty) and slink out with as much of our stuff and theirs as we could carry. I’d like to say that my growing powers that allow me to shift my appearance to be that of an orc and speak and understand their language made some useful contribution to our escape, but they didn’t.

What I still don’t understand is why our plan wasn’t simply to slip around them in the first place. I can’t even blame the rest of them. It was me, urging us into this outbreak of stupidity. Could have got us all killed. Very nearly did. Even as we were making our escape, a part of me wanted to turn back, creep among their bloated sleeping bodies and slit throat after throat until we were awash in a sea of blood. Where did that come from?

After we were away, all I could think of was Barresford. Maybe that’s what’s got my thinking so cloudy. Barresford and what the orcs did there.


Diamond Cascade and the Annoying Inter-Dimensional Interlude

Posted in DC

Deep in the gnomish tunnels, joyful from his victory over the forces of darkness from under the mountains, Diamond Cascade dreamed of a future filled with peace and glory. Of dragons and princes and a realm at peace with itself…

Sort of. There was this dragon. It was white and tediously repetitive and kept going on about how it was hungry and some bloke called Kemir that it might or might not want to eat. An indecisive dragon. I bet there’s not many people who dream about one of them.

The night after, there was this annoying smarmy bloke who reckoned he was a prince or an emperor or something. J-something. Prince J-Hall or Prince Jimbo, I dunno. Don’t remember. Tedious and full of himself, wittering on about some sort of Gummy award. I told him to piss off. Mostly I wanted to smack him.

Then there was this fat old bloke with hardly any hair who reckoned he was some sort of god-of-the-gods. Reckoned he was bloke who’d sent the dragon and Prince Jimbo with some sort of message I was supposed to pay attention to. Something about this Daily Gummy award again. Reckoned I was a figment of his own imagination, so I bloody well ought to do whatever he said. Being how I was dreaming, I reckoned that actually he was a figment of my imagination and I told him to piss off too. Persistent bugger. Came back night after night. Was getting to the point where I was casting about for an exorcism spell, but eventually it stopped.

Now the next night, that was a different matter. Must have been a different gnome on mess-with-Vale’s-dreams duty. A seriously fit bird all dressed in shimmering wafty clothes that had a way of flashing all sorts of bits of skin. Wolfgirl, The Gnome, that bargirl from Neverrest whose name I’ve already forgotten, they could all learn a thing or two. Actually a lot. And God-dudes, if you have a message you want to sent, forget the fiery angels and wrathful demon shit. This is the way to do it. A hot sex-kitten gets your prophet’s attention way better.

Or maybe not. I don’t know that I was paying quite as much attention to the words as maybe I should. Kind of distracted. Anyway, apparently I have a message for the world from the gods themselves. I think it’s this:

Vote Adam Ant eying Alice for the Daily Gummy Morningstar Award. The gods command you.

I was kind of hoping after that this Zephyr chick would be back on a regular basis, possibly with some friends. I mean come on, gods, I delivered the message right? Right? She comes back right enough, all righteous wrath and flips me a finger and tells me I’m a dick.

Diamond Cascade: Some Great Reward

Posted in DC

(aka Heroes of the Gnomish King)

Within the realms of the gnomish king, Diamond Cascade and his valiant band were welcomed and their every comfort tended. Treasures and wealth beyond dreams or reason were offered, but Diamond Cascade and his friends took only what they required: A little shelter, a little food to fill their empty bellies, a little rest while they tended their wounds. Gold and jewels they turned away, seeking nothing more than the knowledge that they had served the greater good of the land and brought peace back to their mischievous friends the gnomes. Other soldiers of fortune would surely have sought profit from their exploits, but for Diamond Cascade, virtue, as always, was its own reward. Despite the sanctuary of the gnomish city, though, Diamond Cascade was soon on his way. With his wounds healed and his fellows rested, there could be no rest, for in the world above, evil still stalked the land. With a fond and cheery farewell, Diamond Cascade returned to the surface, fresh and ready for a new quest!

In other words, we got nothing. Nada. Rien. Sweet zero. All that work, and for what? Not a gold piece to rub together between us. And you can add to that, I remember almost nothing about the gnomish lands. They must have got fed up with us and chucked us out, throwing in a little memory-muddling enchantment while they were at it. Thanks, gnomes. Next time you need saving from the hordes of darkness, find someone else. You and your little friends the pixies too (yes, pixies, I haven’t forgotten).

Still, when I wake up outside and the air is fresh and the sky is blue (or grey, actually, and raining, but never mind that), with the wind in my face and the sun on my skin (rain, but still never mind), I can’t tell you how good it was to be out of those stinking dark caves. Never again. Never, ever again.

One little thing we seem to have picked up while we were underground, though. A riddle. Scrawled on a piece of paper. Something about some great treasure. Some cryptic clue or other. Can’t work it out yet, but one or two bits about it make a creepy sort of sense. So maybe the gnomes weren’t quite the ingrates I thought. It would, I suppose, be a very gnomish sort of reward.


Diamond Cascade: Terminus Est

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Hammer 10: Stealthy as ghosts in the night, Diamond Cascade and his noble companions crept through the tunnels. The terrible sounds of battle drew close, and finally they emerged upon a scene of terrible blood and destruction. In a desperate last stand, the valiant gnomes had pitched their last hopeless defence against the underground gates to their hidden city. Crashing against them, legion upon legion of dark dwarves and elves lay waste to all around them. Without thought of their own lives, Diamond Cascade and his friends threw themselves into the fray, but was this some idle assault? No! For the gnomish priest had seen that the roof of the great cavern in which this battle raged was held aloft by massive stone pillars. With one mighty spell, the pillars were brought down, crashing among the foul invaders, crushing many beneath their stones. As Diamond Cascade and the mighty Stalker took the enemy from behind and gave battle to the wicked priests who led them, the roof followed down, further battering the enemy. Without thought to their own safety, Diamond Cascade and his valiant followers gave chase, laying into the enemy left and right as stones and boulders crashed around them, bringing righteous and bloody justice to these foes of all that is proper and good. With a  single blow, Diamond Cascade slew the dark elf priestess who led the army; with their fellows crushed among the stones and their leader slain, the dark legions crumbled and fled, racing away into the tunnels and shadows with their tails between their legs. Thus it was that Diamond Cascade and his band of heroes brought salvation to the gnomish people and earned their eternal gratitude!

Yeah. Might have happened something like that. Might be that Diamond Cascade and his noble companions stumbled into the edge of the battle with hardly a clue as to what was going on except that it was very dark and what little light there was really didn’t help very much, and for all we know the gnomes were kicking dark elf butt. It’s true that we brought the roof down. The Gnome did that, I think. And I think that probably killed more dark dwarves than it crushed gnomes. Probably. Anyway, it seemed to sort the whole matter out. As for finishing off the priestess, well, I couldn’t say now who actually landed the killing blow on her. Stalker certainly had a good go at it, but got taken out by the horrible snake-staff she was carrying. Might have been a stone from the falling roof that finished her, or maybe it really was me. Don’t know. As for having no thought for our own lives, well, I for one was paying attention when the dark elf wizard with whom we didn’t make any deal at all was telling us what magic she and her bodyguards were carrying, and I was damned if I was going to let that slide and end up buried forever under a ton of rubble. Snake staff isn’t much use, but I’m sure we could sell it. Nice cloak, though. Nice gloves, nice gauntlet, and a very, very nice sword. I might even give Buttpoker to Stalker…

Must find another way to describe my so-called friends. Noble companions is getting tired, I think.


Diamond Cascade: Magic Mushrooms

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Hammer 10: It’s amazing, sometimes, how life turns out. Take the psychotic dwarf, for example. He’s battled his way through the tunnels of the under-dark from the Mountains of Wherever to the Inn of Gnomish Mishaps to deliver his warning (apparently circumnavigating the entire gnomish kingdom in so doing, which, in hindsight, would explain his latterly apparent navigation and map-reading skills). He has followed his priest, joined with a band of strangely random sell-swords and misfits, travelled across the surface that he hates and has still, eventually, delivered his warning to the gnomish people. He has then followed his priest on a mission of almost certain death to deliver a crippling blow to the leadership of his enemies. He has watched his priest fall to goblin swords, and yet he has persevered. He has led a band of utter lunatics, stupid enough to follow him, yet querulous, argumentative and mocking. He has led them through tunnels he knows that are now riven with creatures he calls his mortal enemies (although in the case of this dwarf, ‘mortal enemy’ does sometimes seem to be a broad church that encompasses anything that breathes). He has faced dark dwarves, goblins, orcs, ogres and dark elves and he has spilt their blood upon the blade of his axe.  And then, almost within sight of his destiny, close enough to touch it, a bear sits on him.

Is there a lesson to this? Apart from not standing in the way of a bear that’s going toe-to-toe with a mushroom with tentacles? Yes. Life is futile, random and ghastly. Take what you can and get what you can get. Before the bear sits on you.

Bizarre, but the one person who seems to care about this (beyond the horrible realisation that none of the rest of us have the first clue how to get back out of here) is Shifty. Or maybe he was just looting the body in particularly dramatic style.

I hate this place.


Diamond Cascade: The Enemy of My Enemy

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Hammer 10: One thing Diamond Cascade won’t do in the epic tales of his exploits will be to blunder into yet another cave full of dwarves, get ambushed by them, get into a huge fight, kick their arses only to have a vast gang of mutant goblins, half of them with too many heads or too many hands or too many wings, mouths, tails, you name it, too many of anything, show up along with some flying dark elf wizard. There’s absolutely no way that Diamond Cascade and his noble mateys made some sort of deal with ANY DARK ELF WIZARD AT ALL, even one who’s lit up with magic like a candelabra in a Gammersbridge brothel. There’s no way at all that any of this happened, and no one was promised the magical-loot of the dark elf priestess if we happened to murder her. No bargain of any sort was made. In fact, no such wizard existed.

And if he did, he wasn’t called Ilkius Venaar.

Ah, crap, it’s not like we weren’t going to go and do exactly the same thing anyway.


Diamond Cascade: Lucky Fishing Magic Game

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Hammer 10: …until finally they reached the first scouts of the fiendish ARMY OF DARKNESS, the vicious DARK ELVES. With ruthless strokes, Diamond Cascade and his comrades stalked and slew these foul versions of the fair folk above and crept ever closer to the heart of the enemy.

Look, when you’re a human and you’re a mile under the ground and you can see jack shit, spotting a black-skinned elf wearing black armour, sitting on the back of a black lizard that happens to be hanging from a black ceiling with lots of black darkness in between you, it just doesn’t work, right. I begin to see why dwarves and gnomes live in these holes. Because they can. Because it keeps them away from us and us away from them. So we’re creeping along, bumping into walls and generally getting on each others’ nerves (The Gnome, it seems, has taken particular issue to the stories I sing of Diamond Cascade, back when we were in civilised places. Remember civilisation? Where a good bit of singing gets you a meal for a night instead of getting you attacked by an army of giant spiders and dire bats? I remember civilisation. Even my poet’s soul can’t find words potent enough to express how much I’d rather be there than here. Anyway, I keep telling The Gnome that they’re just stories, they’re not meant to be about us, exactly (well they are, and that’s pretty obvious, but The Gnome is a gnome and dim, right) but she just won’t shut up about it) when we hear the sound of rushing water. Great, a place to throw The Gnome and shut her up, but you know, the sound of rushing water turns out to travel an awful long way in a cave, and by the time we get there, I’ve temporarily forgotten about hefting people into rivers. So there we are, great big chasm, rushing underground river, long rope bridge vanishing into the darkness ahead. And I’m happily lollopping across when this fight breaks out, and all I know of it is there’s shouting all of a sudden from The Gnome and Wolfgirl (who can apparently see in the dark too) about something on the ceiling and then there’s people shooting arrows up at god-knows-what (hint for archers: don’t shoot arrows straight upwards, especially at a lizard you can’t actually see) and then the next thing is The Gnome casting some spell and the next thing after that is this huge lizard thing with a screaming black elf plunging past me and crashing into the river along with assorted bits of cave roof.

Now, you all need to know this: Not everything you’ve heard about dark elves is true. But I don’t know that. All I see is a falling magic shop plunging into the river, and so I’m out with the rope and grapple I keep handy (you would too if you were in these tunnels), trying to reel that sucker in before he vanishes into the inky depths. First throw was a good one too, got him nice and fast. Only trouble is, I guess I didn’t reckon on how strong the current would be and I’m still thinking too hard about how much magic this dark elf must have to let go of the stupid rope, and half a second later, that’s me over the edge and into the water as well. All in my chain shirt and sword and everything. I’m too busy trying not to drown to really listen in on the conversation behind me, but there was way too much talking and not enough throwing rescue ropes for my liking. I guess I could have reeled myself in to the lizard and floated off to gods-knows-where on the back of it, dark-elf treasure and all. The only one who does anything is the mad dwarf. Just as well it was a good throw.


Diamond Cascade: Aimlessly Wandering In The Dark

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Hammer 9: Through many perils fought Diamond Cascade and his noble companions, for the Underdark is a vile and wicked place where only the foulest of creatures dwell, those that cannot bear the light above, or have been driven to this place for there is no place above that will abide them. Through all these our valiant heroes fought, for no foe stood taller than they, and no danger could overwhelm their brave hearts and noble purpose…

Blah-blah, blah-blah blah-blah. There are a few reasons why not much of this is going to make it into the epic tales of Diamond Cascade and his heroic deeds. At least there’s a reason why there won’t be any detail. Can you guess? It’s because it’s all pissing dark down here. Have you tried wandering around an endless bunch of caves with nothing but a few lanterns? Can I see anything? No. Mostly what I see it rock, a few feet from my face. Don’t mind small cramped spaces, but this is like living in a coffin. Then there’s the constant tripping over stuff I don’t notice, banging my head, bashing my elbow. Yes, I got some light armour on which probably saves me from a concussion every few hours, but by the end of the first day I’m black and blue from bruises and quivering. I want out, back out. I want out bad. It’s fine for the mad dwarf and The Gnome, who can see in the dark and are used to living in holes in the ground. As for the rest of us, though… I’m surprised Wolfgirl hasn’t gone completely mad.

And then there’s the critters who live down here. The first lot we run into are a gang of dark dwarves trying to bring down a huge bear. Don’t know why. Don’t know what the bear is doing down here either. Looking for a place to hibernate? Largely we stand around and watch while the bear makes a mess of the dwarves (yes, it’s a seriously big bear). When it’s done. Wolfgirl makes friends with it and fixes it up. From that point on, half the time what I can see ahead of me is bear butt. Woo-hoo.

Then there was the half-cat half-octopus thing that seemed to shift about. In the dark. Which we could barely see in the first place. I don’t think half of us even had a clue there was something there, just lots of screaming. I saw a shadow or a flicker of movement and swung a sword at it. Not sure I hit anything at all. In the end, the bear sat on it, which made a right mess. Displacer Beast, I think. Heard of those back in North Horn Ridge. We take its skin. Which stinks and probably lures out every scavenger down here. At some point I think we ran into a couple of goblins, but the psychotic dwarf had them smeared across the stones before I even knew they were there.

About the only place where I can actually see my hand in front of my face without having seizures from all the lights bobbing about the place is some cavern full of glowing crystals. The dwarf gets all twitchy about moving on and not picking anything up, which is a red rag to a bull if ever I saw one, and anyway, it’s light enough I can see for once, so I hang around. True, there are piles of skeletons about the place, so maybe he had a point. Anyway, there are all these glowing crystals and some of them are broken, and so I figure, whatever lives here, it probably doesn’t care too much about the broken stuff, so I pick one up and mend it, figuring I might walk off with it, and that a glowing crystal might be a handy thing to have in a place that’s pitch black. Certainly doesn’t make my eyes sting as much as one of the lovely smoke-machines we call torches (and I think we might be running out by now). The next thing you know there’s this monstrous crystal creature rising up out of the earth and we’re all pissing our pants. Apparently I did a good thing, though, since it doesn’t smash us into pieces, so as soon as I recover my wits, I ramble on at it about our noble quest to save the underdark from crystal-smashing despoilers. It might have bought this, it might not, but it doesn’t seem to mind me helping myself to a rather nice-looking silver comb. It has some protracted conversation with The Gnome. Surprisingly, the result isn’t a dead gnome.


Diamond Cascade: Oh No, Not You Again (aka Ambush!)

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Hammer 9: Slipping in secret into the baleful dominion of EVIL that is the Underdark, Diamond Cascade had thought to enter unnoticed; but no, for he and his less stealthy companions had been FOLLOWED, and by none other than the evil servitors of the dark dwarf Durmijeron! Yes indeed, the servitors that Diamond Cascade and his companions had already once put to the swords! Against the swift senses of Diamond Cascade’s friends, however, these two creatures of wickedness could not long keep themselves concealed and were soon exposed. A mighty duel of swords and arrows and sorcery ensued, but Diamond Cascade and his companions were soon victorious. The foul troglodyte’s attempts to escape were quickly thwarted by Diamond Cascade’s mighty sorcery. Begging and drooling, the pathetic wretch offered Diamond Cascade wealth and power. He spokes of Axolim, the great green dragon whom they serve, who has brought them back from the dead and who grants his servitors tokens and favours to aid them in spreading their wickedness. Unrepentant, the monster left Diamond Cascade with little choice but to kill him for a second time.

So we go down some rickety starircase at the back of some cave that the mad axe-talking dwarf reckons is some sort of emergency exit. Presumably in case of fire or something. He claims to have a map and to know where he’s going, but he hasn’t a clue about the map and keeps contradicting his own directions. And yet we follow him. Why? WHYYYYY??? I suppose there’s some sort of underlying certain belief that he’s a dwarf in some tunnels and so he must know where he’s going. So we’re arguing about all this when Shifty hears something following us and slips back to investigate and yes, there they are, the two tits from the ruined tower north of Neverrest. Yes, the ones we killed once already, Troggy and Dogboy. There’s arrows and magic missiles between me and the halfgit and Troggy and Stalker and The Gnome have at Dogboy and his warg. Doesn’t take too long to bring them down. Troggy tries to hide, but here’s a clue for you thief-types: Trying to hide from a wizard (or in fact anyone who can do any magic whatsoever) who’s looking for you? DON’T CARRY MAGIC ITEMS! One Detect Magic cantrip later and he’s wriggling at the end of my sword-point and his magic scarab-pendant is in my pocket.

And yes, these offers of gold and gems and magic and territory if we were to join up with ‘the greens’ were all very tempting. Two slight little problems I have with this: Firstly, I think this whole malarkey about an eternal war between a pair of dragons is a pile of tosh (although that doesn’t meant here’s a bunch of people loaded with gold and gems and magic and stuff who are pretending to be a pair of evil dragon overlords). Secondly, if it isn’t, I can’t help thinking that butchering a baby green dragon and slicing it up for its saleable body parts might count against us. Anyway, apparently this pair of idiots have been tracking us ever since we killed them the last time to find out what side we’re on. It gives me some pleasure to think they might have had to suffer gnomish pranks and pixies too, and then Shifty, reading my mind, sticks a knife into Troggy. From the dead he came, and back he goes. If he want’s to tell his green scaly master whose side we’re on, good luck to him. I imagine he leaves as confused as he arrived. Do we know what side we’re on? Do we even know there are sides? Did we have to choose? We’re all on our own side – what’s the chances we’d even all pick the same one? Well, great green dragon, if you’re listening, I’m on the side of limitless wealth and power, of endless wine, women and song.

One thing: He seems to recognise Stalker. Calls him Boduku, who was apparently supposed to let the ‘greens’ into the dwarven stronghold of Dwarf Mountain (OK, OK, it has a proper dwarfish name that I can’t remember and couldn’t pronounce anyway). All this, of course, would have happened before Stalker lost his memory. Now this is probably all desperate bullshit in an attempt to sow bickering and discord among us (which just goes to show that he hasn’t been following all that closely to he’d know there was little more he could have done in that regard). But still, it does have an annoying ring of possibility to it.

Before we can question him any more, Shifty stabs him. I’m glad. It’s all very well having Stalker’s dubious past trotted out for all the rest of us to laugh at, but he’s not the only one with a history he’d rather keep to himself. Don’t trust Shifty, but boy is he useful to have around when you secretly want someone stabbed and can’t quite bring yourself to do it.


Diamond Cascade: Going Underground

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Hammer 8: Foul and vile as the enemy were, the army on the surface was not the true peril facing the noble race of gnomes. No, ’twas the vile legions of DARK DWARVES and BLACK ELVES, their souls twisted by evil, servants of DARK GODS and FIENDS and FOUL BLACK SORCERERS, every one of them twisted by the black magic that leaks from the lower planes of wickedness into that wicked place, the UNDERDARK! Finally Diamond Cascade and his brave champions of honour and good reached the edge of the MOUNTAINS OF EVIL and the forbidding caves that marked the entrances into the foul under-realms. Without pause for thought, sworn to save the kingdom of the gnomes from falling under the sway of evil, Diamond Cascade and his friends set forth into the darkness, into the heart of evil itself, set upon bringing death to the leaders of this ARMY OF DARKNESS. And thus began the first of Diamond Cascade’s Great Adventures

Yes, our band of self-serving thieves and anarchists did indeed follow a mad dwarf who spends more time talking to his axe than any of the rest of us and is set on dying a glorious death in battle at the earliest possible opportunity. Yes, we did follow him into the butt-end of a cave and happened to find some tunnels. Why? Why follow a deranged dwarf berserker into the under-dark? You know why? Because we couldn’t agree on anything else to do. How pathetic is that? Nevertheless, thus did indeed begin our great adventure into the under-dark, in which we were, largely by accident, of some small use to the kingdom of the gnomes and their bizarre monarch, Heapofcrapthatsitsontopovus. Or whatever his name is. And you know what? We’re right back where we started. Right back near the caves where we came for bat-shit all those months ago.


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