Category Archives: Fiction

What Am I?

The blow came from nowhere.

“Stupid Borrki.”

Another fist slammed into the side of her head, causing stars to erupt in the darkness around her.

“Stupid, stupid girl.”

A knee to the guts brought her to her knees.

“When will you learn?”

She pressed her hands to the ground and stood shakily, scrabbling at the cloth someone had wrapped around her head moments before the first strike.

“No.” Someone, Gerk from the sound of the voice, slapped her hands down. “If you like them so much, you can be as blind as they are in our cave, among the rubbish where you belong.”

Two hands shoved her in the back and she fell forwards, hissing in pain as the broken rocks of the floor cut deep gashes in her forearms.

“Next time, we won’t be as nice.” Gerk said, prompting a wave of high-pitched laughter from all around her.

She lay there on the cold, damp floor of the goblin’s refuse cave as the sound of footsteps gradually retreated and wondered, not for the first time, why her clan were so petty and small minded. There was a whole world of shiny things, and blind people, out there, ripe for the taking. Why were they so happy to stay in here, with their rotting food and mouldering rags, content to survive on what they could steal from travellers?

She hissed in pain again as she pushed herself to her feet, warm blood dripping from the wounds in her forearms.

Maybe the problem was her. Maybe she was the one in the wrong. No-one else wanted to leave the clan, to walk the wide world under the big sky, to talk to the tall folk and learn their ways. No-one else wanted to be better, to more than just a goblin.

She thought of the halfling, of the family he wanted to get back to, of the dreams he had.

No. She wasn’t in the wrong. Life was about growing, improving, doing things that mattered. It wasn’t about hiding and wondering when the next meal would be or counting down the days until the still was ready for emptying of the rough liquor they brewed.

She rubbed the blisters on her palms. No more would she do what they said. No more would she torture, would she burn her hands on the hot metal, would she make other living beings scream for the entertainment of the clan. It was time to do something.

She looked around, her eyes filtering the darkness of the cave around her into shades of grey.

Water dripped from the ceiling nearby before sliding down the wet side of a stalagmite. She walked over to it, arms outstretched, and enjoyed the burning pain as it washed the wounds there clean. Maybe this was what it felt like to become someone else. Maybe the old you, the one you didn’t like anymore, the one you had never wanted to be, had to be burned away so that the new you, the one you made and liked, could live. Maybe the years of insults, taunts and physical abuse had been preparing her for this day. Maybe it was time to become who she wanted to be, or to start on that path.

She sighed, her breath whistling through her razor-sharp teeth. There were so many maybes. The cave gave her lots of questions but no answers. The dark, as ever, wrapped her in its comforting embrace but remained silent. There would be no solutions here. Not for Borrki the goblin.

Something had to change, and it wasn’t going to be the clan.

It would have to be her.

The clan wouldn’t understand. How could they? They were goblins. All they knew was the thrill of the fight, the joy of knowing that they could overwhelm any threat to their safety through weight of numbers, the pleasure of hurting others before they could hurt you.

Small-minded, petty, vicious monsters.

Her heart thudded in her pointed ears.

Monsters.

That’s what they were.

That’s what she was.

But no more.

She would leave the cave. She would take her treasures, wrap herself in the darkness, and leave the cave. But how? When?

The others would come after her. They would chase her with knives, and skinning blades, and hot metal sticks. They would do to her what she had refused to do to the halfling. They would treat her as chattel, less than a goblin, less than the mangy dogs they kept for hunting and for eating.

She felt her stomach turn. She couldn’t do this. She was just one small goblin in a clan of killers. What could she possibly hope to do? It was hopeless. It would be better to forget these thoughts of escape and try harder.

She could be a goblin.

If only she tried harder, if only she tried better.

She looked down at her hands, at the bruises on her knuckles from where she had hit herself the previous day as she tried to make herself feel like a torturer’s apprentice.

No. It was too much. She couldn’t do this anymore.

She would either escape, and find who she was meant to be, or she would die trying.

*/*

The sounds of pursuit faded away behind her as she stumbled through the trees. The fire she’d set in the dog pen had spread far faster than her alcohol fuelled brain had expected. The rotten straw they used as bedding for the dogs had caught instantly and the dry wood of the enclosure had been smouldering as she ran.

She’d managed to grab the halfling on her way out, but they’d lost each other in the darkness, two small figures running on blind instinct and raw fear. She knew what they would do if they caught up to her. So, they wouldn’t catch her.

One thought pushed itself slowly through the haze of alcohol clouding her mind.

Who am I now?

She ran, her feet snapping dry wood at every step, her cloak and the cloth she had wrapped herself in to hide her goblin features caught at every tree branch. Animals fled from her and her breath began stabbing into her lungs.

Who am I?

She didn’t know. The dark sky, as comforting as the darkness of the cave, gave her no answers. The ground that threatened to trip her unsteady feet at every opportunity gave her no relief.

I don’t want to be Borrki anymore. Borrki is a stupid goblin.

The wind rushed past her ears, teasing her with half-heard words. Ahead, she could see the treeline, and the open grasslands beyond. The world waited for her to find herself. She could feel that it wanted to welcome her with open arms.

What aren’t I?

She slowed as this new thought fought its way clear of the strong goblin brew she’d had to drink to summon the courage she had needed.

A smile formed on her cracked lips as she reached the edge of the trees and took her first steps into a new world.

“I am Nott a goblin.”


I hope you enjoyed my personal, non-canonical take on Nott’s backstory from campaign 2 of Critical Role.

As with all fan ficiton, the intention was to honour that character and, as ever, thoughts, comments and criticisms are welcomed.

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The Feast

I won’t be here on Friday to update as normal, so here is this week’s update a few days early. I wrote it as a submission for a Cthulhu mythos themed anthology concerning Richard Upton Pickman and, as far as I know, I am okay to repost it here.

The following short story contains material some people may find disturbing/distressing. I apologise in advance if you are one of those people.


The painting unnerved him and he did not know why.

It wasn’t the colours, the Bosch and the Dali on either side of it were both darker and brighter.

It wasn’t the subject, he had seen many variations on a feast of excess in his travels.

It wasn’t even the provenance, because he didn’t know it.

There was just an air about it that unsettled him, an eerie realism that somehow crept under his skin.

At 6’2” and possessed of an athlete’s body, Martin Sherringham found few things truly disquieting, but he was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake with his latest acquisition.

He had first seen it at an auction last year. The auction house was somewhere he visited often on his days off work and he had found many a surprising thing there. His wife’s wedding ring had been won on a whim, as had the mirror hanging in their bedroom.

It had caught his eye in passing and he had stopped to have a closer look.

Situated between two more contemporary paintings, it was the carved frame that had drawn him to it. Rather than ornate decoration and gold leaf, a simple geometric pattern had been carved into the stained wood. Although composed almost entirely of straight lines, it drew the eye towards the canvas like a spiral would.

The canvas itself was covered in dark, cracked oils and depicted a long stone table covered in trays of meat. On the floor around the table, people lay together, their faces contorted with pleasure, as a fire burned in a great, stone fireplace. In a doorway, half-hidden in the shadow cast by the stone frame, a lone figure watched.

He had spent five minutes absorbing every detail of the painting before leaving that day.

He had returned the next day, and the day after that. He had not been able to say why he kept visiting it, only that he felt a strange sense of ownership. When it had finally come up at auction, he had bid for it and won.

It was  then that the problems started.

The prior owner’s estate began contesting the auction, insisting they had never agreed to sell the piece. A lengthy discussion had begun that ended only when the auction house’s legal team got involved.

It was only then that it was discovered the piece had no name or provenance attached to it. No-one could tell Martin who had previously owned the painting, or where it had come from. The only clue to the painter was a signature in the bottom right corner; R.U.P.

A search of the relevant sources returned a few tentative names matching the age of the canvas and the oils but no-one knew for certain who the painter was.

By this point, Martin cared little for the provenance. The painting began to fill his every waking thought and he took to visiting it in the auction house’s holding room. Eventually, it was cleared for release and he had taken possession of the painting last week.

He had formally received it only hours earlier. For the past week, it had been subjected to a variety of tests and minor restorations. The process had been finished with a small brass plaque inscribed with ‘The Feast by R.U.P.’ that was affixed squarely in the centre of the frame at the bottom.

It was the plaque that he had been staring at for the past ten minutes. Something about its regular lines and ordered, perpendicular corners seemed to clash with the pattern on the frame. The plaque seemed alien and unwanted, as if it were somehow wrong.

He sipped absently at the drink in his hand and grimaced as the warm wine hit his tongue. It left a cloying aftertaste as he swallowed and he put the glass down to carefully lower the veil back over the painting. The thin fabric seemed to break whatever connection he felt to the work and he blinked slowly, as if waking from a day-dream.

The sounds of the house around him gradually filtered through his consciousness and he realised how hot he felt. He picked the wine up and gave it a cautious sip.

It was refreshingly cool and the crisp taste enervated him. He frowned slightly at it as he remembered what it had tasted like only moments before and then shook his head, dismissing the thought.

“Martin!” A voice called from within the house and he smiled, striding swiftly towards the doorway. He paused as he reached the threshold, one finger on the light-switch. Without knowing why, he glanced backwards, towards the painting.

For a single heartbeat, he could hear the sounds of the feast and see the light of the fire, muted by the veil but carrying through the gallery nonetheless.

As quickly as the sounds and light came, they went and he frowned in puzzlement before the voice called him again.

“Coming!” He replied, switching off the light and closing the door behind him.

The evening passed in a blur.

He ate, he drank, he relaxed and he made love to his wife.

Simone, for her part, noticed nothing different about her husband and contentedly fell asleep in his arms.

It was as he lay in their bed, Simone pressed against his chest, that Martin began to think once more about the painting.

Obsession was nothing new to him. It was one of the reasons he was so good at what he did. But this was new, this was something unfamiliar. Whereas usually his obsession was a compulsion, a clinical need for something, this was more of a desire. He did not need to think of the painting, he wanted to think of it.

As he closed his eyes, picturing ‘The Feast’ once more, he felt a fiery warmth brush his skin and heard, just for a moment, a gasp of pleasure.

*/*

Martin Sherringham dreamed.

He dreamed he stood at the top of a vast staircase leading down into the darkness.

A wide stone step rested beneath his feet and a cool wind pressed against him, as if trying to push his naked body down the stairs in front of him. His nudity surprised him, he could not recall the last time he had dreamt he was naked, but he accepted it. The carvings along the edge of the stone step were both familiar and strange to him at the same time, as if he had only a faint memory of them.

The wind carried voices with it, fragments of whispered conversation that filled his ears and teased him with half-heard secrets. He blocked them out and began to walk carefully downwards, his feet testing each step for solidity and balance.

He walked for what seemed to be days, growing hungrier and thirstier with each step, until he reached a wide stone hall. A fireplace lay in one wall, a pile of wood and coals stood on the hearth, ready to be lit and held back by a large iron grille. Opposite the fireplace stood a large wooden door, and between the two was a long table carved from some sort of dark, polished stone.

As he took in the room before him, he realised that the door stood slightly ajar. A figure stood there, watching him passively.

“Hello?” He called, standing on the last step and uncaring of his nudity. The figure didn’t respond.

Roughly the height of a man, it was cloaked entirely in the darkness of the doorway. Even though he couldn’t see its eyes, Martin was sure that it was watching him.

He took the last step, his feet finding the floor of the hall.

The wind behind him stopped abruptly and a fire burst into life in the fireplace. The stones beneath his feet radiated a pleasing warmth and he turned towards the figure again, hoping the firelight would grant him a better look.

“Hello.” He said, making out a hooded cloak draped over a humanoid figure.

“Eat.” The figure said, gesturing towards the table.

Martin looked and noticed that now it was set for two. A pair of candlesticks burned at either end and shed their light over a selection of vegetables and meats.

His feet made no noise on the stone and he sat in front of one of the place settings, his hands automatically pulling some of the food towards him. He looked up as he finished piling slices of meat onto his plate and started slightly.

Without making a noise, the hooded figure had crossed the room, filled their plate and started eating. Rough, dextrous hands ferried food from its plate to its mouth and two eyes glinted from within the shadows of the hood.

“Who are you?” Martin asked, his thoughts and voice tinged with an ethereal, dream-like quality. Absently, he understood that he was dreaming but the seat beneath his naked bottom felt more solid than anything he had ever sat upon and the food in his stomach warmed him as no food had before.

“I am merely the observer and the artist waiting for the right moment.” The figure opposite him said. The voice was deep, almost certainly male, and oddly gruff, as if the speaker had a problem with his throat. “It is not yet.” It stood and backed away from the table. “Until the next time.”

The hall around Martin shimmered and faded, leaving only an ache and a longing in the pit of his stomach. He moaned in his sleep as the taste of the meat on his plate faded to a memory.

*/*

The dream came again, night after night, for a month without change.

Martin became withdrawn as he began searching for the strange meat he ate in his dreams, the taste of it lingering long after he woke. Simone began to worry as her husband pulled away from her, his face becoming drawn and pale, their conversations becoming something that happened once a day if she was lucky.

It was two weeks after he bought the painting that Martin received the phone call.

He was studying an antique cookery book when the phone rang. He glanced at it and dismissed it almost immediately, turning his attention back to the recipes on the yellowed pages.

It kept ringing and he sighed in frustration, snatching it from the table in front of him.

“Yes.” He grunted.

“I know about the painting. I know its provenance.” The voice on the other end of the call said. “Meet me at Riordan’s in an hour.” There was a click and the caller hung up. Martin stared at it for a moment and then put it down thoughtfully.

Last night, the dream had changed. The wine in his glass, usually a crisp white had been a thick red. Riordan’s, he knew, served a wide variety of wines. Maybe there he would be able to find something to satisfy the craving he felt to drink that wine again.

Rationally, he knew that he would probably never be able to find the food and drink of his dreams, but there was a need growing in the pit of his stomach that he had to satisfy.

He stood and left his study.

“I’m going out.” He called to his wife. “I won’t be long.” As he moved through the house, fetching his coat and shoes, he felt energised. The past month was covered by a thick fog in his memory, but now his thoughts were crystal clear and he had a goal he could achieve.

Riordan’s was only half an hour away and he savoured the walk, enjoying the crisp air as it brought a blush to his checks. He had forgotten how much he enjoyed winter afternoons outside and he was smiling as he reached the wine bar.

The bartender returned the smile and served him the driest, darkest red they had.

He took the glass to a corner table and waited.

A young man approached him about half an hour later.

“Martin Sherringham?” He asked, his voice quiet and uncertain. Martin nodded. “Robert Upham. We spoke on the phone.” He pulled out the chair opposite Martin and sat, his eyes darting to the wine glass in Martin’s hands.

“The dreams have started.” He said quietly, his face paling. Martin frowned and pulled his glass closer.

“You said you knew the provenance of the painting.” The man nodded, his eyes flickering to Martin’s and then away again.

“Yes. It,” Robert licked his lips, “was painted by Richard Upton Pickham shortly before his disappearance. A friend of his owned it before being committed for hysteria, whereupon it ended up in a private collection for a number of years.” His hands, laid flat on the table, began to tremble slightly. “My father bought it during an estate sale. It was in my house for three months before…” His voice drifted into silence and he closed his eyes momentarily. “Before it happened. After that, my grandparents had it thrown in storage. When they died, it was sent to be auctioned in error.” He swallowed and met Martin’s eyes, his hands clenching into fists. “If I had been in a position to deal with the painting before then, I would have done so.”

Martin stared at him.

“Deal with it how?” He asked.

“I would have burned it.” Robert said. “That painting is evil.” Martin flinched at the passion in the young man’s voice, as if physically struck.

“It’s just a painting.” He said defensively. “Nothing more.”

“Just a painting?” Robert’s voice had become loud and high-pitched. “You’ve already been having the dreams, haven’t you? Next will be the cravings, they’ll sink their hooks into your soul and then the urges will start. You are lost at that point. LOST!” He giggled to himself.

Martin saw the bartender move to a phone hanging from the wall behind the bar and pick it up, dialling a three-digit number.

“When the urges have you, when you are so lost in dreams that reality ceases to mean anything to you, when you are lost to yourself and your family, you will do anything, ANYTHING, to satisfy them.” Foam began flecking at the corner of Robert’s mouth. “I saw. I saw what my father did. I saw what you will become.” His eyes, full of a manic strength met Martin’s and froze him in place. “I know what you will do. There is no forgiveness. No redemption. You must destroy it.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “You must destroy it to save yourself.”

Without warning, he fell from his seat to the floor and began to spasm violently.

After hours of answering questions from a variety of people in uniform, summoned by the bartender, Martin returned home and gratefully sank into bed next to his wife.

A part of him knew that Robert’s ravings were the product of an unsettled mind, but there was a small part that wondered if the young man had been telling the truth.

Were his dreams and the painting linked?

*/*

He dreamed again that night.

The staircase extended below him as it always did. Each step as familiar to him now as the steps in his own home.  This time, however, it seemed shorter, the journey passed far quicker and he was no longer wearied when he reached the hall.

The fire burned in the fireplace and his strange, nightly companion waited for him.

The table was laid for two, as usual, and he sat without prompting.

“Something is different tonight.” The figure said. “The dream-world reacts to you. See?” He pointed to Martin’s plate. Unbidden, a pile of meat rested there, rare and steaming. “You are Dreaming. The others who came here, they could not Dream. The time is almost near.”

“Of course I am dreaming. I’m asleep, like every time I dine here. All of this is a dream.” Martin said, his knife and fork carving a sliver of meat from his plate.

“No, my friend. These are the Dreamlands. They are as real as you are in life.”

Martin paused, his fork halfway to his mouth.

“You’re making as much sense as the young man I spoke to earlier. He claimed many things. Many crazy, impossible things.”

“Sometimes, the craziest things are the most real.” The figure said quietly. “I did not think I would ever reside here, waiting for the right moment, and yet here I am, night after night.”

Martin chewed thoughtfully.

“Why are you here? You are always talking about the right moment. What is it?”

“Do you remember what I said that first night? About who I am?” Martin nodded.

“You said you are an observer and an artist.”

The figure shook its hooded head.

“I said I am THE observer and THE artist.” It gestured to the hall around them. “Look around you. Does this not seem familiar? Have you not seen this hall before?”

The silence between them stretched into eternity as Martin struggled with what his mind told him could not possibly be.

“This is the painting I bought. I am dreaming about it because I spend so much time looking at it.” The figure shook its head.

“You are dreaming about it, because you will Dream it. Time works differently in the Dreamlands. I am a mere artist out of time waiting to paint; it is you who will set the scene. The others who came before you were forced to try to make the painting in the waking world, but you have the gift and so here I wait.”

“Pickman.” Martin whispered. The figure inclined its head.

“Indeed. All that you have seen in the painting, I will record for you to see in the painting.”

Martin swallowed some of his wine, the coppery, salty flavour pleasant on his tongue.

“Dream logic, for a strange dream.” He said. “I’ve not been eating properly and this is the result.”

“We shall see.” Pickman said as the hall shimmered and faded around them. “We shall see.”

*/*

He didn’t dream of the hall again for a while after that.

He went on holiday with his wife, who was happy to see the colour return to his face and the spark to his eyes, and buried himself in his work. He ate and drank carefully, ignoring the gnawing sensations in his stomach that constantly assaulted him.

He received word that the young man who had called him had escaped from a psychiatric ward some weeks earlier but had been re-committed and wouldn’t bother him again.

Life resumed a semblance of normality for a few weeks.

When he next thought of the painting, he remembered his idea to remove the plaque and decided that he would do it himself. It wouldn’t be the first time he had done such a thing and no-one else would have to touch his painting.

He took his tools into the gallery and unveiled the picture. He was drawn into it once more and noticed the familiar design carved into the hearth, the piles of food brought a memory of taste to his tongue and the people on the floor, lost in ecstasy, called to him. For a heartbeat, he longed to know the pleasure they were experiencing, he longed to lose himself in flesh and lust.

His eyes fell upon the plaque and the moment passed.

The screws affixing it to the frame came out easily and within minutes he had it resting on the floor by his knee.

He heard Simone’s footsteps behind him.

“I thought you might like a drink,” she said, placing a glass of wine on a nearby table. “Do you want me to take that for you?” She asked, motioning towards the plaque.

He smiled and offered it up to her.

“Could you put it in my study? I’ll find something to do with it after I’ve repaired the frame.” She nodded and reached out her hand for it.

He didn’t see what happened next, but she gasped and let go of the brass plaque. It fell to the floor with a clang and a line of crimson began welling along her fingertips.

Without thinking about it, he reached for her hand and kissed the wound.

The blood on his lips awakened a fire within him. A need for more of that coppery, salty wine.

“Martin?” Simone said quietly. “Can I have my hand, please? I need to wash and dress it.” He blinked and forced himself to ignore the desire in his chest.

“Of course. Sorry. I’ll…” His voice trailed off and he swallowed. “I’ll sort this out and check on you.” Simone smiled and hurried away, her bleeding hand cradled against her chest.

He returned to the gallery that evening after Simone had gone to bed and idly drew back the veil to stare at the painting. It called to him, on a level he could not understand or describe. It called to him and he knew that he would answer that call, sooner or later.

He felt the cravings growing once more in his stomach and, with a horrified shudder, covered the picture once more before going to bed himself.

He did not dream of the hall that night.

In his dream, Simone came to him, covered in bleeding wounds. He sealed each one with a kiss, savouring the taste of her blood, before they made passionate love to each other. The fire and ferocity of their union was unsettling but when he awoke in the morning, she was happy to accept his advances.

They lay together in the aftermath, her pale skin covered in bite marks. Something had driven him to bite her for the first time and the taste of her sweat-slicked flesh drove him to heights of passion he had only heard of as he remembered the taste of the meat from his dreams.

They slumbered in a blissful haze for the rest of the morning before life intruded upon them.

The day, for Martin, passed slowly. He did everything as if in a fog. His mind was constantly replaying the taste of his wife’s blood and flesh, the faces of rapt pleasure in the painting and the passion he had awoken with.

He returned to the gallery that night, intent on checking the picture one last time before sleep. He did not know why but he knew that he would gain a greater understanding of it if he did.

He had only standing been there for a few minutes when the realisation hit him that the faces of ecstasy in the painting could easily be faces of pain and that what he had taken at first for loving embraces could be something more savage.

*/*

That night, he Dreamed of the hall.

He stood in the centre, Pickman by his side.

“Now it is the right moment.” The artist said, withdrawing to stand in the doorway. “Tell me what you to see, Dreamer. Show me. Make it happen.”

Martin looked around himself, remembering the food on the table, piles of meat and goblets of dark, red liquid. He remembered the people on the floor and gave himself to the urges growing in his chest.

“Tonight, artist, tonight I dine on blood and flesh and pleasure!”

By the Campfire

The road from their last camp had been tiring. The halfing hadn’t shut up the entire time, the two humans reminded her unpleasantly of her father’s enforcers and the half-elf… there was something about the half-elf that both attracted and repulsed her. She was glad, therefore, when they set up camp for the night and the halfling wandered off with their guide to find firewood, wittering away about the carrot soup his mother used to make and asking if any of the local herbs would be good in it.

“I’ll find some food.” The taller of the four women, Sonja, muttered, dropping her pack on the floor and stalking off into the night.

“So will I.” Muse turned as the half-elf crept away, reading a desire to be alone in every muscle of the young woman’s body.

“So that leaves us, I guess?” Muse said, a smile playing on her lips as she reached for her pipes. “How about I play a little tune to get you in the mood for cooking, Chef?”

Telari, a brusque human woman who, as far as Muse could tell, didn’t know how to smile had distinguished herself as a cook the first night they had made camp and hadn’t taken well to Muse’s nickname. She glared at the young tiefling and sat down, her legs crossed and loose robes arranged comfortably around her.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Her voice was stern and uncompromising. “Meditation is easier when it is as silent outside, as it is inside.”

Muse shrugged, her tail flicking idly from side to side.

“Suit yourself.” She slid her pipes back into their pouch and drew a dagger from its sheath instead. The dark metal drank in the light of the setting sun and she started to sharpen it, rubbing the whetstone along the blade. She whistled quietly to herself as worked, a sea shanty she had heard once on the docks of Zazesspur.

She heard Lovefoot before she saw him, the halfling’s voice carrying easily on the still air.

“-and that’s how Mr. Crabapple lost his chickens.” Their guide grunted. “Anyway, I’m hungry. Let’s get this fire lit so I can cook something.”

Muse smiled widely as she saw Telari stiffen slightly. The monk opened her eyes and stared at the halfling in horror for a fraction of second before standing.

“I was thinking I’d make a stew tonight.” She said. Lovefoot thought for a second and then nodded.

“Okay. I’ll save Mrs. Halfthorn’s recipe for a rainy day.” Telari nodded and began laying the fire.

There was a quiet footstep behind Muse and the young tiefling flinched, turning to see Myca approaching, the edge of her tunic lifted to form a pocket of sorts. A few nuts fell from the pile of whatever was in there as she walked past.

She watched the half-elf move with an awkward grace, her profile striking in the rays of the setting sun, and then returned to her dagger, finishing it to her satisfaction before sheathing it with a flourish.

“Thirsty work, hunting.” A clear voice called out from the encroaching darkness as Sonja strode into the firelight, a brace of rabbits over her shoulder. “Where’s the wineskin?”

Muse reached into her pack and pulled it out.

“Catch, your Ladyship.” She said, throwing it to the statuesque woman.

Without breaking stride, Sonja caught the wineskin, pulled the stopper out with her teeth and downed a mouthful of wine before dropping the rabbits to the floor next to the intricate wooden structure Telari had built. Wisps of smoke began drifting in the air and the monk walked to her pack and pulled out some pots and small leather pouches which Muse knew contained her supply of herbs and salts.

They watched the fire grow swiftly as a light breeze picked up, and sparks began dancing on the air around the iron pot nestled in the flames. Muse volunteered to collect some water from a stream Sonja had noticed nearby and when she returned, Lovefoot and Telari were in a heated discussion about the correct amounts of basil and thyme to drop into the rabbit stew.

She noticed Myca was sitting slightly away from the rest of them, her brow furrowed and her teeth worrying at her lower lip.

“She’s not cut out for this.” Sonja said quietly, her usual ebullience missing from her voice. “She’s seen some horrors, but the open road and the desert? They aren’t in her blood. Not like they’re in yours and mine.” Muse looked at the red-haired woman, surprised by her insight. Sonja shrugged, the metal scales sewn into her clothes jingling slightly. “Mercenaries have to be able to know who they can trust in a fight. I look at you and I see the open road, a wanderlust that can’t be sated, and a darkness, a willingness to do what must be done. But her,” she gestured at Myca, “I see the forests and a desire to belong, for family. This isn’t the place for her.”

“Maybe not. But I think she’ll surprise us all. There’s a steel there, a resolve I haven’t seen in many people.” Muse smiled, her pointed teeth glimmering in the fire light. “Besides, the road has a way of dealing with the weak.” Sonja grunted and moved to sit by the fire as the argument began to die down.

“I believe it’s your turn, Muse.” Telari said absently as Lovefoot skipped away from the fire, whistling a nonsense tune to himself.

“Hmm?”

“To tell us why you’re here.”

“Oh. It’s not really an interesting story.”

“Nevertheless, we’ve shared our stories.” She said, gesturing to Sonja with a long-handled spoon. Muse sighed and pulled out her pipes.

“I’m doing this my way then.” Sonja laughed.

“I’d expect nothing else, tale-teller.”

Muse blew a few, eerie notes on her panpipes. A slow stream of smoke and cinders fell to the ground as the notes faded and three orbs of lavender light emerged as the smoke dissipated, floating to revolve slowly around Muse’s neck. Her skin took on a violet hue as their light combined with the fire illuminating her lavender skin.

“I don’t know my parents. I grew up on the streets of Zazesspur, far away on the coast to the north. A city of elves and men, one such as I was frowned up. Bearing the mark of a devil,” the orbs split up and drifted to float around her horns and balance on the tip of her tail, “and living on the streets, my opportunities were few and far between.”

The orbs moved slowly back to her throat and sank into the skin, forming a line of light from her clavicle to her jaw.

“So, I learned to sing and tell tales, to dance and to smile, to play and to charm. An honest urchin can live more consistently than a dishonest one. I was not rich, but nor was I poor.”

The balls of light pulled together in her throat and drifted outwards to become a humanoid shape, roughly as tall as an adult male.

“One evening, as winter drew in and the nights turned cold, Marvolo found me. The master of a travelling troupe, he needed a muse, an inspiration to bring cheer to his players once more. I became his Muse. I learned the ways of the road, the songs of many people, the magic of the stage.”

A tear fell from her quicksilver eyes.

“Until the day tragedy struck. Marvolo’s right-hand man, a man I trusted as a brother, betrayed me. I heard them arguing in the dead of night. He intended to sell me to a thief-lord, to be used as a pawn in some unknowable game.”

The orbs separated and turned a violent crimson, two floated to Muse’s eyes where they burned brightly and the third sank into the tip of her lashing tail.

“I am no-one’s pawn. I am not a toy to be used by others. I am my own person, now and forever more, until the Nine Hells freeze over and the Abyss swallows us all. So, I ran. I took everything I owned, and I ran.”

The lights faded as she blew another series of notes on her panpipes, the cloud of cinders and smoke dripped again in a caliginous mass from the ends of the pipes and wrapped itself around her throat. When she spoke again, her voice boomed in the still night air, her tone ominous.

“I ran to Seawell, I ran to my future.”

Prophecies of the Elements

Here is a selection of prophecies to inspire your own story hooks in whatever tabletop rpg you are playing, or to provide an ambiguous plotline for you to incorporate into your own games.

I would be interested to know what you, or your players, make of them, so please let me know in the comments.


 

When the sun burns green,

And the trees sing in an unknown breeze,

A faceless man will bring a rose from the East.

When he reaches the tower and gifts the rose to a woman of unmatched knowledge,

The winds of the Great Plains will sweep over the land and bring plague with them.

*/*

At the dawning of the new age,

An age of blood, steel and smoke,

A child will be born.

To her, will the secrets of the Ancients be given,

To her, will all the skill of the Children of the Stone be taught.

When she is of age, a great calamity will befall the house of Hask.

Only a gift of the earth, purest of the many Azure Crowns, will save it.

*/*

As the sun and the moon meet,

As the seas fall calm and the animals sleep,

As the plants in the field wither,

He shall come unbidden.

A stranger, cloaked and playing a lute,

With hair of fire and tongue of silver.

He will charm all who see him,

And destroy all who follow him.

He brings the cold, cleansing fire of death.

*/*

There is a cave in the middle of the world,

A mouth of broken stone and trailing plants.

A bear lives in the cave, her fur matted and hide scarred.

The world-bear carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and guards the fortunes of all.

At the height of its powers, a great empire will challenge the moon for supremacy of the night.

It will win, and the moon will fall, shattered into a hundred pieces.

As it dies, the seas will rise and wash into the cave, drowning the bear.

My vision sees nothing more,

Save a bear skull bobbing on a tide of blood.

Funeral Songs

Unplanned hiatus + Christmas break = tumbleweeds.

Hopefully, I can get back into my update schedule, so for today, we have a selection of funeral songs to inspire your world-building or to add flavour to a ceremony.

I will probably write more in the future, but for now, enjoy!


A Daughter’s Lament

You, who made me
You, who taught me
You, who helped me,
I weep for you

I weep for our past
I weep for our family
I weep for our loss
For a future not to be

A future of loss
A future of darkness
A future of hope diminished
A world with one less life

One less ember burning
One less breath of wind
One less smile to brighten a day
One less parent to raise a child

 

From the Stone

From the Stone, to the Stone
From the fire, to the forge.

As our hearts are made of iron,
So are our spirits made of steel.

There is nothing we cannot endure,
No struggle too great or small.

We are the Children of the Stone,
The world is our canvas.

Our life is granted to us by the Earthfather,
And it is taken by the Skymother.

Upon our death, we find peace,
An end to the struggle of life.

Where there is death, there is sadness,
There is pain and there is grief.

But turn this pain inwards,
Use it to temper your steel.

Grow stronger from it,
Become more of who you are.

This world will not mourn them,
It will not mourn you.

We are Children of the Stone,
From the Stone we come,
To the Stone we go.

 

Walk In Their Sight

We mourn you, you who have gone,
We are the many who knew the one,
A bright star passing through the night,
Burning strong in Ivellios’ esteemed sight.

You graced our lives with your love,
Given form by Her Grace above.
A light in the darkness burning strong,
A note on the wind from an unknown song.

As Vaella showed us the mercy of the Divine,
A golden nectar sweeter than any wine,
You brought a smile to our lips and hearts,
As pure as that of any lovers’ arts.

We mourn you, you have gone,
We are the many, who knew the one,
We thank you for teaching us of death,
And we remember you with every breath.

Walk in their light with our blessings, friend.

A Moment to Herself

Hi all! I know the hiatus ran on longer than predicted, but I hope the wait was worth it. This week, I wanted to attempt a change of tone in my normal writing style so I wrote a short vignette concerning my latest Call of Cthulhu character.

Any feedback is appreciated!

Enjoy!


The record span in silence, the music long since finished. She sat in the room, her fingertips resting gently on the photograph in front of her.

A handsome man, his uniform smartly pressed and an infectious smile on his lips stared out at her, his youthful good looks belying his age.  The ornate golden frame was worn beneath the pads of her fingers, the grain of the carved wood as familiar as the matched pair of rings hanging from a chain around her neck.

A single tear rolled down her cheek, falling onto the glass, and she wiped it off with a rapid, jerking movement, a slight frown creasing her brow.

The pain was as fresh now as it had been all those years ago. She remembered when she had said goodbye the first time, as he left for Europe, and she remembered the brief moments of happiness they had snatched when he was sent back for convalescence.

Her hand drifted to her stomach as she remembered the news she had so desired to tell him. Another tear fell for the life that had faded when she said goodbye the second time, when he lay feverish on the hospital bed, his right leg a ragged mess and blood on his lips.

The hand on her stomach clenched as a spike of hunger shot through her and she looked away from the photograph to the plate on the low table in front of her. Her breakfast lay there, a single bite taken from it. She had intended to eat it, but the food had turned to ash in her mouth. Not even the sweetened mint tea, purchased through her contacts, had tasted of anything and remained undrunk in its cup next to the plate.

A sob forced its way from her throat and she hunched forwards, rocking slightly as more tears fell. Her chest felt as if it were wrapped in a vice made of ice-cold iron, a slow, cold pressure that made her feel as if her ribs would break at any moment. The tears, salty on her lips, brought a gentle warmth to her face.

The fire in the hearth had been lit before the maid had left for the day, but it had done nothing to drive the sluggish numbness from her body. The embers glowed dimly, a dull orange light in the bright room.

It was days like this that she felt like the fire, a muted glow surrounded by the life of this great, bustling city. She frequently walked the streets of London, the crowds not only serving to remind her of the humanity that she frequently struggled to feel a part of, but also making her feel adrift in a strange ocean, floundering for meaning and life. She rarely felt so alone or insignificant as she did when she was lost in the mass of people around her.

Helena, the maid, had asked her to remember to eat today. Her rebelliousness was what attracted Amina, but sometimes she was too perceptive. She wondered how much the maid really saw, and whether or not she realised that every day she had off, her mistress spent the day wrapped up in her own pain. The pressure of remaining positive for the rest of the week was almost too much to bear with so much grief and anger straining against her chest.

A letter from Winifred lay nearby, discarded after reading. Her dearest friend was the only person she had confided in and the elderly woman had reacted with her usual grace and poise, offering a handkerchief and a warm pastry from the café near her apartment. Amina suspected that Winifred had known a pain like this, the wisdom in her kind eyes had spoken of hard-won experience.

The tears gradually faded and the still, quiet air of the room returned as she stopped sobbing. She closed her eyes slowly and drew a long, heavy breath into her lungs. She had given the maid her word that she would eat and Amina Farah Atan kept her promises.

She sat down again, minutes later, a trembling hand lifting small pieces of fruit to her mouth. She had hesitated in the pantry, her eyes on the plate of halal meat resting under the fly net but the sight of it had turned her stomach over, reminding her too much of what she had seen in that hospital ward.

Her eyes stared unblinkingly at the wall opposite as she ate, the sweet fruit barely registering on her tongue or full lips. The only thing she really felt was the cool china of the plate as it slowly warmed against her skin.

She reached for another slice of fruit and blinked as her fingernails scraped the plate. She looked down slowly and took in the pattern on the now empty china. She lost herself in the design as half-remembered sensations of being held and late-night conversations filled her mind. She felt her throat closing again and forced herself back to the present, blinking away the tears welling in her eyes.

She stood and carried her plate to the sink in the kitchen before returning to the sitting room where she mechanically turned off the record player and put the disk away. That done she stood still, her eyes on the floor, for a few minutes before shuddering and walking to the mirror where she stared at her reflection and forced a smile. She held the expression for a few minutes until it felt natural and turned back to the room, taking in the orderliness of it.

The fire was the only thing that really needed tending to and as she was brushing her hands clean of coal dust, there was a knock at the door. She straightened, glanced at the clock, made sure her smile was fixed firmly in place and that her eyes weren’t red from crying with a quick glance in the mirror, and then walked to the house’s door. She drew a steadying breath as she reached for the handle and opened it.

“Rahim, please, be welcome.”

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 Protector 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.