Now believe it or not but, despite being a massive geek in many ways, I have never played a dice based, D&D style, roll playing game before. I know, I’m the same guy who writes long winded blog posts about statistics and loves writing stories that involve fantastical world building. And yet I have never seen the appeal of playing an old school RPG. It all just seemed a little too geeky for me.
Well all that changed recently and this past Friday I sat down with a few friends, dice in hand and more enthusiastic than I ever would have imagined I would be, ready to embark on my first ever RPG fantasy adventure. The game we played was 13th Age created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet and published by Pelgrane Press. It’s a traditional high fantasy d20 dice rolling game that focuses on story and characters, thus allowing you to pretty much play the game how you want to play it. I was playing as a Dwarven War Cleric named Balgan Stormcleaver (yes you may bask in how awesome that name is), and was accompanied by a Human Bard called Toka Fatwib, and a living knotwork clockwork construct that went by the name of Dagmar.
What follows is my account of our adventures (or at least the first part of them anyway).
The Bishop’s Request
Balgan Stormcleaver adjusted the position of the wire rimmed spectacles on his bulbous nose, dipped the sharpened point of his quill into the small pot of ink beside him, and carefully added a line of meticulously neat dwaven runes to a fresh page of the large leather bound tome that lay open on the table before him. His thoughts recorded for posterity he set the quill aside and raised instead a large tankard of thick, dark dwaven ale which he proceeded to drain it in three large gulps. Licking his lips he cast his eyes around the tavern, seeking out one of the barmaids to bring him another. The ale wasn’t a patch on that produced by the brew masters back in Forge, but it was wet and strong and burnt like melted iron going down, which to Balgan’s mind more than warranted another tankard or two.
The Supports tavern, named for its position between two of the towering arches that supported the golden spires of the Cathedral to All Gods in Santa Cora, was heavy with a musty mix of strong smells. The aroma of cooked meat and wood smoke suffused everything and only slightly over powered the lingering smell of sweat and alcohol that seemed to cling to not only the taverns patrons, but to the walls and furniture as well. The coarse odour of animals and tilled soil that adhered to the cities farm workers vied for the attention of the olfactory senses against the deep, intoxicating fragrances that wafted from a group of temple prostitutes who currently leaned provocatively against the tavern’s long bar. And beneath these stronger smells the occasional wisp of incense and ritual herbs could be detected, emanating from the various groups of pilgrims and clergy scattered around the large open room.
It was mid-afternoon and even with the lunchtime crowd long gone the tavern was a veritable hive of activity. Despite this Balgan had managed to procure a table to himself in the middle of the room, a feat he attributed in part to his surly demeanour, but primarily to the large, black iron warhammer resting against the table beside his chair. Doom Claw was a simple yet fearsome looking weapon, one that garnered respect from all who set eyes on it, doubly so if they were aware of its long, blood soaked history and that of the dwarf who carried it. Balgan glanced at the hammer and snorted to himself. It had been almost five decades now since he had really swung Doom Claw in anger, the only blood it has spilt in half a century coming from the occasional cracked nose or busted lip of an unruly student at Brightmantle Academy back in Forge. This was the weapon that had turned the tide at the battle of Anvil, and yet now it served him as little more than a glorified walking stick.
Balgan looked around the tavern, taking in the noisy groups of farmers and priests, maidens and harlots. There was a time when he would only ever have drunk in a warriors bar, surrounded by his dwaven brothers, their bodies still marked with the blood, dirt, and sweat of war. But that had been back when his beard was half its length and still the colour of burnished bronze, back before that accursed lizardman shaman had taken his leg. Balgan chuckled. He’d made the bastard choke on it though, even as the creature’s acid bile had melted his flesh. But all that was a long time ago, before most of the tavern’s current patrons had been born in fact, and while there was a large part of him that still longed for the fire and fury of battle, when it came to a place to drink these days he much preferred somewhere he could quietly work on his book without the distraction of head butt competitions, duels, and the occasional all out tavern brawl that often resulted in more injuries than the battles themselves. Looking around the tavern there were also far fewer weapons on display than in the bars of his youth, mostly just fat swords and squat looking axes clutched protectively by men and women who seemed to him to be trying almost too hard to appear as the rugged adventurer type. He had all but dismissed them at first glance, seeing little threat in their often impractical armour, bulging muscles, and vacant expressions. Indeed, of the weapons on display there were only two that piqued his warrior instincts.
The first of the two, a ridiculously thin looking sword that to Balgan’s eye looked better suited for a child than a warrior, seem inconsequential enough on its own. However, it hung from the hip of a flamboyantly dressed, brash looking human for whom the word scoundrel seemed ideally suited, and who carried an edge that spoke of capability and chaotic violence. He was slightly above the average height for his species, had short cropped, styled hair, and chiselled, if slightly chubby, features. He was also carrying some kind of large, brass instrument with which Balgan was unfamiliar, and from which he would occasionally produce blasts of deep, mellow music, much to the apparent appreciation of the group of female customers and bar staff gathered around him.
The second weapon was a sturdy looking, one handed warhammer that was far more fitting with Balgan’s sensibilities, and which he had only caught a fleeting glimpse of as its owner had stalked with feline grace across the tavern. And yet a glimpse was all that was required for him to establish that its owner, who now sat alone in a far corner of the tavern, the hood of her cloak pulled up to hide her face, was someone to be reckoned with. A hammer like that, despite its relatively small size, would take considerable strength to wield, and even greater skill to use effectively. In short it was not a weapon you carried unless you knew how to use it. Furthermore, as she had passed by his table Balgan had noted the hammer owner’s hands, the only part of her visible beneath her cloak. Both hands were wrapped in what appeared to be almost skin tight armour of bronze, steel, and gold, that was of a level of quality that Balgan had seldom seen outside of the artisan forges in his homeland. And yet he suspected they were not what they first appeared, and instead indicated something far more unusual and rare, something he had not seen in almost half a lifetime, and indeed had long believed to no longer exist.
He finally managed to catch the attention of one of the barmaids and, with obvious reluctance, she left the group of women surrounding the cad of a musician and headed over to his table. Before she reached him however the main door to the tavern opened. The large, double doored entrance to The Supports tavern was, as is to be expected, centrally located and easily accessible. Made of ancient dark wood they stood around eight feet high and resembled those more commonly found at the entrance to a church than a tavern. Despite this all but the most ego centric of the tavern’s patrons chose to forgo this conveniently placed portal in favour of one of the smaller, awkwardly located, side doors. And with good reason.
As the main doors swung open the spell that had been placed upon them at some distant point in history activated, and the voices of an angelic choir suddenly resonated loudly throughout the tavern. Insults and curses immediately filled the air and everyone turned to face the door, many with their hands clasped firmly over their ears, to find out what fool had triggered this most annoying and well known of announcement spells. First through the door came five diminutive creatures dressed in black hooded robes that indicated to all present that they were monks of some description. None of them stood taller than Balgan himself but they certainly weren’t dwarves. All five had small, close set eyes of topaz blue and long hawk like noses, and while there were small differences between them, they were all similar enough in appearance to be considered quintuplets. They quickly fanned out to form a half circle around the doorway, their piercing eyes taking in every details of the crowded room.
Following them into the tavern came a tall human who Balgan guessed to be somewhere in his mid-forties, and who appeared almost gigantic when compared to his stunted companions. He was dressed in elegant flowing robes of spun gold highlighted with silken threads the colour of fresh cream, and on his head he wore an elaborate mitre that reached up almost to the full height of the doorway. He held himself in a manner that fair bellowed authority, the short black beard on his prominent chin thrust forward as if defying those present to challenge him. While his clothing bore no religious symbology, the ornate staff he carried in his right hand marked him out as a high ranking member of the Church to All Gods. He passed though the doorway far enough to stop the angelic choir from sounding and stopped a few feet into the room. He glanced down at the polished flag stone floor as though he had stepped in something unpleasant, curled his upper lip in disgust, and then scanned the room with his dark, hooded eyes. His gaze lingered at a few points, including once in Balgan’s direction, before, with the smallest gesture of his hand, he sent three of his attendant monks scurrying further into the bustle of the tavern.
One of them headed towards the flamboyant musician, causing the man’s surrounding assemblage of ladies to scatter as he approached. The musician leaned back on his barstool and shot the monk a wide grin.
“Why hello my good man, how may I assist you?”
The monk pulled himself up to his full height and, in a far deeper voice than seemed appropriate for someone of his size, issued his greeting.
“You are Toka Fatwib, interim choirmaster at the College of Novices?”
The musician seemed to mull this over for a moment.
“Well,” he said finally, “that would rather depend.”
The monk tilted his head slightly to the left.
“Depend upon what exactly?”
The musician let out a booming laugh.
“Why upon whom exactly you are of course.”
The monk’s head inclined even further to the left.
“I am Friar Rujin, functionary to Bishop Quorin. But I hardly see how that matters.”
The musician rolled his eyes.
“Of course it matters, indeed nothing matters more. Let me ask you this good friar, this, what did you say his name was again?”
The musician mouthed the name as if testing the feel of it in his mouth.
“Alright, this Toka Fatwib fellow, does he by any chance owe you money?”
At this the Monk’s head angled almost a full ninety degrees to the left.
“Most certainly not, I have taken a vow of poverty; everything I own belongs to the Church of All Gods.”
“Well that is definitely good to hear. Second question, do you or do you not have a wife, daughter, mistress or lover with whom this Toka Fatwib may have had a dalliance?”
The monk’s head snapped upright again.
“Again most certainly not, I have also taken a vow of chastity.”
The musician threw up his hands.
“That is most wonderful news my good friar. Well not for you obviously, as I can’t imagine chastity to be any kind of fun, but certainly wonderful news in general. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Toka Fatwib, bard extraordinaire, and I am at your service.”
The monk opened his mouth as if to reply, but all that escaped was an exasperated sigh.
“Bishop Quorin, representative of the Priestess, requests that you attend him.”
“Well that is to be expected, he has probably heard tell of my exploits and simply must find out for himself if they are true. I am quite famous in some parts don’t you know.”
Again the monk found himself momentarily lost for words.
“Does that mean you will come with me to the Bishop?”
“Oh heavens no, I am quite comfortable here, and besides it is he who wishes to see me, not the other way around. As such he can come join me over here at the bar.”
The monks head twisted once more to the right and he starred incredulously up at Toka from this new angle. For his part the bard simply smiled back and lifted a tall glass to his lips and took a sip of the clear liquid it contained.
“I…well…the Bishop…he…” the monk trailed off. “I shall go ask if he is willing to speak to you at the bar.”
“That’s the spirit. And I am sure a man of the Bishop’s quality will be willing to buy me another drink as well. I’ll take the liberty of ordering it now.”
The monk’s neck made a painful cracking sound as his head twisted further than ever before. His mouth opened and closed a few times in a manner that struck Toka as decidedly fish like, and then he simply turned and headed back towards the Bishop, muttering beneath his breath in a language the bard didn’t recognise.
On the opposite side of the tavern another of the monks had approached the hooded woman sitting alone in the corner. As he neared she lifted her head and he struggled to stifle the small gasp that escaped his lips. Her face was perfectly symmetrical and quite beautiful, her wide eyes a slightly paler shade of blue than his own, though no less intense for it, her cheeks high and prominent, her lips small but full. Her face was also entirely made of metal. Her skin, for this seemed to the monk the most appropriate word for what he was seeing, had the bright silvery radiance of polished steel, with tiny, almost invisible threads of gold and bronze tracing across its surface, softening edges that might otherwise have appeared harsh. Her lips and the area around her eyes were a dazzling bronze, her eye lashes incredibly thin golden filament. Above this her golden, braided, rope like hair – no, the monk corrected himself, not rope like, actual gold, braided rope – hung down on either side of her face and curved under her chin, framing her features perfectly. The monk found his heart beating faster in his chest, though he was unable to tell if it was her beauty or otherworldliness that caused it to do so.
“You are Dagmar,” he said, his voice slightly more high pitched than usual, “from the floating realms?”
The metallic woman starred at him in silence for a few moments and the monk felt a slight trace of fear weaving its way in with his other conflicted emotions. All at once she broke into a wide smile and her face became animated.
“Oh I’m sorry, was that a question?”
The monk swallowed.
“Yes my lady.”
“Oh, I thought it was a statement.”
“No my lady, it was most definitely a question.”
“Oh I see.” She said before lapsing back into silence, her face once more becoming motionless.
The monk shifted uncomfortably. After an awkward few seconds he tried again.
“So, my lady, are you Dagmar?”
The smile reappeared at once.
“Oh yes, I am indeed.”
The monk let out a sigh of relief.
“Good, good. The Bishop Quorin would like to request that you attend him.”
Dagmar did not response; she simply starred straight at the monk with her ice blue eyes. The monk felt his insides growing cold under her gaze and was about to try again when she spoke.
“Oh I’m sorry, was that also a question?”
“Yes my lady, again it was.”
“Oh I see, well it certainly didn’t sound like one, it sounded much more like a statement.”
“I apologise my lady, I will try to be clearer in future.”
“Thank you, that would be greatly appreciated.”
Silence followed and the monk closed his eyes and offered up a quick prayer to any god who happened to be listening.
“Shall I tell the Bishop that you will attend him?”
“Ah see, that was most definitely a question.”
The monk lent forward, hoping the move would prompt a further response, but it soon became clear none would be forthcoming.
“So, will you attend him?”
This response threw the monk, no one ever asked why they should attend the Bishop, the Bishop simply asked and they attended.
“I…well I am afraid I do not know my lady.”
“Why not? Did the Bishop not tell you?”
“Ah, no my lady, in fact he did not.”
“Why not? Does he not trust you?”
“Oh no, I am sure it is not that.”
“You seem trustworthy, though I am frequently told such things cannot be gleaned from appearance alone. Have you perhaps done something to make him consider you untrustworthy?”
The monk felt his face starting to grow red as he struggled to think of a way to politely extract himself from the current line of questioning.
“I am sure I have not, I am sure that the Bishop finds me most trustworthy.”
“I’m sure he does, but then if he did not it would be unlikely that he would tell you so. In fact it seems likely he would simply refrain from telling you things. Are there many things that he does not tell you?”
The monk swallowed, his throat seeming to grow drier and drier with every word the metallic woman spoke.
“I am sure there are a great many things that the Bishop does not tell me. After all he is a Bishop and I am but a lowly friar. But again I am sure that the Bishop feels he can trust me with whatever information he deems it important for me to know.”
The monk smiled, sure that this time he had given a clear account of things. Dagmar for her part fell silent once more, so quiet in fact that the monk could make out a soft whirring, clicking, ticking noise emanating from somewhere beneath her cloak.
“I suppose,” Dagmar said after a few moments, “that even if the Bishop didn’t trust you he would still tell you the things that he wanted you to know. So I guess there is simply no way to know for sure whether he trusts you or not.”
“I…well I guess not.” replied the monk, suddenly unsure of himself. “So will you be attending the Bishop?”
“Oh, I didn’t realise I had a choice.”
“I…you…well yes, of course you had a choice.”
“Well that is certainly good to know.”
“So…so….will you be attending the Bishop?”
“Of course, I was always going to do so, I am really not sure why you seem so confused.”
The monk let out a sigh.
“Well that was certainly more difficult than I was expecting.”
“I agree,” replied Dagmar, “next time perhaps you will explain yourself more clearly and we can avoid all this difficulty.”
“I…I…I need a drink.”
Dagmar smiled, picked up the glass on the table in front of her and held it out to the monk. The monk looked at the glass and licked his lips with a pale blue tongue.
“I can’t, thank you for the kind offer, but if the Bishop sees me drinking then I will certainly get in trouble.”
Dagmar nodded and placed the glass back on the table.
“Tell the Bishop to close his eyes.”
The monk raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“I’m sorry, but you have lost me, why do you want me to do that?”
“It’s really quite simple. If you tell the Bishop to close his eyes then he won’t be able to see you and you will be able to have a drink.”
The monk starred at Dagmar for a moment and then pressed his fingers to the spot between his eyes. He was starting to develop a head ache.
“I think I will just tell the Bishop that you will attend him.”
“Very well, it is your choice. I will wait here for him.”
“Well…no…I think…well he was rather…I don’t…” the monk let our a sigh, “I shall let him know.”
“Very good.” Dagmar said as she settled back into her seat, the hood of her cloak once more hiding her mechanical face in shadow.
While all this was going on the third monk had approached the table at which Balgan sat.
“You are Balgan Stormcleaver, Alaghor to Clangeddin Silverbeard?”
Balgan looked sternly at the monk for a few moments. There was something a bit too goblin like about him for Balgan’s taste. He saw the monk swallow nervously and a smile crept to the corners of his mouth.
“I am Balgan Stormcleaver,” he said, “though it has been a long time since anyone called me by that title lad.”
“The Bishop Quorin requests that you attend him.”
Balgan’s bushy white eyebrows went up.
“Oh does he now. And I take it he would be the sparkly gentleman by the door who made all that noise when he came in?”
The monk turned and glanced back at the Bishop who was currently looking around the tavern with obvious distaste.
“Yes, I suppose that would indeed be the Bishop. I take it you will attend him?”
Balgan sat up straight in his chair, rolled his shoulders, and softly placed his hand on the handle of his warhammer.
“And what exactly is it the sparkly Bishop wants to see me about?”
The monk’s eyes flicked nervously back and forth between Balgan and the warhammer.
“Umm, I am afraid I do not know sir, that is between yourself and the Bishop.” the monk suddenly lifted his head, thrusting his jaw out as a thought occurred to him. “We were assured by the administrators at Clangeddin Silverbeard’s temple that you would assist us.”
Balgan’s eyebrows went up once more.
“Oh were you now? Well why didn’t you say so before. If those pampered babies at the temple said I’d help well then I guess I have to now don’t I.”
The monk wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to this and so decided to take it as a win.
“Excellent, then you will come speak to the Bishop. I will see if I can find us a table.”
Balgan looked taken-aback.
“But I’ve got a perfectly good table right here. And besides, all my things are here. No lad, it makes much more sense if his sparkliness comes over here and joins me.”
The monk opened his mouth to protest, but Balgan simply tapped his thick fingers against Doom Claw and the monk’s mouth closed right up again.
“I shall go ask the Bishop if he is willing to join you at your table.”
“You do that lad.” he said with a broad grin.
Balgan chuckled to himself as he watched the strange little monk weave his way across the tavern and back to the Bishop. All three of the Bishop’s functionaries arrived back at him at roughly the same time and Balgan watched with amusement as the Bishop’s face grew redder and redder as they each relayed their message. Finally the Bishop held up a hand and the monks fell silent. He then turned and glared across the tavern at each of the troublesome trio in turn. Dagmar starred back impassively, Toka raised his glass in salutation, and Balgan simply smiled. The Bishop’s face turned beetroot.
All over the tavern the tables started to shake. The ornate staff in the Bishop’s hand began to glow with blinding white light as he raised it slowly into the air. Then, all at once and with startling swiftness, the tavern’s sturdy oak tables began sliding across the flag stone floor towards the centre of the large room. Staff and patrons threw themselves out of the way of the fast moving furniture as a rain of crockery showered the floor. The heavy tables slammed into each other with a crash like thunder and then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the room fell still and silent. The Bishop lowered his staff, the light from it quickly fading, and turned his attention to the intended targets of his display of power. He felt his shoulders sag as disappointment welled up inside him.
Balgan remained seated in his chair, his large book, which he had retrieved from the table the moment it started to shake, on his lap and Doom Claw held tightly in his right hand. His face was firm, his eyes locked on the Bishop, but he otherwise appeared completely unfazed. Toka for his part was simply watching the scene of destruction and chaos with wry amusement, while Dagmar, her table having moved to the centre of the room, had simply picked up her chair, crossed the tavern, and seated herself back down at her table’s new position. The Bishop shook his head. Clearly he was dealing with three individuals who were either not easily intimidated, or complete idiots. Most likely, he concluded, it was some mixture of the two.
Taking a deep calming breath the Bishop concluded that if he were to have any chance of progressing things further he would have to do so himself. Lifting up the hem of his robes so as not to soil them on the array of split food, alcohol, and broken crockery that now covered much of the tavern’s floor, he picked his way cautiously over to where each of the three still sat. To each one he said the same thing.
“Good afternoon, I am Bishop Quorin, representative of the Church to All Gods, emissary to the Priestess, long may she live, and your most humble servant. If it is not too much trouble I would like to take a moment of your time to discuss a matter of some urgency. Would you please join me at the table over yonder, I will be sure to compensate you for the inconvenience.”
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” said Dagmar
“Compensation you say, what kind of compensation?” said Toka.
“Ay, I”ll listen, but no more of that magical funny business, you hear?” said Balgan.
Following the Bishop’s lead the three of them headed over to one of the few tables to have escaped the Bishop’s earlier anger relatively unscathed, each of them either bringing a chair with them or acquiring one along the way. Once seated the Bishop was immediately surrounded again by his obsequious functionaries.
“May I offer you all a libation?” the Bishop asked with his best false smile.
“Another one?” grinned Toka, “I don’t mind if I do. A glass of the house’s best Vostroyan if you please.”
“Elven fire whiskey.” Dagmar replied succinctly.
“And I’ll have a tankard of that there Iron Smelt ale” said Balgan, “and if I run dry while you’re still talking you had better keep them coming.”
“Here here.” agreed Toka.
The Bishop took another deep breath, he could feel his anger bubbling up once more and did his best to keep it in check. The oracles had said these three were important, it wouldn’t do to go damaging them at this early juncture.
“So be it,” he replied diplomatically, dismissing one of the monks to the bar with a flick of a finger.
Toka leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.
“So your Bishopness, what is it we can do for you? I do hope it won’t require too much of our time, I was planning on being in bed early tonight and I have yet to work out who’s bed I will be in.”
The Bishop gave Toka a humourless smile.
“Well I wouldn’t want to keep you from such a, ah, pressing engagement, so I will get to the point. As you are no doubt aware, among the many functions and services offered by the Cathedral, we play host to a number of oracles and seers who are aligned with various of the light gods and goddesses. It appears that, in a rather unprecedented turn of events, all of them have received the same vision.”
“Fascinating,” said Toka with obvious sarcasm, “and this has, what exactly to do with the three of us?”
The Bishop fixed his gaze on the bard.
“Unfortunately master Fatwib, it has everything to do with the three of you. You see it appears, much to my growing amazement and confusion, that the oracles’ visions indicate that you three, and it seems you three alone, can help us with a delicate matter of some concern and potentially great importance.”
“A matter of great importance you say,” said Toka leaning forward in his chair, “that sounds…profitable, tell me more.”
The Bishop’s expression grew even more disapproving, but it appeared his scowl had little affect on the bard, who just continued to smile his annoying chubby smile.
“Should you choose to involve yourself further in this matter I assure you that you will indeed be compensated most generously. In fact if it within our power to grant it then it will be done.”
Toka threw up his hands.
“Now that is wonderful to hear. You really should have had your lackeys open with that, it would have saved you all the bother.”
“Quite,” the Bishop replied through clenched teeth, “now that we have that out of the way please allow me to continue.”
Toka inclined his head in a brief nod. The Bishop tool another deep calming breath.
“As you all know, this world in which we find ourselves is surrounded by a number of floating realms, worlds that exist outside of reality as we generally know it, but which on occasion pass by and interact with our own. Lady Dagmar, I believe that you yourself are from such a realm?”
“You are indeed correct Bishop Quorin, I hail from the realm of Asgard.”
Balgan turned to face Dagmar and when he spoke his voice was soft, almost to the point of reverence.
“And would I be correct in saying Lady Dagmar, that you are a construct?”
Dagmar turned to the dwarf and pulled back her hood, revealing her silver metallic face and golden rope hair.
“I prefer knotwork-clockwork myself, but yes, the term construct does apply. I am a living machine, wrought in the forges of Asgard by the dwarf lords.”
“Well I’ll be,” whispered Toka, “there’s something you do not see everyday.”
“For once I find myself in agreement with you master Fatwib, the lady Dagmar is quite a marvel. But please, allow me to continue with my tale.”
The three of them turned back to face the Bishop just as the monk returned carrying their drinks. Toka snatched his up with much enthusiasm, while Dagmar and Balgan left theirs temporarily untouched on the table before them.
“What is not generally known,” the Bishop continued, “is that in addition to these greater realms, such as that Lady Dagmar calls home, there are other, far smaller floating realms, separate islands of reality, some no bigger than Santa Cora itself, maybe even smaller. These lesser realms are far more unpredictable and deviant in their passage through the heavens, and in their interaction with the greater realms, and as such on occasion have been known to collide with other realms. It appears that such an event has taken place to the west of us, on the coast of the Iron Sea. One of these island realms has struck and apparently become lodged in the sea wall.”
At this both Balgan and Toka leaned forward in alarm, only Dagmar remained relaxed.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Has the wall sprung a leak? Do you wish us to fix it, because while I am a highly skilled stone worker I am afraid I would prefer to refrain from being immersed in salt water, it does not agree with the balance of my mechanisms you understand.”
The Bishop smiled.
“There is no need to concern yourself with that my lady, we do not need you to repair the wall, and the wall does not in fact hold back the sea itself, and so there is no leak.”
“But the wall is secure?” Toka cut in. “Nothing could, you know, come through the breach?”
The Bishop shook his head.
“We do not believe so master Fatwib, the island itself appears to have sealed the breach, and there is no indication that any of the beasts from the Iron Sea are even aware of the damage to the wall. For the time being we a quite safe.”
Toka sank back into his chair in relief and Balgan lifted and drained his ale. The Bishop, good to his word, immediately dispatched one of the monks to bring the dwarf another. Balgan placed his tankard back on the table.
“So Bishop, what exactly is it that you do want us to do?” he said gruffly.
“Thus far all attempts to gain access to the island have failed. The upper parts of it do not seem to fully exist in our reality, only that lower portion of it are therefore amenable in investigation, and for the most part these appear to be nothing but solid rock.” he paused, “There is however a door.”
“Have you tried opening it?” asked Dagmar.
The Bishop shot Dagmar a look, but to all appearances she seemed genuine in her question.
“Yes Lady Dagmar, yes we have tried to open it.”
“Well good, I would hate to think you went to all the trouble of tracking us down just to ask us what to do with a door. So what did you find inside.”
“Ah, I apologise for any confusion. We have indeed tried to access the door, however but for a single exception, we have been unable to do so.”
“So someone has managed to get inside then, how did they manage it?” Balgan asked.
“That is indeed the question of the hour. It appears that our agent at the scene, Pastor Maldonado, was the one to gain access through the doorway and he has not been heard of since. As such we have no idea how he managed it and all subsequent attempts to do so have failed.”
“And you believe that we can gain access for you?” asked Dagmar.
“The oracles do, I have my doubts.” replied the Bishop looking pointedly at Toka.
“But why us?” Balgan asked, “Surely the Cathedral as any number of people it could send?”
“Indeed we do, and that was my initial thought on the matter as well. But the oracles are insistent. It has to be you, and it has to be soon.”
Toka raised an eyebrow at this.
“Why does it have to be soon, what’s the hurry?”
The Bishop shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
“There are, how shall I put this, other interested parties.”
Balgan leaned forward, wresting his weight on the table.
“Who, exactly, are these interested parties?”
The Bishop shifted again.
“We have reason to believe that the Archmage has turned his attention to the island. We would prefer that a representative of the Cathedral get hold of whatever useful items the island may hold before he does. For all the good the Archmage has done the Empire over the centuries, he has also, on occasion, threatened all of existence with his experiments. It is therefore probably for the best that whatever is behind the door be safely placed in the hands of the Priestess rather than his.”
“So we are going to have to contend with the Archmage and his followers? That is not exactly an easy thing you ask of us.”
The Bishop smiled.
“Oh no master Stormcleaver, our agents inform us that the Archmage is still safe in Horizon. We do not believe he will be an issue for some time, you have no need to be concerned about him.”
Balgan squinted at the Bishop who once again shifted in his chair.
“But we do need to be concerned about someone, don’t we lad?”
The Bishop cleared his throat.
“Well, it seems someone else beat us to the site, as such you may encounter them in your efforts to gain access to the door.”
Balgan’s expression turned hard.
“Who?” he said simply.
The Bishop swallowed.
“The, ah, the Crusader, and apparently several thousand of his followers. They appear to have set up camp around the island.”
Toka burst out laughing.
“Wonderful, the armoured fist of the Dark Gods and his army of blood crazed fanatics. Are you sure there are not also a few dragons waiting for us, of perhaps a herd of behemoth? I mean I cannot imagine how the obstacle in our way could be any more insurmountable than a man who fights demons and closes hell holes for a living. Just wonderful.”
He paused and rubbed his forehead.
“If I may, allow me to sum up the situation as I see it. You, would like the three of us, to break into a floating island from another reality, which is currently embedded in the Empire’s only defence against the horrors of the Iron Sea and surrounded by an army of psychopaths, in order to find something that may or may not be ‘useful’ before the most powerful wizard in existence can get his hands on it. Is that about right?”
The Bishop looked up at the ceiling.
“You paint something of a colourful picture master Fatwib, but that would indeed be an accurate description of what we are asking of you, yes.”
Toka leaned back in his chair.
“Oh Bishop, this is going to cost you, big time.”
The Bishop looked over at the bard.
“Do you mean to imply that you will undertake this quest for us?”
Toka sat up straight.
“I’m going to need a very large bag of gold, an unlimited tab at every bar in Santa Cora, and a night with the Priestess.”
The Bishop smiled.
“Done, done, and not if the very fate of the Empire depended on it.”
Toka stuck out his hand.
“Seems fair, count me in.”
The Bishop shook the bard’s hand, and then surreptitiously whipped his own on his robes. He then held out his hand and one of the monks placed a leather bag roughly the size of a small loaf of bread into his waiting palm. The bag jingled as it settled into his hand.
“Please accept this as a down payment, there will be more to come when your mission is completed” he said passing the bag to Toka.
Toka took the bag with relish and an instant later it had disappeared somewhere inside his clothing. The Bishop turned to the others.
“And what of you two?”
“Oh, I was always going to go,” said Dagmar, “I didn’t realise it was a request.”
To the right of the Bishop one of the monks groaned and rubbed the spot between his eyes.
“And you?” he asked turning to Balgan.
“Ay, I’m in as well, can’t go letting these two have all the fun. Beside I get the feeling they may have need of my hammer, and Doom Claw has been longing to get its teeth into something more substantial than students for a long time.”
The Bishop opened his mouth to speak but Balgan cut him off.
“That said, me and the lady here are also going to need to be compensated.”
The Bishop lifted his hands in a welcoming gesture.
“What can I do for you?”
Dagmar replied at once, becoming more animated than at any prior point in the conversation.
“I would like access to the Cathedral. I have petitioned for it in the past and been refused. I gain access to this island for you and in return you will give me access to the Cathedral.”
“Agreed, and please accept my apologies for it not having been granted sooner.”
Dagmar looked confused.
“Why, was it your fault?”
The Bishop opened his mouth to answer but caught sight of the monk beside him subtly shaking his head and instead turned his attention to Balgan.
“And I want access to the Cathedral library,” said the dwarf, “I understand you have the most extensive collection in the Empire, and there are more than a few books I would like to get my hands on. Oh,” he said reaching to the floor and picking up a large bulky looking sack, “and I’m going to need someone to polish my armour, and make sure they do it right or they’ll have Doom Claw to answer to.”
“I can do that.” said Dagmar, reaching forward and taking the heavy sack from Balgan with apparent ease.
“You sure you’re up to it lass?” Balgan said sceptically.
“I was built by dwarves, admittedly not the same type of dwarves as your good self, but dwarves none the less. I am also made principally of metal myself, and I assure you I do not let anyone else maintain my condition. Your armour will be in good hands.”
“Ay, I guess that is good enough for me.”
The Bishop clapped his hands together.
“Marvellous, then everything is agreed. There will be a ship waiting at the docks to take you to Proudfort on the morrow. Please be sure to be there by ten so that we can catch the tide.”
The Bishop pulled himself to his feet.
“And with that I will leave you and wish you all the very best in your endeavours. I am sure you have many things you wish to prepare before you embark on your journey, and so I will not keep you a moment longer.”
And with that the Bishop turned and headed straight to main door of the tavern, blasting everyone with angelic voices as he flung it open and walked outside, his functionaries scrambling behind him to keep up. Once the door had closed and the angels once more fallen silent Dagmar turned to the other two.
“Well, the Bishop is correct; there are many things to do before tomorrow. As such I will bid you fair well and meet you at the docks in the morning.”
Balgan held up a hand.
“Hold on there lass. I for one think that we would be remiss if we simply took the Bishop at his word that he is able to provide the things he promised.”
“I agree,” said Toka, “so far he has given us nothing but empty rhetoric.”
Both Dagmar and Balgan turned and looked at the bard, both recalling the bag the Bishop had so recently given him. Toka for his part just smiled back apparently oblivious to their questioning eyes.
“So,” Dagmar queried, “how do we test that the Bishop is good to his word?”
Balgan smiled and glanced at Toka who winked back. Balgan leaned back and shouted out in a voice that bellowed above the general noise and clatter of the tavern.
“Bar keep, drinks for everyone, and keep them coming.”
Well there you go, that is the end of the first scene in the first act of the story. I hope you enjoyed it and it wasn’t too long winded. Hopefully I will have the other two scenes from our first gaming session posted before the next session this coming Friday, at which point I will have to start writing that up as well. Man this seemed like such a good idea when I first thought of it, seems I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew…a bit like that lizardman shaman and my damn leg.