Kulthea Chronicle volume II number I
The official GemStone IV encyclopedia.
_______________________________________________ |/ \| | KULTHEA CHRONICLE | | The Official Monthly of GemStone III | | | | Copyright 1995, Simutronics Corporation. | | All rights reserved. | | GemStone III and Kulthea Chronicle are | | Trademarks of Simutronics Corporation. | | | | Volume 2 Issue 1 | | | |\_____________________________________________/| /*********************************************************************/ /* KULTHEA CHRONICLE */ /* */ /* Publisher */ /* David Whatley (Bardon) */ /* */ /* Managing Editor */ /* Nancy Gross (Gira) */ /* */ /* Contents are copyrighted by Simutronics Corporation. */ /* GemStone III is based on the Rolemaster and Shadow World */ /* series by licensing agreement. Rolemaster Copyright 1989 Iron */ /* Crown Enterprises, All Rights Reserved. Shadow World */ /* Copyright 1989 Iron Crown Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. */ /* Iron Crown Enterprises, P.O. Box 1605, Charlottesville, VA */ /* 22902. No unauthorized use permitted. */ /* */ /* Fanciful names of characters and places derived from */ /* Rolemaster and Shadow World are trademarks used and owned by */ /* Iron Crown Enterprises. Additional names of characters, */ /* places, and things in GemStone III are trademarks of both */ /* Iron Crown Enterprises and Simutronics Corporation. */ /* */ /* All other original works created in the GemStone III world */ /* setting are Copyright 1989 Simutronics Corp. and Iron Crown */ /* Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized use */ /* permitted. */ /* */ /* The terms "Rolemaster" and "Shadow World" are registered */ /* trademarks used and owned by Iron Crown Enterprises. */ /* */ /*********************************************************************/ Page 0 � New Year, A Continued Commitment to Quality By Lady Fawn Starstone, GemStone III Product Manager Dynamic (di nam'ik) adj. 1) Of energy or physical force in motion 2) energetic, vigorous (Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition). From the vigor of the players who populate Kelfour's Landing, to the loving labors of the GameMasters who fashion the world itself, GemStone III redefines the word "dynamic" in new ways every day. It is with a mixture of pride and wonder that I have witnessed the population surge over the past couple of years-wondering at the continuing growth of what was already the most popular multiplayer game anywhere on-line, and taking pride in being part of such a diverse, energetic team of designers and programmers. This sense of pride and wonder is something I think we all share. Exploring New Territory One cannot rest for long on the laurels of past successes and expect to remain at the front of the multiplayer game pack. As we push forward into new territory, we continue to savor the past, but look to the future with great hopes and expectations for an even better, more exciting, more enjoyable GemStone than ever before. While the prospect of change carries with it some trepidation at times, I look to the future with anticipation. Our goal is clear: to continue to provide the very best multiplayer game anywhere, and each step along the path must take us in that direction. As we go to press, the final stages of our UNIX Alpha Test are in progress. The conversion to UNIX is a project that has been in the works for many months, and has presented great challenges to the programming staff, GameMasters, and management. This process has been long and involved, but the results of all this labor will be felt throughout the game. Changes on the Horizon What changes can we expect to see with the UNIX version of GemStone? Probably the most important are aspects to the game that players will never really witness firsthand. Behind the scenes, the resources available to us as designers and programmers are being multiplied beyond what we imagined just a couple of years ago. Many enhancements will be visible, however. Already, alpha testers have seen the removal of the 20-item limit on player inventories. Now, your character can carry as many items as strength and size will allow. Spells like Strength and Phaon's Strength will even increase that for many of you! In conjunction with the implementation of real encumbrance mechanics, the monetary system has been revamped. Now, anyone who withdraws more than 5,000 silvers from the bank will be issued a promissory note for the excess amount. Though silvers are much lighter under the new system, they still represent a sizable amount of weight when carried in large quantities, so the notes will not only be a fun addition, but a beneficial change as well. Along with these enhancements in UNIX, many others are in the works. The GemStone III world is already rich and textured, but with the new system, we'll be able to create areas that are more complex, verbs that will encourage even more roleplaying, creatures that are more intelligent, puzzles that are more challenging, treasure that is more diverse, and implement some innovative and wondrous new ways of keeping the game fresh and exciting, which I'd rather let you find out for yourselves! Page 1 � I'm certain many have questions about other changes that lie ahead, and I do recognize how important they are. However, I will leave those discussions to another time and place, where space is not so limited. Armor, spells, skills, modifications to various classes, reallocation-these are all important topics and deserve more attention than I could possibly provide here. As you ponder the various proposals, do what the GameMasters do: consider not just yourself, but the game as a whole. In order to provide the best possible game for you, we must strive to achieve and maintain a balanced environment for all. While we will continue to grow, we must also recognize just how crucial vision is to all of us. Without the vision of David Whatley (Bardon), GemStone would have never come into existence. It was he who started this adventure, and his vision has been ably realized through the guidance of Elonka Dunin (Reline), now Simutronics Senior Product Manager. All of us-the players and the staff alike-working together, will continue to help GemStone III flourish. Yes, GemStone has always been dynamic, but it is vision that plots the course of change and directs all that energy. Look with us, toward the future. It is indeed bright. v ********************* Kelfour's Library Moves to New, Improved Quarters by Edrium Trias, Head Librarian of The New Kelfour's Municipal Library Sometimes my task is very rewarding, as it is today. In anticipation of many exciting changes, the Kelfour's Library, that is otherwise known as the GemStone III Library, has been moved lock, stock and barrel to a greatly expanded new site. I would have helped with the move if it weren't for the fact that my back has been rather delicate since that unfortunate incident with the ladder, the green orc and the sorcerer in the third floor stacks some time ago. The new download libraries for GemStone III, and indeed all of the various Simutronics products, will now be contained in a separate roundtable devoted entirely to Simutronics games, information and libraries. Not only does this mean you will easily be able to find what you need in one place, it also means the staff can more easily read and respond to player input, since the BBs for GemStone III will all be there as well. The new Simutronics RT is located on GEnie page 640. All of the old files from the various GemStone-related libraries have been transferred over to the new libraries. This means that the file numbers and uploader names have changed, as have the library numbers themselves. Take the time to do a quick search or listing of the files or libraries you are most interested in, and you should feel right at home in our new "stacks." In light of all the exciting changes to GemStone, if you would like to know more about the details and changes ahead thanks to the UNIX conversion, I recommend the following files, in the new, expanded Simutronics GemStone III Library on GEnie page 640: Number: 129 Name: UNIX2FRM.TXT Address: WHITE.NOISE Date: 950301 Approximate # of bytes: 55424 Library: 3 Description: This is an edited text transcript of the second Town Forum held on the upcoming UNIX changeover, specifically to cover issues related to the opening of Alpha Testing on Wednesday, February 15th, 1995. Chair-GM was Reline. It is an uncompressed, ASCII text file, usable by all. Keywords: town forum, reallocation, UNIX, alpha, beta,testing Page 2 � Number: 134 Name: UNIXFRUM.TXT Address: WHITE.NOISE Date: 950301 Approximate # of bytes: 211584 Library: 3 Description:. This is an edited text transcript of the Town Forum on the upcoming UNIX changeover, which was held on December 14, 1994. Aside from UNIX, topics covered were the Engagement System, Skill reallocation, and armor conversion. Chair-GM was Reline. It is an uncompressed, ASCII text file usable by all platforms. Keywords: town forum, engagement, system, ES, combat, skills, reallocation, armor, UNIX, alpha, beta. Number: 133 Name: UNIXFORUM.SIT Address: WHITE.NOISE Date: 950301 Approximate # of bytes: 67456 Library: 3 Description: This is an edited text transcript of the Town Forum on the upcoming UNIX changeover, which was held on December 14, 1994. Aside from UNIX, topics covered were the Engagement System, Skill reallocation, and armor conversion. Chair-GM was Reline. This file is in StuffIt Deluxe format for Macintosh. Keywords: town forum, engagement, system, ES, combat, skills, reallocation, armor, UNIX, alpha, beta. Number: 132 Name: UNIXFRUM.ZIP Address: WHITE.NOISE Date: 950301 Approximate # of bytes: 67584 Library: 3 Description: This is an edited text transcript of the Town Forum on the upcoming UNIX changeover, which was held on December 14, 1994. Aside from UNIX, topics covered were the Engagement System, Skill Reallocation, and armor conversion. Chair-GM was Reline. Keywords: town forum, engagement, system, ES, combat, skills, reallocation, armor, UNIX, alpha, beta. v *************** Bloodsmythe's Bestiary A Vultgar Ghost Story by Dirtbeard the Gravedigger Them as knows me, knows I ain't one ta turn up me nose at a bit a honest labor. Truth be told, I'd as soon swing a pick as a pickaxe. An' even them what don't know me ain't got ta be swift as a elfie runnin' from a troll ta catch on that I ain't averse ta gittin' a bit a grime under me nails. Iffin me own mum named me Dirtbeard, ya gots ta figger the name fits. So when old Bloodsmythe called on me one day in the dead'a winter with a task what needed doin' I perked right up. No dwarf worth growin' a beard's gunna pass the chance ta earn some silver an' show a half-elf ya gotta git down close ta the groun' ta 'complish anythin'. I says as much to that old sorcerer an' 'stead a hollerin' like he's most offin apt ta do, he jes chuckles. An' it ain't the sorta chuckle I likes ta hear. Ain't the sort what a fella gives sittin' by the fire after tossin' back a pitcher of stout an' tossin' down the good porshun of a karnelin. No sir, little pointy-eared boys an' girls, believe you me when Uncle Dirtbeard tells ya that this here chuckle was the sort what wilts them daisies ya fools is always Page 3 � pickin'. We're talkin' bout the sorta mirth that the Executioner likes ta engage in at the end of a long day with his buddies the Undertaker an' the Gravedigger. 'Twas a chuckle that comes from spendin' too much time cavortin' with them nether spirits an' not enough time courtin' the earthly spirits what's found in a good respectable bottle a rum. "Close to the ground you are, and closer still you shall be," says the uppity master of unholy arts, like he's preachin' ta some crowd when thar ain't but two of us in attendance, 'ceptin' acourse me travelin' menagerie a' fleas, flies, an' other otherwise homeless vermin. "Fine!" says I, not ta be out done. An' he tells me ta head on out ta the graveyard as there's a fella there fer me ta meet. So when I's done drinkin' me payment after some hard negotiatin', I heads on out inta the winter snow an' me stout yet powerful legs soon carries me ta the gate out there. It seems ta me that when ya's headin' out inta the snow an' ta the graveyard at dusk ta boot, sharp wits is jes 'bout as useful as a halberd to a halfling, so whiles I's passin' time sittin' at the gates ta the Hell on Earth what's become of our graveyard an' likely waitin' on a rendezvous wid a demonic fiend, I helps meself to a few more sips from me handy flask. Needless ta say, when me appointment shows his face, I's face down in a snow drift wid a grin on me face. First all I feels is this here kickin' in me side. Then when me wits flits by close enough that I kin grab `em by the hair, I sits up, dusts meself off, and sizes up me visitor. An' ugly cuss he were too! Fully six ungainly feet, blue eyes buggin' outta his head, an' hair the color a' wheat what's beggin' ta git lopped off an' fed ta a mule. Ain't much what's more revoltin' than the sight of some crazed high man late at night with a belly full of brew. Now I'd a beat him good fer kickin' me, 'ceptin' he were twice me size, smelled a durn bit more sober, an' had some kinda wild look in his eye. The fella weren't from these parts an' didn't speak more than a few words a common, but that "I'd like ta rip apart everythin' what ain't sewed tagither tight an' can't run faster'n me" look a his told me thar weren't much for us ta discuss anyhows. He hands me a shovel an' we starts pushin' on the gate. Which is fine by me. Never was much of a conversationalist. When we gets that gate open I durn near up an' met the Smith personal like at what I seen! That there graveyard was piled knee-high ta a Troll King wid skeletons an' ghouls what had given up the ghost twice. Thar was heads here an' rotten entrails thar an' bones rattlin' `round like we'd stepped inta one a them wand filled disks what floats around tryin' ta keep up wid scamperin' mages. By Iorak's Sweaty Armpits, I ain't seen so many unholy bodies lyin' bouts since the last Thieves' Guild party. The high man jes mumbles somethin' in that odd language he speaks an' starts a wadin' through the mess ta some tombstones a bit further on. Without much more talkin', he sets ta diggin' up grave! Now mind ya, I's done me share of gravediggin'. More'n me share, in fact. But ta me mind, ya only oughta be diggin' a grave one time. Once ya got that dead fella restin' sound, thar ain't no call ta go doin' any extra labor. But then I's bin paid in full, so I leans to with me spade an' dirt starts ta fly. The grave we's workin' at is mighty deep as most of the shallow ones gave up the bodies long ago ta send them walkin' about in the night slobberin' on honest folk an' generally causin' a ruckus. At first I figgers Bloodsmythe needs a body fer some experimentin' wid them forces what he'd best be lettin' alone anyhows. But this here lunatic high man next ta me is shovelin' so fast that I can't believe he's doin' this here for money. More like maybe he's out ta steal some baubel offa the corpse. Or maybe he's one a them folks what worries they loved ones is buried alive. Either way, we's down ta the casket in no time . Page 4 � Now fer them as don't know, them undead scourges in the graveyard comes outta graves. Don't ask me how, as I ain't got a mind ta know, but seems thar's some foul curse out thar what turns the rest of tired souls ta murderous sleepwalkin'. Somethin' wakes them undead in them graves, they claws themselves out, an' next thing ya knows ya got mummies an' skeletons an' whatnot hangin' offa ya like moss on a halfling's feet. So I weren't surprised when we opens the coffin an' out starts a skeleton with glowin' pieces a coal fer eyes what seem ta have lit a burnin' desire ta rip out our throats. My big high man friend didn't seem surprised either! Why he lets out a whoop an' breaks inta a big grin as the thing starts chewin' on his leg! I ain't never seen such foolishness! So ta be neighborly, I calls on me rangerly talents ta summon a vine an' throttle this here skeleton. No sooner is the skeleton dead, than the high man up an' starts in throttlin' me! Talk about ya fellas what ain't thankful fer nuthin'! Well, soon he calms down an' settles fer jes cursin' me, an' since he's speakin' that furin tongue a his, I ain't takin' no offense. After a bit he calms down an' starts diggin' aggin. This time I ain't havin' none, so I jes sits down an' watches the fool, dodgin' the odd dirtclod he hurls at me. Before long he's down to another coffin, his eyes glowin' jes as wild as afore. This time when the skeleton pops out he's clobbered it upside the head afore I even blinks, an' jes stands thar grinnin' at me like he oughta git some prize. That foolishness went on fer hours an' it weren't till jes afore the crack a dawn when I's back in me bed. Acourse the next day I looks up the sorcerer ta find out what the skinny is on this odd furin friend a his. What do you suppose the old codger tells me? Seems thar's a new lot of wild men in our lands what thinks Eissa's told them personal like through her valet Vult that they oughta pound the tar outta every Undead what they sees. Seems they bin tearin' up alla the usual haunts so fierce that them Undead's gittin mighty tough ta find. So some a the more fanatical types has taken ta pullin' Undead outta the ground afore they even gits a chance ta wonder around gnashin' them teeth a bit an' cursin' things. Looks like Gravediggers is gonna start makin' silver hand over fist so I's ordered me a mithril shovel an' a few crates a' rum! v ***************** Kelfour's Landing on 80 Silvers a Day: A Newbie's Guide, Part I by Dmitri Chytri So you've arrived in the magical world of Kulthea. You walk into dead ends. You fumble for doors. You're naked, stuttering and generally unsure of yourself. And you thought this sort of thing only happened at New Year's Eve parties. Well, you were wrong. It happens all the time in Kelfour's, when novice adventurers arrive to try their fortune. Today just happens to be your turn-and we trust, amid all the confusion, you're very glad of that fact. So welcome, new arrival, and feel free to look around! This guide will hopefully be of some assistance. It's not concerned with rollplaying, like the superb "Natasha's No-Nonsense Tourist Handbook to Kulthea" (available from the GemStone III software library). You won't find material in here about the best weapons/armor for your OB/DB capabilities, or the best way to create your stats. What you will find is plenty of stuff about roleplaying and the environment of Kelfour's: the place, its people, the way they act and think. How to get what you need to fit in and enjoy, rather than simply to survive. If you find this of any use at all, please pass it on to a friend-or to another new arrival, when you've become still-another local success story. Page 5 � Kelfour's: An Overview Kelfour's is a very large place, as you've probably noticed. Take a look around. Smell the air. Listen to the crowds. Watch the inhabitants, including the NPCs who seem to wander through at odd intervals, or simply stand still. (But don't bet on it. Few things are completely as they seem in Kelfour's.) The standard unit-of-exchange on Kulthea is the silver coin, which thankfully can't be debased or inflated. It's legal tender in all Kelfour's fine establishments. You'll find it on monsters, in chests, or in the pockets of other people (if you're that kind of person). Kind souls will even give it to you as a gift when you're still a novice and arrive on a newbie night. Getting it at that age is not a problem; spending it wisely is, however. We'll examine what to buy in a second. For now, let's consider where you should go to get what you need. The following places that should be on every novice adventurer's list: The Gemcutter's Shop; Jarlik the Furrier; Tyron's Arms; Aznell's Armory; and Dernick's Pawnshop. These five stores are frequently visited by inhabitants of all walks of life. Some of them buy different goods you've found or liberated during battle. Tyron and Aznell supply (as you might expect) weapons and armor. But profession-based weapons and armor for the clerically inclined may be found elsewhere, in the Cleric Shop. Other stops of interest include: The Bank: Store your excess silver frequently here, because thieves lurk the streets of Kelfour's. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. Town Square: Healers heal, war parties assemble, and thieves/bards/rangers open locked items in the TS. This is where you should go to sell goods the pawnbroker won't offer even his usual thieving Muliran rates for. TS is the most crowded place in Kelfour's, and probably wouldn't exist in its current shape if the town had a fire marshal. It will all seem a bit disjointed at first, but you'll get the hang of the place after a while. Mind the squirrels. Helga's: This tavern (where the roaches outnumber the patrons, and occasionally outwrestle them, as well) is sometimes a focus for citizens kicking back after perilous campaigns. It's a great place to meet the inhabitants and trade stories about your respective pasts, some of them possibly even true. Treating a slim acquaintance or two to a brew is a good way to make friends. Don't get too drunk, and watch your pockets. The Temple: When you're rezzed-resurrected-without benefit of a cleric, you usually end up here. Unfortunately, the Temple has ceased to be a center of general healing activities and discussion, but it still maintains important official and even celestial services. Be sure to ask around about the Temple. It's a mandatory place to visit even while you're alive. The Inns: Ready to train and move up in the world? Check in at the front desk. You'll know what to do after that. Moot Hall: Did you check your WEALTH, and find out you owe debts? This is where you go to pay them (and don't wait, if you can help it). It is also the place where town forums occur, and other governmental activities. Moot Hall offers well-protected storage boxes, too, but they're small and far from cheap. Page 6 � The Healer; The Herbalist: Too bad that hobgoblin mangled your brand new body from stem to aching stern, but you may find some healers ready to practice their craft on you in the TS for free; check it out first. If no one's around, try to crawl over to Surtey Akrash, Kelfour's official healer. He's good, but overworked, and doesn't do all repairs; so as a final resort, you can buy from the Herbalist. His herbs aren't cheap, but then neither is the skill necessary to find and bind them all while fresh. Preparing for Your First Excursions Now, let's consider your first outfit. As a new inhabitant, you should focus on utility-low price, with good maneuverability and at least some protective value. A simple, effective outfit consists of the following: a visored helm; an aventail (it protects the throat-and I nearly had mine slit many years ago by a hobgoblin when I'd rearmed without an aventail after being rezzed.); arm and leg greaves; and your main armor, usually a robe for the mage or some form of light leather for anybody else. Get a shield and a weapon, and you're all dressed literally to kill. As to that weapon, be sensible in your acquisitions. A mage cannot successfully wield a greataxe. Fighters fry their own feet while enthusiastically waving magic wands around. You may also find very good weapons on the bodies of slain creatures. Search well, and leave nothing to Chance save what she will greedily claim on her own. (And if you have first aid skills, make certain you SKIN your quarry before you SEARCH it, to garner useful experience.) See if you can locate a falchion, or much better yet, a drake falchion. (If you show up on a newbie night-dedicated to new adventurers, and usually hosted on Tuesdays by one of the local Houses-you may even acquire a free falchion.) These marvelous "beginner blades" have become increasingly scarce of late, and their short sword replacements at Tyron's are decidedly inferior. The drake in particular will surprise you. It will certainly surprise monsters on occasion. Buy a heavy backpack from the General Store, but note-you can only carry 20 objects in Kulthea, including all pieces of armor. (There are ways around this limitation, like a strongbox in Moot Hall, mage spells and house membership, but that will all come later. What's more, strictly out-of-character, the new UNIX conversion offers the possibility of much higher inventories.) It might be a wise idea to write down the general value of traded items, so you'll know what to keep and what to discard when you find too many goodies later on the road. And keep one eye on your surroundings while you're plunging that spinel deep into your backpack in monster country. You never know what might come along to investigate your loud, satisfied chuckles. Outside the City Kulthea is a huge world, no doubt about it. There are many wonderful places you can explore. Unfortunately, most contain creatures who take a dim view of adventurers, at least the living and breathing kind. It's important to know where to go, and at what point in your career. For newbies, check out the forest environment outside Kelfour's gate. It is expansive, dim and darkly beautiful, and it has plenty of kobolds and torkaans-two creatures eminently suited to the expertise of beginning adventurers. (In fairness, other people will recommend the sewers for a newbie, but rats are no fun. Besides, the kobolds sometimes carry good treasure.) Run the other way if the occasional wolverine or karnelian shows up, however. They pound novice adventurers into steak tartar before you can say "Uh-Oh..." The forest is also a good place to learn a ritual Kelfourians refer to as Parry Tag. The routine is simple enough. You type PARRY 100, turning some of your offensive skill into a defensive bonus. Then, after a monster attacks, you switch to PARRY 0, swinging good and hard. As soon as you can (usually 5 seconds later, after that combat round) you switch back to PARRY 100. Page 7 � The idea is to present your most defensive front to a monster's blow, and your offensive best when it's your turn to hit. This works well, particularly in combination with the mage spells Slow I and Slow II that can really take the zing out of a monster's footsteps. Note, though, that some monsters are extremely fast, while others are large and simply get lucky. They may not hit you often, but a single random blow the size of a mature windak tree is all that's needed. You're welcome to venture farther a field than the forest, of course. As a first-year resident you receive several free resurrections at the temple. (These vanish when you become a second-year citizen.) There's Hobland, a starkly attractive mountainous realm filled with upscale hobgoblins. And don't neglect the river bank alongside the bridge, to the southeast of Kelfour's. Those lesser orcs can be murderous to a novice. But the experience points come in handy. However, be sure at all times you know where you're going. A certain young (then-7th year of training) mage with a bright eye and a sense of wonder decided some time ago, for instance, to play tableen with the Greater Orcs. Alas, he chose the wrong turnoff, and ended up dodging a Black Stalker and a Storm Giant around the black, befogged ridges of Smatoth. One of Kelfour's finest was kind enough to provide a rescue. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. So consider that it might be wise to try staying cautiously alive for a bit, if only just to see how it's done. Death is easy to find in Kulthea; evading its suffocating grasp for a time can be much harder yet infinitely more rewarding. Your ability to move beyond the Forest is largely bounded by your profession, weapons, armor and stats. A strong first-level fighter with plain broadsword and armor can often take on hobgoblins with impunity. (I've even seen a nude warrior do it. She had very good form, too.) A third-level sorcerer or mage might be able to give a hobgoblin pneumonia by waving a falchion at it, but not much more. Keep in mind that you can try more deadly areas if you go as part of a party, while you gain more useful experience if you go it alone. The choice is yours to remake at any moment. Just remember that if you go alone, keep a crystal amulet on you at all times. RUBbing it will let you THINK to other inhabitants' minds and hear their thoughts as well, linked by this magical device. It can come in handy when you're being swamped by beasties, since you can call for help under extreme threat. (Don't be bashful about this. Everybody does it. Just don't hog the net with plenty of other comments.) Personally, I have a bias towards party-based hunting if it's done wisely among a balanced, regularly assembled group-but that's admittedly hard to find. The inclination among younger inhabitants is to build a hack-and-slash bunch of fighters who simply want to chop away at everything in their path. True, fighters are the most advanced profession for the Kelfourian newbie. But over time, a fighter-only party runs into big trouble. They'll need a cleric to resurrect a fallen comrade or bless a weapon; a healer to tend the wounded. A thief is indispensable for lockpicking-on-the-range, and develops fantastic assassin skills. The weakest professional type, the mage, can still cast attacking and defensive spells, and eventually develops into a magical dynamo. Sorcerers, bards, rangers? All valuable, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Page 8 � I emphasis a regular hunting group, because the closer working relationship fosters mutual assistance. No one gets left behind; members with more experience may hold back after disabling a creature, allowing other adventurers to hack or spell away. You'll even become aware of each other's style when under attack, and react accordingly. Typically, a balanced group can hunt considerably above its normal level, due to the spread of skills. But party members should be chosen with care for spirit and compatibility. And that goes doubly when selecting your group leader. You want someone with imagination, but a very cool head. Powerful, but inclined to parcel out tasks so that everybody in the party gains experience. A good organizer, given to forethought. Friendly. Avoid brash leaders who nominate themselves, and are always eager to jump mouth-first into the next unexplored area. Time and again that has resulted in the death of their party, or themselves, or both. Getting Help from the Populace Kelfourian veterans (and yes, the younguns) are a mixed lot. Some actively enjoy associating with newbies and helping them. Many simply avoid new inhabitants. Invariably, even those who offer the most assistance will hold some just beyond a novice's grasp, omitting clues and grinning. Don't let this frustrate you. All Kelfourians realize an important rule of life: no true gain without some growing pain. You must achieve at least a fair amount of knowledge on your own, or you'll crash as soon as the help net is removed. Expect to be teased and tested in a harmless sort of way from time to time, just to see how far along you've come (and maybe to spook you a bit). Sure, it's frustrating, and all the grinning hints you receive could drive anyone to drink. But if it's any comfort, you're not alone in your ignorance. Even the most grizzled Kelfourian veterans (and some of the inhabitants are so grizzled that they demolish walls when brushing lightly up against them) began as shivering newbies. It happens to us all at one time or another. And speaking of the veterans, don't expect a lot of response from them-at first. They have plenty of friends and activities going on continually, and their personalities range from callous to gently supportive to warmly nurturing to loving to whimsical. When they see an ambitious, questing individual who's not just in-for-a-day but really trying to make it successfully on Kulthea, you'll quickly discover some valuable allies. And who knows...? Maybe, over time, some hunting, drinking and lodging companions. If you're being ignored (or feel ignored, which amounts to the same thing), keep a cool head and think it through. What would attract your favorable attention if you were on the other side in such a situation? Try asking politely and make your question specific. Apply a little humor. Approach different people, not the same one each time. It may be hard-no, it will be hard, thanks to the fast-scrolling screen and the seeming disregard for your very real concerns. But don't give up. Most people at all levels are quite friendly, and it'll just be tough for a while. If your question is reasonable, you will eventually get a reasonable reply from someone young enough to remember what it is like to be in your current position. Don't be surprised or further annoyed if some of the other newbies act a lot more smug and knowledgeable than you, in spite of their apparent age. They may have the benefit of knowledge and donations from their elder siblings. (Translation: they are second, recently-started accounts by long-term players; or they're long-term players who rerolled, starting again, after leaving their funds with a good Kelfourian friend.) Others have been "sponsored" by "parents" who bought them fantastic weaponry and armor. Sure, it's not fair. And when you find that magical golden ring, I'm certain you'll immediately search for someone more needful. Page 9 � Besides, the newbies who are younger relatives are among the best companions you can find on your journeys. They clearly enjoy the early stages of roleplaying and development, and they aren't into heavy power trips. You can make some very fine, long-term friends among these people. Just look for the new or younger players who clearly, confidently, know their way around. Ask if they've seen the land before; see what reaction you get. And that in fact brings us to the last, least likely issue of assistance: the assistance you as a newbie can render to those more experienced than you, from younguns on up through the highest ranks. Hey, it happens. Opportunities present themselves. The veterans will be entertained at first, but you may surprise them favorably. I once offered a 12th-year cleric who viewed newbie-me with amusement some Rewk potion after her face had been severely mutilated in a black orc attack on the town. True, she still views me as a wall decoration, but I can now honestly say, "In Your Face!," and mean it. v ***************** Face to Face with Jerusha One Memorable Evening at Helga's with Lord Oghier Sleepytoes, Bard Extraordinaire as indulged in by Jerusha Montjoy The night of the Flea Market; the booths were still under construction, and hopeful sellers were milling about Town Square waiting for their chance to unload their wares. Shoppers looking for a bargain, myself included, were hanging around to see what was available. Over the crowd, I could hear Lord Oghier Sleepytoes, dwarven bard extraordinaire yelling about the delays. Seizing the opportunity, I offered to buy the waiting bard some ale, in exchange for his life story-or something faintly resembling it. It seems that ale is a powerful inducement for a dwarf, for he accepted with alacrity. I went to the bank and withdrew the requisite coinage to pay Helga, then made my way back to the benches where Oghier was in the middle of looking for the "perfect" cloak. He must have been unimpressed by the offers outstanding, as he ended his discussions and joined me. Either that, or he really wanted something to drink in a bad way. With an expansive wave of his hand, he indicated that I should proceed. "I'm follerin' ya, Jerusher." As we sauntered down Reaan, Oghier began whistling a stanza from a song that's common hereabouts. I gazed at him over my shoulder, my eyes wide with delight, and smiled. "You do that quite well," I complimented. What an understatement! I thought only birds could whistle like that! Grinning, he exclaimed, "Thank ya, I been practicin'!" He winked at me, and we continued onwards to Helga's. Quietly, very quietly, I tried to whistle the same tune. Not a chance. I sighed and climbed the rickety stairway outside the Tavern, trying to ignore the sudden reek of stale beer (and other things) that met my nose. I really dislike Helga's. After our eyes adjusted, we saw that the Lords Thalior and Zimbangu were on the premises. Zimbangu was concentrating on a quill pen and "singing" to it, and Thalior was fingering a small hoard of items on the table in front of them. I figured Thalior was having Zimbangu figure out what the items did (in anticipation of selling them at the Flea Market). I was going to leave them in peace, when I heard Oghier exclaim, "Hey, Thalior!" Thalior grinned at Oghier and poked him in the ribs. "Ah, you're back!" He gave me a wink and a tickle for good measure, then told Oghier, "Good, I needs anudder bard." He indicated the stuff on the table. Oghier furrowed his brow, and considered Thalior. "Whatcher best offer on that colory cloak of yers?" Page 10 � He hadn't given up on the cloak, after all. Oh well. I shrugged and looked at what Helga was offering for her customer's imbibing pleasure. "Whatcha wanna drink, Oghier?" Sheesh, five minutes with a dwarf, and I start sounding like one! I cleared my throat, and tried again. "Oghier, what would you like to drink?" He gave me a wink. "A ale, please, Jerusher." He turned back to Thalior and they started discussion coinage. I returned from the bar in time to hear the amount of a million being bandied about. My jaw dropped and I about spilled the ale. "A million?" I mouthed silently as I handed the mug to Oghier. He smiled at me and took the mug from my hand. I sipped my ale slowly then asked, "Where'd you folks get a million?" "A lotta spidery priests," Oghier said. "Sure ain't from tips! Elfs is lousy tippers. An' this town's fulla elfs!" I snorted, then mumbled, "I tip pretty well." Thalior blinked at Oghier. "Ah, excuse me?" Oghier amended his statement. "Well, most elfs." As I harumphed, Thalior said, "Your last tip was 10,000, if I remember correctly." "Actually," the dwarf continued, "there's only one decent tipper in th' whole town. But he's loopy! Bein' a elf an all." Thalior laughed, and I gave up. Oghier poked at the sorcerer. "Lemme know about th' cloak, Thal. If I don't buy somethin' soon, I'll spend me silvers on somethin' else." Thalior once again indicated the pile of items on the table, and the overworked and by now rather hoarse Zimbangu who was attempting to sing to them all. Where Thal finds all these things is beyond me. Oghier shook his head. "I'm here fer a interview.. no singin'. Besides, I sang more tanight than I wanna inna week!" Thalior said, "Okie Oghier," and smiled. He then tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Ya ain't ever wanted to interview me!" Oghier got a wonderfully superior smile on his face and said, "Well, dwarfs is more interestin'." He nodded to us emphatically. Thalior snorted, "Hardly." I grinned. "No comment. I stay neutral." Oghier asked, "I ever tell about th' time I rode me a demon?" He gave a nod to emphasize his veracity. "Hadda use its whiskers fer reins!" Chuckling rather unpleasantly, Thalior said, "We will shortly see just how well you `ride' demons." When Thalior's true sorcerery nature comes eking out, I tend to want to hide. I tried to steer the dwarf to the corner of the room where I had spied an empty table, but Oghier took exception to something Thalior had said. "Short?" Oghier demanded. "Short?!" He started to jump around like a twelve-year-old. "Thatta crack a some sort?" Thalior leaned back and smiled sardonically. Oghier scowled darkly and insisted, "I ain't short!" He drew himself up to his full height, and said haughtily, "I'se jest compact!" Page 11 � I whistled to myself noncommittally, refusing to be drawn into the fray. Thalior, however, continued. "Naw, everyone that can barely reach my belt is tall," he prodded. Oghier's face turned a darker shade of red, then he gestured and uttered a phrase of magic. He suddenly seemed to stand taller, as if bolstered with a sense of confidence. He threw a smug look at Thalior. I smiled wryly at the bard, as Thalior laughed and tickled him. Disgruntled, Oghier started mumbling. Thinking to change the subject, I indicated stuff on the table. "Thalior, how did you get to be such a pack rat? You have got some nice goodies here." I fingered the quill pen. Then, turning to Oghier, I started to ask if he was ready just as he poked me, and said, "I'll be right back...I gotta hit th' lil dwarf's room." I sighed and nodded to him. He headed into the darkened corner of the room, only to reappear moments later. "No cracks!" he exclaimed. He glared for general principle's sake and headed back into the dark. I leaned against the battered bar and said to no one in particular, "And I have to sit in there in a moment." Thalior was looking over a few things, and responded to my earlier comment. "I just find too much junk, Jerusha." I sighed. "Lucky you. I find cheap lockpicks." Oghier emerged from the shadows, sipping his ale. "Alright! I'se ready ta be immortalized!" he pronounced. "Got matters taken care of Oghier?" I asked dubiously. He nodded to me, and I said, "Well, let's do it." Then realizing that may have been unwise to say to a literal dwarf, I tried to amend the statement. Too late. "Hey! I'm here ferra interview, an' that's all!" "Sorry, bad choice of phrase," I mumbled. Thalior was laughing his head off. Oghier exclaimed, "What kinda dwarf ya think I is?" Then he started to giggle, and winked at me. Dwarves! I shook my head in disgust, waved to Thal and Zimbangu, and made my way over to the table. Oghier followed and sat down with an audible oof. I sat down lightly (we half-elves can at least lay claim to a touch of grace), and caught the dwarf's comment of, "Ya, well...none a ya elfs speak common too good." I quirked my lips to the side. "Uh huh. After listening to you and Dirtbeard, I have to wonder." "He's a flatlander dwarf," Oghier declared. "They're...differen'." He took a slurp from his mug. "Now, whatcha wanna know?" Very well, now on to the matter at hand. "Why did you become a bard? Why that?" "Become?" he asked, blinking at me. "Well..." He thought back. "As a career choice," I prompted. He nodded. "When I was lil...well, I grew up in th' Black Hills, ya know?" Oghier indicated a northerly direction, "Thattaway." Page 12 � I obligingly nodded towards "thattaway." "Silver an' mithril mines. An' th' prettiest veins ya ever saw!" He nodded emphatically. "Cept minin's..." he frowned.,"...well, it's hard!" "I would agree with that." "An' when I was a lil dwarf, I'd rather a sit aroun' an' lissen ta stories than haul rocks. Eventual, I started repeatin' 'em. An' that's when it happened, th' most amazin' discovery known ta dwarf..." I smiled to myself. I am a sucker for one of Oghier's tales. "I found that, if ya tell good stories ta folks...they buy ya ale!" He nodded. "An' mutton stew! Who'd wanna haul a buncha rocks aroun' when ya can perch onna stool an' make up stuf..." he coughed, "um....recount history!" `Why , indeed?" I concurred. "Anyway, that's how I got me name. Sleepytoes." Oghier put on a slightly aggrieved air. "Some folks accused me a bein' lazy! Me! Th' hardworkinest..." Nod. "Longsuffrinest..." Nod. "Dedicatedest dwarf in th' realms! It ain't fair, issit?" He took a long drink from his mug and leaned against the table. I shook my head in sympathy, "A pity that you were so mistaken." I took a sip of my own ale and tried to keep a straight face. He gave me a slightly suspicious look. "Anyway," he continued, "I kept hearin' all these legends an' such, ya know? So when I was jest a young dwarf, I packed up me pipe, mug an' stew-spoon an' left home, in search a I Dunno What!" He giggled. "Eventual, I took me a ship across th' sea." He tapped my hand. "Ya ever been onna ship?" he asked. "On th' ocean?" I answered in the affirmative, and watched as Oghier turned slightly green with the memory. I remembered my first days on board a ship and empathized. "Then ya know wotti mean!" he exclaimed. "It's..." Oghier gulped., "it's horrible!" He shuddered. "I ain't never doin' that again. If Iorak had meant fer dwarfs ta float, he woulda give us big floppy feet." My lips twitched in amusement. "Yeah, all that rolling and rocking... tossing to and fro..." "Oog," he responded going a shade greener. Smiling a tad, I said, "I ended up liking my voyage." I winked at him. Oghier blinked at me and exclaimed something in dwarven that hardly sounded complimentary. "Anyways, I ended up here," he grumbled. "What was th' question?" "How long have you been here in Kelfour's Landing now?" Furrowing his brow, he thought back. "I left th' Black Hills 42 years ago." He hesitated. "I think." "Not sure about that?" He mumbled something that I didn't quite catch. "Some parts are kinda blurry." I smiled at Oghier, and tapped my mug. "Too much of Helga's brew does that sometimes." Page 13 � Oghier took another drink, and concentrated intensely. I tried another question. "Do you remember what the first item was that you sang to?" Oghier said, "Hmm...I dunno. Prolly one a them stinkin' sticks!" He glowered. I laughingly asked, "A wand?" "Them's dangerous!" he insisted. "Why, jest th' other day, I nearly burnt me beard off! Lemme tell ya. Never, ever stick a candy apple on anythin' made outta iron." I blinked at him incredulously. He nodded at me. "It's a new rule I got." I blinked again. "I will attempt to remember that one. A wise rule, indeed." I drained the last drop of my ale wondering if only a dwarf would attempt to make a wand into a candied apple holder. Sheesh. "Tell me, Oghier, how does bardic magic work?" Oghier giggled at me. "We tell stories...an people buys us drinks!" He laughed. "That's magick!" I laughed in turn. "What a scam!" He gasped at me, and said indignantly, "Historians! Keepers a th' Lore! Artists!" I was still laughing. "Okay, okay, historians!" He considered me seriously over the rim of his mug. "How does singin' work, ya mean?" You ask, "Yes. I don't know any magic, as I am a bit suspicious of the stuff. So how does the singing work?" He gave me one of his rare smiles, his blue eyes twinkling in his craggy face. "It ain't as complicated as ya might think. Ya see, bards travel a lot. An' we learn a little bout most everythin'. An' we always gotta ear perked-pointy or proper round-fer tales an' such a powerful magicks an' artifacts." He sipped his drink. "But we hear a lot, an' it's hard ta rememmer it all. So, we hold th' item, an' sing songs about it. This does two things: first, it helps ya rememmer what ya know about th' artifact, an' second, we're hobby mages, ya know." He nodded at me. "We pick up a lotta tricks. An' we can sorta read th' essence flows aroun' a thing, as they get bounced aroun' be th' sounds we make. That can tell us a lot." "Ahhh," I said as enlightenment dawned. That at least sounded logical. I smiled at Oghier and said, "That doesn't seem all that difficult. But I know the wording of a song matters." "Yep," he nodded. "And it takes considerable talent to make it work correctly." "Ya gotta know a lotta stuff ta sing a good song," he explained. "Ya gotta know a lottabout structurin' stanzas, rhymin', an' usin' th' right magickal words." He chuckled at me. "I ain't gonna tell me secrets! Or why would I call 'em secrets?" "I have to admit, Oghier, I think that you are one of the best around at singing to things." Page 14 � Oghier grinned. "A course I am!" I snorted at him and muttered an elven imprecation on egotistical dwarves. "Nobody sings louder 'n dwarves!" he continued expansively. "Ah, so volume helps?" I asked wryly. Oghier blinked at me, and exclaimed again in dwarven. "A course it does!" He leaned back in his chair and explained, "Ya wanna learn about a item? First, ya gotta get its attention!" He grinned at me. I gave him a look of skepticism. "You speak as if they are alive." Oghier furrowed his brow. "What's alive an' what ain't?" he asked. Grimacing, I remembered all the philosophy lessons I had to take as a youngster. Lessons that still make no sense. I detested philosophy. Oghier pushed his point. "Th' essence gotta life, sorta." I frowned, considering. "Well, essence does, sort of...but an item?" "Yer notta sworder, is ya?" he asked, giving me a keen glance. "Of a sort." I smiled. "A proper blade..." he said, "a proper dwarf-forged battle blade will talk ta ya, an' sing innit's manner." Oghier reached down and touched the ivory hilt of his serrated falchion. My eyes widened. "Oooh. That's lovely." For not being of a violent disposition, I have a fondness for nice weapons. "Yep. Ripper was found long ago. A lich had her." "A lich?" Oghier nodded. "Two rangers, name a Gallenod an' Hanrahan, kilt it. Gallenod won th' game a dice fer it, an' he sold it ta Maruko, who sold it ta me." He patted the hilt lovingly. I sighed in envy, and looked at the bottom of my glass. "What was the most interesting item you have ever sung too, Oghier?" "Hmmm. Ya mean most powerful? Or oddest?" I smiled. "Oddest, or of the most complex construction. Power doesn't necessarily mean interesting." Oghier thought back. "Th' Reaver's Axe might be it. A incredible weapon." "The Reaver?" I asked, remembering all the slaughter and destruction that went with the name. He shuddered and nodded to me. "Yep. Thalior's got his ole axe. It's... well, it's got no peer." I heard myself making gasping noises. Somehow, the thought of Thalior with the Reaver's axe was less than reassuring. I mean, I like Thalior and all, but still. Page 15 � Lord Oghier thought some more. "Dart's armor is pretty amazin', too. An' Moonpie's threadbare cloak." He shuddered. "Now that's a artifact!" "The cloak?" He nodded to me. "How so? Or is that a client secret?" "It's... well... " he stopped. "Less jest say it does a lotta differen' things." I sighed. He smiled at me. "I wouldn't wanna upset Moon." "I must admit, it is reassuring to know these things are out there. Sorta." Oghier giggled at me. "Some a th' stuff in the Arcane lockers is hard ta believe-even fer me! If our basement ever floods, it could blow up half th' island." He giggled again, obviously well pleased by this circumstance. "You belong to House Arcane?" He nodded. "Hmm," I commented. "An' a finer buncha fellers I never met!" "I am sure that is true." "Even if th' hobbits do look awful silly playin' pool in th' cellar perched up on a barstool." He winked at me. "They leave th' whirlpool a mess, too; all that foot-hair." "Ick," I said succinctly. "Well, we gotta page what cleans up after th' hobbits, an' th' mud th' rangers track in. An', they say somebody leaves big piles a empty mugs an' casks in th' bar." Oghier paused and gave me a bland look. "I dunno who, tho. Can't begin ta imagine." I gazed at him evenly. "Can't imagine." Oghier said, "I think they're jest playin' up how tough they life is." I grinned. Then pointing to his glass, I asked, "How's your ale? Need a refill?" He polished off the remaining amount, gave a resounding belch and exclaimed, "Yep!" I meandered back over to the bar and ordered a couple more tankards. Helga topped them off, and I resumed my seat, handing one of the brews to Oghier. "Urp," he said as he accepted the flagon. "Thank ya." I smiled at Oghier. "Most welcome." We sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, sipping our ale and feeling our heads spin. Oghier smiled loopily, and I giggled. "What was I gonna ask?" I wondered aloud. Oghier exclaimed, "I dunno!" Page 16 � I blinked, and tried to gather my thoughts. A few more minutes passed, and I noticed that the bard had started to look quite dazed. I yawned, and set my mug down, hoping the blurry feeling would soon pass. "I honestly don't have the constitution for Helga's drinks," I remarked. Oghier didn't answer. He was sound asleep. Hmm. Now that it wouldn't be considered rude to stare, I took a good look at Lord Oghier Sleepytoes. After much consideration, I decided that he wasn't all that bad looking, for a dwarf (which isn't saying much, in my humble, half-elven opinion). Shoulder length, wavy black hair framed a face made craggy by time and a slightly cantankerous disposition. His build was indeed as he described earlier-compact. At least, that's the most polite way to say it. His raiment could be considered, um... brilliant. On a sunny day, the beasties would be able to see him glinting from a mile away, for upon his head he wore a horned helm made from bright brass, which matched a suit of burnished brass armor. Across his shoulder was slung a brass shield, edged in gold. His heavy traveler's cloak was trimmed with rich gold braid, so I assumed that his years of singing hadn't all been lean ones. The only thing he wore that seemed to link him with his mining past was a pair of troll-hide delving boots. A soft, decidedly inharmonious snore was issuing from his lips. "Oghier?" I called softly. I wouldn't want to startle him. I'd probably find myself with his sword at my navel. Hmm. I called a little louder. Nothing. I poked him in the ribs. "Oh Ooooghhhhiiiieeeeer?" I tickled him. Geez, that dwarf could sleep! I sipped my ale, and waited for him to wake up. As usual when I have to be content with my own company, I rubbed my crystal amulet. As my mind busied with thoughts, I heard that Dirtbeard was looking for someone to open a box, and I told him I would do it, if he wouldn't mind bringing it up to the Tavern. A moment later, my friend, Rhyl, gave me a holler, wondering if I had done any shopping yet at the Flea Market. Eyeing the snoring Oghier, I let her know that I was otherwise engaged, but to come to Helga's if she wanted to. Dirtbeard stomped through the swinging doors a few minutes later. He grinned and dropped an engraved iron strongbox on the floor by the table, then looked over at Oghier and poked him. "Hidin' from ya kid?" he asked the very vocal but still somnolent dwarf. I picked up the strongbox and started examining it for traps. After a moment, I realized what Dirtbeard had said, and looked up. "You two are related?" I considered the ramifications of that statement. "Huh," is all that he mutterd back, as I watched Dirtbeard as he looked closely at his snoring kin. "He's been pretty comatose for a while now," I volunteered. Then I saw Rhyl come through the doors and waved her over. She took a seat, then poked Oghier. His ribs were going to be hurting on the morrow if this constant poking kept up. Dirtbeard winked at me, and said, "He's usually like that after he's had a sip er two." Then he answered my question about family. "Me family is mainly from the lowlands. Oghier claims ta be a mountain dwarf." "Uh huh," I commented absentmindedly, my eyes glued to the lock I was working on. "He called you a `flatlander'." Dirtbeard mumbled something softly under his breath. I handed my ale to Rhyl, who smiled and took the flagon. When I looked at Dirtbeard again, I was surprised to see him more than a little annoyed. "They ain't flat!" he insisted. "They's jes low!" Page 17 � "Uh huh," I said again. dwarven politics baffle me. Who cares how big a hill is? I finished with the lock on the box, and watched Dirtbeard poke Oghier once more in the ribs. "Flatlander!" he glared. Oghier blinked blearily, and sat up straight. I guess the geographical epithet got his attention. "Mudgrubber!" he slung back. Dirtbeard asks, "What's wrong wid mud?" Oghier asked, "Scuse me?" Rhyl took a sip of the ale, and said quietly, "Oghier, I have been calling you mudgrubber for years." Oghier didn't look happy, or like he was kidding around. "I," he said distinctly. "am not a mudgrubber!" He glared at us all in turn. Dirtbeard offered Oghier a mug of Blackdew grog, which he promptly accepted. Dirtbeard grinned, and Rhyl sat back in disgust. The bard wanted to make sure we understood. "I'm Black Hills clan!" He continued to glowered even as he drank out of one mug, then the other. "Dwarves!" I muttered, rolling my eyes. Dirtbeard didn't let it rest. "What ya think they pulls outta the Black Hills?" "Black mud?" Rhyl answered sweetly. Oghier exclaimed, "Mithril!" He banged a hand down on the table. "An' silver!" "An' mud." Dirtbeard finished. I leaned back in my chair, watching and waiting. Dirtbeard went on, "Jes cause they makes a big deal outta the mithril don't mean thar's more a it." Oghier stood up with dignity, and muttered something very unflattering in Dirtbeard's direction. Rhyl said, to no one in particular, "I prefer trees." Lord Oghier snorted once in disdain and left the premises. I sighed. I guess that's one way to end an interview. I wondered aloud if the Flea Market was open yet. There is nothing like a bout of shopping to calm the nerves after a substantial dose of dwarven indignity. Dirtbeard gave me a hug then went out the swinging doors, the strongbox tucked under his arm. Rhyl and I laughed quietly to ourselves. Dwarves! v ****************** Page 18 � Unlife to Live, or Meet the Ghoul Next Door! by Sierre Masterson Hunting Unlife, or the Undead, is an activity that has recently gained popularity due to the appearance of a sect of the Order of Vult, or OOV. It is not particularly different from hunting the more mundane creatures of Kulthea, but there are some logistical hurdles with which you must deal. Having a properly blessed weapon, opening the cursed (literally) Graveyard Gate, and protecting yourself from the nastier of the Unlife magic are your foremost concerns. When you have dealt with these chores, you must then find a Minion of the Unlife from which you can learn and profit from hunting without dying regularly. Following is some advice to help you meet these challenges and, hopefully, start you on your way fame, fortune, and power. This information will not be too useful for Lord level or higher adventurers, but by then you should have the resources to experiment with a particular creature to determine an effective hunting strategy. Fighting the Unlife There is more to blessing than simply crossing yourself, and saying "Bless you, broadsword. Go in peace." First, you must find a cleric with the Holy Blade spell. The simplest way to do this, is, of course, to ask. "Any Blessers?" asked in TS or thought over the net will usually do the trick. Most clerics will be more than happy to help, but politeness and respect are always appropriate. These same clerics will be the ones to resurrect you when the Unlife get the better of you. When you have found a cleric, you will need to bring them a normal weapon. Laen, shaalk, E-bladed, edged, or any other magically enhanced blade cannot be blessed. Most importantly, a blade that has already been blessed, but hasn't worn off, cannot be blessed again. When a weapon is blessed, it is good for three swings per level of the blessing cleric. These swings must be used up before the weapon can be blessed again. For this reason, it is a good idea to have two weapons that you can easily differentiate, for example, a falchion and a broadsword, to avoid confusion. Clerics will quickly lose their patience if you always ask them to bless a blade that has already been blessed. The Order of Vult has a Symbol of Blessing that works in a similar fashion to the Holy Blade spell. The number of swings, however, is three times the OOV rank of the member using the symbol. Getting a member to do this for you is more difficult than finding a cleric, however, because instead of using Power Points which regenerate, the OOV member must use some of the Favor of Vult earned from killing the Unlife. This will slow progress within the order and is therefore avoided. This may change, however, once there are Masters, who no longer feel pressure to advance. If you are a spellcaster, your spells will work normally on the Unlife. Clerics, in fact, have spells specifically suited for combating the Unlife. Prayer of Holding and Repel Undead both work only on the Unlife. Prayer of Holding will immobilize a creature (lowering their DB to 0), and Repel Undead will cause it to run away, or dispel it completely. Following is a list of what spell you need for each level of creature: Prayer of Holding I 1-5 Repel Undead I 1-6 Page 19 � Prayer of Holding II 5-15 Repel Undead II 7-15 Prayer of Holding III 16-19 Repel Undead III 16-25 Prayer of Holding True 19+ Repel Undead True 26+ The Graveyard Gate The gate leading into the Graveyard (GY) is cursed. The Phantom Gatekeeper keeps constantly vigilant, closing the gate soon after it is opened. For this reason, the adventurers who explore the Graveyard hurl more mundane curses at the gate regularly. There are three ways to get past it: PUSH, CLIMB, or via magic. Pushing the gate is the most common way to open it. To do this, though, you must have two or more people, and the more the better. These people can be inside or outside, and all need to push; don't pull. Both hands must be free, so this can be dangerous if pushing from the inside as there are Phantoms and Skeletons about, and with no weapon, you can't parry. Be careful, and ask for help from older adventurers if you need to. The more people you have pushing, with greater strength, the quicker it will open, and the shorter RT you will incur resting afterwards. If you push the gate open, it will usually take about a minute before the Phantom Gatekeeper takes notice and closes it. Be careful if you are joined to a group, that you don't type GO GATE by yourself, because you will follow the leader through, then go out again, leaving you on the original side. GO GATE again quickly as possible if this happens so as not to get stuck when the Gatekeeper closes it. On the other hand, if you are leading, wait for your group to nod or indicate they are armed and ready before going through, or some group members may still be in RT or weaponless when you go through. Climbing the gate is dangerous. It should only be used as a last resort, and then only if you are willing to pay the consequences. The gate has sharp, jagged spikes and climbing it often leaves you in a heap at its base. Thinking over the net that you are going to attempt to climb it is wise in case you die, so your body can be found promptly. Also, if you announce this, you will often get help from a kind soul that wasn't going to the GY, but doesn't want to see you come to harm. If you do decide to climb it, make sure you then JUMP the spikes. If you climb it and then come down, you will end up on the same side you started. Using magic to open the gate is another option. Word of Opening on the Open Essence List and Neutralize Curse on the Cleric List work. Both of these spells, however, alert the Gatekeeper faster than pushing, so be ready to go when it opens, as you have only about five seconds. These spells will not work if people are already pushing. Another magical means of entering the GY is with a Gold Ring. Set your ring in town, then enter the GY through one of the above methods, then you can ring in and out at will. Page 20 � Unlife Magic Some Unlife are straightforward critters that have no magic. Others, however, do cast spells, the most dangerous being Fear. Other spells cast by the Unlife include protection spells such as Aura and Alkar (Phantoms and Ghoul Kings, respectively). Some also cast Directed Spells (DS) such as Cold Ball and Lightning Bolt. The most dangerous spells are the Resistance Roll (RR) spells, Fear, and the innate Life Drain ability. Fear will cause you to run, or stun you, and in either case you may drop whatever is in your hands. At the extreme, Fear will cause you to run all the way back to the Gates of Kelfour's Landing. You may lose your equipment if you are alone, and dropped it prior to running. Dropping it and being stunned is even worse, as you become defenseless. In any case, never hunt a creature with Fear by yourself. If you are hunting with a group, watch for your friends being feared, and take the appropriate action. If they are stunned, you may want to drag them to safety, after getting their weapons. If they are immobilized, dragging will not work, so the best solution is to dispatch the critter before it gets your friend. If your friend runs off, it is best to stay put, as s/he most likely only ran to an adjoining room, and will be back quickly. Leaving their weapons on the ground will allow them to get them immediately on reentering the room. Don't follow them without picking up their gear, though, as the janitor is often very quick. Life Draining occurs anytime they hit you with a natural attack (not a weapon) and you fail your Resistance Roll. Many protection spells can give you a bonus on your resistance roll. The Guardings, on the Open Essence list, including Mass Guard and the Protection spells on the Open Channeling list being the most common. Asking for G1 or light blues (Protection I) in TS will very likely get you some moderate protection. G2, G3 and deep blues are harder to come by, but also worth your while if you can trade or beg these before a hunt. I hope these tips serve you well in your quest and don't forget to tell the Ghoul Next Door I said, "Hello!" v ****************** Building A Perfect Sorcerer by Fallon Slaonn The sorcerer is a hybrid weaver of the purist magics, master of destruction wielding the two magical realms in chaotic harmony. The perfect sorcerer is not as easily defined. He is not a fellow you would recognize as such. All the candidates are of an incorrect race, learned the wrong spells, or lack the right skills. They all have this stat too low and that one too high. After all is said and done, each is different, yet they are all nearly the same. Average. So, what is the perfect sorcerer then? The simple answer is, there is no "perfect," "should do," "gotta have" method for building a sorcerer. The requirements of the class and the options it presents are too great for any single path of sorcerer training to be the ideal method of sorcerer construction. The dilemma lies in the truth that every single character statistic is important to a sorcerer. Unlike the other classes, there are no "throw-away" stats for a sorcerer. While most characters are able to plug an undesirable number into Presence or Self Discipline, a sorcerer cannot. His ability with the magics he spins depends heavily upon both stats: presence to discourage demons from attempting escape and strong Self-Discipline to prevent them from escaping in cases where they work up the haught to try. Development statistics are as important to a sorcerer as they are to any other class, considering their pivotal role in character development. Sorcerers double-learn Directed Spells and Wands to boot, so Agility is a high priority too. Page 21 � Decisions, Decisions Once suitable statistics are obtained, decision time begins. Do you want your sorc to wield a weapon or do you want him to brawl and wave wands? Do you want the Agility of a halfling or the Self-Discipline of a dwarf? Or how about an agile, empathic wood elf, a sturdy high man or a well-rounded half-elf? The questions range from race to training to method of parry. And while there may be a million unique and viable ways to go, there is only one way that I would build a sorc. So, hang onto your wizards's hat, because here we go! Prerequisites: At least 45 development points. A 97 average Intuition/Empathy, bare minimum. Agility of 97+. Self-Discipline of 98+. Presence of 80+. Development points are precious to a sorcerer as well as difficult to come by. The absence of an automatic 90 among his development statistics makes 45+ development points a lofty goal. For this reason, put your highest rolls in the following descending order, that is: SD; AG; RE; PR; CO; EQ; QU; ST; EM; and IN. Next two steps are: 1) pray, and 2) be patient. Rolling a sorcerer is one of the most irritating things in GemStone III, next to those annoying squirrels in Town Square. Done well, however, it can be one of the most rewarding things as well. In the case of race, one has a choice to make. The options, ranked from best to worst, are: dwarf, common man, high man, halfling, half-elf, wood elf and fair elf. The main criteria for this order are Self-Discipline, Presence and Magical Resistance. While dwarves are weak in Presence, they are one of the two most disciplined races in the land. They are stronger than common men and offer +40 innate resistance against Essence. High men have no bonus to Self- Discipline, either positive or negative. They are strong and powerful with great Presence, but lack dwarf fortitude when faced with magical assault. While the elven races are agile, quick, elusive and adept in the magical arts, they are the most vulnerable peoples in the land to magical attack. Elves are wildly undisciplined and, as a general rule, incapable of the determination required to harness sorcerous dwoemer. Ergo, the perfect choice of race is dwarf. Skill coordination is a difficult task for apprentice sorcerers faced for the first time with the smorgasbord that is their newly-chosen profession. Decision begins with selection of parry utensil: weapon or fist. No skill decision plays a greater part in shaping a sorcerer's future than does choice of parry. The decision is not easy, as both weapons offer enticement unique to their natures: much cheaper than brawling, weapon training has the benefit of adding a weapon's bonus to one's defenses. Brawling costs 18 points to OHE's 9, there is no weapon bonus and forgoing weapon training is taxing in the early years. But perseverance and sacrifice reward a brawler. Unlike a weapon-trainer, a brawler will be able to use runes and wands in combat with no loss of defenses. And when the day comes requiring a free hand to cast, a brawler will still be able to hold his shield. Thus the perfect choice of parry: Brawling. Skillful Training You have the stats. You are a dwarf. You can brawl with the best of them. Now, let the fun begin. In today's Kulthea, diversity is the name of the game. Ignoring physical cursory skills will leave a sorcerer of peerage without the tools he needs to function at high levels. They are extremely important. Page 22 � Necessary training strategies comprise double-learning in Directed Spells every training, including both of the first two, and single Runes, Wands and Channeling. Learn Brawling two out of every three levels. The off levels will allow you to boost Climbing, Swimming, and Perception. Never, ever fail to invest 10 points in Spell Lists. Concussion points are a thorn in the side of every pure magic-user. CPs are the life blood of a character, an absolute necessity, but you really only need what you think you are apt to lose, considering your defenses and what you hunt. The best path is to hold out on Body training until your development statistics reach their potentials, but that is not possible a large part of the time. Choose carefully when you train and what you forego. Try to time Body Development with an off level of Brawling, and never get caught with neither enough development points in the character manager or concussion points in the field. You can skip a training occasionally when the DPs are needed elsewhere, especially before you reach maximum DPs and are struggling to squeeze in Body Development and Brawling. Keep these guidelines in mind when paring skills: 25 Runes by level 30; 25 Wands by level 30; 24 Channeling by level 30. This gives you 32 points of "excess," plus the extra training at Level 1. If you think you have to skip something, then skip Channeling or Wands a bit. To reiterate: never fail to double Directed Spells or put 10 points in Spell Lists. Those are two you can never make up if you neglect them. Spell Strategy Sorcerers are hybrid in their discipline, and thereby able to learn the realm of Essence as well as Channeling. Just as any pure spell user, sorcerers have access to three lists: Sorcerer Base, Open Essence, and Open Channeling. The base list offers all the ghastly incantations that make sorcerers the destructive, dark characters that they are. Open Essence offers the defenses lacking on the Sorcerer list. And Open Channeling gives a sorcerer his greatest tool, Air Wall, as well as good protection against resistance roll (RR) attacks. At first level get the two #1 spells from the open lists, Guarding and Protection I. At Levels 2 and 3, train the Open Channeling list and Open Essence respectively, Channeling for Air Wall and Essence to build toward better things. At Level 4 switch to the Base list. Word of Bleeding is an invaluable tool at that level as young sorcerers make the transition from swatting rats in the Catacombs to sitting and cleaving orcs on the Mine Road. The rest is pretty much choice, but remember that you will need Touch of Disruption to advance, beginning around Level 13. Well, now that I have shown you how to build the Perfect Sorcerer, the rest is up to you. And remember, no matter how much attention you pay to "rollplaying", there's a lot to be said for and to be learned via good roleplaying too. Now, go vaporize something! v ******************** The Tale of the Curious Halfling, or My First Lesson in Common Sense by Cybella Azarial You may think that I look awfully small and cute, and maybe I do, but there is a lot more to me than might first meet the eye. I know what you are thinking, I can almost see it in your eyes, but even little halflings get into adventures now and again. Granted, it's not something we tend to search for, but all too often, adventure finds us anyway. What? You look like you don't believe me. Well, I'll tell you a story if you'll buy me a glass of that nice white wine from the bar. Storytelling is such thirsty work, you know. Surely a story of a halfling adventure is worth the price of one glass of wine? Ah, thank you, that sure is sweet, isn't it? That reminds me of an adventure I had once, when I was younger. No, not littler (like I haven't heard that before), just when I was younger. Page 23 � **** I was tired of listening to my father tell the stories of his grand adventures over and over and over when he hadn't gone anywhere new since my oldest brother was born. So one day I decided to wander around a bit and just learn a little more about this wide world in which we live. I packed myself a knapsack full of tarts and sweets and just started walking with no real destination in mind. I wandered for a couple of days, curling up in nice comfy bales of hay at night or begging a room for a song. I hadn't been on the road too long when I came upon this really faint trail leading off to the north. Now, being as my intentions were to explore, what could be more interesting than that? So, north I went, following the trail as best I could. I got lost for a while, wandering around in these great big trees and it took me the longest time to find my way out. By the time I had found the path again, it was getting close to night and I decided I should start looking for a nice spot to eat a pumpkin tart and curl up for the night. Up ahead, in the distance a bit, I could see the outline of buildings against the setting sun, so I headed right for them. Before too long, I came across this old, rusty-looking fence. The top of it had these huge spikes on it and the gate looked like it hadn't been opened in ages and ages. Now, I could still see those buildings in the distance so I decided I would just investigate this fence a little bit. I didn't want to intrude or anything, but surely they wouldn't mind giving shelter to a little halfling on a cool autumn night? I leaned way back and looked up at the top of the fence. I am not a good climber and this fence would have been tall even for a high man, so I decided that maybe I should try and squeeze between the bars. Well, that didn't work so well either. Hey! No comments about the figure! I'll have you know I am quite attractive for a halfling, I'm not at all fat! You big people just don't know how to eat proper! Now, where was I? Oh yes, trying to get in the fence. Well, I tried climbing. O.K., so I thought about climbing and ruled it out. I tried to squeeze through the bars but all that did was give me a tummy ache. By this time I was getting really hungry so I sat down to eat a tart and contemplate my situation. I pulled one of the few remaining tarts out of my knapsack and took a bite of it. Ah, nothing in the world comes close to comparing to mom's tarts. I closed my eyes and leaned back to just relish the sweet taste of it. The gate was behind me, and when I leaned back, it opened right up! I tumbled over backwards and almost dropped my tart in the dust I was so surprised. I stood up, wiped the dust off myself and carefully pulled my adventuring clothes back into order. Peering around me, I couldn't see anything that looked like a "don't come in here" sign, so I decided to start for the building I had seen. By this time it was getting darker and darker and I could scarcely see more than a few feet in front of me. Bravely I took a deep breath (and another bite of tart) and began walking. All of a sudden, out of nowhere at all, this shimmery figure appeared in front of me. Now, being the sensible halfling I am, I introduced myself. "Hi! My name is Cybella" Whoosh! I screamed and dropped my tart in the dirt as that mean old shimmering person swung this really big sword at me. I decided that as much as mom had told me to be polite to everyone I met, she really couldn't have meant this guy. I didn't even stop to grab my tart! That's how scared I was. I just started running. I zigged and zagged and more and more of these shimmery things were chasing me. I felt like a rabbit being chased by a whole bunch of dogs and the moans and eerie noises they were making sure didn't help me calm down any at all. Page 24 � I ran in circles, and squares, and diamonds. I couldn't see anything at all anymore and the only way I found the building was when I ran smack dab into it. It knocked me back about five feet and left me wondering just who had lit all the pretty lights when I heard that moaning and groaning getting really close again. I jumped to my feet and tried to figure out which one of the buildings spinning in front of me was the right one. Finally I gave up and headed for the one in the middle. I ran along the outside of it, one hand on the building trying to find some kind of door or someplace where I could just hide! My hand slipped into an opening and I was running so fast and leaning against the building so hard that the next thing I knew I opened my eyes and was looking up at a ceiling. I guess I just tumbled right in and must have bonked myself but good. I lay there for a little while because I didn't hear no moans or groans and the whole building was still spinning just the littlest bit. The only sound I could hear was the tat-a-tat of my little heart going a thousand miles an hour. Slowly I began to calm down, and the room stopped spinning. I decided that maybe it would be O.K. to sit up and slowly did just that. What I saw was almost enough to make me wish I was dreaming! But it turned out to be all too real, as I was to find out. Floating in front of me were these two big red eyes. As I watched, a face slowly formed around them, then this long dark cloak that hung just the slightest bit off the ground. Believe me! I looked! This thing had no feet at all, much less decent furry feet! It just stared at me and I just stared back for what seemed like hours. Then it smiled and I felt more scared than I had felt all night. "Welcome, small one. Are you prepared to pay the price for disturbing my rest?" Its voice was cold and dark and sounded like the wind outside your bedroom when you are really little and you just know something really really bad is waiting out there to grab you. "Um? I really didn't mean to disturb you and, if you'll just close your eyes for one minute, I'll be gone so fast you'll think this was just a dream!" My voice quivered but I remembered what dad had always said about not letting on if you are scared. The big thing with the red eyes laughed and it sent shivers up my spine and made the hair on my feet stand straight up. I backed up as much as I could but the room wasn't really that big and I didn't get far before my little back was, quite literally, against the wall. I watched as it floated closer until it was right in front of me again. "There is always a price for disturbing the dead, small one. However, if you can face a challenge and beat me, I will let you leave. If you lose, you are mine, and your soul will serve me until the end of time." Its voice was dark as a moonless night and I could feel my little heart start beating faster and faster. "Are those the only choices I have? Couldn't you just add one more little choice, something like, you turn around, and if I can disappear before you look back we forget the whole thing ever happened?" My voice was shaking but hopeful. I mean, the undead can't be all that unreasonable, they have so much time to think. "No, these are the rules as they have been since the beginning of time and as they will be until we are all but memories floating on a dying world." Boy, talk about a negative attitude! Just because he was dead was no reason to be so depressing. Still, I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to face this challenge. I'm just the littlest halfling, and I'm not very strong at all. My skills have always been in staying just one step ahead of the truth and an arm's reach out of dad's grasp. Page 25 � "Um, what kind of challenge are you talking about? I mean, it really wouldn't be much of a challenge to fight me or anything like that. I don't even have a sword or weapon of any kind at all. And it wouldn't be very fair to ask me to like perform miracles because, well, nobody can really do that kind of thing all the time, much less under stress. "Silence! The challenge is a simple one, surely a small one with as many words as you seem to have would face no difficulty. You must simply answer me three riddles. If you miss even one, you lose. You must guess all three or you become mine." I could hear the smile in its dark voice. "Three riddles?" That didn't sound all that hard. I mean, I had heard lots of riddles in my short life. The odds had to be in my favor. Besides which, I really didn't think he was going to give me any other choice. "Yes, and you will have until sunrise to answer all three. If you have not answered when the first rays of the sun touch my tomb, I return to my rest, and I take you with me." My heart was beating so fast I could barely breathe. I had been looking for new and exciting things, but somehow, that really didn't sound as exciting as it might have. "O.K., if I only have till sunrise, ask the first riddle." I tried to be as brave as I could but my whole body was trembling so hard I could hear the tarts rattling around in my knapsack. "Very well. Now listen: The web of this crystal spider Is ever spun around you Gossamer fine threads that bind With each choice that you make You stare infatuated Not seeing what you see The threads that seem so fragile You cannot later break." I gave a big sigh of relief. I had heard variations on this one since I was knee high to a O.K., bad analogy for a halfling, but still, this one was really familiar. I closed my eyes and tried to remember the way dad had always said it. "Fate! The choices we make each day affect the choices that we have left until the whole thing is one incredibly tight trap we've created around ourselves!" I shouted and danced happily for a few steps before I remembered where I was. I looked up to see dark red eyes glowing bright and that made me scared again real quick. I could tell that he wasn't quite as happy as I was at how easy that one had been. "Correct, small one, I shall have to choose a harder one for the next riddle." His voice was like black satin, you know, the kind of material that just ripples over you and makes your skin feel all prickly. Great! O.K., well, I can play this game. Even if the next riddle were really really easy, I would take my time and pretend to be all confused. That way he wouldn't keep making them harder and harder because I really didn't want to die tonight. I still had tarts in my knapsack and unless they've changed the rules, you can't even eat anything when you are dead. I wouldn't like that very much at all. Page 26 � "The second riddle", said the dark shape in front of me, "is this:" Its echoes rock the tallest hills It can be forced but is better free The humble know the power it wields It brings the proud man to his knees Its spark can drive away the dark It makes a crowd feel united as one It can bind together or tear apart Depending on the spirit in which it is done. This was not going to be as easy as I had hoped. I crossed my legs and cupped my head in my hands. One hand reached up to pull at one of my long blond braids and I nibbled nervously at the tip of it as I tried to figure this one out. O.K., what has an echo? Hmm, a sound of some kind. O.K., now sounds. Darn, just about any sound can be forced,so that don't help me much. Next line, come on, I told myself, think, you can do this! O.K., the humble know its power but it can hurt a proud person. Darn, I could feel his eyes on me as my mind raced in little frantic circles searching for the answer. Maybe the next line would help. It has to be something good if it can make the dark go away, because right now, anything that would make this dark thing in front of me go away would be really really good. It unites a crowd. Hmm, O.K., happiness... family... friendship? Darn, too many choices. Keep thinking, silly halfling, there has to be an answer! I giggled nervously and nibbled at my hair and the answer was right there in front of me. I laughed, relief flooding through every inch of my body. It was so simple really, maybe more so because I was a halfling. I tried to get a serious look on my face and peered up at the darker spot in the shadows where my riddler waited an answer. "Laughter," I said softly. I heard an ethereally muttered curse and then he spoke again. "Very well, this one shall prove your undoing. Hear now this, your final riddle:" Newer than a child at birth Older than the span of time Eaten like a feast by death Sweeter than the sweetest wine. Oh no! My heart sank in my chest and I just knew I was never ever going to see the light of day again. My mind raced but I just couldn't think of anything. Love? No, love isn't eaten by death, at least, not in the love stories I have heard. Hope? No, hope isn't old or young, it's more like eternal or something. Every answer I could think of came and went, failing some test that would show it to be a right answer. My teeth nipped at my hair and my hopes plummeted deeper and deeper. I thought of Mom and Dad. They would never even know what had happened to me. All my brothers and sisters would never know where I had gone or what I had done. My dreams and hopes of being the first female bard in our family, thrown out of the window because I had let my stupid halfling curiosity lead me places where anyone with two silvers' worth of common sense wouldn't have gone. I sat, my mind in a stupor, unable to come up with an answer and unwilling to admit defeat. Page 27 � "Time grows short, small one. Do you give up that easily then? Silence is an answer in this game." His voice just oozed satisfaction and it made me so mad I just saw red. Now, as a general rule I am the most happiest of halflings, but something about him thinking that he was going to get my soul that easily just sent me straight to really really mad! I jumped to my feet and put my hands on my hips and stared up at him. I didn't have an answer. I had no idea what I was even going to say. I just knew that if he was going to get my soul, it wasn't going to be because I gave up. "Nothing! O.K., Nothing answers that riddle!" I heard this incredible roar and the whole building began to shake around me. Dust began to fall and I could see the light of pre-dawn just making the black into grey around the door to the crypt. The figure in front of me grew larger and larger and I took a deep breath and prepared myself for whatever came next. "You have solved the riddles, small one, and I have no choice but to let you go. Be warned though, should you ever find your way into my grasp again, I will not let you live. No one escapes me twice." The voice faded as the light outside grew stronger and I just stood in shock. How had I answered all three riddles? I had given up on solving that last one. I watched as he faded into nothingness. His glowing red eyes were the last to go and the sight of them floating like that in mid-air, glaring at me, was enough to make my whole body shake. I waited just until there was enough light to see by and then I ran out of that place so fast I didn't leave very many, if any, footprints behind me. I didn't stop running until I had to sleep, and even then I got back on the road as quickly as I could. I didn't relax until I was safely home again, sitting in front of the fire, staring happily at Mom and Dad and all the wonderful people that I was lucky enough to call family. "So, Dad, tell me a story?" v ****************** O, Thou Cruel, Inconstant Architecture Part II: The Singer, Not the Song by Contra Songstren and Bhorza Gobuchul [When we left Contra at the end of Part I, his love, Kaerilyn, had been separated from him in the forest, and had fallen into the hands of orcs. Her screams drew him towards her. Ed.] I ran towards the scream, drawing my broadsword along the way. As I rounded a huge oak, I was confronted by two greater orcs. The screams continued farther behind them. "Get out of my way or die!" The orcs grunted their intentions and I leapt at them swinging my sword. I cast a Sleep spell on one orc as I disarmed the other. While one orc fell to the ground, I pierced the other through the ribcage and punctured his heart. Turning to the sleeping orc, I beheaded him with a quick stroke. Running towards where I had last heard the screams, I came upon a small clearing. My heart nearly stopped. Running even faster, I spanned the final distance in a second. Dropping to my knees, I cradled her head in my arms, whispering, "Kaerilyn, get up," over and over. I finally realized that there was blood all over me. Her blood. She had multiple sword wounds all over her chest, arms, and legs. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me for the last time, saying, "I'll always love you, Contra." Then her last breath rattled in her throat and she went slack in my arms. Tears raged through my eyes as I gave a yell of anguish that seemed to disappear into the forest. Page 28 � From the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of movement. Snatching up my sword, I ran in the direction of the movement. As I broke into the forest, I stopped. Facing me were 30 orcs. The lead orc started laughing. My eyes lingered on each of his arms, the ugly crimson scars spelling C and S. I went berserk. Shrieking my battle cry I lunged at the orcs. The leader shouted for the attack, and they surged at me. I don't remember much of what happened after that. My body seemed to take over as my mind withdrew. Singing my fury, my sword was a deadly counterpoint as it sliced off limbs and heads as quickly as they could get in my reach. I remember my singing drew Essence around me and into my body and sword. I'm convinced to this day that I somehow had managed to temporarily Essence Blade my sword. The orcs continued to swarm around me, and one finally landed a blow on my head, knocking me to my knees. Seeing victory close at hand, they pressed me even closer, their swords creating a macabre beat to my song. One blade caught me full in the throat and opened it up wide. My song was finished. I collapsed to the ground, my life's blood spilling out before me. As the darkness closed in on me, I thought, "I'm coming m'love, we'll be together for eternity." vvvv I'd awakened several hours after the orc attack back in Kelfour's Landing. Thalior was standing at the foot of my bed, a concerned expression on his usually impassive face. "Good, you're finally awake." "Kaerilyn?" I croaked. Thalior shook his head as he said, "Contra, I'm truly sorry." As the tears spilled down my face, I managed to say, "How did I get here? What happened? The last thing I remember was dying out in the forest." "You didn't die. You nearly did. When you and Kaerilyn didn't return in the late afternoon, I worried that something might be amiss. I organized a search party and we made our way towards Mine Road. We found your picnic site and we spread out from there. Several of us heard you give this unearthly shout. We rounded up the others and saw you get struck down. We managed to kill most of the orcs as Lady Kayla Kyndhart tended to your wounds, but a few of them got away." "Did you happen to find one with some scars on his arms in the shape of a C and S?" Thalior paled as he remembered my first day in Kelfour's Landing. "You don't mean that same orc was..." "Yes, it was him." The following day, I made my appearance in Town Square, trying to do my best to continue on. Someone handed me an object to sing to and as I took it I began clearing my throat and choosing my lyrics. As I began my song, I was horrified to hear this other voice issuing forth from my mouth. When I first began singing, all the other bards present quickly looked at me with a startled expression on their faces. I quickly stopped, paused, swallowed, and began again, stopping almost immediately. By then, others began to look at me strangely too. Page 29 � "My gosh!" "Contra, is it true?" "It can't be! It can't be!" "What's going on here?" the non-bards asked. "My voice! It's different!" "It sounds the same to me." "Me too." "No, his voice is different, but you others can't hear it. We can." "How is it different?" "The magic, it's gone!" Lord Enegue made his way into town and when he heard, literally, what had happened he said, "This is unprecedented. I've never heard of this happening to a bard before." "Milord, I'm not sure I've heard of bards receiving such tremendous throat wounds like Contra did." The debate raged on, but I knew. I knew I could never sing with magic again. Something had been lost with that sword stroke; even though Lady Kayla had healed me without any scars, something had been lost. The next morning I got out of bed, made my way downstairs to the tavern portion of the Threk, and commenced what was to be a six-month drunk. My friends would come by and try to dissuade me from my reckless behavior. As time went by, fewer and fewer of my friends would stop in to check on me. They had lives of their own after all, and that was just fine as far as I was concerned. My whole purpose at that point was to forget and numb my pain. You could've run me through with a sword and I'd never have felt it. I'd almost forgotten my name, but I couldn't forget finding Kaerilyn in that clearing or my horror at the voice that wasn't quite mine; my anguish was a fire that couldn't be quenched by any amount of drinking. At the end of my sixth month of insobriety, I couldn't get out of my bed. Having nothing else to do while I lay there, I pondered my recent behavior. I came to the conclusion that drinking wasn't going to help me. I realized that only I could help myself. I'd have to learn to live with that memory, hold it inside me, let it be a part of me and shape my course. I'd just have to find something else to do, now that I couldn't sing anymore. I spent the next three days wandering around town trying to figure out what my new line of work would be. I couldn't imagine myself in a shop or farming. What? Then it came to me while sitting in Town Square. I was just staring at nothing in particular when my eyes slowly focused on Lord Dartaghan casting a Mass Guarding spell. Yes! I would be a mage. I might not be able to cast spells through singing, but I could still cast Essence spells. As I delighted in my revelation, another one slowly dawned on me as well. My sword skills would always be with me, too. After a talk with several mages, I returned to the Threk for the night, eager to begin the next day. Page 30 � I began my career as a mage five years ago. I've progressed along just as well as the younger kids with the same amount of training. I spend most of my hunting time out near Mine Road, looking for a particular orc with peculiar scars. I haven't found him yet, but I'll keep looking for him. I've even gone out with a few of the ladies about town. Re-entering the social scene was difficult, but necessary. Besides, I've been terribly lonely. But they just aren't Kaerilyn. Otherwise, I'm content to keep on learning more spells about Essence control, biding my time. Biding for what, I'm not sure... I have a feeling that something is coming my way, some part of my destiny is about to confront me. Until it arrives, I'm just fighting back the bitterness, grief, and loneliness that threatens to overwhelm me...one day at a time. vvvv "Protetori!" I intoned as I gave what I thought was the final gesture to the Protection 1 spell. My teacher, Tsvetoli Arajieva, shook his head and chuckled. "No, Bhorza, that's all wrong! Your fingers were not arched correctly, your arm swing was too wide, and your verbal accenting was way off. Now, pay attention!" He went through the steps for casting the spell again, and I was watching and listening closely when Pietr, one of my father's apprentices, burst through the door. "Bhorza, come quickly! Hurry, it's your father!" He gasped in between breaths. I leapt from my chair and ran home as fast as I could with Pietr not far behind. I could see my father's students grouped together in front of my house, huddled over something. As I approached the group, Stefan looked at me with an ashen face, saw the questions in my eyes and began, "Bhorza, he was getting ready to take us out to gather herbs when he just stopped, the color draining from his face, and said, `Gods, not again!' and collapsed here. He's in a coma, and he has an incredible fever. We're doing the best we can to reduce the fever, but..." and gave a shrug. "Let's get him inside, and in his bed!" I murmured. Nodding, Stefan instructed the others to pick him up and carry him into our house. As they carried him inside, I turned to Stefan and said, "Stef, can you heal him?" He shook his head as he said, "No, Bhorza, I've already tried. I'm the furthest along in training with him, the others can only heal minor wounds. There's something inside him, a disease of some sort. I'm not sure if even Vlazradon could heal himself if he were conscious. If he recovers, it'll be on his own. All we can do is wait, and tend to his immediate symptoms like the fever." "Do you know if there are any other healers of his caliber around?" "Bhorza, your father is the best healer in Kolkomir Look and for many miles around. I don't even know if there is another healer around that he hasn't taught. Try not to worry yourself; there isn't anything we can do anyway so there's no use getting all worked up over it. All we can do is pray the gods bring him back to us." I already knew everything Stefan was telling me, but I needed to hear someone else say it. Nodding my head sadly in agreement I said, "Thank you, Stefan. I know my father's in good hands with you." vvvv Page 31 � Weeks turned into months and my father remained in the coma. The disease was slowly wasting him away. He had lost 50 pounds and looked more like a skeleton than an elf. Life continued on for me and my father's students in Kolkomir Look. I continued studying sorcery with Tsvetoli, but my heart wasn't in it as before. I had learned quickly and was in my third year of study as a sorcerer, but my father's condition weighed heavy on my mind. Finally, after suffering through a whole week of my being distracted, Tsvetoli said, "Bhorza, you need to think about what you'll do if he dies." My eyes sought the floor, "Tsvetoli, I can't imagine what my life will be like without him in it." "Well, money shouldn't be a problem. With all of those students of his out there healing folks, you'll be set for at least another 10 years." "What?" "You mean you didn't know? Bhorza, healers follow a tradition of paying the one who taught them one twentieth of all they make for a period of 10 years. It's a way of paying back the time and money the teacher lost teaching them. Didn't you ever wonder why you and your father were so well off? It's true. There must be 50 healers out there still sending in their money to your father. I bet Stefan has been collecting it and putting it away for you so you wouldn't have to worry about it. But forget about the money for now; what are you going to do? You need to move on, son. You have a promising career ahead of you as a sorcerer, you shouldn't squander that away. I don't think Vlazradon would approve of that. He'd want you to go on with your life, to realize your full potential, you know that don't you?" "Yes, I know. But with him in this coma, there's no resolution. He could die, or he could recover; and until he does either one, I just can't seem to focus on anything. Tsvetoli, I know I can go on when he has gone, but it's this not knowing that is getting to me." "Why did you become a sorcerer, Bhorza?" "I wanted to do something different. It's mostly fair elves that live here, and with our natural tendencies towards Essence control, most of them choose something directly related to that, like mage or bard. By watching my father heal people, I developed a good appreciation for Channeling. When it came time for me to go through the ritual of Service Selection, sorcery seemed the obvious choice to mix my natural tendencies with something I had come to love. It's ironic, however, that our craft deals in destruction and the thing that led me to it was healing. Why aren't there more sorcerers in Kolkomir Look, anyway?" "I'm not sure, I think that we, as fair elves, have a love of life and sorcery to most is an anathema." "That's the other reason for my choice, there just aren't many sorcerers here and I wanted to be different than most, and now it just seems so unimportant." "Bhorza, we never know anything about what may happen, it's just that this has shown you in no uncertain terms how true this is about everything. You need to take some time off and sort this out. Come back when you are ready to learn again, or if you ever need to talk something through, O.K.?" "Thank you, Tsvetoli," nodding my head, "I will. You're right, I just need some time and come to grips with all of this, I'll be back soon. Count on it." He smiled. "I will, Bhorza, I will." Page 32 � vvvv When Tsvetoli walked into the room, he didn't notice me in the corner. So I gave a little cough that caused him to startle and ask, "Bhorza, what in Eissa's name are you doing here?" "I've come to say good-bye, I'm leaving in the morning." "What? Why? What's happened?" "Vlazradon's dead. He died earlier this evening." "Bhorza, I know, I heard. I'm terribly sorry. Why do you have to go ?" "Tsvetoli, did you know my father when he was a ranger?" "Huh? Why, yes, I did, but that was so many years ago. Bhorza, I doubt if many folks around here do. I wasn't aware that you knew he used to be a ranger." "I wasn't, until today." "Then how did you find out?" "Around noon today, my father came out of his coma. He called me to his bedside, bade all his students leave, and told me an incredible tale. Tsvetoli, I'm going to tell you what he told me, but you must promise me never to repeat it. Do you know why my father changed from ranger to healer?" "No, I don't. I can barely remember when it happened. I will not tell anyone." "As I said, around noon I was having lunch when I heard my father call out, I rushed into his room and found him sitting up against the back of his bed. He looked at me and said, `Son, sit down, I don't have much time and there are some things I need to tell you.' Then he told everyone else to leave. After they had gone, he removed an amulet with our family crest on it from the bedstand, held it up and said, `Bhorza, I need you to find someone and give this to him.' `Who, father?' `I'll tell you that in a bit, Bhorza, but he is your brother."v [Part III, the conclusion of this tale, will appear in the next issue...Ed.] End Chronicle Page 33