Category Archives: Fiction

The Meet

Something different this week, a short piece of fiction inspired by Shadowrun.

As ever, comments and criticisms are welcome!


Rain-slick tarmac reflected the cracked blue neon tubes of Harran’s Diner. Leonin leant against the cool concrete of a doorway across the road, his collar turned up against the biting wind. He’d been standing here for about thirty minutes, his hands in pockets and his cybernetic eye powered down, watching the door.

About five minutes ago, three patrons had entered, a couple of elves and a troll, and then left moments later to take up discrete sentry positions. He had smiled at that. He’d been told their contact was security conscious, but these were obviously trained professionals. He had begun to wonder if Mr Johnson worked for one of the mega-corps when the man himself turned up, striding confidently down the street as if he owned it.

A dwarf of middling years, Mr Johnson was dressed smartly, with the tell-tale sheen of synth flesh covering cyberware mods around his eyes and hands. The rain was deflected by an umbrella carried by an aide, one of five, walking at his side. The other four, all armoured, masked and wielding snub-nosed rifles, walked with military precision and dispersed at a gesture from their employer, taking up overwatch positions around the Diner.

Leonin counted off in his head, waiting for the agreed upon time and then shrugged himself upright. One of the guards noticed the movement, his gun barrel twitching slightly. The troll stepped from its position and sauntered casually into the Diner as he approached.

The Diner’s security, a broad shouldered female ork with a scarred lip, glared at him as he approached and pulled out a scan-baton.

“Stand,” she said, indicating a faded cross on the soaked tarmac. Leonin nodded and stood on the spot, raising his arms. The baton hummed into life and passed over his body, chirping at the sheath strapped to his belt. The ork wrenched his coat open and drew the knife, staring into his eyes as she did so. “No weapons allowed. Bosses’ orders.” She grunted, flipping the short blade and handing him a tag. “Claim it when you leave.” He nodded and smiled easily, he had expected something along these lines when Johnson had suggested the diner and when the ork had not approached any of his people.

“May I?” He asked, his tone smooth and unflustered, gesturing towards the door. She nodded, her eyes already sliding away from him and towards the steaming mug in the little shelter she had been provided.

The door ground slowly open as he approached, the mechanism whirring audibly.

“I apologise for the safety measures.” Johnson called out from the only occupied table in the Diner, his arms opening to encompass the few standing, and visibly armed, patrons in the place. “They are necessary for a man in my position.” Leonin laughed.

“What position is that?” The dwarf gave him a searching glance with narrowed eyes.

“That is of little consequence. Now, sit. We have business to discuss.” Leonin walked slowly over to the indicated chair, his eyes firmly on Johnson.

“Indeed, we do. You have the information Jorral requested?” The dwarf nodded and slid a folder across the scratched plastic table.

“Half of it is in there. The rest will be delivered upon completion of the job.” Leonin’s jaw clenched momentarily before he nodded, his face open and relaxed. “I appreciate your deactivated ‘ware, by the way. I assure you, your confidence in me puts you in good standing.”

“I judged a man with your security requirements would be unwilling to have his face recorded.” Leonin said quietly, reaching out for the folder. “I expect that the security systems along your route experienced short-term malfunctions upon your approach.” The troll, the one from outside who was now standing near Johnson’s shoulder, chuckled quietly.

“Indeed.” Johnson said, “Let me re-assure you that division of payment is a standard practice for me, it is not a slight on your reputation.”

The speaker in Leonin’s ear whistled quietly and Jorral’s voice came over the line.

“He has someone searching for your face. Halsa is slowing them down but don’t take too long. We need that mask to work for a few days more.”

“I appreciate your honesty.” Leonin said, meeting Johnson’s eyes. “To business then?” The dwarf nodded.

“An acquaintance of mine has stumbled across some information that he should not possess. I am willing to give you the rest of your payment after your decker’s services have yielded fruit. Nothing difficult. Just a simple server intrusion and data mining.” Leonin laughed.

“Nothing is ever a simple intrusion in this business. You have the relevant information to hand?” Johnson nodded and slid another file across to him. “Jorral has most of the details but there is an updated summary, along with some additional information, in the folder. I trust you will be discrete?” Leonin smiled, nodded and stood.

“Discrete and swift. That’s how we do things.” He nodded at the dwarf. “We’ll be in touch.”

Without looking back, he walked out of the Diner and claimed his knife.

“Have a great evening.” He called to the ork over his shoulder. “Take plenty of vid for what happens next.” His hand found the transmit button sewn into the cuff of his coat. “Contact Ares. Tell him I have the proof of the dwarf’s involvement. The job’s finished.” He smiled as he walked away, content with another run safely completed.

The Beginning of Things #1

At long last, here is the first instalment of my serial fiction featuring the characters I have introduced through a series of prologues. A .pdf is available here and will be updated as the story progresses.

If you have any comments or criticisms, let me know.

Enjoy!


The setting sun shone in through the large windows and warmed the pale marble floor under her feet. Around her, the sounds of quill on parchment gradually faded as the students left. Within minutes, she was alone in the Grand Library.

Caelynn Selasthrin, her auburn hair pulled messily back and her ink stained fingers trembling with fatigue, desperately wanted to leave the Library as well. She had been here for three days already, grabbing short naps where she could, and eating what little she had brought with her.

“You really should leave, you know.” The deep voice carried on the still air, causing her to jump. She looked up from the research scattered on the table and rubbed her eyes.

“I don’t have time.” She said, stretching out her spine. “I need to find what I’m looking for, much depends on it.” The priest approaching her smiled, the weather-beaten skin on his scarred face creasing along well-worn laugh lines.

“That’s what they all say.” He stopped at the edge of her table, folding his hands into the sleeves of his plain robe. “I’ve been a librarian here for a long time, and I’ve seen all sorts pass between these shelves. You, Caelynn, are not a researcher.” He cocked his head and looked at the scattered books and papers covering the wooden surface in front of her. “You have works on five different subjects, presenting thirteen points of view and collecting the results of at least two insane geniuses.” He sighed. “Please. Get some rest.”

“No. I need to find this, Raez. I need to. I just don’t know where to look.” She looked around, gesturing towards the shelves. “There is so much to go through.” Her shoulders slumped.

“What are you even looking for?” Raez’s voice was quiet and he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Lassin’s Rune of Protection. Master Gerund needs it for something and he said it was here. Somewhere.” She paused as a broad smile split Raez’s face. “What? What is it?” The priest said nothing in return, merely pointing at the ceiling. She looked up and her eyes widened.

Lost among the mosaic depicting the end of the Cataclysm, but plain to her trained eyes, a grand rune, undeniably a master rune, was hidden in the exact centre of the library’s roof.

She groaned and slumped forwards on the desk, her head cushioned on her right fore-arm.

“Are you sure this wasn’t a test? It’s not easy to forget where it is.” Raez said, struggling to contain his laughter.

“Of course it was a test.” Caelynn’s voice was muffled against the fabric of her sleeve. “It’s always a test. He’s been testing me ever since I got back to Scour with that caravan.”

“That’s just his way. You know what can happen if your magic isn’t applied properly.” She raised her head and stared at him

“I know, I know. I know I struggle to focus on things sometimes, I know that elves don’t make natural rune-carvers, I know that the tests are for my own safety. I just wish he would stop telling me that.” She sighed. “Sorry. It’s not your fault. I’ll sketch the rune and put these things back before leaving.”

“I’ll put the books back. Just go and rest.” Raez smiled. She couldn’t help returning the smile as she pulled some parchment towards her.

“Thank you.” She said, sketching the rune swiftly.

Raez began to silently tidy her desk as her hands drew smooth, sure strokes on the parchment.

As she put the quill down and craned her head to check her work against the original, he stepped away and made a shoo-ing gesture with his hands.

“Now go.” He said, smiling. “Sleep.” She nodded wearily and collected the few things on the desk that didn’t belong in the library.

“Thank you, again.” She said, standing. He nodded and grabbed a pile of books from her table as she started to walk out of the library.

The double doors opened smoothly at her touch and the golden sun painted the courtyard in shades of amber and bronze.

At this time of year, Temple Court was still busy in the evening. Students and faithful alike filled its numerous courtyards and meeting spaces.  The Grand Library, with its ornate façade, formed the entire south side of this particular courtyard and looked onto the unassuming rear of the Temple of Knowledge. Statues of both the Guardian and the Seeker, the two deities of knowledge, were recessed into alcoves along the temple wall and stood silent vigil over the Library.

She breathed deeply, enjoying the warm summer air, and started walking down the steps. The sounds of the city surrounded her and wrapped her in their familiar embrace as she crossed the square. The smell of food from somewhere nearby caught her attention and she realised how hungry she was.

Without really thinking about it, she changed direction, heading for the little café she favoured. Honeydew and Bramble was a small establishment, unknown to most and tucked away behind a few university buildings, that served a wide variety of traditional halfling pastries, as well as the honeyleaf tea she had thought she would never find again when she left the Starspire Forest.

It didn’t take her long to get there and sit down with a bramble-berry tart and a pot of steaming tea. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet smell of the infusion, smiling with satisfaction.

“Looks nice.” A sibilant voice said nearby. She opened her eyes and looked at the copper-scaled dragonborn standing next to her table. There was an air of lazy authority in the stranger’s voice, and a stiffness to her bearing, that betrayed an expectation of obedience.

“They usually are.” Caelynn replied, her tone guarded.

“Elenia Moondharrow wishes to see you.” The dragonborn said, reaching into her pocket and dropping a sealed roll of parchment onto the table. “She awaits you in her tower.” She turned to leave. “I wouldn’t keep her waiting.”

Caelynn froze as the dragonborn left, her hand hovering over the parchment.

The Guardian of Stability. She thought. What does she want with me? She began searching her memory, desperately looking for something she might have done that would result in being summoned by the head of Scour’s secret police and one of the oldest, and most powerful, members of the Twelve.

She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, reaching for the missive. Without pausing, she broke the wax seal and unrolled it.

Caelynn Selasthrin, I need someone with your knowledge for a mission of utmost importance. Your tutors suggested you as a possible candidate and have given me permission to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 I can say no more about the mission other than that it is dangerous, but vital for the continued survival of the city. You will be well compensated for your troubles and I believe the experience will give you ample opportunity to practice your skills.

If you wish to take me up on my offer of employment, bring this letter to my tower and show it to my assistant. He will know what to do.”

She put the letter down and ate her tart as fast as she could, unwilling to keep Elenia Moondharrow waiting.

Sans Comic: Belladonna Origins – Page Two

Panel 1

Description: A tall, narrow panel showing Isabelle from the front. Her coat is blown open by the wind, revealing a blazer and blouse above the dark jeans. An ID badge is clipped to the blazer’s breast pocket.

Text: A trained psychiatrist, Isabelle spends her days working in a council-funded clinic in the heart of the Hollow, offering psychiatric help for free.

 

Panel 2

Description: A square panel showing music playing in Isabelle’s coat pocket.

Text: –

 

Panel 3

Description: A square panel showing her pulling a mobile phone from her pocket, the caller ID reads ‘Mark’.

Text:-

 

Panel 4

Description: A square panel showing Isabelle’s face, frowning slightly.

Text: Sometimes though, her patients aren’t the only one with problems.

 

Panel 5

Description: A square panel shows Isabelle holding the phone to her ear.

Text: Isabelle; Mark. You know you aren’t supposed to call this number.

Mark; I know. But I wanted to hear your voice again.

Isabelle; Mark-

Mark; Please, I just want to talk.

 

 

 

Sans Comic: Belladonna Origins – Page One

Introducing my new series, Sans Comic! This will be a script for a comic series to explain the background behind several superhero characters I’ve created for various RPGs.

I’ll be posting it a page at a time because some weeks I can’t write much more than that.

If reading scripts isn’t really your thing, come back next week for some supplemental rules for use in your own games.

If you do enjoy this, let me know and feel free to share with anyone else who might like it.


Panel 1

Description: A wide panel that depicts a city skyline abutting a small mountain. The sun is setting and the sky is full of grey clouds.

Text: Freshmount, a city of hopes and dreams. Founded in 1789, it has seen its share of troubles.

Panel 2

Description: A square panel that depicts a section of the city as seen from above. Traffic is heavy on one major road cutting through the district, and a few umbrellas can be seen on the pavements.

Text: At the heart of Freshmount lies the decaying district of Banker’s Hollow. Hidden from the rest of the city by a natural depression, it is here that the founding members decided to erect their banks and trading houses.

Panel 3

Description: A square panel that depicts a bird’s eye view of an alleyway cutting across it diagonally. A lone figure walks down the alley, her long violet hair blowing in a strong wind.

Text: Years of economic troubles have stripped the Hollow of its wealth. Now it is exists as a reminder of the golden days and as a place to house the poorer members of Freshmount’s citizenry.

Panel 4

Description: A wide panel that depicts a young woman walking across it, right to left. She is of medium height with violet hair being blown backwards in a strong wind. Her hands are buried in the pockets in a long, grey coat. The coat covers her body to her knees, revealing dark jeans and boots. A messenger bag is worn across her chest.

Text: For people like Isabelle Langdry, Banker’s Hollow is an opportunity for change.

Lady Kima of Vord and Cassandra de Rolo – A Grave Conversation

Here is the last entry for Critical Role Relationship Week and as promised, I have compiled a PDF of all the vignettes I wrote.

Enjoy!


The blade on my shoulder felt cool where it pressed against the skin of my neck. The tombstones lying all around were disquieting at this time of day.

With the sun barely risen, and the clouds in the sky, the scene looked like something I would have stumbled across back in the Dusk Meadow District. A mausoleum nearby caught my eye and, for a second, a tall, hooded figure stood in front of it. I blinked and the figure disappeared.

I felt my fingers tightening unconsciously around the sword hilt and forced myself to breathe. My breath plumed in the air visibly and I frowned. Something was wrong.

I stopped and looked around.

Ahead of me, I could see Lady Cassandra and her guards in front of an ornate crypt. Behind me, Jarett was sauntering out of sight. I could see nothing else in the graveyard and yet, I was certain that something else was here with us.

“Come out where I can kill you.” I whispered under my breath. The silence answered me and the feeling passed as abruptly as it had arrived. I shivered and glanced again at the mausoleum that had attracted my attention. A lone bird was perched upon it.

As I saw it, it gave a loud caw and flew off.

“Bloody bird.” I muttered and started walking again.

My plate clanked quietly as I moved and it broke the ominous silence. Birdsong filtered through the air and the guards with Lady Cassandra flinched, as if jerking themselves to wakefulness. One of them turned and leaned towards her slightly. She nodded and made a dismissive gesture. The two figures saluted and began walking towards me.

“The Lady bids you welcome.” One of them said, his voice deep in the full face helm. “We will be nearby if anything happens.”

I nodded and grinned.

“I’ll let you know if it’s something I can’t handle.”

The other guard laughed quietly and they continued past me.

“Lady Kima.” Lady Cassandra’s voice was strained, dark rings lined her eyes and her smile was a tired one. “Thank you for coming.”

“Lady de Rolo.” I inclined my head hurriedly, barely remembering the etiquette lessons I’d suffered through in the Platinum Sanctuary.

“Cassandra, please.” She flicked her fingers in a dismissive gesture. “I endure enough of the proper formalities in the castle.” She met my eyes, looking down into them with a pleading expression on her face.

“Cassandra.” I smiled. “Why am I here?” I looked around again. “Graveyards aren’t really my thing, you know.”

She laughed.

“I know. You’re here because I wished to pay my respects to the memory of my parents and because I wanted somewhere we couldn’t be overheard.” I nodded. “I worry about a lot of things. I worry about my brother. I worry about redemption. I worry about my people.” She fell silent and looked up at the empty sky. “But most of all, I worry about what we’re going to do if the worst happens. I am not a warrior like you or Percival. All of this is new to me. Lady Kima, would you teach me to fight?” She looked down at me again.

“I’m always happy to fight, Lad- Cassandra. But Jarett…” She shook her head, cutting me off.

“Jarett is competent and experienced. But he will never think of himself as more than an employee. I need someone who isn’t afraid of shouting at me when I need it. I need someone who will show me how to get the job done. Someone who doesn’t care about social standing, or the niceties. In short, Lady Kima, I need you. Will you do this for me? Will you teach me to fight so that I may better defend my people?”

I grinned widely.

“Will I take every opportunity to hand you your ass without regrets? Of course, I will. But,” I stopped smiling. “I will also show you how to improve. A sword is only as good as the intent behind it. Intention, Cassandra, begins here.” I touched her chest with my gauntleted hand. “Do you have the resolve it takes to fight?”

She straightened.

“I am a de Rolo, Lady Kima. Much like Percival, I have the resolve to do anything I set my mind to.”

I laughed and held my hand out to her.

“Good. Then this will be fun.”

Jarett Howarth and Trinket – Prepared for Anything

Today is the penultimate day of Critical Role Relationship Week. Tomorrow’s entry will round things off nicely and be accompanied by a PDF of the entire week’s worth of updates.
Look for another update later concerned more with the usual content on this website.

Enjoy!


“Look after him, darling.” Vex’ahlia said over her shoulder as she walked through the doorway back into the castle.

“Of course.” Jarett replied, eyeing the growing crowd and turning to address it. “I can see there won’t be any training until this happens, so you may as well come in and watch.” He gestured for the onlookers to line the walls of the training yard. “The life of a mercenary, or a soldier, or even a guard, requires you to be ready for anything.

Obviously, at the moment, our problem is dragons, wyverns and lizardfolk. But that does not mean you can be caught off-guard by less…” His voice trailed off as he searched for an appropriate word. “Less awe-inspiring threats.” He drew his sword. “It is my job to make sure that you’re prepared for any enemy, at any time.”

A few of the guards watching began to whisper amongst themselves and he rounded on them.

“You think that you know all of this?” He asked, his voice quiet. “You think that you know how to use a sword? That, when the moment comes, you will be able to do what you must in defence of your city?” He gave a grim smile. “Good. You will need that certainty to carry you through.” He stopped pacing and turned to face the centre of the training yard.

A large, brown bear stood there, the morning sun glinting from the metallic plates of chitin that it wore as armour. Jarett took a few moments to admire the workmanship of the armour and the primal might of the bear.

“That, as you can see, is a bear.” He looked around, his sword by his side. “A common sight in the forests around the city. Lady Vex’ahlia has kindly agreed to let him spar with me so that I can teach you the skills you need to use in case you ever encounter one whilst out hunting. As you can also see, it is armoured. This is not a natural state for a bear.”

A few guards let out a laugh and he nodded.

“Because this is the Lady’s companion, I have agreed to do my best not to hurt him and, I have been assured, he understands not to try to kill me.” Out of the corner of his eye, Jarett saw the bear make a clumsy nodding motion with its head. He smiled and walked over to a rack of training weapons.

He scanned it quickly, looking for one of the heavy wooden practice swords. He sheathed his own blade, drawn more for emphasis than intent, and lifted a wooden blade from the hooks it rested on. Giving it a few practice swings to learn its balance, he picked up a shield from where it leaned against the rack and turned to face the bear again.

“Assuming you live long enough to draw your weapon against a bear in the wild, you have a few options. You can try to fend it off and summon help, you can try to run away or, and this is the foolhardy choice, you can try to kill it.” He looked at the bear and readied himself. “Pay attention, because what you are about to see may save your life. Now, Trinket.”

At his words, the bear exploded into action. Giving out a deafening roar, Trinket charged straight for him. He watched the beast’s movement with an experienced eye and dove sideways at the last moment, rolling to his feet as Trinket slammed into the weapons rack.

The wooden construction collapsed in a cloud of splinters and Trinket bellowed again, turning to face him. Jarett had backed away from the bear and stood facing him across the yard, sword and shield readied once more.

The bear shook itself free from the wreckage and took a few steps towards him before breaking into a blur of teeth and muscle.

He tried the same thing again and realised too late, that Trinket had anticipated his movement. As he dived sideways, the bear lashed out with a massive paw, hitting him solidly in his breastplate. He skidded along the ground and smashed into the stone wall, where he lay winded.

Trinket, thrown off-balance by his own attack, stumbled and fell.

The bear was the first to regain its feet and stalked over to where Jarett lay, struggling to breath and fighting the pain that threatened to overwhelm him. Trinket lowered his head and butted his muzzle against Jarett’s throat.

The man nodded and dropped his sword, reaching up to use a plate of the bear’s armour to help him stand.

“And that,” he gasped, “is why you do not fight a bear alone. Or in such a small area. The main strategy when fighting a bear is attack in large numbers.” He patted Trinket’s head cautiously. “What do you think about getting some food?”

The bear looked at him for a second and then, slowly and deliberately, licked his face from chin to temple.

Allura Vysoren and Kaylie Shorthalt – A Lesson in Spell-casting

Hopefully you are all enjoying this week of vignettes. I’m having a lot of fun writing them. Anyway, here is the next one.

As ever, enjoy!


The workshop was back to how it had been before her experiments with Trinket.

The small rug in the centre was covered by a sturdy table, parchment scattered over its surface.  Chairs that had been moved into the hallway outside were once again crammed into the corners and shoved under the long tables against each wall.

While she had an organised mind and excelled at bringing order to the world through her actions, Allura’s private spaces always tended to end up as a chaotic mess. She smiled as she remembered the moment Kima had discovered that little secret. The halfling had spent five minutes laughing before affectionately teasing her about hypocrisy.

A knock at the door brought her out of her reverie.

“It’s unlocked.” She called. “Come in.”

Kaylie Shorthalt, draped in a voluminous cloak, pushed the door open and slipped inside.

“Wow. I thought my room was a mess…” She said, her eyes wide as she took in the disordered room.

“I know where everything is.” Allura answered dryly. Kaylie laughed, unclasping the cloak and looking for somewhere to put it that wouldn’t knock any teetering piles of books or equipment over. Allura sighed and muttered a short phrase under her breath, summoning a spectral hand to carry the cloak over to a hook on the wall.

“Sure, you do.” The little gnome teased, standing awkwardly in front of the door.

“Please. Sit.” Allura said, moving a pile of papers from a nearby chair. “How long do you have?”

“Not long. Dr. Dranzel will notice I’m missing in an hour or so.”

“It’s a good thing I can get you back there then.” Allura paused as a thought occurred to her. “Do I want to know how you got here?”

Kaylie looked down at her depleted pouch and mud-stained boots.

“Probably not, no. But when you offered to teach me magic, I had to say yes. To study under a member of the Arcana Pansophical…” An innocent, dreamy expression drifted over Kaylie’s face and Allura was reminded how young she really was. “That wasn’t a chance I could pass up.” The world-weary expression of practiced cynicism cloaked the young gnome’s face again. “What do you get out of this?”

Allura shrugged.

“With all that has happened, students are few and far between. The preservation of knowledge is enough of a reward for me in these dark times.”

Kaylie gave her a piercing look, as if doubting her honesty. Allura gazed back at her, an expression of practiced neutrality on her face.

The silence stretched between them until it became uncomfortable for the garrulous gnome.

“Fine.” She said, sitting down at last.

“Before we get started,” Allura began, “you must understand something. Our ability to cast magic comes from the Weave. It saturates the world around us, a metaphysical material that empowers those who are sensitive to it and allows certain people to manipulate the very nature of things.” She stopped as Kaylie nodded impatiently.

“I know all of this already.”

Allura gave her a stern look.

“As I was saying. Our ability to cast magic comes from the same place but that is as far the similarity goes. I channel the Weave through words of power and prescribed gestures and components. To me, the act of spell-casting is something learned and practiced.

To people like you and your father, it is something instinctive. You enact your will upon the world through force of personality and will. Anyone can learn to be a wizard, it takes someone special to be a Bard.” She smiled and leaned backwards against the desk.

“So what will you teach me? How to throw fireballs? Summon lightning from the air?” Kaylie fell silent as she noticed Allura’s amusement. “What is it?”

“While you are, no doubt, capable of learning such things and wielding them to great effect, I was going to start with something easier and, in my experience, far more useful. I will teach to you see the workings of the Weave itself.

So, shall we begin?”