Posts Tagged “Lively Locals”
The biblical tower of Babel, as illustrated by Ziv Qual
Far outside the rest of human civilization, near elven territory, is the frontier town of Haetrope. In most respects Haetrope is unremarkable. It has a town council, and a town guard. The citizens of Haetrope enjoy their ales in the tavern, get their pack animals shod at the blacksmith’s shop, and purchase their tools from the general store. The only thing that Haetrope has which most towns do not is the tower. The really old, really tall tower.
The base of the tower is circular, and about 200ft in diameter. The bottommost levels are completely open, the walls having long since crumbled away, leaving only a ring of off-color stone to indicate that the space was once the base of a mighty structure. Iron structures remains in place, ascending high into the sky, and through the clouds. The tower can be seen from miles around, and many travelers in the area rely on it as a guiding marker.
A handful of the towers levels do remain intact, with the lowest being about 200ft above the ground. The few who have successfully ventured up to those areas say that the stones are incredibly unstable. A wrong step can send a piece of the floor crashing to the ground far below, along with the adventurer who foolishly put their weight on that floor. It has been said, though, that any who dare to climb the tower and survive to explore its many levels could return with fabulous and untold treasures. This brings a steady flow of adventurers to Haetrope who wish to attempt the climb. So much so that watching someone make the attempt—and placing bets on when they will fall—has become a local pastime. The few who do make it to the top often return empty handed, if they ever return at all.
A far safer and more reliable expedition is to explore the numerous sublevels of the tower, which extend deep beneath the earth. Perhaps descending even further below the ground than the tower rises above it. These sublevels are not without danger of their own—fearsome monsters and deadly traps still claim the lives of most adventurers who dare venture into the depths. But at least it does not require a treacherous climb to the heights of a long since crumbled tower.
The razed bottom level of the tower allows easy access to the first sublevel via an open staircase, making the tower a popular destination for those whose lust for gold is sufficient to drive them into danger.
Nobody knows when the tower was built, or for what purpose. Not even the greatest historical sages can name a time when the town of Haetrope did not lay in the shadow of the tower. And while it is true that much of history has been lost, it is also certain that both the tower, and the town of Haetrope beneath it, have existed together for millenia.
Beyond when and why, it cannot even be determined how the tower was built, or why it still stands. Numerous kings over the ages have sent their royal architects to learn from the tower, so they too could have a castle which rose above the clouds. But even the most talented architects humankind has produced have been unable to replicate the materials or the construction techniques used by whatever ancient people built the tower. And more than one twisted wreck of a tower can be found throughout the human lands to prove it.
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Posted by LS on Friday, November 9th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: Fiction, System Independant
Tags: Lively Locals
A photograph of Cyclades Paros island in Greece. Photographer unknown.
Rosco Rurik was good at killing the undead. The ranger had devoted all of his training, and all of his time to becoming more efficient at slaying the hated creatures. He’d memorized every type ever encountered or created. He’d memorized the known weaknesses and powers of each, and carried with him an extensive array of tools to accomplish his undead slaying task. If anything could send a shiver of mortal fear through a vampire’s spine, it was the name ‘Rosco Rurik.”
Rurik’s hunting made him famous through the land. Tales were told of him round campfires, and over pints of ale. And nearly every story mentioned Rosco’s powerful magic axe. In the presence of the undead, the axe’s blade became shrouded in white mist, and it was uniquely suited to slaying them. After a single cut, the blade would adapt itself to take advantage of the individual creature’s weaknesses, meaning Rosco’s second blow was often the last he needed to make.
There are many tales which could be told of Rosco and his mighty axe, but what concerns us today is their last adventure. As usual, Rosco was in pursuit of some undead ne’er-do-well who had caused a lot of suffering. A lich by the name of Amkon, who lived on an island surrounded by treacherous waters. Rosco had thought himself sufficiently prepared to kill the vile creature, but the Lich had lured him into a trap, and Rosco barely escaped from the lich’s lair alive.
He ran with all haste, the Lich’s ghouls close on his heels. The brave ranger managed to make it to shore, but found that his boat had been destroyed by the lich’s servants, to prevent any possible escape. He was trapped on an island with a foe he could not defeat by himself. Rosco knew he was going to die. Knowing he could not allow his axe to fall into the lich’s hands.
He had managed to gain a good twenty minutes on the creatures chasing him, but that did not leave him much time. With his hands he shoveled sand away as fast as he could, then shoveled it back in place again once he had dropped his axe into a hole deep enough that he thought it would not be discovered. By the time the lich and his minions arrived. Rosco was sitting peacefully in the surf, looking out over the water. The lich grabbed him by the throat and held him off the ground. He demanded to know where the axe was. Rosco smiled
“The ocean tides will carry it far from here. You’ll never find it. “
Those were Rosco Rurik’s last words, before the lich tossed him into a pack of ghouls, which tore the ranger into unrecognizable chunks of what had once been a man.
The lich spent a year sending zombies to walk the ocean floor, searching for the axe. He hoped he could use it in his magical experimentation to produce undead creatures resistant to their traditional weaknesses. He never thought to search the beach itself. Eventually the lich grew bored, and moved on to some other project in its interminably long life. For many years the axe lay beneath the sand, undisturbed. Then an unexpected thing happened. A green sprout appeared in the sand, where the axe had been burried. And the sprout grew over years into a tree, towering above the beach and shading the surf. It is a mystery why precisely this happened, or how the tree survives rooted in sand. But one thing is clear: Rosco’s axe was the tree’s seed, and most agree that his blood was the water.
Rurik’s Tree is unlike any which has ever been seen before or since. The wood is brown, with soft bark and straight, sturdy branches. The leaves of the tree are large—roughly a foot across. They curve outwards from the branch, appearing very much like the blade of an axe. They cut very much like one as well. While the leaves are alive, they function as a battleaxe with a +5d6 enchantment bonus against undead. Unfortunately, within a day of being removed from the tree, the leaves wilt and becomes useless. No one has yet determined how these leaves could be used in a more permanent application.
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Posted by LS on Friday, November 2nd, 2012 at 5:45 am
Tags: Lively Locals
Some years ago I was in the southern lands. My expeditions had not been fruitful of late, and I was in sore need of some coin. To tide myself over, I took a job as a bounty hunter. The town I was staying in at the time had been harassed by a group of brigands for several months. They pooled they resources, and offered me a hundred gold coins if I would bring them the heads of all seven bandits. Normally I wouldn’t have taken such a poorly paying job, but my purse was so light by that point that it may as well have been filled with feathers.
I waited until the band attacked once more, then pursued them from a safe distance, with as much subtlety as I could manage. Given their superior numbers, I did not want to face them in an even fight. I hoped to attack them in the night, when they could be caught unawares. Their path led through rocky hills, and into a wasteland of dry, sun-blasted earth. The ground was so flat that it would have been impossible to remain hidden, so I allowed them to pull ahead of me over the horizon, and continued to pursue them by following the tracks their horses left on the ground.
In the late afternoon, I happened to catch a hint of movement at the edge of my vision. I turned to see a pack of large, hungry-looking coyotes stalking me. I had no idea where they’d come from, but it was clear they intended to have my horse and I for a meal. Weary from the long ride and the harsh sun as we were, I knew I didn’t have much of a chance fighting the damned things, so I spurred my horse along and we took off as fast as we could. Which turned out not to be very fast, given our exhaustion. Up ahead of us, though, there was what looked to be a dry riverbed with an old wooden bridge across it. It would be as good a place as any to make a stand, so I made for it with all haste I could coax from my steed.
We made it across the bridge, where I leaped down and drew a dagger and shield. It wasn’t much defense, but at least it would prevent them from completely surrounding me, I thought. I turned and waited for them to pounce on me, but they never did. I could see it in their eyes the moment their forepaws landed on the decrepit wooden planks. Immediately I no longer interested them. They took a few more bounding steps forward, but their focus was lost. They all wandered about for a moment, before moving off together, leaving my horse and I untouched.
I was curious, so I examined the bridge more closely. It was clearly very old, but I was surprised by how sturdy it felt. I tried putting my feet through the boards, and shaking the railings, but nothing budged. Upon closer inspection, much of what I had assumed to be gnarled, worn wood was actually expertly carved with leaves, trees, birds, and other small woodland creatures depicted on the railings and posts. Clearly it had been built when its surroundings were much different. Either that, or whoever built it had a very unusual sense of aesthetic.
I jumped down to the riverbed below, and began digging my hands into the ground to see if I could tell just how long it had been since there was any water under the bridge. The surface was so dry that I had to loosen it with my dagger before I could begin searching at all. I dug perhaps a foot into the ground without encountering anything but dry, dead earth. I was about to give up and move on when I noticed some markings on the bottom of the bridge. They were made with paint, but still clear to see. It was a large circle with half a dozen runes inside of it. I copied it to some parchment I had as best I could, then climbed atop my horse and started to ride back the way I’d come.
Back in town I found a scholar who told me the symbol was an old elven one, meaning “Go in peace,” or “Walking the Path of Nonviolence,” or something else to that effect. It wasn’t until I spoke with her that I realized I had completely forgotten about my pursuit of the bandits after I crossed that bridge.
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Posted by LS on Friday, October 12th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: Fiction, System Independant
Tags: Lively Locals