Sunday, December 22, 2013

More avatar art from NaNoWriMo '13

Oh no, I've been sucked into that avatar generator again. I have too many characters living in my head and they all want me to know what they look like. ;) I'm kind of surprised I haven't made these before now since the twins are my favorite characters in this year's NaNo. (I swear I'll get back to this after the holidays. December doesn't leave me with much free time.) Sol is the silly Lightbringer (light-mage; he summons and controls light and fire) and Etri is the quiet Shadowwalker (darkness-mage; he snuffs out light/fire and can inhabit the dark part of reality that not many can see). Technically their occupations have them as a fire-breather and a fire-eater, but that's just a cover, as Blythe figures out when Etri drags her into the shadow-realm to chase down intangible creatures that are haunting the city.

It's easy to tell them apart, but they're not as pigeonholed as they sound. I'm not one for predictable or flat characters. Or, rather, I'm the queen of too much character development. ;)

Ye gads they're pale, but this has some meaning because they're from the part of the world where the story ends up. So they look foreign at the beginning, but by the end of the story it's the other characters who look like they don't belong. In my head it's kind of neat, but I'm not sure if this is going to come across much in the writing. They start off looking like mirror (reverse?) images of each other, but as the story goes on and they drop their carnival act in favor of the adventure, this starts to change, so I wanted to go with that instead of making them matchy-matchy (although Sol will always wear bright sunny colors and Etri will always be... well, goth). I'm pretty happy with these avatars, but I have such a clear idea in my head of what they look like that the avatar generator couldn't get them perfectly there. I'll admit I did kind of go crazy with the backdrops. But hey, one spends a portion of the story glowing like a sun and the other is half in the shadow-world at any given time. (Still looking for a good term for that. Shadow-realm? Plane of shadows? Mirror-reality? I'll think of something.) I wanted to play around with that kind of magic.

When I resized the images to fit on my blog, I realize how much I don't like how their facial expressions look when smaller. So here are closeups at the original size:

I also don't like how it's hard to see the shading, so Etri's shirt looks like a priest's collar. *headdesk* It's just supposed to be that he wears a lot of layers of clothing and keeps most of his skin covered. (Sol's barefoot because the generator didn't have a sandal option. He doesn't feel the cold; his magic gives him an abnormally warm body temperature. Etri wears layers because his body temperature is chilly, so he's always cold.) I added in their earrings and tattoos in Paintshop. Etri's were easy because they're mostly covered by his shirt, but he gets blue and black moons and stars while Sol has yellow and orange suns. Cheesy, but all of my circus people are kind of over the top. (I have no idea how I'm going to make an avatar of my mime with his silly hat. LOL! Stay tuned to see if I can figure that strange costume out.)

This is reminding me that I still haven't written up bios for any of my 2013 NaNo characters. I should get on that. And, ya know, finish my dang NaNo. The poor characters are in limbo and I think Etri is holding me back because he's seeing the evil glint in my eye directed at him. He should know by now that I torment my favorites more than the others. He should have seen his impending doom coming from a mile away. Mwahaha. But: favorite. It'll work out in the end.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dear Characters (NaNo '13) - Part 3

((I passed 50k about six days early, but I still have so much left to write! Just now getting to the last arc of the story which will prepare everyone for the end, but "the end" is still a distant dream...))

Dear Drake (the Charmer),
Ah, so that's what happens when you get your magic back: you ignore every good thing you've learned over the past few weeks and trigger the most unintentionally vindictive party split ever. I'd be impressed if I wasn't wondering how I'm going to fix this mess! You know who isn't impressed? Everyone else. I mean, Blythe drew a weapon on you while Etri is just as angry (I don't know what he was planning on doing with that torch, but I have a feeling you wouldn't like it), and good luck repairing your relationship with Sol after, ya know, you kidnapped his siblings by mind controlling them. You truly are the king of bad decisions. All this aside, major kudos for making this whole thing a lot more interesting and fun to write!

Dear Etri (the Shadowwalker),
Yeah, what were you planning on doing with that torch? I'm still not entirely sure how your magic works. When you become a shadow, can you see into a different world? Does dark become light? Does your magic bring you half into the invisible world that's turned the mime crazy? Oh, speaking of, could you find that mime for me? He's supposed to have joined the story by now and he's off somewhere silently flailing in fear.

Dear Blythe (the Protector),
Chill. Adair is capable of taking care of himself. Sort of. He would be if the consequences of Drake's earlier actions hadn't set off a separate chain of events, anyway. Trust me, you've got enough to worry about considering that your group is going to come into contact with the baddie and without the missing three teammates, you have a snowball's chance in hell of winning. You're leading your trio, so it's up to you to keep it together until your ringmaster finds you again.


Dear Adair (the Illusionist),
On the positive side, at least your group's mini-boss isn't going to be the big baddie. On the negative side, you three are probably only going to get away by the skin of your teeth thanks to Drake taking everyone with weapons with him. (Sheesh, who needs to throw bosses at you guys when Drake's doing a darn good job of being an antagonist himself?) But hey, I need to prepare you guys for the endgame. Here's a hint: you three are the creative ones. Use that to your advantage.

Dear Chantrell (the Melodist),
Say 'hi' to your brother for me. You should have known after seeing all those missing person posters that he's going to find you and track you down. I'm still trying to figure out your magic, too, by the way. What's your focus if it usually comes through as sound? Have you had a tiny instrument tucked away all this time?

Dear Sol (the Lightbringer),
You're taking all this surprisingly well, but then again, you're literally a ball of sunshine. Too bad you lost that extra power because you're going to be wanting that in your upcoming scenes. Keep that brightness; the other two will need your positivity and your light. You could always put that dumb hat back on the cat if it'll distract Adair, but I have a feeling you can do better than that. After all, you are my comic relief!

~Meri, your author who is beginning to panic because there's only five days left of NaNo and you guys are still chapters and chapters away from meeting up again. (Would someone please tie Drake up or something so he doesn't spawn another plot line or twelve?)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dear Characters (NaNo '13) - Part 2

((I'm at about 35,000 words with my current NaNo story and the plot's just over half finished, so it's time for another "Dear Character" post.))

Dear Adair (the Illusionist),
Watching you fumble through love is amusing, but don't you have, you know, a quest? And don't tell me you're still waiting on the next call so you don't know where to go. You have those magical maps, right? ...Oh, what the heck. I'm making you deal with this bunch of goofballs carnival performers (and you haven't even reached the delusional mime yet...), so I guess I can't begrudge you those little cartoon hearts you have floating above your head. ... or was that you testing out your magic again? Have you figured out yet that you can draw 3d things in the air?

Dear Blythe (the Protector),
Okay, at this point everyone knows that you're a girl. Everyone. I'm honestly surprised that none of them have let this fact slip yet. (And by "none of them" I mean "Sol". Hate to say it, Blythe, but your friend is kind of an idiot.) And Adair keeps not being able to breathe whenever you get in close proximity to him; if he turns purple, will you catch on that he knows your secret? (Wait, I already have a purple character. Scratch that.)

Dear Drake (the Charmer),
What exactly is going to happen to you when you get your magic back? Right now you're so very not Drake and the others like this version of you. So what happens when you go back to getting everything you want and making people do whatever you want because of your mind-control? When the rest see the real you? This could be a problem. By the way, I still don't have any hobbies or secondary skills for you. You better find some quickly or you'll end up expendable.

Dear Sol (the Lightbringer),
While Drake ended up with the "most unlucky character in the story" award, apparently you drew the short straw for the role of "adorable idiot" this time around. (I'd recommend breaking the fourth wall and asking Raff for pointers if you get stuck.) This may end up with you turning into the comic relief, but since you're all circus folk, that's a title you may have to share. And would you quit putting that silly hat on the cat? Where do you people keep finding these things??

Dear Etri (the Shadowwalker),
Please stop getting yourself lost in the background. I keep losing track of you! I know that's rather the point to who you are, mister not only hides in shadow but is a shadow, but you seem to be the brains of the group. Adair needs your opinions because he's not yet the ringmaster your brother jokingly calls him.

Dear Chantrell (the Melodist),
I'll be introducing you within the next day, so I suppose I should say hi and welcome you to the insanity. Just to let you know, that tiger is just Adair's cat. You'll figure this out when she goes "Mrrrt?" and tries to rub against your leg. You'll get used to Addy's illusions.

~Meri, the writer who is trying to figure out how she's going to juggle six characters with another one coming later. (At least two of you are jugglers. A little help here?)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear Characters (NaNo '13)

((I haven't done any of these "Dear Character" or "Dear Writer" posts for this year's NaNo yet, so it's time to remedy that! These are the key players at the moment.))

Dear Adair (the apprentice Illustrator-Mage),
Would you please please please stop thinking about food for five minutes? I know you're a teenaged boy, but geez, who thinks a pie will get them into a guarded location? You're cute, kid, even if you are kind of silly. I'm giving you an assignment that you'll love, by the way: find a new cat. I need this for a group writing prompt and I know you'll be sad about having to leave your three behind once you realize you're not coming back.

Dear Blythe (the would-be Blade-Mage/blade-dancer),
Are you finally beginning to catch on that magic is real? If Adair's sketchbook of moving drawings wasn't enough to prove this, I'm sure you can ask Etri how his magic works. Then again, he's a performer; he might not actually want you to know his secrets. But you know him better than I do since he's your closest friend and I just met him this week. What do you think? (And would you please let on to Adair sometime soon that you're a girl? I keep writing the wrong pronoun for you EVERY TIME. By the time I get used to calling you "boy" and "him", Adair will have figured it out and then I'm going to have to get myself re-accustomed to the correct terms.)

Dear Drake (the Blade-Mage/fire-dancer),
I'll get to you eventually, I promise. Maybe by Tuesday? While you're waiting, please think of some secondary skills and hobbies that you can fall back on when your magic is taken. Your life seems to revolve far too much around getting what you want because of your mind-control! Heck, even Adair likes to cook and Blythe knows something about healing and technically their lives are busier than yours. Not everything has to do with your magic, ya know. (And I don't think seducing people really counts as a hobby.)

Dear Sol (the Light-Mage/fire-breather),
Umm... sorry for making you my baddie's next victim? You were one of the first drained, so assuming you don't try to light any more fires magically for a few days, you'll be fine. Please tell Adair this so he stops freaking out that he's the cause of all these innocent people getting hurt. Oh, and don't try fire-breathing for a few days, either; without your power, that would be very very painful.

Dear Etri (the Darkness-Mage/fire-eater),
I really love you and your brother even if you aren't main characters. I'm going to be giving you guys a quest of your own so don't think I'll forget about you when the MCs leave. Until then, I think you're going to be dragged into a search by Blythe because you're a little better at sneaking into places in the dark than she is. (Speaking of, do you know that she's a girl? One minute I think you do and are just keeping this a secret, the next I think you're as clueless as everyone else.)

~Meri, your writer who is having way too much fun with this artist and carnival performer theme but who also wonders why you guys all seem to like fire so much

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A letter left behind at the start of Adair's journey

((At this point in my NaNo, Adair leaves a note to his teacher when he gets his quest and sets off in the middle of the night. I haven't found a way to fit it into the story yet, so I figured I'd share it here. The boy has no idea what he's in for. Back in a few days, only going to the next town, hahaha! Almost two years later, half a world away, he won't even know where he lives anymore. Keep thinking you'll be back tomorrow, kid. You'll need that optimism.))

Dear Master Cole,
This is going to come out of the blue, but I need to take a few days off. I'll make it up, I promise. I think I figured out what happened to the map I drew for my journeyman-assignment. The person I met who was acting strangely the other day was the watchmaker- you were right. Last night he and a fortune teller- I can't recall what she said her name was- helped me figure out that the reason I've been feeling so odd is because someone is using my magic through the map and that someone is probably the person who is draining mages. It's all very weird and I'm not really sure what the map has to do with the attacks, but I'm positive this is true. I know someone is using my magic and I didn't get a chance to disconnect myself from what I had drawn before it was taken, so that must be it. Anyway, I'm going to go see if I can get it back somehow. The fortune teller said I would have some help, but I'm not sure who that'll be yet. She said she'd explain this better to you in the morning. I should be back tomorrow or maybe the day after; I think I just have to go to Greenveldt to sort this out.

PS Please have Katie watch my cats for me while I'm gone and ask her not to let Vermillion get into my paintbrushes. (He keeps trying to chew the bristles off. I don't know why. He never did this before.) Tell her I'll draw her some more dancing kittens if she helps.
PPS. Oh, and have her try to keep Chartreuse out of the bedrooms. She keeps bringing in dead mice and leaving them on my bed. It's gross. ... Chartreuse does, I mean. Not Katie.
PPPS I brought my sketchbook and some tools, so while I'm away I'll work on something. I promise I won't slack off and I'll work extra hard when I get home.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo '13 outline and character ramblings

NaNoWriMo '13 is off to a pretty good start! Assuming I can get some words written tonight, I'll be on par to pass 10k. I have a pretty good idea for my NaNo since I spent part of this week working on an outline, but right now I'm procrastinating because I'm about to start the action. Now that my protagonist has his quest, I'm not really sure what the next step is. He seems to be pretty good at bumbling into plot where I least expect it, so he should lead me through. I hope. Go, Adair, go! Find the two who will help you! And find the plot which is hiding around here somewhere, while you're at it. ;)

I'm really happy with how I'm doing my outline this year because, knock on wood, it seems to be keeping me on track. I think that was my problem with last year's NaNo and why, a year later, I was still fumbling my way through the first draft: I didn't have a good outline. I'm using color-coded sticky notes in my writing notebook:

-Blue: my plot
-Yellow: missing parts of the story I still need to work out
-Purple: quick references to my characters and their tasks and basic info (Adair's my main character, Blythe is the secondary main, and Drake is pretty much on par with Blythe, but comes in later. I still need a name for my baddie...)
-Orange: assorted minor characters and their type of magic
-Pink: tasks/plot points that I'm looking to add at some point; either I don't know where they go, they span the story, or they relate to more than one character.
It's arranged so the top blue line is the start of the story (about 9000 words so far), the middle two rows are middle, and the bottom row is the end of the story. I know Scrivener can do something like this, but I'm a really visual person so I work best with something physical I can hold.

I've already removed two of the question mark ones and replaced them with blue plot stickies, so this seems to be working! It's also helpful that they're on sticky notes because that means it's easy to replace them when I decide to change something up. :)

And while I was procrastinating today, I played around with that avatar generator again to try to get a feel for the main(ish) character I don't know well yet. Drake won't be showing up in my writing for probably another week (a few days at least), but I'm very much itching to write about him! Right now all I know is that he's Blythe's former teacher- and soon to be current teacher since he has similar magic to what she's just now discovering- so he's a little older than Adair and Blythe. He used to go by "Drake Dualdagger" when Blythe knew him a few years ago, but I'm getting the suspicion that he's now calling himself "Firedrake" because of his current draconic and fire theme. I also know his magic is mind-control, he's cheerful, kind of mischievous and a little morally ambiguous, and while Blythe prefers swords and the occasional dagger, his style of dance/magic is more likely long daggers and lit torches.

(I also have a version with swords instead of torches.)

This avatar isn't quite what I had in mind, but it's close; he has a very theatrical appearance for his stage presence, so this isn't even as over the top as he'd look. (He has red dragon scale tattoos covering his arms and his hair is partly dyed, but the color on his face is just paint.)

Okay, I've procrastinated long enough. Time to get back to work!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cover art and summary for my '13 NaNoWriMo

November is fast approaching so today found me frantically fumbling around for a synopsis/summary and cover to add to my NaNoWriMo story's page. I had finally stumbled on my title earlier this week when my writing-partner-in-crime mentioned the phrase "unexpected inspiration" in an email; turns out that not only is my female main character the muse of my protagonist, my partner-in-crime is my own personal muse! ;)

Anyway, with a title now in hand, I was able to put together some stock images in paintshop to make a cover. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's as close as I could get with free images. I'm pretty happy with it, though! This year I went with paintbrushes as the theme because Adair is my artist-mage. (I'm still referring to him as an "artist-mage", but in the story it'll probably be "illustrator-mage" because technically all of the mages in this story are artists in some way.)

Cover for my NaNoWriMo '13

'13 NaNoWriMo Cover

(At some prompting of Wrimos on the forum who know more about graphics than I do, I darkened the font. This looks nicer, but the brighter blue is more the tone of the story- otherwise it just looks too serious.)

In a time where magic is suspect and mostly kept hidden behind other occupations, Adair is a carefree apprentice Illustrator-Mage with the ability to make what he draws have the semblance of life, often at the most inconvenient of times. When a wealthy patron arrives at his master's door to request a map, insinuating that it needs to be more than a mere drawing, this commission is passed on to the teenaged apprentice to serve as his final test towards his promotion to Journeyman rank. Little did Adair realize the man's true motives for this request.

As the map's new owner seeks out more mages to exploit in his quest for power, Adair feels a tug from his creation to follow. This pull leads him to a carnival where he meets a mysterious sword-dancer just coming into his own magic- and who Adair soon begins to suspect isn't what he appears. Much to his amusement and relief, Adair gains the help of this young dancer, his performance company, and a few other clandestine mages they meet along the way.

In order to free himself from what his creation has become and stop the harm its bearer is doing to an unwitting population, Adair must put aside his daydreaming to become the hero his unlikely muse is inspiring him to be.


I may edit this slightly, but it works until I actually write said story (because who knows what may change along the way?). I still have an outline to finish this week, but I'm definitely looking forward to November 1st!

Edit: And one of my friends awesomely tried her hand at my cover and I like this version much better. The brightness is much more the tone of the story than the darker version I had come up with. :)


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Another new character for NaNoWriMo '13

I still haven't come up with much more in the way of plot ideas for NaNoWriMo next month (*whistles* Here, plot plot plot...) but I have figured out who my other main character will be: Blythe Bladedancer. Blythe is a blade-mage (title subject to change when I think of something better than "blade-mage") and he can actually say that as a kid he ran away to join the circus; he has spent several years touring with a carnival in his quest for fame. The surname is accurate as he dances and spins the blades both as a performance and to work magic. Blythe looks something like an assassin or ninja, but that's just the dramatics of his stage persona.

...Or should I say "her persona". I really wish I'd been able to get that avatar to look more androgynous because Blythe has spent most of her life pretending to be male in order to be in the career that she's chosen. This story is taking place 150 or so years previous to my other writing; if her true gender had been known, it's unlikely that she could have become what she wanted to be- and trust me, she wants to be famous.

She'll end up teaming up with Adair on his quest, so he'll be one of the few who catches on to her real gender. Eventually, if she's away from the part of the world where she's working to establish herself, then I think she's going to spend time wearing something like this just for the novelty of being able to wear something else for a while:

I'm thinking that in this garb, she'd pick clothes that flow dramatically with her movements, whereas in her "boy" garb it's more form-fitting to better show off her skill by not causing a distraction. (This has nothing to do with the gender being the deciding factor, just that she wants to try something new. She could just as easily have a flowing cloak or robe or something as a male.) I can definitely see her getting a kick out of proving to men she meets on the road that, yes, she very much knows how to use those blades she carries. Messing with Blythe is probably not a good idea. No matter what she's wearing, though, her arms will be free of sleeves that would tangle in her weapons. The potion bottle isn't actually full of a potion: that's enchanted dye/paint. Since it's from Adair, who knows if it'll actually work or not, though. ;)

I'm going to be spending the next two weeks trying to sort out some idea of plot and personalities for her and Adair (and figure out if they need a third to help them on their quest). I'm not usually drawn towards sword-wielders, but I love the idea of Blythe. I mean, getting to say "One of my characters really did run off to join the circus!" is something that probably won't happen again!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Unlocking a new character for NaNoWriMo

"Another new character?" I hear you say. (Or at least I would hear that question if there were more than two people who read this blog. Since both of them know my writing plans, all I'm getting are some vague nods from their directions, lol.) I'm going to be taking a bit of a break from my year-long struggle with "In the Cards" (my epic mess) to write something else during NaNoWriMo this year and since I desperately need some time away from Seph (I love you, dude, but you're really getting on my nerves hard to write), I'm moving as far away as possible. Well, geographically speaking I'm staying in the same area for part of the story, but I'm moving back in time about 150 years.

There will be a few new characters (two? three? Who knows! NaNo is the time for crazy, anything goes chaos!) that go along with November's story, but in this case I'm just sharing the protagonist who I unlocked first (and made using this generator). Meet Adair Conroy:

If his name rings a bell and he looks a little familiar, there's a good reason for that: he's the ancestor of both Cyneric and Phillip. (Which is kind of funny because at the time of his story, he's all of about sixteen and the thought of descendents would make him flee in a panic. So shhhhh, no one tell him that he has great-great grandkids.) I'm still fumbling for the first glimmerings of plot and characterization, but he's an artist-mage tasked with facing the baddie who made an incredibly brief appearance in the prologue of The Acolyte's Map. That evil map? Yeah, you can put some of the blame on Adair, although he's claiming that he had no idea what he was doing. All he wanted was a patron to buy him some more paint and canvas. Honest! How was he to know how his drawings would be twisted?

This is pretty close to how I picture him- looking similar to his descendents, but garbed a little differently for a different time period. And splattered with paint and ink, of course. At his belt is a scrollcase where he keeps some of his precious paper and that isn't so much a sash that he's wearing as a bandolier; he stashes some of his art supplies into that, as well as his belt, to keep them near at hand. He does this not just because he's constantly sketching, but because they're keyed into his magic.

That's all the detail I'll go into right now, but I'm sure I'll ramble more as NaNo approaches, probably with even more parenthesis. And I realize that a lot of my avatars at the top of the page go to sparse bio pages. My goal between now and November is to at least finish the bios of the characters I already have.

...That and, ya know, figure out how an artist is able to stop a baddie from usurping a throne in a kingdom that's halfway across the world from his home. Technicalities, right? ;) I love the start of NaNo season! So many crazy ideas circling your head at once and none of them make any sense. Aaaahhh. *breathes in the smell of new pens, notebooks, and chaos*


Friday, September 20, 2013

Writing update and character art

I've still been working on "In the Cards", the novel I started for NaNoWriMo last November, but I've taken a bit of a break in order to fill out an awesomely detailed questionnaire for each of the characters in order to better understand them so I can finish the second half of my first draft. The questionnaire is awesomely detailed, but also incredibly time-consuming; they each end up being 14 pages long when finished! So far I've finished Raff and Seph, so I now know pretty much everything I could ever want to know about them- and far more than they would ever want anyone to know about themselves- and I've started working on Tavin and Piper. After those are done, I'll be answering it for Clover, Sprout, Beryl (she's my mystery character, so she'll be added to this blog later), and the main baddie (sheesh, he doesn't even have a name yet). I've got a surplus of characters in this story and these are only the main ones! Basically I got to the halfway point in the story where all the main characters meet up- and I realized I didn't know enough about half of them to easily move the story along. In order to get to the end, both them and I need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are because this will come up. The baddie and I aren't planning on playing nice, you know. ;)

So while I was working on figuring out their personalities and filling out answers for the questions (still trying to figure out Seph's "earliest memory", Tavin's "soft spot", and Piper's "darkest secret"- I told you these were detailed!) I realized that it would also help to know what the characters looked like. Here's one of the downsides of writing a blind protagonist: since he doesn't know what anyone looks like, I hadn't really thought of what their appearances would be. What they sounded like, their personalities, their magic, yes, but not their appearances. So when someone in my Facebook writing group (join us here if you're interested) linked to this character generator, this was exactly what I needed and I got to making avatars of a few of the characters I didn't yet have art for.

First up are Seph and Sprout. Seph's the protagonist, my blind Knight of Wands. He's my stoic (albeit somewhat snarky) healer-priest of Eros who ends up getting stuck with a fox as "help" for his quest and becomes (begrudgingly) the leader of this group of misfits. His avatar is pretty close to how I picture him, although a bit older than he should be for this; at the time of "In the Cards", he's in his early 20s. Sprout is only in this story briefly as her events mostly happen off-screen; she's Seph's teenaged apprentice and the enthusiastic but competent Page of Pentacles. (Since "In the Cards" centers around tarot, I'm continuing my tradition of calling characters by their card.)

Here are Piper and Clover. Piper is one of the main characters and my flighty and cheerful Knight of Swords. She's a priestess of Gale (the god of wind, sailors, and the sea), so when she's not caught in bird form, she has some control over the weather and she wields a mean harpoon. (She also has really awesome hair. I'm not quite sure how exactly she got blue hair dye in a medieval world, but somehow she did.) Clover, my halfling, is technically a main character, but as the prophetess she doesn't have a tarot card assigned to her. The way her magic works is that she can't prophecize for herself or influence her own future in any way, but she has a pretty good idea of what's going on with everyone else.

And last up are Tavin and Raff. Tavin's my large but gentle and pacifistic Knight of Pentacles. He's a young shaman who works with the elements, or at least three of the elements. There's a reason he always carries a bottle, jug, or bucket of water on him at all times. This isn't quite how I imagine him, but it was really difficult to make an avatar of a half-orc. Raff (my Knight of Cups) is in this story as a main character, too, but since he spends most of the time wearing Seph's uniform and those sleeves were a pain to figure out twice, I wasn't going to do it a third time. Instead I made an avatar of what he wears when he isn't in uniform (which I've cosplayed).

As you can see at the top of the blog, the new characters have their own avatar links now; I'll be writing up info for their bio pages over the next few weeks. (Kryro's an old character, but he'll get a bio at some point soon, too.) As well as working on the questionnaires and these avatars, I've also been putting together a timeline and a kind of diagram to chart out the characters and their plot. I may share those later. :)


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Calling in a Favor (Short Story)

July 23rd, 713CC
(Possible future)
Five years after the events in The Acolyte's Map and It's Not Easy Being Green, nineteen after In the Cards (in-progress story), and twenty four after Adventures of a Young Messenger.

"Cyn, there's someone looking for you. I brought him to your office, but I think he might be crazy."

The high priest rolled his eyes up at the sky in silent prayer asking for patience; not for the priestess delivering this news, a long-time friend whose judgment he trusted, but for the small disasters that kept piling up that day. "'Might be crazy'?" he repeated, already regretting what the answer would be.

The other Messenger shrugged her shoulders slightly. "He seems harmless enough. I wasn't sure what else to do with him; it seemed cruel to send him back to the street and he was rather insistent that it was you he had to speak to."

Curiosity was beginning to win over exasperation, but it was a close battle. "Very well, Liz, I will sort it out. I know you have other work to do, but can I ask you to help Ricky with fixing that mess?" he gestured to the empty fountain a few yards away where a slightly blue-tinted young acolyte was scrubbing. "I fear he may do something else foolish before the day is over."

The dark haired woman nodded and took the brush that Cyneric offered without comment, a reaction rare for her. Whatever the situation that awaited the high priest inside the Messenger's Mosque, it must be odd if cleaning sculptures in the heat of midday was a better alternative.

Brushing his hands on his red robe to dry them, he headed inside. At his door he momentarily pondered if he could pass whatever this was on to someone else, then had a flitting regret that he could no longer avoid interaction by hiding away in libraries. He had finally lost some of that shyness that had plagued him all of his life, but he feared he would never be particularly social- a trait incongruous with his affable and extroverted religious order and which was probably found amusing by their mischievous deity.

Once on the other side of the door, he immediately saw what the priestess had meant and why she had made reference to the street. A scruffy man lounged in one of the chairs as though he belonged there. He wore simple tattered clothes and a few equally shabby bags rested on the floor at his feet; Cyneric thought he could possibly be about his own age, although it was hard to tell through the bushy beard and disheveled dirty blond hair. When this person heard the sound of the door close, he turned towards the direction of the noise, but did not seem able to focus on the precise location. Cyneric could quickly tell what the reason was for this: the unkempt man was blind.

"May I help you?" the high priest asked. He was unnerved by the unseeing dark eyes that, despite his soft footsteps, somehow seemed to be able to follow his movement across the room with some level of success. Was this normal for someone who could not see?

"I'm seeking Cyneric Conroy. Are you he?" The man had an accent- if Cyneric had to wager a guess, it was that of one of the northern islands. His words were well-educated and self-assured, putting them at odds with his vagrant appearance.

The Messenger began to nod, then stopped when he realized this was likely a pointless action. "I am. May I ask the reason you were attempting to find me today?"

"I figured you would help me." This was a cryptic- and rather presuming- statement; the man's gall was impressive, if not somewhat irritating.

A thought was gnawing at the back of Cyneric's mind, however. Blind, a northern accent, presuming something in a way that seemed he felt he had a right to... suddenly it clicked. He knew exactly who this was, but surely he must be mistaken... "Zodóseph?" he asked incredulously.

Under the thick, light-colored beard, the corner of the man's mouth twitched up in a kind of good-natured smirk. "Got it in one. You always said you were smart."

Cyneric found himself having to lean against his desk while he tried to make sense of what was happening. Why was this priest so far from his home country of Zet- and looking very much out of uniform? Had Eros again sent Seph to this kingdom, decades after his previous assignment here? Considering how that one had played out, with his mate barely getting out of it alive, Cyneric felt his heart begin to race as he asked, "With what do you need help?"

That question seemed to make the other man lose what had appeared to be a permanent layer of confidence; his shoulders slumped and he fumbled nervously at the cuffs of his loose sleeves. Finally he gave a simple, flat response. "I left."

"When you say you 'left'-"

"I left. My order. Zet. Everything." It was clear that Seph was trying to keep emotion out of his voice, but not doing a particularly good job of it.

The high priest, meanwhile, remained in disbelief. "You cannot be serious!"

"I haven't told a lie in twenty years; of course I'm telling the truth." Seph sounded offended by the fact that Cyneric would think otherwise, but continued to explain despite his annoyance, "I couldn't stay in Zet- I just couldn't face that, not after resigning."

"I see." Actually, he didn't. Cyneric could not even begin to imagine turning in his amber and leaving his brethren behind. He would sooner give up a limb than renounce his Calling. Probably, anyway.

It seemed his comment didn't matter much, though, as the once-priest had fallen into something of a rant. "Everyone I knew began to treat me like a criminal, like I had done some terrible act by wanting to leave. Me! I'd done everything my god, my order, and my country ever asked of me and then some! I've healed hundreds, thousands over the years. I couldn't handle the constant pressure and expectations anymore and it was beginning to make my magic unreliable and, quite frankly, dangerous. I'm burned out, Cyn. All I'm asking is for a place to stay for a while."

Cyneric could feel a headache coming on and rubbed at his temples to try to stave it off. This was not what he needed on his plate today. On top of that fiasco with the young acolyte defacing the statue of Hermes by dyeing the water blue (he had never liked that fountain- or the sewers beneath- much and it had certainly seen worse over the years, but that kind of sacrilegious act could not be encouraged), this morning the Gate had once again malfunctioned and sent a dazed and soot-covered Messenger to Joven instead of Logging Town. Then another acolyte had been caught stealing, two ordained priests, who certainly should have known better, had gotten into a fight over an assignment both wanted, and now he was being asked to harbor the runaway of another deity. Was it just frazzled nerves from the summer's heat affecting everyone or had he angered a curse-bearing gypsy without realizing?

At least this situation was one he did not have to face alone. He returned to the door and upon opening it, spotted someone walking down the hall. Almost amazed that something had gone his way today, he told the boy "I need you to find Brother Rafion and send him up here as soon as possible. He should be in the courtyard."

After the young priest-in-training had bounded away with a ″Yes, sir!″, he turned to see that Seph had ceased scowling and, surprisingly, looked almost happy. "Raff's here, too?"

"I promoted him to weapons master a few months ago, so technically he is now here on permanent assignment. I thought I had mentioned that." Even if he hadn't, surely Raff would have- but the half-elf's handwriting did look something like a drunken, ink-covered spider had meandered across the page. Perhaps the person interpreting Seph's mail had thought it said "whimsical monkey", which would have also been an accurate term.

"I must have left before the letter got there." That answer made far more sense, although now Cyneric was stuck on the idea of training spiders as scribes and almost missed Seph's following question. "How does he like getting to beat people on a daily basis?"

"Too much. In hindsight, perhaps I should have made him the cook or the math instructor."

The disheveled man actually snorted. "I've tasted what he calls food and, if it's possible, his ability to count is even worse. Counting apples might make his head explode."

Cyneric was saved from having to defend the other Messenger- not that he could, as he was having a hard enough time trying not to laugh as he certainly agreed- by a knock at the door and the entrance of the one of which they spoke.

″What's this Liz says about a hobo?″ Leave it to Raff to enter a conversation so tactfully- and so obliviously. As he tried to get through the doorway without tripping over the medium-sized dog that pushed past his legs, he failed to notice that anyone besides Cyneric was in the room.

Raff carefully dropped the padded helm he had been holding in order to tie back his long hair and distractedly ordered, ″Jack, heel!″ The armor and padding he wore did little to hide his slight frame; although now in his forties, thanks to his elven heritage he still did not look much older than the group of young acolytes he had been instructing. This, coupled with his constant cheerful and somewhat flighty attitude, had caused the Messengers who had not known him well to shirk on those lessons. At first. They had soon realized that this youthful instructor took his duty- and his weapons- very seriously.

Not heeding the half-hearted command, the shaggy mutt dashed across the room to jump into Seph's lap and begin licking at the scruffy man's face. This surprised Cyneric, as the dog rarely strayed from Raff's side and even more rarely showed affection to strangers, having explained that he was ″the elf's protector and companion″. Considering that it had shown up just before Raff crossed paths with a dragon and a cursed artifact, Cyneric figured it ″spoke″ the truth. He had not bothered to explain to it that it was technically his job to be those things since getting into an argument with a dog would be a waste of time; besides, Raff could use all the help he could get to stay out of trouble.

What then surprised the high priest even more was that instead of pushing the dog off, Seph briefly hugged it close and began talking softly to it as though it would understand him. Cyneric knew that it could communicate with the Messengers any time it wished, much like his recently god-sent fox was able to, but how could Seph- who wasn't of their order- know that the dog was more than it seemed? And who the heck would snuggle a strange dog, anyway?

While Cyneric remained baffled by magical canines, Raff had finally noticed where his pet had ended up. ″Jack, heel″ he repeated, then added in a ″Blast it, get over here!″ when it continued to ignore him. At last it jumped down, but remained near Seph's feet as it began gnawing at its paw, as though daring Raff to try to order it around again. Cyneric had to hide a grin behind his hand when he saw the dumbfounded expression on his mate's face; Raff had never had an animal ignore him before.

Shaking his head, the half-elf began to apologize, ″I'm sorry about him. Jack's never done that before.″ He did not seem to realize who he spoke to, despite knowing Seph far better than Cyneric did. It must have been the beard.

Seph seemed to play along with the fact that his friend was clueless by paying no mind to the apology. ″Is he actually a dog acting like a dog? I think he's too shaggy to be another fox trying to trick me, but I wouldn't put that past you or a fox.″

Again that dumbfounded expression returned and Raff blinked in confusion several times before exclaiming, ″Saef?? Ye look like something the dog dragged in!″ Despite being fluent in the human tongue for now more than half of his life, the half-elf still retained some of the brogue that had come with the language he had originally spoken.

Oh yes, that elf is ever so tactful, Cyneric thought with a grimace, but quickly realized he had no reason to worry. Seph grinned his crooked smirk and remarked, ″So he is a dog. Thanks for not stringing me along this time.″

Raff hurried over to squeeze the man's hand in greeting; had he not been padded in layers of leather armor, he probably would have hugged him enthusiastically, which was his usual greeting towards almost anybody. No wonder people thought he was decades younger than his actual age. ″What're you doing here?″ he asked as he slunk down into the other chair next to Seph's. Even weighed down with armor, he moved like a cat.

″Who better for a down-on-his-luck delinquent to entreat for aid from a trying situation than the high priest of an accommodating religious order?″ was Seph's sarcastically wordy reply.

″He's here to call in a favor from someone who owes him greatly and has the authority to help,″ Cyneric clarified when the half-elf's eyes began to glaze over.

When Seph nodded, Raff looked from one human to the other appearing to still not follow what the two of them were talking about. ″You, Cyn? I don't understand. Wouldn't it be me who owes him? I mean, I was the one he saved from- ye know.″

After twenty years, Raff still did not feel comfortable talking about his time spent captured. If it hadn't been for Seph opening up communication through letters, knowing from experience as a healer from a war-ravaged country that in situations like this there was someone who would be both prying and concerned, Cyneric never would have entirely found out what had happened. That, too, he owed Seph for, although eventually they had begun corresponding because they had become friends of a sort. At particularly introspective times, Cyneric sometimes wondered if learning at sixteen that such evil existed in the world had in a way destroyed some of his innocence long before he would have come to learn this as an adventurer. Perhaps that had been part of the reason he was ever after prone to fits of paranoia and cynicism, although, despite his silence about the subject, Raff himself never seemed to be half as affected by what had happened to him.

″Follow that thought through, Greeneyes,″ the high priest prompted. There were days when the half-elf could have momentary flashes of surprisingly astute insight and then there were times where he could be as dense as a rock. Cyneric knew to be patient and wait until Raff caught up with the situation when it was one of his slower days.

After a moment more of thought, the elven priest replied with chagrin, ″Oh. Right. That should've been obvious. What do you need from Cyn, Saef?″

The once-priest began to fumble with his sleeves again, as though that was a nervous habit whenever he was uncomfortable. ″I'm looking for a place to stay for a while. I left my order.″

Raff's reaction was the same as Cyneric's had been. ″Ye did what?″

The dog began to whine softly. Seph reached down to scratch its ears, which seemed to calm both of them a bit. ″Like I was saying earlier, I got to the point where I felt smothered. I just couldn't handle the pressure anymore. Everyone was expecting too much from me, as though they thought I was some sort of miracle-bringer and not just a talented healer. My faith was slipping and it was making my ability to heal unreliable. Some days it was as strong as ever, some days it wouldn't work at all. I figured I should leave before it caused a huge problem.″

As if in awe of the wreck that was his friend's life, Raff tried to stammer out several questions at once. ″What? But- I don't... How- What did you do when the magic didn't work?″ was the one he finally settled on.

Seph nudged with his foot the small satchel that sat on the floor next to the dog. ″Salves, poultices, and herbs- and hope that one of my brothers or sisters was nearby if things got too bad.″

Now it was Cyneric's turn to give a more thought-out comment. ″What I do not understand is how you could leave when your skills were so needed.″

Seph's head snapped up when he heard that. Letting go of the dog in order to sit up with his back straight, he said defensively, ″I didn't leave them in the lurch, if that's what you mean. There are other healers just as strong as I was with far better faith; I was just the one that people knew about. Eros must have been okay with my decision because no calamity hit me on the way out.″

So at least the healer had not been his order's only hope and he had his god's approval, although probably not his blessing. Hopefully that meant that Cyneric would not be struck down himself by helping Seph. Silently he said a short prayer to Hermes hoping that his next words would not be a mistake. ″You helped out a Messenger when he needed it most; for that I will gladly give you what you ask. For helping this one in particular, I owe you far more than that. Raff, I'll need you to find him a spot to stay in the mosque until I think of a more permanent solution. Perhaps Hermes will have a suggestion.″

The half-elf nodded emphatically and while the relief on Seph's face was evident, he still seemed somewhat unsure. Had he really thought that he would be turned out or did he fear what the judgment of a god might be? Trying to reassure him, Cyneric told the healer gently, ″Do not worry, Seph. Gods willing, everything will be fine.″

Seph nodded but said no words of thanks as he followed the dog out of the room; for all that Cyneric had asked Raff to help the healer, it seemed as though the dog wanted to lead him instead. At the door he carefully stepped around the discarded helmet then said low under his breath to his guide, ″Yeah, I know how this works. Just lead and I'll follow.″

Raff noticed the lack of gratitude as well; a sheepish expression crossed his face once he was alone with the other Messenger. ″I think he's relieved. I know he doesn't like asking for help,″ he explained, then looked up at Cyneric with thankfulness in his bright green eyes. ″He's a bit of an arse, but this means a lot to me, Cyn.″

The high priest leaned down to kiss his mate's brown hair softly. ″I know, love. Trust that I will find a way to repay him.″

The half-elf grinned up at him, then bent to pick the bags up off the floor. Before he could follow Seph and the canine out, Cyneric stopped him. ″Hold on a second. Do you know why he is acting like he understands Jack? Does that seem odd to you?″

Raff shrugged as best as he could considering the burden of armor and Seph's possessions. ″Until a few months ago he had a fox that was like yours. I guess he's used to silently talking animals.″

In Raff's preoccupation with trying to carry the packs and retrieve his helmet on the way out, he didn't notice that Cyneric's jaw had dropped. How had a priest of Eros gotten a divine fox of Hermes, something only the Head Messengers received? And how could he talk with a sort of magical dog when he wasn't even a priest anymore? Cyneric fought the sudden pressing desire to go bang his head against the wall until the world began to make sense again and settled on walking over to the corner of the room where a small shrine was set up. He had the glimmering of an idea of what to do with Seph that had started when the healer mentioned in passing that he could still heal without magic- a very useful skill- but he definitely needed some divine guidance. Divine guidance and possibly some answers; his god had some explaining to do.

((After writing that silly list of things that might happen to my characters, I realized that I was on to something with three of them and this plot bunny was born. This may or not be what happens in five years, but I'm leaning towards this being pretty darn accurate. This ficlet references a few things from The Acolyte's Map but it's mainly pulling from "In the Cards", the novel I'm still working on. Someday I'll share what happened when Raff was taken prisoner and why Seph shares some abilities with the Messengers!))

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Speculating on the future...

While rambling to my writing partner in crime, I got to thinking about where my characters are going to be in ten years (their time). What I came up with was this list, which is maybe 20% accurate. ;)

Seph: Herbalist. The blind priest, finally sick of being the most powerful magic-wielding healer in his country and having no personal life, hobbies, or friends because of this, has renounced his calling to become a simple village healer far from home. Knowing someone who has a penchant for taking in strays- and who owes him a huge favor- he finds himself on the doorstep of:

Cyneric: High priest. Magical woopie cushion idea now completed, he's well on his way to making the first custard pie machine- having forgotten about the paperwork sitting on his desk for the past month. Oops. Has created a nonprofit (prophet?) organization to rehabilitate and find good homes for monsters of the humanoid persuasion (satisfaction not guaranteed). Tired of their only means of communication being letters and spotting an obvious opportunity that the other high priests have missed, has promoted:

Raff: Weapons Master. He's gleefully smacking around the acolytes who, thinking he's no older than they as he hasn't aged much in the past twenty years, incorrectly assume this goofy instructor doesn't take fighting seriously. Having run out of names for pet mice by this point, he has opted to instead have a giant tortoise for a pet. Immediately regrets this decision.

Kryro: Tribe leader. The scholarly centaur is still trying to figure out how, when, and why the heck he's now in charge; this must have been while he was off learning his tenth language. Working a losing battle on teaching his tribe to read and not throw the books at kobolds while all the while wishing he could get some help from his now-educated sister and former guard-partner:

Meren: Mage. Now possessing the title of "Lady Meren Woods-Ward", she has finally figured out how to keep intruders out of her forest without the place burning down around her large ears, but...

Phillip: ?. He is no longer going by his birth name and is currently on his eighth mage-name; switches them out every time his moral compass shifts from Good to Evil to Crazy and back again. Probably killed by said wood elf who got sick of him poking around said forest yet again- unless he married her instead. Still an Illusionist; happy about this. Still purple; annoyed by this. Possibly not so annoyed if now dead or married.

Piper: Top-ranked priestess. After much searching for a cure to break her curse, is finally back to two legs and no wings and has moved up in rank to now bear the esteemed surname of Windborne. On a life-long quest to prevent shipwrecks, travel the world, and get her orc to stop wearing that ridiculous hat. Her partner in crime is:

Tavin: Roving Shaman. Over his phobia of fire at long last, he remains quite happy to call the open sea his home. Next to the color of the water he looks a bit less green, so it's probably a good thing that he doesn't get seasick. He's still working on a way to hide his fangs, but since his main concern had been de-birding his girlfriend, he figures he now has time to sort that one out.

Clover: Also a "?". This halfling may or may not be A.)sane, B.)alive C.)good D.)evil E.)indifferent F.)conniving G.)picking the pockets of every sap she meets H.)following/looting/influencing/tricking any/some/all of the characters above.

This is silly, but now I'm itching to write some of this nonsense! ;)


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Halfway Human (Part 1 - Prologue)

As narrated by Raff Goldenstrings
May 8th, 695CC
Thirteen years prior to the events in The Acolyte's Map

The fox has instructed me that I'm t'tell this truthfully and completely, leaving out nothing this time. I feel silly speaking t'naught but the air- and my pet mouse and the bossy fox, I suppose- but Felix says that I needs must speak what's true t'atone for the false I told the healer earlier. I don't understand this. I've been taught t'bend the truth when I needta and I didn't speak false so much as leave bits out. Why are the words I use around Saef so important that I must be chastened so by his- our- animal guide? Maybe I shouldn't of- shouldn't have- even bothered telling Saef anything, but I'm not sure he was convinced I'm what I say I am. Okay, and I was also kind of hoping my story would get a smile out of him. He never smiles and I'm not entirely convinced that he knows how t'laugh. I wish I knew why he's always so grumpy and prickly. I mean, he wasn't the one captured...

But that's nothing t'do with what I've been instructed t'say. I must do as I'm bid, especially when it comes from a fox, and hope I finish before Saef returns; he already thinks me crazy for talking t'animals. I can only imagine what he'd do if he found me talking t'the sky! Most of what I said t'him was true. I am a priest of Hermes; two months ago I was ordained and given the title ″Prior″. (Maybe a bit longer than two months, now as I think on it; I was in the dark place so long, I don't rightly know today's date.) I know I don't seem old enough t'be more than an acolyte, but I truly am older'n I look. I'm twenty-two, 'though if I'm t'be honest, were I human it would perhaps be more like seventeen. The other Messengers were never really sure what age t'treat me, so it was assumed I was of age with the young acolytes I trained with.

'Tis somewhat strange for me t'be a Messenger, with my pointed ears and all, but we all do come from different walks of life. Farm boys, children of merchants and traders, young people who grew up knowing the woods as I did, even nobles; my mate's a nob, as is a lass who trained with us. Any can be picked for this order, so long as they have something that makes them fit. Generally that trait is mischief, but our skills and hobbies vary as much as our backgrounds do. All this is the truth, as is what I told Saef about my life 'fore entering the priesthood.

I was raised by my mother and grew up around her kin; they're trackers, rangers, and various woodsy sorts. My da would visit us, but he was never so good at spending time in the wilderness and my mum always says she isn't comfortable in cities. (I still don't know how that relationship ever worked... but now that I'm older and have a love, I guess I can personally attest that sometimes opposites do attract!) My father was always amused that I joined up with a human priesthood despite my upbringing which should have left me more elf than human. He never got t'see me ordained though; he passed a few years back. My mum's always refused t'tell me exactly what happened and she'd become distraught whenever I asked, so I stopped. Maybe someday she'll tell me, but I haven't the heart t'upset her. This, too, is all truth.

Where it got a bit hazy was when I started goin' deeper with my tale of how I came t'be a Messenger. At the fox's request, I'll try t'speak clearer and tone down my accent so I'm more understandable. Felix, ye know no one's listening, aye? ... You know no one is listening, correct? Better? You are worse than the priest who instructed us in languages, ye know- I'm amazed that dealing with me didn't make him hand in his robes and run off t'be a hermit, far away from stubborn and thickheaded elves.

((This narration takes place during "In the Cards" [my current novel that's also currently a messy rough draft], shortly after he meets Seph [whose name he can't pronounce yet], and is introducing a short story about Raff's past. I'll be posting the next part soon!))

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Art to keep my plethora of spells organized

There are some perks that come with being married to your group's Dungeon Master. In this case, well-timed puppy eyes while in the gaming store resulted in the 2nd edition "Deck of Priest Spells" being added to said DM's D&D collection. (How could he turn down his favorite cleric, hmm?)

These have all the D&D priest spells, plus cards for writing your own (I need those since that's exactly what I've been doing) and a few other handy cheat-sheet cards. I had been keeping track of my spells using a small notebook, but it was rather disorganized and I only write spells in as notes, not full descriptions. That meant the DM had to constantly flip through the handbooks to figure out what exactly would happen when I'd want to cast a spell- and this tended to waste time. Since I play a priest with little in the way of combat abilities and no magical healing ability, the trade off is lots and lots of spells. (I just counted how many Cyneric can use and ended up just shy of 125... sheesh, why does he always use the same dozen or so?)

Anyway, now all that time spent flipping through pages to find a specific spell is a thing of the past! I'm looking forward to the next game where I can pick the spell I want from the index of my spellbook (yup, I made a color-coded index), shuffle through my alphabetically arranged deck of cards, then pass the one I want to use over to the DM without any interruption to the game. Yay, organization!

The only downside? I didn't want to carry that entire box of cards and instead only tote around the cards I could use. This meant it was time to sew a pouch to keep them in, of course! I wanted to make this special, though, so it would look like something Cyneric would carry. I found some fabric in my craft supply stash in nearly the color of his robes and embroidered feathers onto it before turning it into a bag. (I picked feathers because they're part of his holy symbol.)

Here's the finished product:


Sunday, January 6, 2013

New D&D Chaos and Charm Spells

My husband (the wonderful and talented Dungeon Master) and I finally had a chance to finish some priest spells that I (and a few helpful friends) had been working on for ... geez, a few years at this point. My priest follows Hermes, that world's god of Messages and Mischief, so I've always been kind of irked that very few of the spells in the 2nd edition Player's Handbook actually fit his priesthood- he doesn't heal or fight or do anything particularly "useful"; instead he tends to function as a delivery boy with a side of druid and a bit of bard/rogue thrown in for good measure. A few of the animal spells work for the "Message" side (since animals can carry messages or give information), and the priests of Hermes do specialize in Charm magic (mind control? You betcha!), but otherwise there really wasn't much that fit the "Mischief" side of his duties. Not all priesthoods are boring, despite what you might think from reading through the yawn-inducing selection of priest spells.

So I decided to get creative. My goal was to create an entirely new sphere (a sphere is a branch of spells that all fit a theme) and call it Mischief, but one of the DMs on my DM's forum pointed out that in one of the extra D&D books there's a sphere called Chaos. Now THAT is what I'd been looking for! (This book also contained a sphere called Thought; this fills in the gaps for the "Message" side of my priest's order by giving him Telepathy and communication magic.) Now the new spells that I had been creating had a category!

So far we've come up with four new ones; three of which fit into the Chaos sphere and one that's a new, more general Charm spell.

Transmuting Tincture - Level 1
-Sphere: Chaos
-Range: 0
-Components: Material, Somatic
-Duration: 6 hours
-Casting Time: 1 round
-Area of Effect: caster
-Saving Throw: None

This spell enables the priest to change his or her appearance slightly, altering hair color, eye color, skin tone, or any combination of the three for the duration of the spell. Nothing else is changed other than coloration and it cannot be dispelled; it must wear off on its own.

When this spell is in effect, it stacks with a Disguise proficiency (required of this priesthood), improving that by 3. Since this spell cannot voluntarily be removed, if the priest should need to look like himself in that time frame, a Disguise check would have to be made. There is no saving throw for the spell itself, but if used with a disguise, then a roll must be made.

The somatic and material components of this spell are combined; the priest must draw a fake mustache on his finger in charcoal and bring it to his lip. Once the spell goes into effect, the charcoal drawing is erased.


Snakes in the Backpack - Level 1
Sphere: Animal, Chaos, Summoning
Range: 30 yards
Components: Verbal, Material, Somatic
Duration: Special
Casting time: 1 round
Area of effect: 1 closeable object
Saving throw: None

The version of the spell depends on the words spoken by the priest at the time the spell is cast and the material used. The number of snakes and kind depend on level and/or alignment. The target for the spell is any type of closeable container (backpack, chest, basket with lid, etc).

If fake snakes are selected, for every 2 levels of the priest, 1d4 springy fake snakes leap out of the pouch, backpack or closeable container; these vanish after 1 round. If the priest chooses real snakes, this summons the same number of snakes of a chosen variety. These also pop out of the bag and have a chance of attacking the target (depending on the species of the snake summoned) before slithering away.

Summoning venomous snakes should be carefully considered by good-aligned priests. The snakes, live or fake, remain inert and immobile until the container is actually opened, at which point the real snakes spring to life.

For the real snakes option, the material component is a piece of snakeskin (of the type of snake being summoned) coiled up while casting the spell. For the fake snakes, a coiled spring is the material needed. These are expended when the spell is cast.


Bogey Bombardier - Level 2
-Sphere: Plant, Chaos
-Range: 40ft
-Components: Material, Somatic
-Duration: 3d4 rounds
-Casting Time: 4
-Area of Effect: 1 creature/level
-Saving Throw: Negate

When this spell goes off, the priest is able to effect a number of creatures equal to his level. Creatures affected are entitled to a saving throw vs Spell; if they fail, they are coated in a sticky ooze that lasts for 3d4 rounds. This ooze slows them down, adding 5 to their initiative in battle. This also causes the creatures to become adhesive and any item in their hands at the time of the spell cannot be dropped for the duration. Once the spell expires, the ooze vanishes. (The ooze is like tree sap in composition.)

The material component for this spell is a red rubber nose that the priest puts on and honks once. This is not expended by use.


Aura Mask - Level 3
-Sphere: Charm
-Range: touch
-Components: M, V, S
-Duration: 1 day/level
-Casting Time: 1 round
-Area of Effect: 1 cubic foot/level
-saving throw: Neg.

Unlike a somewhat similar wizard version of this spell, this one doesn't change the aura of an object, but instead influences the mind of the person focusing on the item. When a detection spell is cast, the Charm spell on the object causes the spellcaster testing it to believe the object is unmagical. Any person attempting to use magical means to determine if the object is magical must save vs Spell; success negates the spell's effect on that individual and they see the object as being the magical thing that it is.

The material component is a piece of wool passed over the object; this is expended when the spell is cast.


I'll be working on more spells in the future; it's a lot of fun having ones that are actually relevant to this priesthood!


Friday, January 4, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green (Short Story- Part 1 of ?)

((In our D&D game there's a three month gap where the characters are all off doing different things on their own before meeting up again to adventure. In Cyn's case, one of the things he's been doing is spell research. Here's the first part of a short story that I may finish someday; this takes place in the "now" of my writing world, shortly after The Acolyte's Map and very, very long after In the Cards [that mess of a story that I'll finish some day!]))

August 17th, 708CC

Cyneric sat in a soft, overstuffed old chair in the common room of the Messenger's Mosque in Woodland city, his attention fixed on the worn leather-bound book that rested on his knees. Despite the summer's heat that was scarcely allayed by the open window at his back, he had the hood of his carnelian-colored robe pulled tightly over his head. Whenever he turned a page, he would hastily rehide his hands in the loose sleeves, as though caught by a chill- or else trying to keep them out of sight.

He was so engrossed in trying to decipher the faded words of a long-ago scribe that he failed to notice when someone approached. It wasn't until the voice had said his name for a third time that he jumped, nearly knocking the book off his lap. He managed to catch this just before it hit the floor, but his page had been lost; he muttered a quiet curse under his breath. The book safe, he raised his head, moving slowly to keep his face hidden in the shadow of his hood. He had gotten quite tired of the curious stares his colleagues had given him all afternoon and had decided that feeling nearly suffocated by the heavy fabric was a better option.

When he saw the dark haired woman standing before him, a look of amusement on her face, he realized how immersed in his reading and thoughts he had been; he should have been able to recognize that voice! He rose and placed his book carefully on the seat cushion before catching the woman in a brief embrace.

″About time you noticed me, Cyn,″ she said as she hugged him back, ″I was afraid I'd have to send a herd of cattle into the room to get your attention.″ Her brown eyes showed the mischievous gleam that he knew so well. It had been a few months since their paths had last crossed, but she had been one of his closest friends for a very long time.

As he took her hand to pull her over to the row of chairs, he replied, ″I rather doubt that you could fit them through the door or squeeze them past the mail room. I cannot see that Armand would appreciate you damaging his mosque. That's what the acolytes are for.″

The woman laughed and agreed as she took the chair to his right. Liz was a few years older than he and, as another Messenger of the same rank, she was garbed in a red robe identical to his own- other than her hood worn down showing her dark brown hair in its usual long braid.

″When did you return?″ Cyneric asked, wondering if she had actually been here for days and he had been too preoccupied to notice. He supposed it would not be the first time for that; he tended to have a one track mind when it came to research or studying.

″Last night. I would have interrupted you sooner, but you were holed up behind a locked door and I was warned that going in there was probably a bad idea.″ She raised a questioning eyebrow and added, ″I was going to ignore that warning, of course, but then I remembered some of the projects you'd mentioned that you wanted to work on. Instead of knocking, I contemplated fleeing the city. Should I have run?″

″Of course not. You would have been perfectly safe in the work room. Well, probably. Most likely, anyway.″ Cyneric admitted, fidgeting with the inside cuff of his sleeves. ″Safe″ would have been correct, but quite possibly she would have left the room different than she had entered it. Not harmed in any way, but decidedly different.

Liz covered her eyes with her hand as though her friend was giving her a headache and let out a theatrical sigh. ″Cyn, what did you do now? Does this by any chance have to do with the fact that you're hiding?″

″Possibly. I could just be- hey!″ What he had been about to lie about was interrupted when she reached over to pull his hood back. She gaped for a moment, much as the few other clerics of Hermes had done earlier that day, then broke into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.

Cyneric glared through eyes that were currently an odd shade of bright green, then reached with hands that had a definite yellow tinge to pull his hood back over his long hair. Hair that had once been midnight black but which now matched the lime shade of his eyes. The glare he shot was mostly just for show, however; as a priest of a mischief god, he and his friends had gotten into worse predicaments than this, although rarely ones that were so colorful. In a haughty tone of voice, he remarked, ″Green hair is all the rage in Rinos, I'll have you know. Not wanting to clash, I decided the rest of me should match.″

Gasping for breath and wiping tears from her eyes, Liz commented, ″Then remind me not to take any assignments for the capital city. I look terrible in green.″

Unable to keep a straight face any longer, Cyneric, too, fell into a fit of laughter. Perhaps if this was a permanent problem it would be cause for a serious reaction, but he knew- or at least hoped!- that it would wear off by the end of the day. When the two of them finally got themselves under control, Liz posed the question, ″What the heck were you actually trying to do? You look like you angered a colorblind wizard. It's very festive color on you, by the way, with your robe and all.″

″At least I got 'festive' out of this, so that's something.″ He shrugged sheepishly as he explained, ″I was trying for a spell that would aid disguises and undercover assignments.″

His friend stared at him, disbelief evident on her face. ″As what? A dryad? A holly bush? Are you sure you're not colorblind? What color's that wall over there?″

″White. They are all white, which wouldn't prove your theory,″ Cyneric pointed out. ″I would have thought it was obvious; the spell I was using backfired.″

Now a raised eyebrow was added to Liz's disbelieving expression. Cyneric had a feeling that he knew what she was thinking; he had wondered the same thing when he had caught sight of himself in a mirror. Sure enough, her next comment echoed what he had thought earlier that day. ″I thought divine spells fizzled out of existence when they didn't work. Since when do they backfire?″

″Since now, apparently.″ He tugged his sleeves back over his hands, which had come free again, then gave another shrug. He would certainly be glad when- and hopefully not if- this wore off! ″My hypothesis is that I'm experiencing spell backfire because I am not attempting to learn existing spells, which is what normally results in spells 'fizzling'. I'm trying to create them largely from scratch and the results have been somewhat... well, unexpected.″

″Or maybe Hermes just has a sense of humor,″ Liz pointed out. That was something that hadn't occurred to Cyneric, but it did seem likely, now that she mentioned it... ″And you said 'spells' with an 's'. What other mess have you been working on?"

Cyneric gave her his best vulpine grin, just visible under the hood of his robe, and asked, ″Would you like to be the first to learn magic worthy of our order? I guarantee it will be worth a slightly green hue.″

Without hesitation, just as he thought she might react, she mirrored his smile. ″Count me in.″

Already plotting about how the research might be faster and more accurate with two mischievous priests working on it, he gave Liz her first task. ″Great! Please dig me up some guinea pigs- I mean volunteers- and meet me back here in three hours.″

The woman gave a mock-salute and bounded off.