40 Paces Does Not a Duel Make

Bennu blessed and benointed…

Where do I begin? Father, the furry rapscallion, dogs my every step and begs Bennu’s bellicose badgering. The beast lords over me not unlike a land-owner over a serf. Even now, after years of commitment and treachery, I suspect that I still know even less of his motives than I do my own. The creature lulls me with a daft demeanor and wanton palm-licking only to slink away, couched in the shadows of a benighted night, and prey upon my dreams. Otto von Bismarck, you inimitable hemlock, you are the bane of my existence! The Saintly one prompts a paranoid persona and piques even the aroused mind. I have little time before he comes ’round again and begs for attention. Mother, if you should no longer receive these missives from me, know that it is invariable and undoubtedly his doing. The Bismarck is not to be trifled with; a true kaiser of furry form never knew a more fearsome exo-skeletal exterior. He truly is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you must know…oh, alright! I’ll tell you:

My services as the “Eagle-Flying Chauffeur” are never missed more than when Cava’s ring is the only form of aerial locomotion and swift, gravity-defying travel.

The hour was late. The sky was dark. The sounds of debaucherous excess spilled into the night and as if to claw the clouds of our recession. They say, in Kaash, “While Vice is nice, Incest is Best.” Though I have always been fond of the expression, “When in Rome…” I cannot say I have ever known such a place but I should very much like to visit one day. The adage, even now, stays with me and percolates poignantly in my preeminent precious and prescient presence-of-mind. So it was without further ado that I summoned potential psychic energy from the boundless stores welling up within my breast and channeled elemental air into the spell “Soar With the Clouds” on my companions (self or two others by touch, Father). Roggan, my brother in elemental arms kept his Mud Mound on hand if I should need to tap his potential psychic reserves:

Tyvernos thanks the mud mound graciously for his offer of potential psychic energy but declines to siphon any mystical power from the earth elemental
Tyvernos says, “thank you, my earthen friend,” to the troglodyte in Elemental Language and smiles.
Roggan thanks Mud Brother and says “By bye Mud Brother! Talk to Roggan later, ok?”

Whether or not the muddy little essence answered his summoner and chaperone I cannot say but the Troglodyte’s command of the elements impressed me nonetheless. He appears to have a wild, untamed and nigh uncontrollable passion for commanding the very earth. Together, father, we compliment each other’s mystical prowess exponentially.

So, we attempted to make our way to the appointed dueling ground, Rivendyne after parting ways with Christopher “Bass” Reeves. However, before we even left the city’s protected air-space our departure was harried by a harrowing Cock-Block-Atrice! We were intimidated into returning to the ground and paying the purported “Kaash Tax” so that we may leave. Evidently, upon entry, your every action is recorded by a magical scrying stone and your entertainment, vices, and actions are subject to fines and fees and taxes upon debarkation. Would that we had such a stone in the Oriflamme household! Ahhh…but I digress. The Cockatrice “Night Watchman” led us down to the building of the “Collector” who is served by the shit-eating grin of a goblinoid gremlin. Like a jackass eatin’ cactus this sniggering curr appeared to derive boot-licking pleasure from our discomfort. He looked upon CrIsis — the saviors of mankind — like a farmer to a pig for slaughter. Ugh! Heathen! It was time to lighten the CrIsis wallet load. We entered the collector’s collection room and it was very dark but Roggan whipped out his staff and invoked a magical globe of daylight that chases the shadows away.

There we met a man named Itomas who explained to us that he would continue to increase our fines if we persisted with our light-sensitive heresy. He then fined us 500 Negin for insulting him. We certainly were off to a great start and appeared to be getting on famously. Itomas was a twelve foot tall green lizard — standing fully erect — a feat not unimpressive for one so amphibious. Overkill, without any of the current currency offers a verdant gemstone, befitting of the lizard’s epidermal hue. That OK — he sure is perceptive! EMERALD aptly proposed…and, after another slight, another insult, and the surly dwarf parted ways with a second gem. Bennu’s niggardly penny-pinching sheist-meister!!!! Nickel and Dime it is!!!! Thomas produced his sphere from the folds of his ahem and we were treated to a glimpse of his adorned digits. Every single lizardly finger (including thumbs) was ringed and wreathed in shiny regalia. Then he looked into the sphere and began crowing…”oh, you’ll have to pay for that!” “Oh, and you’ll definitely have to pay for THAT!” This did not bode well. I was of a mind to offer up my precious…precocious…juicy ruby starfruit as I had done before on Gavin’s behalf but no-sooner than the first, “puckered” utterance left my lips…for a pregnant moment…our tab had been sufficiently rung as to require a permeable impermissible penetration of a SECOND ORIFICE. Having given my body, my temple, to Bennu, I looked upon the Bismarck fondly and with no amount of hesitant reticence and reservation. Today, my dear spy — quixotic obvious assassin, you will pay your pound of flesh! Our tally had run up a considerable bill. Maybe we can have him put it on Bass’s tab. I deigned not to voice my silver-tongued, sallow-skinned, shallow-sighed concerns.

Gavin, when asked whether or not we had a good time in Kaash waved the Raksasha’s tail at Itomas who nodded sagely. This tail had clearly been separated from its former owner, the Raksasha we killed at the bar. Itomas the Collector used his scrying sphere and determined that, due to his untimely demise the ownership of the bar now falls to us…and he will gladly accept that in payment for our transgressions in the city of Kaash. We managed to leave the city unscathed…and unpenetrated — if not impregnable. Dare I say, “H u z z a h ! ! !”

We proceeded to travel away from the city and toward the town of Rivendyne…under the cover of darkness. In an attempt to procure a room we find that it’s already been paid for. Gavin’s braggadocio knows no bounds and the tall-fish-tail of our Raksasha killing exploits earned the proprietor’ wary eye. I took this time as an opportunity to successfully tell time. Gavin and OK got balls-deep in a balls-to-the-wall barroom blitz and got lively with libation! Roggan, Cava, and I decided to go to sleep early like little old men. Mother, gone are the halcyon days when I can last all night carousing and reveling the night before a dear friend meets his maker and dates his destiny.

At 0600 the innkeeper knocked on Cava’s door and announced that breakfast was being served. We gathered for breakfast without incident but Gavin’s absence is, notably, not as conspicuous as his presence would have been. Terramore ran off to find the Changeling and returned with him still picking straw out of his hair. Apparently the horses proved able-bodied companions for his barnyard tryst. Fancy a bout in the stable? A sullen Cava led us in prayer. His mood was especially somber this morning — his thoughts dark and pensive. I felt grim for my friend and traveling companion. CrIsis has a higher purpose. As members of CrIsis we have a higher calling. We are beholden to the gods and scions of their wills. It is our responsibility to protect and serve and save mankind from the oppression of evil. We, Avatars of the Pantheon of Light, however, are still human. We are subject to the very same laws of governance that Nature has imposed upon the natural world. We have pasts. We have lives. We are rife and teeming with the potpourri of emotions that hallmarks human-nature and earmarks the mortal mien and mentality. We have naught but our lives to give — our most-precious lives — and the spark of sentience is our most-precious gift. Should we wall…when we fall…the gods audition and recruit new champions to take our places. This purpose has come to define our lives. For however long we share that purpose with the other current members of CrIsis this incredible burden of trust has been placed on our shoulders and created a bond of brotherhood greater even than that which binds the Legion of Northmoor or even the famed and fabled Defilers CrIsis members take their places in history as nameless, faceless bricks — in a slurry of divine mortar — building the foundation of a better future and a brighter Palladium.

Forgive me, father, as I wax philosophical. It is a rare occasion that any man has to contemplate his place within the world and the fate of his friend on the eve of potential departure. We bear the weight of ages and this mantle of responsibility is passed, like a torch at the Lopanic Games, to our substitutes when they arise. We have seen friends come and go — from Greldarr to Chip and Bexx (whom I cannot say to knowing) and Drauka and Alric and Karma and even that funny looking lizard-monk, S’erith. One day, I pray not while I have breath left in my lungs, I will bid CrIsis farewell. I should very much endeavor to meet with my long friend and companion Oric Bellode and share some more of his fantastic tobacco. The purpose drives me like cattle before a rancher. When confronted with mortality I am forced to admire the mettle and resolve of the Ranger known as Cava Twistrain, Avatar of Isis, de facto leader of CrIsis, and friend of Tyvernos Oriflamme. Today, my words will no longer eulogize this brave man. Today, my words capture the spirit of his times. The Bismarck’s Zeitgeist — the dawning of a day when a man sloughs the mortal coil to liberate himself from a lifetime of vendetta and brooding wrongdoing and retribution. This marks the day when a man is no more a slave to his past but a Pathfinder of his future. We may all learn from Cava’s stalwart heroism in facing our demons, whether for good or ill, and moving past them.

So, at the dueling ground I successfully told time again and, approximately 5 minutes before the scheduled time we heard, “Cava! Cava! Come out and fight me!” He certainly seemed confident. We crossed to the opposite side of the field and became our friend’s cheerleaders. The two combatants took the field and began disrobing / disarming. They finally agreed to terms that neither will use external magic or will receive help from external sources. Truly a duel to the final death with no possible resurrection. The stakes have been raised. The ante has been upped. It was up to Cava, now, to ensure his own survival within the guidelines they had set forth. Without preamble or prelude, without foreplay or even another word, Cava Twistrain and Christopher “Bass” Reeves began slugging it out. Kick his ass, Seabass! A brutal bloody barroom brawl ensued and the combatants traded blows with expertly trained martial fisticuffs and pugilistic prowess. Cava banked a hook, however, that stung like a fuckin’ mule and into Bass’s Glass-Jaw, knocking the Priest of Anubis to the ground. Bass hit the deck and Cava took the opportunity to sit on his chest and smash his face in — he’s like a fucking surgeon with that sledgehammer! When Bass regained consciousness he took a moment to right himself when Cava attempted to knock him out again but failed, only hitting the priest in the chest. Reeves attempted to parry and critically fell and hit his head and went unconscious! THE GODS FAVOR CAVA! Cava took the opportunity to dispatch his arch-nemesis. The duel was over. Moments later Gavin encapsulated their entire team in a bubble of protection. The godly-cheerleaders disappeared from both sides instantly. And Roggan attempted to open a river of lava! Tyvernos used the opportunity to summon a tornado inside of Gavin’s psionic prison thereby creating a psycho-magical BLENDER that rent life and limb and tore dozens of hapless victims to shreds. They say the primordial soup that creates heroes never tastes of rainbows. It is a lumpy gumbo of suffering and evil from the Pantheon of Taut and the Gods of Darkness. Heroes are born from that darkness because we desperately need someone to light the way. The battlefield of the duel was just such a gumbo. It was a ghoul-0sh of ghastly delight…for tonight we dance the Danse Macabre of Old Stygia on the graves of the fallen and the backs of the bruised.

Whew! With that out of the way Roggan announced to the group that he needed the group to stay the night in Rivendyne and that he needed Cava to go hunting. Uh, mysterious much? We acquiesce and proceeded to pain the town RED! Cava took it upon himself to go hunting solo — not a great idea — though he claims not have had too much trouble dispatching two pesky orcs after the very same quarry. Roggan beseeched me privately and prevailed upon me for my aid in creating a stone golem. Ah! Such was the stuff of legend! Gavin and Overkill came back to the inn with me and Roggan. Gavin took the decapitated head of Bass Reeves and Overkill suggested that we use this opportunity to wank into the dismembered mouth…to spread our infamy; I can’t say I’m surprised anymore by what comes out of Overkill’s mouth…or what he proposes to enter. I humbly suggested discretion before boasting and that, perhaps, we should wait until Rob Rambler spreads our seed and these people find out in the amply, aptly embellished way. The party finally got under way and raged on throughout the night! On CrIsis! Cava vanquished the primary High Priest of Kaash — a priest of Anubis! Rivendyne will celebrate tonight in spades!

Tyvernos’s disappearance was hardly noticed. I slunk away under the cover of darkness to aid my elemental-friend in creating his golem.

Roggan began to chant in ancient elemental tongue and cast the series of spells and perform the ritual to create a golem:

I’ll fong you till your entrails become your extrails, your insides become your outsides.

I’ll fong you till…. spdofipwfha PAIN! Lots and lots of PAIN!

Roggan looks up from his work, and says “I sense a disturbance of the force.”

He certainly is an eloquent Troglodyte if I’ve ever known one. Mastery of the Elemental Earth takes a certain pragmatism — certain stony-eyed determination for practical use and sturdy wear ‘n tear. The Trog has much in common with our resident dwarven denizen. In my contemplation of Mastery of the Elemental Air it is less a stewardship, as the Earth Warlocks, and more a courtship. I must parley and coax the forces of the sky to do my bidding. I must seduce them and lure them and channel their energies the way a sculptor shapes his creations. An Air Warlock is an Artist. The Earth Warlock, clearly, an Engineer. I must say, father, I find their practice fascinating and my rapt attention unwavering. It truly has been a treat and a privilege to travel with Roggan the Troglodyte Earth Warlock.

The innkeeper Willem Tallim extended his gracious courtesy and hospitality to CrIsis — we shall stay here, at his establishment for free — FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES!!! I think dragging my friend Oric Bellode out to Rivendyne for some wine, women, and song…out in these dangerous parts would provide ample opportunity for adventure!

During the fete Korar Gudar dressed in the priestly robes of Anhur approached Cava. Overkill stood in obvious recognition of the gentleman. Gavin stood at the ready. Cava was on guard. I began channeling PPE and chanting. I haven’t had occasion to electrocute someone with my newest, most brazen display of elemental defiance — I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity now!. CrIsis cannot to be approached by a priest of a god of the pantheon of Taut / darkness without raising a few hackles and setting off a few alarms. We took a moment, aside, to discuss the complexities of a ranger’s dearth of innate silent-stalking. Pity they can’t prowl. Regardless, Korar hadn’t yet been informed of Bass Reeves’ death. Overkill divulged to his friend, the priest of Anhur, that he is on a mission from the Gods of Light…and that he’s killed one of the highest priests in Kaash of the Gods of Darkness. Thanks OK! He also informed his friend that he’s no longer the “captain” of the Red Beard and that Minischmee is the King of Bizanthium. At this point I no longer cared to listen. Tyvernos, bless his merry little jovial soul, retreated to the warm embrace of the Saint Bernard. OK’s super-persuasive affinity for bonding with his former crewmen managed to turn the poor man and prevail upon him to join the Light side. He stripped off his robe and knickered-down to his skivvies, swearing off the God Anhur, and swearing loyalty and fealty to Overkill and, in turn, Thoth. He vowed to go, as OK directed, to Bizanthium to aid Minschmee — king who his currently embroiled in a civil war.

Stone golem

The next morning, at breakfast (have you begun to see the pattern?), we heard massive footsteps! I arched an inquisitive eyebrow archly and, after being a part of the ritual, smiled with a congratulatory grin. I wasn’t about to be disturbed. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day you know. In a heartbeat I retreated back to the breakfast table to resume and consume. Roggan’s ritual was SUCCESSFUL! The Earth Warlock created a twenty-foot tall stone golem! We are introduced to GINA, THE GIANT!!! A she-rock suitable for our previous traveling companion, Vandur or perhaps the artist formerly known as Runeslinger. Of him there can be no denying suitability — I can’t say we ever had the occasion to chat. I do remember the role he played, prominently, in my return to Greminor’s laboratory.

On the 18th of Corg (May) we quickly finished our meals and headed back to Tyrone at the river. Let the CrIsis Quest resume! Tyrone masterfully steered the ex, Nicole, and set us under way! We traveled down-river a ways until we were ambushed by ORCS on both sides of the river!! Roggan became the first target of their crossbow-fire and he found out the hard way that the bolts are tipped with some kind of paralytic poison. Oh no! In a fit of asymptotic paroxysm and divine intervention, MIRACULOUSLY, Cava’s BLUNDER card was played and ALL THE ORCS TRIP AND FALL INTO THE RIVER! The next day will be spent without Overkill so that he can pilot through the night. Tyrone said to point Nicole straight down-river and DO NOT STOP UNTIL YOU REACH NEVIN. We are now sailing past / through the Shattered Mounts and we were told to anticipate the worst. I’m glad I brought my four-legged flotation device. Though, the dog has been skulking about with the shadiness of skulduggery. I am wont to believe he relieves himself overboard but I’ll hazard the guess that he’s already filled his Mystical Bag of Holding.

Written by Tyvernos on the 19th of Corg, in the 69th Year of the Wolfen Empire.

Picture from Giant Bomb.
Picture from Digital Art Gallery, picture by Ketka.

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