Saturday, July 12, 2014

Forty-Seventh Beginning: Buckles and Lore Daggers

[Written in the late 1980's or early 1990's.  It's an incomplete conversion of an uncompleted D&D campaign.  You have been warned.] 

If Spark had been a lesser man, he would have grumbled as he stirred the acorn mush.  Living in a hollow log in the deep woods, at least eighteen days’ walk from the nearest theater, and wearing scratchy, baggy homespun was not the life to which he had aspired.  And the less said about the current cuisine, the better.
But Spark was cheerful.  He was young and full of optimism, determination, and magic.  He knew which spells he meant to learn and how he would make his way once he had mastered them.  When that unfortunate series of events back at school had left him certified as an apprentice but unlikely to be accepted by any academy, sorcerer, wizard, or dwoemercrafter, Spark had explored the talents of the unallied magickers, disconnected though they usually were.  That the exploration had been conducted in bars and inn kitchens had been gravy on the goose at the time.
It had been unfortunate, of course, that his exploration had revealed only one tutor likely to meet his needs:  Fralk the Forester.  Spark referred to him, mentally, as Fralk the Quiet, Fralk the Eccentric, and, occasionally, Fralk the Fool.  But Spark spoke no angry or ridiculing word.  Spark smiled and did as he was told and practiced his magic. 
He had given Fralk, when he arrived at the log, a list of the spells he wished to learn in exchange for his service. He was sure that the wormy old fart would get around to it sooner or later.
In the interim, he would make the best of things.  Aunt Min had discovered his certified but unapprenticed state two weeks before his departure and had summarily revoked his allowance.  There was some finicking clause to his mother’s will about continued progress of some sort or career intention or whatever.  The could sort it all out when he turned twenty-four.
It would sort out more easily if he were a practicing wizard when he did the sorting.  Lawyers tried to look down their noses at wizards, but not with any real success.  Meantime, it was just as well that his living expenses were low.
Spark gave the mush a final stir.  The consistency was perfect.  He used a stick to shove the heavy clay pot off of the coals and onto the cool dirt floor.  He ladled mush into two wooden bowls with a wooden spoon.  The he smiled, held one bowl in each palm, and settled back into himself.  He always enjoyed the first magic of the day.
Fralk was out by the brook, eyes unfocused, when Spark brought him his mush.  Spark plied his wooden utensil with as much grace as the clumsy thing would allow.  He watched out of the corner of his eye as the old man scooped his mush to his mouth with a casual two-finger hook.  After a few bites the old man paused, focused on his surroundings and scooped another mouthful.
“Nuts,” he said.
“Walnuts,” Spark supplied.  “Ground ones to match the texture.”  He gestured grandly with his spoon and bowl, unconsciously lounged back into a properly casual symposium posture, failed when his back encountered no chair back, smiled wider as he straightened, and continued. 
“It’s impossible to change the texture of food with a simple cantrip, only the taste.  The trick is choosing added tastes with known textures close enough to the existing texture of the base food.  Then not just the senses, but the entire mind is fooled.  Admit it, you almost feel the slightly different texture that the taste of the ground walnuts suggests, don’t you?”
Fralk scooped silently.  Birds twittered and darted over the brook, snatching bugs which, Spark felt sure, tasted nothing like walnuts.
“The base is acorn mush,” said Fralk, considering.  “That’s plain.  It’s shifted to taste like oat porridge.  And there’s something sweet, but it isn’t either sugar or honey.”
“Shagbark Syrup.”  Spark was obviously pleased with himself.  “Gingered shagbark syrup.  Most students can’t get the blend right.  Or rather, they’re forced to blend any added tastes completely.  This was a particularly successful spell.  Each component taste remains distinctly – “
Fralk tapped a forefinger to his lips and made an open fingered waving motion.  Spark took the hint and faded to silence with just the slightest shrug of the eyebrows.  Both men dug in.  It had been, after all, a particularly successful spell.
When Fralk’s bowl was empty, he stared back at the brook.  Spark crossed his legs and settled his backbone into comfort.  He had begun joining the old man in his long silences.  He did not, however, make the least effort to still his mind.  It jumped from old memories to future plans.  From the feel of a good oil massage after a sauna to the crisp taste of thick-skinned Veradney grapes. 
He considered what he had learned about the fish in the brook and how he had determined to fish, even though he knew not the first thing about fishing.  The idea being, at the moment of decision, that such pottering about would be restful and amusing even if it was unsuccessful.  He considered his recent success rate, which still surprised him when he thought about it, then he considered how much water to use to cook chopped fish in order to make it the same texture as a good ceviche. 
That thought captured him.  He was deep into consideration of whether to add cukes of cattail root, cooked, or slivers of wild fennel stalk, raw, and how best to layer the spell to give the illusion that the lime juice had permeated the fish without becoming the fish when Fralk roused and handed him his bowl.  Spark took it and stretched before rising.
“You know, they called me the King of Cantrip, back at school.  they meant it as an insult, too, but they were foolish.  The cantrip is a very versatile spell.  And applying it creatively takes . . . well . . . creativity, I suppose.  And subtlety.  I’m still finding new wrinkles to it, even out here.”
Fralk snorted to himself.  Spark smiled and turned to wash out the bowls.  He sat them on rocks to dry and sat back down by his mentor.
After a bit, Fralk spoke.  “Brook says that fish are sniffing it, down by the sea, but they’re not serious, yet.  Be another month before they run through here, making for the mountain shallows to spawn.”
“Mmm,” said Spark, with intelligence.  He was rather relieved to hear it.  The old man had had a store of smoked fish in his log when Spark had arrived.  It had taken them through the winter.  Spark had been reluctant to ask after it, once it was gone, but had had the remembered store in mind when he had begun his experiments with fishing.  It was good to hear about a seasonal spawning run.
The behavior sounded like bloodfish, probably, which were excellent eating, fresh.  Spark licked his lips.
“Go gather sticks today.”
Spark did not see a connection, but smiled amiably and asked, “Green?  Dry?  Supple?  Stiff?”
“Bit of each.  It’s for drying the fish.  Go rustle together a good collection of sticks and I’ll pick out the kind we need.  Then I’ll teach you that locator spell you wanted.”
“Right.  Right.”  Spark beamed.  He jumped up, straightened, clicked his heels, and bowed an elaborate coutier’s bow-of-excessive-gratitude.  “I’ll just stash the bowls before I go.”
Spark bounced with youth and good humor as he headed for the log.  Behind him, Fralk watched him go, blank as ever.  For a moment, though, his eyes twinkled.”
“There are many creative and subtle twists to a finding spell as well,” he said to no one in particular.  The brook babbled on and he turned to listen to it.
Spark ducked his head to fit through the burned and weathered hole in the side of Fralk’s log.  It was a big log.  Though Spark was tall for his age, he could take a good two steps from side to side and not need to duck or hit his head.  Lengthwise, well, it was about as long as three of him. 
Not that three of him could spread out.  There were trunks and boxes and sacks, and a fire-pit at one end. Spark stacked the bowls by the fire-pit.  Then he strode over to renew the flea repellant cantrip on the furs and the mosquito, gnat, and fly repellant on the door.  There was a branch boll at the top of the log that let in a few every day, but Spark left that unspelled.  The hole acted as a chimney and for some reason the mosquito spell messed up the smoke. 
Spark tried not to scratch at his few bite welts as he plucked two straps out of a pile.  These, he thought, could tie the sticks for transport.  He crouched, crossed the threshold, and all but danced into the woods.

He returned, later, with two bundles containing a fine assortment of sticks, to find a visitor at the brook.  The visitor was a whiffy collection of rags and would have looked like a smaller, younger version of Fralk if a few notable differences hadn’t interfered.
First, the youngster had a dark avidity to him, even in repose, that contrasted sharply with Fralk’s unconcerned calm. Second, he somehow gave the appearance of a town bum and layabout rather than a ragged forest hermit.  Spark could tell how, but the impression was clear.  Last, the stranger had no magic.  Not a thing that most would have noticed, perhaps, but definitive to Spark.
“Ah, guests,” he said, tucking the bundles to the side of his third favorite brook-sitting rock.  His first favorite was currently under a rag-covered bottom, while his second favorite was clearly down wind of the same.  “And I forbore to collect wild asters I saw on my meanderings thinking [fragment ends here]
This was an attempt at the novelization of a D&D campaign.  Sadly, the campaign was never played to completion.  It started with Youngest Son.  After a session or two, Eldest Son and Middle Son joined in and Youngest and Middle got into a distraction.
While Middle Son’s character was unconscious, Youngest Son’s character removed a ring from his hand.  There was a Long Discussion about how Middle Son’s character couldn’t take revenge for something that he didn’t know had happened.  I’d say that it was a quintessential D&D moment, if it had only stayed a moment.  Unfortunately, it dragged.  It recurred.  It eventually closed down the campaign. 
Loot so far –
2, +1 swords
2, +1 daggers
2, locate spelled buckles
neat clothes and boots
6 gold, 7 silver, 4 copper
donkey basket (right  [note unfinished – page continues as different note]
for underground –
black pudding trap
carrion crawler
lich (phylactery?)
hell hounds 4-7 die, 1-10 AC4
The Adventure So Far . . .
Spark, living in the woods, studying magic with the hermit Fralk, agrees to go to Davidsville to see if David, the Squire, a local landlord, has been possessed by a spirit.  David’s behavior had changed some months back and Flea, a local bum and ne’re-do-well, suspect it’s something more than greed causing it.
Fralk gives Spark the sheath to the Dagger of Lore, along with instructions and a scroll to enable him to use the sheath to construct the dagger.  Flea goes with him back to town.  The journey to town is supposed to take two days:  one day in the woods then one day by horseback.  Spark is supposed to borrow a horse from Farmer Dale, who owes Fralk for past favors.
Unfortunately, Spark and Flea encounter giant centipedes, which attach them, and giant spiders, which attack also.  In both cases they win, but are bitten and poisoned.  The spiders at least had treasure.  Our heroes had to take time to rest and heal.
On the second day in the woods, Spark learned that it’s pest to leave giant skunks alone.  He was hit hard and hurt bad, while Flea decided to flee.  Spark’s clothing disintegrated.  He ponged rather badly.
Out in the meadow, finally, Spark caught several geese and a pheasant.  Then they did the spell to create the dagger.  Since the spell was not done exactly as written, the dagger talked a lot and liked limericks instead of answering questions yes or no.  It was kind of a flake.
They encountered zombie eagles and took a chain from one.  Spark cast detect magic and found divinity magic on it.  He tried to use it to scry and failed, so he put it away.  The detect magic spell also revealed that one of the copper coins was ensorcelled.
Farmer Dale was tight and inhospitable.  Fortunately, on the way to his farm, the heroes had met a farmer’s son looking for a cow.  They had walked with him and he and found it and headed for home.  Later, testing the dagger, they had found the cow again.  So they took the cow to Farmer Brown, its owner.
When they discovered that Jack, his cow-finding son, had not returned, they sought him with the dagger and discovered he had fallen down a hole.  The whole family went into the night to find him.  There was a tunnel at th bottom of the hole.  Out of it came magic-distorted bats, which became puddles of acid when killed.
Jack was saved, though his leg was hurt.  The dagger scanned a magically shielded space at the end of the tunnel, with an unshielded tunnel beyond it, heading in the direction of town.
They stayed the night with Farmer Brown and returned to Farmer Dale’s the next day.  They paid him for the meal they’d eaten and for new clothes.  They later discovered where he buried his money.  They returned to Farmer Brown’s to borrow a donkey.  Dale wanted to charge too much for the horse.  They headed to town.
A prune merchant named Zeke met them on the road and they discovered a tombstone with the epitaph “Here lies an ungrateful daughter.”  But the dagger could sense to sign of a body.  Later they all camped with a dried fig merchant named Giles.  Zeke and Giles knew each other well and argued constantly – mostly about the relative virtues of figs and prunes.
Zombie crows circled the camp in the night, but with the dagger’s warning, were driven off easily.  During the night the dagger found a wandering, glassy eyed woman.    They tied here up for the night when they couldn’t snap her out of it or keep her still.  They decided to take her to town, tool
A farmer met on the way could not identify her.  The blacksmith in town would not stop work to talk and his assistant all but threw them out.  A cloth merchant next door recognized the girl amid a plethora of “oh, my stars!”  She was Belinda, the soap merchant’s daughter.
When taken to her father, Belinda tried to scratch out his eyes.  At her touch, there was a flash from her fingers and he fell dead, leaving the new guys in town with a body.  They tested the town for magic and sought David.  Two houses beyond [another abrupt ending]
map of town – street with shops on each side

soap /  banker / Squire’s house / City Hall /    /    / stable
street --------------------------------------------------------street
blacksmith / cloth /         /          /         /          /            /

meets Mrs. Squire – chain for dog – story of wizard and cursed shoes
meets City Hall – two guards
removes shoes – Squire convulses – guards attack, chase
fight and flee – killed guard – destroyed shoes* - that frees Squire
takes Squire – guard yells kidnap and murder – townspeople gather – killed other guard – tries to get to Mrs. Squire, settles for servant boy
Squire in house – comes to – been a long time – appalled at money spent – goes to City Hall to study papers – discovered money siphoned off – dagger discovers tunnel under City Hall
checks on Belinda – finds love potion and plot – Blacksmith’s assistant and Belinda will join the adventure
(guards had magic swords, daggers, and belt buckles)

* curse on shoes would be broken if they could be immersed in water – guards were chasing party too closely to find well, so Spark waited for them to have a bit of a lead, dropped the shoes, and peed on them.  Hey, it worked. 
different notes:
40% chance that zombie crows have fireball amulets
spider amulet on tree under main next, find if detect magic
Fralk’s log spelled to prevent scrying
Falk is missing.  His stuff has been ransacked
Dagger may have noticed skeleton’s or hell hounds
Magic mouth inside of log.  Message:  It swims and eats salad at dawn, crawls and eats meat at noon.  (Pause)  Tiny barrel, metal hive, is filled with meat and the meat’s alive.
Skeletons wait for all to come back out.
If Belinda sleeps and dreams (5 rounds)  hell hounds will destroy skeletons.
may be from another campaign –
Brackthane’s wand teleports randomly whenever it’s used, thus losing itself.  (Long list of silly results from casting with the wand.)
The Enspelled Object will hum or sing its owner to sleep if requested to do so.  Requests for Huey Lewis and the News will cause the item to shatter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you've read much of this blog, you know what the chances are that I'll keep up with moderating comments. You may be casting your comments into the howling void.