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About Artisan Crafts / Hobbyist Premium Member Neurotic and proudFemale/United States Groups :iconmousehouseart: MouseHouseArt
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Some of My Original Minifigs by Karalora
Some of My Original Minifigs
Surprisingly enough, most of the parts used to make these lovely folks are bona-fide LEGO. I think the clay bottle, sword, and crook are the only ones that come from Brickforge.

Grim Reaper: A pretty obvious addition to the Halloween lineup. Why isn't there an official LEGO Grim Reaper? Too scary? He could also be Death in a Discworld model, especially if you added another two plates of height to the figure.

Evil Scarecrow: You might have spotted this guy in some of my fall/Halloween MOCs.

Alchemist: She lost her leg in a laboratory mishap years ago, but it hasn't stopped her from trying!

Dragon Rider: She's a sinister sort--you can tell by the serrated blade on her sword. She dominates dragons and breaks them to her will. The nicer sorts of dragon riders treat them as partners.

Druid: Unlike a wizard, who would carry an ornate staff covered with runes and precious stones, this "shepherd of the forest" uses a simple crook to pull branches out of his way and rescue fawns from briars. But don't be fooled! He has powerful magic of his own. Don't mess with a druid's territory if you don't want to be eaten by a tree!

Snow Queen: Take a powder, Elsa.

Baby New Year: Don't worry, it's just Martinelli's in the glass.

I've ordered a few parts to make a Cupid and keep the calendar going!
LEGO Centaurs by Karalora
LEGO Centaurs
These are not official figures. The centaur bodies come from Brickforge (, a manufacturer of custom LEGO parts. Unfortunately, they don't seem to offer them anymore, so I'm glad I got some while I could! From left to right, the characters are:

Huntress--Unlike humans, centaurs do not consider meat a staple of their diet but an occasional treat. Still, the occasional squirrel or rabbit is a prized delicacy. Unlike most centaurs, who wear clothing only for ceremonial or decorative purposes, she wears a leather halter to protect her softer bits while she's poking through the forest in search of game.

Female elder--She has earned the right to retire from her former occupation and serve the centaur community as a leader. She wears a garland of red flowers to signify her status.

Male elder--He has likewise retired from his former occupation and now serves the community as a leader.

Healer--He carries pouches of medicinal herbs and a staff made from an uprooted sapling. The stone might be magic, or it might not. Centaurs take a more casual view of such things than humans do.

Storyteller--In centaur society, a storyteller is more than just an entertainer. Her stories are mnemonic devices used to teach history, agriculture, and everything else the tribe needs to know on a daily basis. She plays her flute at key points in the stories to accentuate the mood.
Oscar Party Ornaments by Karalora
Oscar Party Ornaments
EDIT: This set has been sold! If you are interested, please contact me through my Etsy shop and I will remake it just for you!

This ornament set is available in my shop on Etsy:…
Sweden found himself adrift in a sea of white.

The snow had come early, coating the ground, and a succession of clear but cold days and freezing nights had left it crusted and grainy. His boots crunched through with every step, leaving an ankle-deep trail as the only flaw in the crystalline surface. The trail wavered, for Sweden's usually expert navigational skills were stymied by a blanket of fog that had moved into the valley overnight, forcing him to regain his bearings one tree at a time as the familiar shapes of the trunks came into view through the mist. He wasn't worried about getting lost, however—he had made this journey too many times for that to be a concern, and in any case the brightness of the sun filtering through the fog suggested that it would burn off soon.

It was starting to break up half an hour later when Sweden arrived at his destination: the charred stump of a lightning-struck tree on the shore of a lake. He was the first to arrive, as usual. With a sigh of satisfaction, he moved over to the stump, tucked a coin into a particular crevice in the scorched wood as an offering to Thor, knocked the snow off a nearby boulder, and sat down to wait.

Several minutes later, he became aware of a faint, rhythmic whisking sound somewhere out on the lake, out of sight in the patchy fog. It began to grow louder—something was approaching. Sweden leaped to his feet and kept his hand near his dagger, ready to draw. Before long, a manlike figure became visible, silhouetted by the mist, gliding like a ghost over the ice. It was headed right toward him.

"Stay away!" Sweden barked, trying to sound fierce rather than alarmed. He was almost on the point of drawing his knife when the fog parted and the figure was revealed in full.

It was Finland, the very friend whom Sweden was there to meet. He was moving at running speed—somehow—over the surface of the frozen lake in a series of sweeping, striding motions. With every such motion, a drawn-out scraaaaaaape rang from the ice.

"Finland! How...whoa!" Sweden exclaimed as the other zoomed close, nearly skidding right up the lake shore. At the last possible instant, he twisted at the hips, using his leading foot as a brake. Sweden saw through a little shower of frost how Finland had accomplished this new feat of locomotion.

He had attached knives, more or less, to his boots. As he walked up the shore, he was balancing on the edges of copper strips. They looked something like miniature sled runners—which, Sweden realized, was entirely logical, since they evidently had much the same purpose.

"Where did you get those?" said Sweden. "Did you make them yourself?"

Finland nodded, undoing the clasps of his cloak.

"It's brilliant! How did you ever think of it?"

Finland shot Sweden a raised eyebrow.

"Er...not that I would expect you to have trouble thinking of brilliant things. you mind if I take a look at those later? I might want to make a pair for myself."

Finland shook his head and untied something from his belt. To Sweden's delight, it proved to be a second pair of the blades, threaded with leather thongs.

"Are you serious? For me? To keep?"


"Well...thank you! I don't know what to say!"

Sweden accepted the gift and sat back down on his boulder to tie the blades onto his feet. They widened toward the top, making a sort of thin platform, but even so he had to pull the thongs uncomfortably tight—the least amount of slack allowed them to simply fold flat under his weight. He found himself speculating about ways to improve the invention before realizing how curmudgeonly a reaction it was to an idea that was very close to miraculous, not to mention Finland's generosity in sharing it with him.

Once Sweden's skates were firmly in place, Finland pulled him to his feet and beckoned to the lake. With mild trepidation, Sweden inched down the gentle slope toward the ice.

He wobbled. A lot. Before he quite reached the surface of the lake, a spot of panic had him hastily dropping back into a sitting position on the ground. He couldn't fall from a sitting position.

Sniggering, Finland marched up beside him

"Best not to rush into things, right, old friend?" said Sweden, embarrassed. " me how it's done first?"

With another nod, Finland went down to the ice, set one foot on it, and pushed off with the other. Instantly, he was gliding again, to all appearances taking no more effort than he would use to walk. Less, in fact, for the slickness of the ice gave him more distance out of each stride than he would have gotten walking on normal ground. He returned and offered another hand up to Sweden.

"All right. I think I see how this works."

Still wobbling, but gaining confidence, Sweden made his way down to the lake surface and followed Finland's example. One foot down, then push off with the other, and then...

He started off well enough, but when he began to run out of momentum, and tried to imitate Finland's striding motion...both feet zipped out from under him and he toppled, landing flat on his back. The impact drove the breath from his body and made him see spots for a moment.

When his vision cleared, he saw Finland leaning over him. Neither concern nor amusement was detectable in his expression, leading Sweden to suspect that he was actually feeling some of both. "I'm all right…" he mumbled. Finland nodded with satisfaction and extended a hand to help him up, expertly bracing his feet in order to avoid slipping himself in the process.

Sweden tried again, going more slowly this time. Paradoxically, he found he had less control over his movement that way. Watching Finland demonstrate changes of speed, turns, starts and stops, and even, briefly, backwards movement, he realized that speed was helpful. It allowed less time to wobble, or made wind on both sides that held you up, or something. It took a few more falls before he really started to get the hang of skating, but once that happened, not only was it more practical than trying to walk directly on the ice in his was fun. He'd never moved so quickly and so smoothly on his own two feet, never even imagined being able to change direction with a slight shift of his weight.

This must be what flying feels like, he thought. And the thought so overwhelmed him that he suddenly felt he had to take a break. He turned and coasted up to the lake shore, only to stumble when he struck land and pitch forward. But he didn't mind—falling in snow was not to be feared.

Finland came up close to him, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

"Just resting for a moment," Sweden explained. "Finland, do you realize what you've invented here? Flight. Or as close to it as people will ever get until we learn the language of birds and can ask them how they do it."

Finland smirked in reply, pushed off again, built up a little speed, and then abruptly leaped into the air, spun about, and landed on one foot, dropping right back into his glide without so much as a shimmy. Sweden's jaw dropped.

A moment later, he recovered his composure and made a self-deprecating smile. "And here I thought I was doing so well... You were saving that trick all day, weren't you?"

Finland nodded, offering one of his rare smiles. For a moment, although the snow was melting under Sweden's body and soaking through his clothes, although his hands were scuffed from his various mishaps on the ice, the world was entirely perfect.

Then a cloud passed over the sun, and the light that filtered through was surprisingly gold-tinted. It was getting to be late, and both countries knew they had best be headed home before darkness fell.

"I think this is the best outing we've ever had," Sweden said while untying his skates. "I hate to admit it, but you usually have better ideas than I do. I would have just gone deer hunting or something." He paused. "You know the others are going to want a pair of these too."

Finland shrugged as if to say that was no concern of his.

"The construction looks pretty simple. I could make them, if you didn't want to bother."

Now a look of shock and betrayal.

"Or not. What should I tell them to expect to trade for a pair? A sheep? Five sheep? A milk cow? A gold crown? A white bear pelt?" He held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture as Finland turned an annoyed glare on him. "We can discuss it another time. But I can't keep these secret for long, and the others will never stop asking how they can get them."

Finland repeated the careless shrug.

"Point taken. See you in a moon's time."

They clasped forearms briefly, before turning to head for their respective homes.

The clouds were gathering overhead.

There would be more snow in the night.
Walking on Water
The Finns invented ice skates about 5,000 years ago. The earliest models used shaved animal bones as “blades.” Copper blades like the ones described in the story go back to about 200 C.E.

Scandinavia and the World (C) humon
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: strong language)

It was basically over but for the bookkeeping.

Faldinn, worn out from raging but still the hardest hitter in the party, posted himself at the door just in case any more enemies showed up.

Yarwon deemed Kendram's sore throat too trivial a hurt to justify spending a potion or a spell, and instead gave him an herb from his healer's kit to chew up and suck on. It tasted like a combination of mint and nastiness, but the juice soothed the pain. (The fact that he had to shut up as long as he was sucking on it was, from the rest of the party's perspective, a helpful bonus.)

That just left the biggest issue: the magical barriers locking them out of the treasure room, and D'lana, passed out between them.

"The barriers themselves are probably keeping him unconscious," said Wendes, peering at the shimmering curtains of energy. "Think about it. The majority of your sneak thieves are going to be rogues, and they're notoriously difficult to keep trapped by any means other than knocking them out."

"How do we get through?" asked Cinadel.

"Dispel magic should do the trick. Who has those scrolls we took from Pjana's workshop?"

"I think I do," said Yarwon. He started inspecting the folds of his fur cloak, and frowned. "I thought I did…"

"You lost them?" Wendes wailed.

"Of course not! How would I have lost them between that storage room and here?"

"Aren't those them?" said Cinadel, pointing at the sprawled D'lana. A few rolled paper ends protruded from inside his shirt.

"Wh—HEY!" Wendes squawked. "That lousy thief! He must have picked your pocket, Yarwon! Damn rogues!"

Kendram snickered and pushed the herb into his cheek for a moment so he could comment. "This is karma then, isn't it? If we had the scrolls, we could get him out of there no trouble. It would serve him right if we just walked away."

"But it wouldn't be right," said Yarwon. "Kendram, you said those skeletons could get through the barriers, right? Maybe we can find a long pole or something to reach through and grab the scrolls."

Cinadel nudged a heap of collapsed bones apart with his toe and fished out a relatively intact arm and hand. "Why not just use these?" he said, waving it cheerfully. "We can lash them together to get the length we need and look! It's already got a gripping tool on the end!"

Wendes grimaced. "That's disgusting."

"He's got a point, though," said Yarwon, picking up a pair of femurs. "Might as well use what we have. And we already know the barriers don't repel bone."

So they went with the grisly but eminently practical plan, tying together several long bones with the hand on the end. With effort, they were able to insert it through the barrier, snag the scrolls D'lana had swiped, and retrieve them.

Wendes thumbed through until he found the right one. "Stand back, everyone," he said, unrolling it. "These magical traps sometimes have one surprise left when dispelled." While the others obediently scooted away, he began to read…

The arcane sigils inscribed on the parchment lit up, shifting through shades of blue and violet. The glow was reflected in Wendes's eyes, intensifying as he continued to cast the spell until it seemed that his eyes themselves were shining also. As he intoned the last few syllables, he moved his right hand in a few sharp mystic gestures and thrust it at the barrier.

A pulse of energy, like a tiny shockwave, burst from his palm. It seemed to dissipate rapidly without striking the barrier, but nonetheless, the shimmering curtain of force faded away. So did its twin at the other end of the short corridor. And so did the light from the scroll, which crumbled to ash, its magic spent.

There was quiet for a moment. Then:

"That was cool!" Cinadel piped.

"Wizardry," said Wendes with justifiable smugness. "Accept no substitutes."

Yarwon approached the space where the barrier had been and gingerly put his hand through. "It's clear," he said, hurrying forward to tend to D'lana.

The rogue was essentially unhurt, and it only took a moment to revive him. He opened his eyes to an assortment of annoyed scowls.

"We need to talk," said Wendes, shaking the unused scrolls. "What else of ours did you steal?"

D'lana made a weak chuckle as he sat up. "I was going to give them back."

"By pretending they were part of the stash in here?" said Kendram.

"The stash!" D'lana said gleefully, hopping to his feet.

"Not so fast," said Yarwon, taking hold of D'lana's arm with one big hand. "You owe us. While you were napping, this place was swarming with skeletons. We protected you from them."

"I protected you," Kendram specified.

"And then there's the matter of your thievery," said Wendes. "I think you've forfeited your right to have first go at the treasure."

"Oh, don't you dare try to cheat me out of this prize…"

"Cheating? Hardly. We'll take the lot, value it, and divvy it up equally. If you especially want anything in particular, you can make your case."

D'lana groaned, but he seemed to realize he was actually being offered a very generous bargain for the circumstances.

"Guys, do we have to do all that here?" said Cinadel. "Can't we cart this stuff away and count it at an inn or something?"

"Probably wisest," said Yarwon. "That necromancer asshole will be back sooner or later."

"That too," said Cinadel. "But mainly…if I don't bathe soon I'm going to turn into a orc."

"Heeeey!" Norway said with a grin. "You've been reading up on the worldbuilding."

"I read that Player's Handbook cover-to-cover," said Iceland. "The learning curve for this game can be tricky," he added as if Åland had not used exactly those words to him a couple sessions ago, "so I decided to bone up."

Denmark, at three beers and counting, giggled. "'Bone.'"

"Do you want to play through the process of transporting the treasure, or skip ahead to the inn?" said Åland.

"Skip ahead! Skip ahead!" Denmark voted.

"I'm with Denmark, strangely enough," said Sweden. "After all that, I want to find out what we scored!"

The Prancing Goat turned a tidy profit, in no small part because the proprietress had seen the value in catering to niche groups that are known for throwing a lot of money around…that is to say, adventurers. After suffering or narrowly averting one too many brawls instigated by rough-edged patrons who had noticed the volume of gold and jewels being sorted through by other patrons at the corner tables, Madam Crefna had hit upon the idea of sectioning those two tables off into private meeting rooms with closeable doors and sound-damping tapestries on the walls…and charging a fee for their use. The schedule for this was an impenetrably complex one, taking into account how much wealth a party was carrying (she prided herself on her ability to estimate this with a look), how adept they were at fighting, and how ugly the evening's crowd was, so that the price stopped just short of the point where they would be better off taking their chances in a brawl.

Also, her food was excellent, the place was classy (when it wasn't being renovated after a recent scuffle, and sometimes even then), and Crefna herself was a nice-looking half-elf who wasn't opposed to getting friendly with the more dashing customers. Success was pretty much guaranteed.

The party paid for use of one of the private rooms in advance. Crefna insisted, once she identified Kendram as a bard. She was no dummy, and was well aware of her own weaknesses. It was probably the first time in Kendram's adventuring career that his skills had ever been a disadvantage in negotiations.

While the landlady prepared the meeting room, Cinadel availed himself of the bathing facilities and the others hit the bar...but not too much, since they needed to have their wits about them. By and by, Cinadel returned, with his snake nosing through his damp hair, and Crefna ushered them into the room.

Dividing up the treasure was straightforward enough. The cult members had been mostly lowlifes, able to acquire coins and jewels (via one method or another) but not much in the way of fancy trinkets or magic items. The cache included a couple of cure potions, a dagger with a low-grade sharpness enchantment, and a third vial of liquid that turned out to be an elixir of love.

"Oh, this one won't bite us in the ass at any point," Wendes muttered. "I don't suppose you want it, rogue?"

"I have no use for such things," said D'lana. "I work by stealth, not trickery. Best save it for yourselves. Maybe you can make a boyfriend of this lich of yours."

"Ew!" said Kendram. "That's...just...ew! Why would you say that?"

"How would we give it to him?" said Yarwon. "Liches don't drink."

"Oh right, that's the problem with that plan!" Kendram sneered. "Not the very prospect of...with a...ew!"

"Let's keep it!" said Cinadel. "You never know when something like this might come in handy."

"...says the charm-resistant guy," said Wendes.

"I wouldn't necessarily say no to that dagger, however," D'lana continued as if the intervening conversation hadn't taken place.

"I'll bet not, but a magic weapon is worth more than your share," said Kendram.

"Let me have my share in jewels, then," said the rogue. "Money is just money, but I can pawn these off on some stupid small-town noble for as much as twice their actual value. Maybe one of you could do the same, but don't you have a quest to be getting on with?"

"You know,
that's not a terrible point," said Wendes. "If the gems are effectively worth more to you than they are to us...I think we can strike a bargain."

"What if he's lying about that?" Kendram protested.

"Kendram..." Wendes said patiently, "...when someone lies during a negotiation, they pretend things are worth less to them than they actually are."

"Oh. Right."

The jewels were duly appraised, and a selection of amethysts, spinels, and one piece of jade with a tree design carved into it were handed across the table to D'lana the Quick. He gave them a once-over, frowning, and then made a curt nod.

"I'd best be on my way. Perhaps we'll meet again someday."

"Only the DM knows for sure!" Cinadel quipped. The others gave him blank looks.

"Elves, man," said Yarwon.

With that taken care of, they did what any adventurers would do upon finding themselves several hundred gold coins richer, apiece.

They hit the bar again.

The next morning brought dismal rain, which seemed somehow fitting. They still had one more necessary errand before they could embark on the next phase of their quest: finding a devotee of evil to translate the documents they had retrieved (well, stolen) from Susari's cult. That meant a return to Temple Row, and that meant endless potential for trouble.

"That guy must have found out we smashed all the skeletons and looted his treasure room by now," said Wendes. "He'll be out for revenge. What if he gave our descriptions to the authorities?"

"And told them what?" said Yarwon. "'These guys escaped the death-trap I made out of the former members of my lich-worshiping cult and stole the proceeds from our underground gambling ring'? I think we're good. He's got more to fear from the law than we do."

"You're probably right. But let's keep a low profile anyway. That means no flirting, no wandering off, no starting fights with anyone... Let's just find the first scourge of humanity who accepts cash and can be discreet and find out what these things say."

This turned out to be much easier said than done. While there were plenty of evil clerics on Temple Row, any of whom could be expected to have the ability to read Infernal script, there were not many who accepted payment for their services in gold (as opposed to blood/life force/promises of firstborn children) and who could be counted on not to turn right around and use the information against them or resell it or maybe just enslave the lot of them on principle. In theory, the priests of the Mightiest Warlord and the Skull Queen and their ilk knew that abusing customers was bad for repeat business, but somewhere on the road between theory and practice, the idea seemed to get lost.

They were on the verge of breaking for lunch when a quiet voice called to them from the slim space between two buildings—too narrow, even, to be considered an alley.

"I will translate for you. Free of charge."

They peered into the dimness, where a ragged figure sat leaning against the wall. The hood of a dingy brown robe was pulled halfway over the person's face, and between that and the shadows they could make out very little of his or her features.

"Forgive us if we think that sounds too good to be true," said Wendes. "What's the catch?"

"No catch," said the stranger. "There are grave sins in my past for which I seek to atone. If I can use one of the vicious skills I developed during that time to help you bring down a great evil, it will lift part of this weight from my soul."

There was an awkward silence.

"O...kay," said Kendram. He elbowed Wendes and hissed, "Wendes, give him the documents!"

"Not just yet," said the wizard, backing away a step. "How do you know what we're up to?"

The stranger shifted position and raised his head—probably a he, they decided—to look at them more directly. He was human, fair-complected, with maybe some gnomish ancestry a few generations back. "I've been seeing you around all morning. You're not exactly being discreet. Please...let me help you with this."

After exchanging a round of glances with the rest of the party, Wendes sighed, stepped forward, and handed the parchment to the man. Upon taking them, he withdrew a bit further into the shadows and began to read. They saw his light-colored eyes flick back and forth. His breathing became rapid and irregular, and he shuddered at intervals.

Yarwon leaned closer, looking concerned. Wendes stopped him from interrupting. "It's a form of trance," he said in a low voice. "If he's telling us the truth—if his ability to read Infernal script comes from wickedness in his past—then accessing it now is probably very difficult and uncomfortable for him."

"Wow. So he's doing us a huge favor, then," said Cinadel.

"At ease, Captain Obvious," said Yarwon. "I'll take your word for that, Wendes, but if—"

He broke off when the stranger abruptly flung his head back. His eyes were wide open and glazed, and he wheezed out a few words. "There's an island...the phylactery...need...more..." He let out a cry of pain and collapsed where he sat. The parchment burst into strangely dark flames and burned to ashes in an instant; as if to add insult to injury, the ongoing drizzle then washed away the remnants.

When a moment passed with no further movement or noise from the man, Yarwon darted into the narrow space and crouched beside him, checking his vital signs. He frowned.

"Oh, god, he's dead, isn't he?" said Kendram.

"No...but he's not entirely well. Let's get him indoors and take care of him. We owe him that much."

"More to the point, we have to make sure he wakes up if we want to find out exactly what he read," said Wendes. "Not that it's not also the right thing to do, of course."

They carried the poor fellow back to their inn. This attracted less notice than one might think; every adventuring party, sooner or later, finds itself saddled with the unconscious body of an ally. (If they're lucky, it's an ally.) They laid him on one of the straw pallets and Yarwon began tending to him.

His dull pallor and thready pulse suggested a mild degree of shock. Out of habit, Yarwon began checking him for injuries. He removed the coarse brown robe to discover, to no small surprise, that underneath it the man was wearing well-made garments typical of the merchant class. Under those, his flesh was marked with purplish veins, radiating from (or converging on) his heart.

"Oh, that doesn't look good..." Wendes muttered. "Maybe it wasn't him. Maybe there was a magical trap in the document."

"They're fading," Yarwon noted. "I bet he'll wake up once they're gone. Let's see if I can speed them along." He passed his hand over the ugly streaks, muttering the words of a cure spell. To his satisfaction, the veins shrank to invisibility in seconds. The stranger's color improved, and he opened his eyes a moment later.

"I'm indoors..." he said.

"We brought you in," said Kendram. "We couldn't just leave you there."

"Do you feel all right?" asked Yarwon.

"As well as can be expected after a turn like that. Better, even."

"I used a spell to help you recover," said Yarwon.

"Does that sort of thing happen often?" said Wendes.

"It's a safeguard when I willingly expose myself to evil influences. It's better that than that they should take hold of me. Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Rygenam. Fidunie Rygenam."

They looked blank for a moment, but then Kendram perked up. "Oh. As in the cursed family?"

Rygenam nodded soberly.

"Explain," said Wendes.

"Do you want to, or should I?" said Kendram.

"Go ahead," Rygenam murmured.

"The whole family is demon-possessed," Kendram explained, his voice taking on the slight sing-song quality typical of bardic recall. "From birth. No one knows why, or has any idea how to lift the curse. Each member's demon starts tempting them when they come of age, and it's up to them to resist it or not. Most them don't make it. But I guess you did?"

Rygenam shook his head. "I didn't. I gave in. My brother embraced his demon, and I...I followed suit. We did such things in the names of the Infernal Realms...I don't even quite remember how I broke free. I made my way to the Order of the Eagle, with my demon threatening me the whole way. Fortunately, their clerics believed in my contrition."

"They exorcised the demon?" said Yarwon.

"No. If my family's demons could be exorcised, we would have been free of our curse long ago. But they managed to suppress it. Now it can't influence me...unless I invite it to."

"By doing things like reading Infernal script," said Wendes.

"Exactly. And they placed upon me a second curse that is actually a blessing, for it causes me to become ill if I draw upon the demon's power too much. I try to avoid it, but your cause seems to justify the risk."

"On that note," said Wendes, "you didn't tell us much before you passed out. Something about the phylactery and an island, I think? Can you still remember what you read?"

"Yes," said Rygenam. He raised himself up on his elbows and shut his eyes tightly, recalling. Sweat beaded on his forehead. "The phlyactery of the lich-lord Susari the Undying One is hidden on an island in the warm seas of the world, guarded by sea serpents and living storms. Those who would find it must bring a piece of the Undying One's magic with them to act as a compass." He sagged; even remembering the experience of reading the evil-encoded document was a strain for him.

"Shit," Wendes opined, smacking his own forehead.
"We don't have anything like that."

"Yes we do," said Cinadel.

"What do you mean?" said Yarwon.

"That guy, the one who captured us? He said that necromancy staff was a gift from the Undying One, right? Which means all those skeletons we fought were infused with Susari's magic!"

"Should we go back for a bone or something?" asked Kendram.

"Nope!" said Cinadel. After a beat, he triumphantly held up a trophy no one had realized he had taken: a familiar bone arm and hand.

"Yes!" Wendes crowed. "You genius elf! Now all we have to do is charter passage on a ship!"

"Any number of trade routes pass through the warm seas," said Rygenam, sitting up. He was looking a lot better, as if passing along the information had purged the experience from his mind. "Go down to the harbor and give my name to the captains. I have some respect as a merchant. And if you like, come by my shop. I'll be happy to help outfit you for the voyage. Just doing my part to atone for my misdeeds and those of my family."

"Your sincerity well becomes you, sir," said Wendes. "Is there anything we can do for you as thanks for your help?"

"Yes, actually. As a lich, Susari will have amassed lore pertaining to dark magic of every kind, including demonology. As you infiltrate his holdings, I beg you to search his libraries for anything that might give me a clue as to lifting my family's curse."

"We will," said Wendes.

"I have good news and more good news," said Åland, polishing his glasses. "The good news is that this wraps up this phase of the adventure. The other good news is..."

The players leaned forward in anticipation.

"...update your character sheets, because you've all leveled up!"

Whooping cheers greeted this announcement, and there was a rustle of pages as people began looking up their new stats and abilities.

"What do we get? What do we get?" said Iceland.

"You? A sorcerer achieving Level 6? Practically the works," said Sweden, who was filling in his own updates from memory, without needing to refer to a book. He was wildly grinning. "You get to raise your attack bonus, all three saves, you get new spells, a new feat... But don't distract me, I'm concentrating."

"I'll help you, Iceland," said Norway.

"I don't think I've ever seen him this...giddy," said Iceland.

"He gets to calculate and write down new and better numbers for his wizard persona," said Åland with a fond smile. "He's in Nerd Heaven."

As he had been the first to finish building his character to begin with, Finland was the first to finish updating his sheet for the new level. He let Åland spot-approve it, clipped it to his notepad, and went outside to get some air.

If he was completely honest, he was having second thoughts about the campaign.

Specifically, he was having misgivings about the villains.

Sure, it was fine for the others to be gung-ho about bringing down an undead overlord who was transparently based on Russia. They weren't the ones who sometimes looked out the kitchen window in the morning to see the real Russia blowing drunken kisses from across the mountains. And he'd already demonstrated his willingness to spy on the game, pleading "loneliness," which history suggested was actually a Russian word meaning "an overwhelming desire to annex the entire planet."

What if he found out how he was being portrayed?

Especially—Finland cringed at this—what with the way he had been behaving lately...

On the other hand, he couldn't just admit his fears to the other guys. Nor could he up and quit the game without explanation. And leave the party with no combat specialist? Out of the question! He wasn't the world's greatest team player but he did have some compassion, not to mention pride in his own perseverance.

No, he certainly wasn't about to quit. He would just have to keep his feelers out and be prepared for whatever might happen.

To Be Continued...


Neurotic and proud
Artist | Hobbyist | Artisan Crafts
United States
Current Residence: North Hollywood, CA
Shell of choice: Tiger cowrie
Skin of choice: Fair with freckles and a light tan
Favourite cartoon character: Sorcerer Mickey!
Personal Quote: "Any day in which you learn something new has not been a waste of time."
(No, not the Dickens novel. I may never touch Dickens again--I get that he's one of the Great Authors, but he's also a very clear illustration of the fact that Victorian writers were paid by the word.)

So I took some time off work and flew up to Seattle for a few days. I hadn't been there in about 15 years, and the most recent trip was just a day jaunt from Tacoma and...anyway. The point is, this was my first time really being aware of the culture in Seattle. I had always assumed it was pretty similar to L.A.

It's not.

We think we're liberal down What we're really good at is talking the liberal talk. In Seattle they walk the walk. I saw flyers for activism events everywhere. Recycle bins, everywhere. (They also banned plastic shopping bags before we did.)

And it's not just in the political arena. Maybe the main difference between Seattle and L.A. (apart from the weather) is that Seattle's defining industries are practical and solid, while L.A.'s are superficial and ephemeral. This is the land of Hollywood and Disney; up there it's all Boeing and IBM and salmon fishing. And that attitude trickles down into everything. You can be kinda slobby in Seattle and no one cares, which is why they invented grunge. A guy who has lived in both cities told me "In L.A., if you earn $100,000 you drive a BMW. Up here, there are millionaires who ride the bus."

Of course, if the bus system here were as good as the one there, maybe our millionaires would ride it too. I was astounded by the sheer number of buses I saw, all with overlapping routes so if you miss one, odds are you can catch the next one and it will work just as well even if the route number is different. It's more expensive than L.A. Metro--$2.25 base fare compared to $1.50--but the first transfer is included, and it's worth it in any case. Plus there's the option of a monthly pass--I didn't look into it, but if it's anything like the one down here, it's more cost-effective than paying every fare on the spot for a regular bus rider.

Everyone knows how rainy Seattle is, right? It actually didn't rain much while I was there, but it was cool and partly cloudy the rest of the time. I didn't see many people carrying umbrellas, though. When the rain started, the locals all just put up the hoods on their hoodies. I thought that was kind of...amusing? Like they're so used to the rain they don't even go out of their way to avoid it; they just wear a lightly resistant garment and deal with whatever damp gets through. At times I wished I'd done the same, because my umbrella is big and flashy and doesn't telescope when closed up. It got in the way a lot.

Also on the nature front...being about a thousand miles north of L.A., Seattle is in an earlier phase of spring. I saw lots of trees covered in white or pink flowers. Others had leaves, but they were still small and pale. I mention that because it surprised me a little. It shouldn't have. The part that really messed with my perceptions is that it was cooler and earlier in spring...but the hours of daylight were longer. April on the calendar, March on the ground, May in the sky.

The diversity in the urban bird population seems to be lower there, or maybe it was just too chilly for some of them. I saw a few starlings, some pigeons, a fair number of gulls, and scads of crows. I mean, crows will live anywhere, but they seemed really in-your-face in Seattle, always showing up in pairs to collect nest-building material and not moving until I got right on top of them. Less cautious of people than they are here, in other words.

I think I'd like to move there...
  • Mood: Amazed


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Lokotei Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You have been Hugged  Tight Hug!!!! *Hug* Spread the DA love around! (you can copy and paste this message on their userpage!) 

1- You can hug the PERSON who hugged you!
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^w^ Sweet hug~ Hug
Impkat Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You have been Hugged  Tight Hug!!!! *Hug* Spread the DA love around! (you can copy and paste this message on their userpage!) 

1- You can hug the PERSON who hugged you!
2- You -MUST- hug 10 other people, at least!
3- You should hug them IN PUBLIC! Paste it on their page!
4- Random hugs are perfectly okay! (and sweet)
5- You should most definitely GET STARTED hugging right away!

^w^ Sweet hug~ Hug
anorwegan Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014
You have been Hugged  Tight Hug!!!! *Hug* Spread the DA love around! (you can copy and paste this message on their userpage!) 

1- You can hug the PERSON who hugged you!
2- You -MUST- hug 10 other people, at least!
3- You should hug them IN PUBLIC! Paste it on their page!
4- Random hugs are perfectly okay! (and sweet)
5- You should most definitely GET STARTED hugging right away!

^w^ Sweet hug~ Hug
ZoraCatone Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Student General Artist
:airborne::party::cake: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! May all your wishes come true! :cake::party::airborne:
09alih Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday!  :iconrainbowbummiecakeplz:
Kelseyalicia Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
MightyMorphinPower4 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
hauy b day
wildcard24 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013
Thanks a lot for the watch!!=)
RaltheCommentator Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
I finally put up the next page of my comic! :D

Karalora Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I haven't looked at it yet. I ought to re-read the whole thing.
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