Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XVI

If you're ever at the wizard's guild, stay close to a wizard. As Mistress Orla led Brend and I through the guild, I couldn't help but notice that the hallway behind us disappeared into unnatural shadows. I did not want to find out what would happen if someone got caught in those shadows.
Finally, the hallway ended before a smooth slab of stone. Mistress Orla lifted her staff, and etched symbols onto the stone with her navy magic. I'd gotten used to Brend's nonsense words, so it was strange to see this woman use magic without any mutterings.
The symbols flashed, and I squinted against the light. When it faded, the stone slab was gone.
"Mister Alex, lead the way." Mistress Orla gestured with her staff at the opening, and I frowned. But I wasn't about to argue with a woman whose magic impressed Smoky.
Crossing into the new room, it was difficult to make out just how large it was. Unlike the the other places I'd seen of the wizard's guild, this room wasn't well lit. I stopped a short way into the room.
"Keep moving forward." Mistress Orla's voice was stern. Brow furrowing, I hesitated for a moment before continuing forward.
The wood flooring changed to stone, and my right hand started burning.
"Trap!" Smoky's voice filled my thoughts as light flooded the room. Covering my eyes, I froze as the delivery bag started shaking.
"I'm terribly sorry Mister Alex, but one must take precautions when dealing with wraiths." Mistress Orla said. Uncovering my eyes, I squinted against the bright light. A strange silvery haze separated the circular stone I stood upon from the rest of the room. Mistress Orla was standing on the other side of the haze, watching me. Brend stood a little behind her, eyes wide.
"Mistress Orla, is this necessary? The wraith has yet to leave the delivery bag on its own." Brend said, and she turned to look at him.
"Brend O'Nolan, I taught you better than to take unnecessary risks." Mistress Orla said, and Brend glanced away. "Now, tell me from the beginning how this delivery boy arrived in our realm."
I only half listened as Brend told her about all that had happened during the last forty days. My delivery bag was still shaking, and my head was aching from Smoky's reedy voice constantly repeating the word trap. Stretching out my hand, it met resistance as I tried to touch the silvery haze.
Yes, I was trapped in a confined space with an agitated wraith. I just hoped that shaking the delivery bag would be the extent of Smoky's attempt to escape.
When Brend finished, Mistress Orla turned back to me. "You've been through a lot, Mister Alex."
"Well, I just want to get home." Back home, where I wouldn't be stuck with a wraith that wanted to eat me or get imprisoned by a wizard. Or were female wizards called witches here? "Can you let me out?"
Mistress Orla hesitated, and motioned at the delivery bag. "Set that down first."
"Mine!" Smoky's voice was like thunder, deafening my own thoughts. There was a ripping sound, and dark smoke shaped like a dragon shot toward Mistress Orla.
The silvery haze flared to life, obscuring everything beyond the circular stone. The dragon shaped wraith beat against the barrier, and I backed as far away as I could.
Smoky was out of the bag, and he was angry.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dragons are jerks

1. They'll take your stuff. Dragons are massive hoarders, and they don't usually care if the stuff the take already belongs to someone.
2. Their sneezes will singe off your eyebrows. Dragons do not know how to cover their mouths, and have this horrible habit of breathing fire.
3. Dragons are hypocrites. They demand that you are respectful to them, yet they treat you as inferior creatures not worth wasting manners on. How rude is that?
4. They have huge appetites. Dragons will eat almost anything and anyone, without feeling even the tiniest bit sorry about it. So keep an eye on Fido.
5. Dragons will wreck your house. For a dragon, no party is over until the walls come crumbling down. And if you don't invite them? They'll still come crashing through the window.
6. They hold a grudge. If you upset a dragon, they will remember you. And they will do their best to make your life miserable from then on.
7. Dragons don't share. Need a few more pieces of gold, or a rusty sword? Don't ask a dragon for help, because they will snap at you for even suggesting they give you something. And a snapping dragon is not good for your limbs.
8. Dragons lie. Just like their stuff, dragons guard any knowledge they have obtained. Ask them for directions, and they'll direct you somewhere completely different then where you want to go.
9. Dragons are grumpy. A dragon is never in a good mood, and they will let you know exactly how unhappy they are with a blast of fire.
10. Dragons steal princesses and other damsels. They'll carrying away a girl, and then keep her locked up for no reason whatsoever. It'd be one thing if they needed a maid, or someone to shine their scales. But most dragons abduct fair maidens just because they feel like it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XV

As we strode into town, people stopped to watch. They actually stopped.
Though I guess I couldn't blame them, since we were quite a sight.
I wore my dragon scale armor, and Brend held his dragon bone staff. Rafferty's new bow made from one of the dragon's horns was unstrung in a bag hanging over his shoulder. Seamus had a new knife made from a dragon claw. Lorcan's prize was one of the dragon's eyes, kept in a clear crystal amulet around his neck. When I'd asked about it, Lorcan merely shrugged and mentioned that few things could sneak up on a dragon.
And Callan? He'd claimed the dragon's teeth.
We made our way to the market, where the band quickly separated.
"Follow Brend, laddy." Callan said, resting a hand on my shoulder before leaving. Brend nodded, and we began walking.
Studying the various wares, I couldn't help but frown. "Why didn't we resupply using the wizard's haze?"
"The haze is useful for a lot of things, but sometimes it's best to barter in person." Brend said, shifting to avoid a girl leading her cow. "In addition, the market is an excellent place to hear the current news and rumors."
"Why would rumors be useful?" I asked.
"They often carry some grain of truth. Many adventurers gain their fortune by having followed the right rumor." Brend paused before a wooden building. There didn't seem to be anything special about the building, other then a sign painted with a staff sputtering magic hanging above the door.
Turning to me, Brend motioned toward the building. “Welcome to the wizard's guild.”
"Why come here?" I asked as we headed toward the door. Since Brend was an apprentice wizard, I suppose that could explain why we were here.
Upon reaching the door, Brend knocked on it with his staff twice, then thrice more. The door swung open, and we entered.
The inside was well lit with glowing orbs of light drifting near the ceiling. The large room had no other doors that I could see, nor any other way out. There was a single comfortable chair in the center of the room, where a woman sat with a shadowy staff resting on her lap.
"Brend O'Nolan, who is your companion?" The woman's voice was soft, though there was a note of disapproval to it.
"Mistress Orla, this Mister Alex. He was pulled into our realm when someone hijacked one of my spells."
The woman tilted her head, and lifted her staff. A thread of navy magic slipped through the air to encircle me. It spun around me, until it got close to my delivery bag and vanished.
"The boy has a wraith with him." Mistress Orla's voice rose, and she stood.
"Powerful magic." Smoky's voice filled my mind, along with a sense of hunger. I rested my fist against the top of the bag.
"You're not coming out." I whispered, giving the bag a glare.
"Come, and explain yourselves." Mistress Orla said, and I looked up to find that a hallway had appeared in the far wall. Brend started forward, and I followed, wondering just what we were going to tell this woman.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to decorate your dungeon

1. Get a rack. Even if you never use it, a rack is get for inspiring a foreboding mood in your captives.
2. Have a bunch of chains. Thin ones, thick heavy ones, and don't forget some with rust! The best thing about chains is that you can have a few guard moan and rattle them at midnight so people will think the dungeon is haunted.
3. Bones. Since most of your captives will likely be uneducated peasants, just scatter some animals bones on the floor. Add to that a skeleton slumped in the corner of one cell, and you're well on the way to a grim atmosphere.
4. Train some rats to hassle your captives. It'll be hard to sleep with the scrabbling of tiny feet steadily getting closer to you.
5. Don't forget to install some leaks. A dank dungeon is a miserable dungeon.
6. Keep it cold. That rough stone floor should sap the warmth right out of your captives.
7. Don't worry about stains. Someone spill their tomato soup? Just spread it around and let the imaginations of those who see it run wild.
8. Forget the bright lights. A dim dungeon is more likely to cause your captives sorrow then a well lit one. Plus, the dark has a way of making even the most mundane objects appear menacing.
9. Hire professional prisoners. Keeping a least one cell full at all times is great for those unexpected inspections. And remember: you don't have to pay the actors until you release them.
10. Have a variety of holding cells. Some with iron bars, others that are just a covered pit, and some with frightening metal doors. By having more then one way to imprison your captives, you can customize their experience to their individual fears.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XIV

If you ever decide to kill a dragon, make sure you have enough time free for the work you'll need to do afterword.
Thanks to Brend's magic, we didn't have to worry about the carcass decaying as quickly. Still, Callan's band worked quickly to separate and collect every part of the dragon.
Since I was the novice adventurer, I got to fetch whatever the others needed.
We worked constantly, pausing only to eat and sleep.
Speaking of eating, stay away from dragon meat. It is edible, but insanely hot. Like eating ten ghost peppers at once.
And that heat? It doesn't completely fade for a long time.
Even now, almost a week after we ate some, my mouth is on fire. Apparently it's a tradition amongst adventurers who manage to defeat a dragon to eat a little of it. My suggestion for a new tradition?
Order a pizza.
"Laddy!" Setting down the crate of bones, I turned. Standing next to Brend, Callan motion for me. When I got to them, Callan grinned. "Your armor arrived."
That was another convenient thing about having a wizard. Instead of needing to hull the harvested dragon to the nearest city, Brend could just bring up the wizard's haze. Add a few extra nonsense words to the initial chanting, and the wizard's haze could bring you in contact with a specialist.
Like an armorer.
Brend handed me a cloth parcel. Though bulky, it was surprisingly light. Loosening the cord, I unwrapped the cloth to reveal what lied within.
Daylight made the dark scales gain a multicolored sheen. Lifting the first piece, I found what looked to be a hood that extended to cover my shoulders.
"A coif." Callan said, taking it so I could looked at the next piece. A long sleeved shirt, which was long enough that it would cover my thighs. "And that's a haubergeon."
Next were two really long socks. "Those are chausses." Callan said. I smiled as I pulled out the final objects.
"When you suggested armor, I didn't expect a full suit."
"Might as well have a fireproof warrior for the next dragon." Callan grinned as he handed all of it back to me. I laughed, though part of me wasn't certain if he was joking. "Why don't you try it on?"
Nodding, I headed toward the main part of camp.
It took a bit of time, but I figured out how each piece was supposed to fit over my clothes. It was strange how light and flexible the armor felt, especially after having worn a leather vest for so long. I slung my delivery bag over my shoulder, then headed back toward the others.
When Callan saw me, he laughed.
"Just wait until we face whoever brought you here!" He shook his head and gave another laugh. "He'll not be expecting a wraith wielding dragonslayer."
I could see that confrontation going one of two ways.
Either it would convince the guy to send me home, or he'd laugh and strike me down with magic.
After all, Brend's magic had hurt the dragon, and whoever this guy was, he had magic.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Interesting crafts

1. Woodworking. Just imagine, taking a piece of wood and transforming it into something new. A carving, table, or even a boat. Being able to work with wood is cool.
2. Shoemaking. Once upon a time, skilled craftsmen made shoes to fit your feet. Not any feet, but yours. If you can get a pair of custom shoes made, your feet will thank you.
3. Hatmaking. Hats come in many styles, and can be very useful. Hats are amazing, and so are those who make them.
4. Bookbinding. There is so much knowledge in the world, but it would be difficult to share that knowledge if there wasn't a way to record and store it. Books are one way to do that, but someone has to transform a stack of papers into a book.
5. Glassblowing. Being able to take a blob of molten glass (called a gather), and shape it into something is awesome.
6. Watchmaking. Being able to make something that can accurately keep time is fantastic.
7. Spinning. Being able to take fibers and transform them into yarn that you can then use for other crafts is really cool.
8. Calligraphy. Writing is awesome, and with calligraphy, the words you write can become visually stunning. Calligraphy brings a nice personal touch to any letter.
9. Cake decorating. Cakes fresh from the oven can be a little bland to look at. But that cake can be transformed into so many different things. The only limit is the baker's skills and imagination.
10. Saddlemaking. There are a lot of different types of saddles. Being able to fit a saddle to a horse and its rider is not only useful to them, but shows the skill of the saddlemaker.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XIII

I woke with a painful ache in my head. A groan escaped as I opened my eyes. The sky was dark, but a nearby light made it difficult to see stars.
Rubbing my eyes, I moved to sit up. The world spun, and I faltered.
"Careful, laddy." Callan's voice came from what I thought was my left. I took a breath, and managed to get upright.
I lifted a hand to my head, and felt cloth. "What happened?"
Callan chuckled. "From what I heard, your wraith killed the dragon. Then after you managed to get the creature back in your bag, you collapsed and hit your head."
I turned my head, wincing as it ached. Hearing what happened, the memories were becoming clearer. "The dragon bit you."
Callan smiled, lightly touching the bandages around his torso. "Goes to show how one mistake almost makes even a seasoned warrior into lunch." He shook his head, jaw tightening briefly. "If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead."
I frowned, and almost shook my head. "All I did was release a wraith. Smoky could have turned on us."
"But he didn't."
A reedy laugh filled my mind, and a shock nipped my fingertips. "Not this time, but he will." I tried to ignore the wraith's laughter, but it was hard. How do you ignore another's voice in your head?
Callan nodded, then looked toward the light. "Brend, Alex is awake!"
I heard movement, and then the wizard appeared. "Mister Alex, how are you feeling?"
"My head hurts, and the world spins when I move." I said, and Brend nodded.
"With your permission, I'll check that there is nothing more serious."
He lifted his staff, and I couldn't help but smile at his nonsense words. Perhaps it was because I hit my head, but this world was growing on me. Sure, all the creatures I've met have tried to kill me or my friends.
Friends? Yeah, I guess they have become my friends.
Brend spoke one last word, and his staff spewed a blue-green light.
And my headache faded.
"Neat trick." I said, and Brend shrugged.
"You'll be alright." Then he turned to Callan. "Have you asked him yet?"
Callan shook his head. "Not yet."
"What?" I asked, and they both turn to me.
"Because your wraith killed the dragon, you have first claim on any spoils." Callan said, his smile growing as he motioned into the dark. "Which in this case, is the fallen dragon."
I frowned. "What would I want with a dragon carcass?" Were dragons even edible?
"Dragons are magical creatures, and that magic remains even after death." Brend said, sitting down next to Callan. "A dragon bone staff is a powerful conduit for magic, for example."
"We can't do anything until you decide." Callan held my gaze. "So what do you want?"
Rubbing my neck, I looked away. What would I be able to use from a dragon? I wasn't a wizard, so I didn't need a magic staff.
"What would you suggest?" I asked, turning back to my friends.
"Armor. Dragon scales are extremely light and flexible, but can easily withstand attacks." Callan said, one hand lingering over the bandages around his torso.
"Yes." A reedy voice whispered in my mind, and I stiffened. Turning, I stared at the delivery bag lying nearby. Had I really just heard Smoky speak?
"That sounds fine." I said, turning away from the bag.
Armor probably wouldn't protect me from the wraith, but perhaps it could keep me from needing to let Smoky out again.
Besides, it could make a neat costume when I got home.

Friday, April 3, 2015

For yardwork

1. In preparation for a party.
2. So that untamed plants don't end up collecting a bunch of trash.
3. So you can walk under a tree without having to bend to avoid hitting your head on the low hanging branches.
4. As a way of exercising.
5. As a family activity.
6. So that your lawn looks nice.
7. So you can enjoy being outside without worrying about hidden anthills.
8. So your trees and other plant can grow unhindered by excess growth.
9. As a reason to spend time outside.
10. Because it is something that often needs to be done.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XII

Dark smoke shot out of the delivery bag. It moved fast, covering the ground between us and the dragon in seconds.
The dragon's jaw was tightening around Callan's torso when the wraith reach it. Unlike in the forest, Smoky didn't await for the dragon to look away. Shifting from dark smoke into an inky goo, Smoky covered the dragon's eyes.
Dropping Callan, the dragon released a high pitched roar unlike any other I'd heard. Tossing its head back and forth, the dragon clawed at its face.
Lorcan moved in, ignoring the raging dragon as he reached Callan. A large man, Lorcan half dragged, half carried the band's leader away from the dragon. Brend and I hurried to over, while Seamus and Rafferty kept watch on the dragon.
Smoky's inky goo now covered most of the dragon's face. Any bit the dragon managed to claw off merely dissolved into smoke and returned to the main mass to become goo again.
We reached Lorcan, and I held back. His armor was dented, and I could see blood where the dragon's teeth had punctured the metal.
"Well, wizard?" Lorcan asked as he worked on removing the armor.
"Keep the dragon away." Brend said, holding his staff over Callan as he began chanting nonsense.
"Can you control the wraith?" Lorcan asked, finally getting the breastplate off.
Callan shirt was bloody.
"I don't know." I glanced toward the dragon, in time to see Smoky's goo cover the beast's nostrils.
"Then keep that bag open." Lorcan jerked his head to my delivery bag, then stood and moved back toward the battle.
My right fingers were frighteningly cold and trembling, so I guessed Smoky was happy. The dragon wasn't looking good.
It collapsed, a garbled noise escaped its throat, along with a weak sputtering of flame.
From the beast's throat, inky goo leaked out. The goo covering its face slid away, and once all the goo was gathered on the ground next to the dragon's head, it rippled and changed into smoke. The smoke rose, lazily drifting through the air.
I could pull my gaze away from Smoky as it drifted closer, passing Lorcan and the others as if they weren't there. The wraith seemed different, larger and more malicious.
I moved away from Callan and Brend, hoping Smoky wouldn't take interest in the unconscious leader.
Taking a step forward, I faced the cloud of smoke. "Alright, you've beaten the dragon." I held up the open delivery bag. "If you want another encounter like that, then killing me now is a bad idea."
Smoky's form shifted, becoming a dragon.
The wraith struck.
Fangs of smoke sank into my wrist, and pain coursed through my veins.
Thrusting my hand into the delivery bag, I shook it. "Get off!"
The pain lessened, and I pulled out my arm and shut the bag.
A static shock filled my fingers, and in the edge of my mind I heard an actual laugh.
A reedy laugh, that I somehow knew came from Smoky the wraith.
Then the pain in my wrist flared, and I fainted.