Shroud of the Avatar

Like that busy little cricket, or dung beetle, or inch worm, or whatever he was, I must prepare for the upcoming winter, for it shall be cold and dark, and I wish to not be caught unaware.

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Let us take stock of what we have.
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One for me, one for Blake. Check
Two for me, one for Blake. Check

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Three for me… Oh dear, this will never do! The inconceivable horror of it all! Famine will be upon us! Our meager supplies will not last the winter! We’ll never survive! We’ll be shriveled up, dead husks before the end of the first week!

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Even if we use the snow to chill our drinks, we’ll be praying for death. Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve such a fate? Sobriety is a harsh mistress and I will not face her!

But wait, all is not lost. To the crafting pavilion with all haste before it’s too late!”

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

On a recent excursion to Resolute, I made the acquaintance of Sir Conrad Dupre, a rather stoic chap that stands at the ready to do battle with the Kobolds. A man of few who words, at least until you sneak him a mug of ale or two, who told me about a battle hardened set of armor that might suit me in my pursuits against the thugs and my covert dealings with the bandits.

It seems he commissioned several new sets of armor for his men, but they were looted by scoundrels, some say it was the elves, who secreted them away in the Verdantis Mines. As per usual for someone of my keen prowess with the blade and fighting spirit, Dupre asked if I would be so bold as to sneak into the mines, thrash the scalawags about the head and shoulders and retrieve the looted goods. If successful, and he emphasized the “if” in a way that gave me pause for my meager lie, he would be more than happy to gift me a set of the fine armor.

Always on the lookout for ways to risk my life at the behest of strangers for trinkets, and never one to shy way from taking possession of another suit of armor, I readily agreed. Finishing off our ale, and wishing me the best of luck in not ending up dead, Conrad bid me a good evening. I then consulted my maps on how to get to the Verdantis Mines. After he made several corrections to my chosen path and turned the map the right away round for me, I was off.

Like so many of the mines I have found myself in, it was a bleak affair, with shoddy, bug eaten beams, crumbled rocks that tried to do grievous harm to my ankles, and the usual sense of foreboding. Not to mention the dank smell of wet Elf.

It seems they were indeed the culprits behind the theft of the armor, so I announced my presence with authority and set my sword on fire.

In retrospect, it may have been advantageous to err on the side of stealth, travel amongst the elves in a more cautious fashion, but hindsight is like a fish out of water.

Since I had made my presence known, it seemed fortuitous to let the elves know I meant business by declaring, “Look here elves, I mean business!”

This most assuredly raised the alarm and the ill-tempered devils came from all corners to investigate the nature of said business.

“Good evening armor stealing rapscallions! I have retribution and death for sale and there’s no need to barter!” I declared.

This took them aback, so I leapt in to action. I darted hither and yon, serpentined with the dexterity of a mongoose, clung to the shadows, like a shadow, and leapt from the staircases to increase my advantage and weave my web of confusion. I even took them on a dizzying ride in the mine carts, which we both seemed to enjoy.

But, this was not a day for fun an jocularity, as I pummeled the elves into the ashen ground, retrieving the stolen armor pieces one by one.

I was quite displeased at one pair and their taunting game of tossing the gauntlets back and forth to each other, keeping them just out of my reach. After several frustrating volleys, I put an end to their jibes and mockery by breaking the kneecaps of one of the competitors, thus putting victory and the gauntlets in my hands.

It should also be noted that even though the elves have secreted themselves away in a mineshaft, living the life of a miner is by no means part of their agenda. I discovered many nefarious deeds including a bevy of secret chambers riddled with horrors and the grim remains of dozens of workers injured by the reckless and unsafe working conditions.

That would have to be documented and rectified in a future visit. For now, my task was to return the armor Conrad so that he and his troops can continue to take up the mantle in the battle against the Kobolds. Why the armor was stolen by the elves and not the Kobolds still remains elusive to me.

Back in town, Conrad was quite pleased at my not showing up dead. I put his surprise aside and displayed the pieces of the Knightly Armor Plate I had taken from the cold, dead hands of several elves. Most of the elves had nothing of value upon their person and could have saved their hands if they would have mentioned that in the beginning.

But no matter, all the pieces had been returned and Conrad was well pleased. So pleased in fact, that he said I was free to keep a set as payment for a job well done.

“Well done, PeteWi The Disoriented! You are quite the spelunker of mines, slayer of elves,  and purveyor of trinkets! Although it’s quite clear your current armor is more than capable of keeping you alive, and giving you another would be somewhat irrelevant, I nevertheless want you to take this ridiculously heavy and somewhat dinged plate armor as a token of my appreciation.” With that, Conrad pressed the armor upon me.

Accepting his generous gift, I slipped behind the changing screen and donned the new armor. The sword and shield were a delightful combination and the Knightly Plate was a fine addition to my combat readiness. It should be a fearful reminder of my last visit when I return to the elves to discuss their dangerous working conditions.

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Huzzah! This will let the rapscallions know I am here!
On second thought…

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Well, this certainly looks dangerous. What manner of trickery goes on in here?

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I get the sense more than mining is taking place on the premises.  Is this cavern wasn’t so riddled with death and treachery, that would make a fine location for an ale house.

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I knew it, these elven hooligans have no respect for people’s personal property or for their safety and welfare. I say, are those ruby crystals growing over there?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

After basking in the glory, majesty and deleterious effects of Alley’s wines, ales and spirits, I was most anxious and keen to try my hand at the craft. With adult supervisions of course.

While not commonly known, I am descended from a long lineage of ale makers, vintners and topers. My several times great grandfather Dropwort was gifted at the craft and said to be a legend in his own mind. While widely know for his aromatic ales, refreshing lagers and light pilsners, he strode into the realm of infamy and banishment with his pink salmon infused spirit water. As legend has it, the taste was unforgettable. No matter what you did.

While not to be seen as a braggart, I have gained my own success and noterietay with the haunting and distinct taste of my Elemental Guano Stout and the not as commonly known and rather under appreciated, Cinnamon Bark Ale with Wild Boar Extract. Some naysayers claim the latter has a touch too much bite for it’s own good and to be palatable, it needs less “earthy” notes. I have explained many times that “earthy” and “wild” go hand in gauntlet. Further, “gritty” is not a recognized affirmation when describing ales. But, it falls on deaf ears to the uninitiated.

That aside, much has gone according to plan this time around. The first step was to carefully gather the ingredients from reputable vendors rather than those undependable and unsavory types lurking in the swamps selling knock off goods from the back of their rickety carts at cut rate prices.

I then meticulously followed each step Alley had outlined for me. She included a variety of handy illustrations and clearly highlighted points of danger that were most beneficial.

I believe I have made a success of it. Some say the first sign of a fine whiskey is the aroma. That may be true, but equally important is the lack of lumps, so this batch has already proven it’s worth. Further there were no toxic vapors issuing forth to cause me to lose my bearings and topple to the floor.

Creating the spirit was not the only time consuming task. There is far more to the act than merely throwing handfuls of herbs and fruit into a pot and stomping about on the mash with water redirected from the local town fountain.

I toiled for many days to prepare the hand crafted, hand seasoned storage casks that will safely protect my creations and nurture them for months and years to come.

It also came as a revelation that I should harvest wood taken from trees in a pristine forest and pass over those that were ravaged by the blight and home to mild infestations. Certainly the trees topple with far less exertion on my part, but they ultimately infuse the brew with a pungent necrotic foot aroma. This latter outcome goes in the negative column I’m told.

With the casks done and the mash cooked, my brewing is complete! I now have two batches of red wine, two batches of white, four casks of various ales and beers, plus both the young and medium aged whiskey.

However, the pinnacle of my efforts comes in the form of two barrels of the mature whiskey.

Due to the long maturity period and the many moons that will pass before Blake and I can make headway against the nectar of my labor, and to ensure we don’t end up with goblets of dreck that we will be forced to choke down out of principle, I have crafted two of those.

And to make sure I do not fall victim to the villainy of some rapscallion of the realm getting any wise ideas into his head about trying to abscond with my delicate bounty, I have assigned Danish, my guard dog, and Cervantes, my reckless and belligerent manservant to keep out an ever watchful eye.

He may be lackluster with household chores, and holds a grudge against many of my more valuable family heirlooms, but Cervantes is well trained in the art of broomstick combat. Danish is fully trained to dig a discreet hole and dispose of the evidence.

If needs be, they will both be relegated to sleeping outside until full maturity occurs. To take care of their creature comforts, they will each be provided with a blanket and a banana tree.

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More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

For the past several weeks I have been suffering from a tenacious and somewhat embarrassing bought of the plague. But, through the many unsavory mercury treatments along with some other rather dubious remedies, I feel myself on the mend with only slight bouts of delirium.

And since I’m once again able to remain standing and walk a reasonably straight line, I am anxious to see the progress Alley has made in the ancient art of brewing and distillation. I hear tell she has several fine casks of ale, wine and whiskey aging in her subterranean holding facility and nothing says healthy stroll about town like going on an excursion in search of spirits.

Not to reveal it’s secret cavernous entrance, we went to the basement hatch located on the side of her lot. Through the earthen tunnels I beheld a glorious sight, a bevy of beautifully handcrafted casks, each stacked neatly and filled with a feast for the palette. But, much to my chagrin, none of these would be ready for several months to come and the old whiskey would sit for many years in the aging process. Alley assuaged my fear by explained there would be plenty to go around for the next Yuletide Harvest Festival.

My jig of excitement sent me off balance and nearly caused a calamity as I bounced off one cask, tumbled into another and finally tripped on another, tumbling headlong to the floor. The cask remained impervious to my blunder and I was soon giving it a gentle pat and in a calming tone explained, “Fear not little one, Blake and I will look after you and never let any harm come to you. It was merely a misstep and won’t even happen again.”

With a shake of the head, Alley explained the ale needed to rest and we should take our leave.

“How about I teach you how to make your own, then you and Blake can spend your days watching over your own batch in the safety and comfort of your own basement?” Alley asked.
With a great tinge of excitement I said, “Oh, that would indeed be delightful! Your generosity knows no bounds!”

I was near overwhelmed when the mood was spoiled by a terrible commotion and clatter at the basement entry. The source revealed itself as a dark figure entered and told us to stand aside.

“I see you have crafted the famed vintage whiskey,” he said. “How fortuitous. It will save me having to make my own. Now stand aside so I may relieve you of that cask.”

“Now see here,” I exclaimed. “Is this some sort of whiskey robbery attempt?”

His reply was a resounding attack to my face which marred my nose quite severely and filled my eyes with tears. He shoved me aside as he made for the cask.

“You do realize that cask is well over several hundred pounds in weight and there is no possibility your scrawny little frame is capable of lifting such things,” Alley said calmly. “Plus, it hasn’t aged yet, it’s not fit for drinking. Come back in 25 years and try agin.”

“You dare insult me?” he said angrily.

“Take it how you will. Not only are you a blockhead, you’ll be crushed like the grapes that were under my feet. And quite possibly the same color when all is said and done,” Alley replied.

Taking a moment to consider, he finally said, “Very well, I shall have to run you through and make more suitable arrangements to relieve you of my quarry. It’s age is of no consequence to me!”

“I wouldn’t do that,” I said with a voice that was shockingly nasal and in no way instilled the proper level of threat and menace.

“And what do you plan to do?” he taunted. “You going to cry on me?”

“I’m not crying! I’m merely misty-eyed over here!” I protested. “But fair warning, Alley is going to fill you with regret,” I continued.

But he paid no heed and drew his weapon.

I tried to reiterate the dangers related to his ill-conceived attempt to abscond with Alley’s 25 year old whiskey, but the poor chap was struck down with a savage crack to the back of the head, a paralyzing assault to his knees and a shattering blow to his wrist and elbow.

I still reel at the memory of the cracking sound that filled the room. A series of deeds took place that forced me to avert my eyes. His cries for help were indeed pitiful and heart wrenching, but alas, he brought this misery upon himself. It’s a terrible misdeed to mangle my nose in such a fashion. But skulking into a whiskey with designs of thievery? That sort of behavior deserves no mercy.

The brutish stranger stood no chance, and now his horribly disfigured body is displayed as a warning to others who might hold the same foolhardy notions.

I gave you fair warning. I told you it was a bad idea. You chose not to listen and now I shall wipe my boots across your boney backside. Serves you right!

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

It had been a night of grand merriment when I stumbled out of the tavern in Solania. The reason for my visit and cause of celebration is both unknown and unimportant. But the festive nature of the evening took a downward turn when I entered the privy and found I was not the only occupant.

To make matters worse, my confederate was in a tattered soldier uniform. While I am not entirely familiar with the emblem, members of the constabulary, especially those encountered in a privy should be avoided. But there was something entirely not right about this situation. Then it struck me.

“Egads my dear fellow! You’ve obviously had quite a night of revelry, and no shame in dispensing with the overflow ale, but your clothes will be in quite a ruinous state if you don’t get up off the privy floor! Further, you should latch the door when the premises are occupied, I feel a dash awkward about this encounter.”

“Outlander! What great fortune I find you here!”

“Now see here!” I quickly explained. “First, there is to be no talking in a place such as this! It should be considered sacred ground. Eyes forward. No talking. Those are the rules. Second, I don’t know what you’ve heard, or what you think you know, or what that old spinster claims, but it wasn’t me, I was never there and plenty of people in the realm wear this style of hat!” I emphasized my point with many hand gestures and the attempt to hypnotize the soldier. “And on top of that, this is the largest privy I have ever encountered and that alone is disconcerting!”

“I am Helena of the Whiteguard soldiers and it’s urgent I speak with you!”

“Beg pardon? Helena?” I asked.

“Yes, of the Whiteguard.”

“Helena, I believe you are in the wrong privy.”

“Privy? No, Outlander, you are in the Solania catacombs. And I am need of your help.”

“Not a privy?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “A catacomb and death awaits around every corner. This is why we must speak.”

“A catacomb you say.”

“Yes,” she answered. “It has been a catacomb for quite some time. The privy is quite a distance in the other direction. How many libations have you consumed this eve?”

“That is of no consequence!” I stated. But, if you will you excuse me for a moment, I have an extremely urgent matter to attend to, and it must be done in private. Peeping eyes only make me nervous.” With that, I retraced my steps as best I knew how. Moments later I returned and picked up the thread of our conversation.

“Now, you say you need my help?” I asked.

“Yes! To help defeat the Ichor Witch!” she said with great fervor.

“Ah I see. And let me guess. She is some sort of terrible abomination roaming about this dank and terrible place and you want me to risk life and limb to venture into the catacombs, defeat this horror where others have failed and bring you back some sort of token of the deed. Does that sum it up?” I said.

“Well, as a matter of fact, yes. But how did you know?” she with great confusion.

“This isn’t the first catacomb I’ve mistakenly stumbled into,” I replied. “And what is it you would like me to bring back? Some sort of heirloom? A trinket of some kind?”

“Bring me the head of the Ichor Witch!” she demanded.

“Great Halmar’s Teeth!” I cried. “That’s a bit grim don’t you think? A swatch of clothing seems sufficient if you asked me.”

“No! I need the head, I wish to use it for scrying to determine the origin of this terrible menace!” she said, her voice full of venom, the bandage on her head shaking wildly.

“Perhaps it would be best if I escorted you to a healer. It seems you have suffered a rather debilitating head wound and a lie down is what you need rather than the severed head of some witch.”

“No!” she insisted. “I need the head! It will reveal all and I must have answers! It is important to me, to the Whiteguard, perhaps even to all of Novia!”

She had a determined air I couldn’t help but notice.

“My goodness, quite a few requests for heads in backpacks these days. But if you insist, I will see what I can do. I have to confess, I think there are better ways of handling this sort of thing. Popping the heads off witches seems a little less than noble,” I said.

“The whole head!” she said again.

“Yes, yes. The whole head. Now point me toward danger,” I insisted.

“Follow that path,” she said pointing down the corridor. “I’m quite sure you will run into one of the Bloodbone creatures and all will be revealed.”

“Bloodbone? That sounds dangerous,” I commented.

“Oh, it most certainly is. How do you think I got the head trauma?” she said.

“Does it have to be tonight? I’m not really in the mood for head trauma,” I answered.

“Well, certainly not. I can be any time you like. Shall I quill you in for next week?” Helena retorted.

“Oh, is that possible?” I asked. “I’m sure there is an opening after bath night.”

“Absolutely not!” she bellowed in a shrill voice. “Now get in there!” Her gestures were frantic and a little unsettling.

I did as instructed and slowly crept down the dank corridor. As predicted, skeletons leapt out from the shadows intent on stabbing me in the vital organs.

However, after crushing their brittle bones to dust, I found I was in possession of someone else’s vital organ and it pulled me deeper into the catacombs.

“Now see here unknown force,” I said. “I don’t take direction from disembodied organs! That leads to nothing but trouble!”

But it was no use. I tried to go my own way, but the sway of this grim fetish was rather overpowering. I was guided through twists and turns leading me to a most grisly chamber.

“Curses and blast! Yet another hideous chamber of death, or worse,” I said.

The macabre relic compelled me forward, into the circle of Bloodbone fighters, frightening cauldrons and shocking columns of light and fire. This ridiculous heart that had somehow been stashed in my pocket wouldn’t let me leave. It drew me right into the middle of the fracas putting me face to face with the terrible creatures.

It my panic and want to stay alive, I let loose with many exuberant slashes and run in an unpredictable course, weaving a web of confusion. I was working on me, so I could only assume I was making progress against them.

Unbeknownst to me, my gyrations triggered some sort of summoning ritual as the Ichor Witch made her appearance. Like so many other diabolical creatures that materialize from the vapors, she was not pleased to see me. Her cry of burning my soul or some such insult clued me in to her distress and that there would be no chance to sit down over tea and discuss matters.

As such, I dispensed with the pleasantries and skipped over the pithy monologue that normally explains my adversaries malcontent behavior and went for the cleansing fire.

Fire is the natural enemy of witches and seems to bring out the worst in minions. I was thusly attacked from all sides. Amidst a cacophony of debilitating strikes, fireballs and spells that nearly rendered me unconscious, I lashed out to defend myself.

I swung at everything that moved, and several things that didn’t. My Whirling Blade cut a destructive path, broke a few vases and upset a few cauldrons. But soon the hall was quiet except for the sound of dripping fluids from unknown origins.

To my great surprise and relief, the witch and her minions were crumpled in a heap on the floor. Despite my belief this is no way to get a trophy, I did the nasty work that needed to be done and returned with the witch’s head in a bag.

Returning to the guard, I handed over the trophy and stood by anxiously to hear the conclusion of this strange mystery. But what the guard mumbled made no sense and was borderline incoherent. She claimed the witch came from both here and there, was both old and young and was a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

“Are you sure you shouldn’t lie down before taking on such measures?” I asked. “I may have stumbled in here by accident, but what you say makes no sense.”

Then, tossing the head at me, she claimed, “I have learned all I can, I must now ponder upon this new information. Here, enjoy the skull.”

It was now a blackened husk with frightening, glowing eyes that seemed to stare straight into me.

“What the deuce am I supposed to do with this?” I asked in horror. “I don’t want your cast off skulls! I’m not traipsing through town with this disgusting relic without a darn fine reason!”

“I don’t know, turn it into a lamp. Put it on the mantle. Save it for the Samhain season and scare some little urchins within it.”

“Oh I say, it would indeed look quite fetching on the mantle. I do have those pieces of Naturamas that could use a centerpiece,” I said mulling it over. “While I don’t disagree with your decorating ideology, I feel you are deeply troubled to have come up with it.”

“Bah! That is just the green monster of jealousy talking!” she retorted coldly.

“Be that as it may, I bid you good evening. These have been troubling and sobering events. I believe it best for my mental well being to spend some time in the tavern washing away these memories.”

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Gadzooks my dear fellow! This is no place to take a rest! And goodness sake, lock the door when facilities are occupied!

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Oh my, this looks bad. Very bad indeed. Are those pools of blood coming to get me?

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Very well, I admit, I have a room full of these looted skulls. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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