Monday, May 22, 2017

In The End There Was Light

There was noise and light.
Thunderous. Confusing.
Then gentle silence.

A hand lifted you
out of your bloody body,
out of this poor world.

You wept for your friend,
your family, all those things
which would not happen.

The world wept with you,
even as you drifted away,
and your tears soon stopped.

The world turns to light,
your fears and tears fade away,
and you are at peace.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Alinshrae

Ah! Alinshrae! ‘The Land of Shadows.’ A knife-like region running along the western borders of Alindor, Alindema and Hylondek. Rising above Alinshrae are the mountains known commonly as the Goblinteats. Between the mountains, the dense forest canopies and the almost perpetual cloud cover affecting the region, Alinshrae is well named. Sunny days are rare in Alinshrae, which is just fine with the residents.
Alinshrae has always been an independent region. Even when the Kings of the South ruled from Goldcastle, Alinshrae never fell under the power of the Phoenix Throne. The woodlands were flooded with fayblood creatures, there were hags and giants in the mountains and far too many goblins to ever accurately count. And as frightening as these creatures were, standing head and shoulders above them all was the ruler of Alinshrae, the Nightshade Queen.

Artists Interpretation of the Nightshade Queen 

Rumors abound about the Nightshade Queen. Some say she’s an immortal sorceress of vast power, who survived the Dissolution of Vorfel and found sanctuary in Nur. Others say that she’s one of the archfey, exiled from both the Summer and Winter Courts for her excesses. No one knows for sure and Her Majesty isn’t inclined to answer questions regarding her origins.
Everyone who has seen her, however, agrees that she is breathtakingly beautiful. Described as having chalk-white skin, ruby red lips, hair like ebony and eyes like dark green glass, more than one admirer has lost his heart and his sanity for love of the queen.  Infamy and glamor cling to the Nightshade Queen the way flower sticks to a baker’s fingers.
They say she was there when King Rochard, the last King of the South, was struck down by his bastard half-brother, Athen Blackmantle, at the Battle of Gray Hill.  They say she flung the poison dart that killed Blackmantle and ended the Phoenix Kingdom. That was four hundred years ago. Her reputation has only grown.
Is it any wonder that her neighbors regard Alinshrae and its queen with a wary gaze. Most of the other nations gave up trying to annex parts of Alinshrae centuries ago. The only one that has persisted has been Alindema, so that a bitter enmity exists between the two countries. Or, at least, it exists on the part of Alindema and its High Magisters.
Although Alinshrae has little contact with the outside world, there is some trade across the borders. And the Nightshade Queen has been known to extend invitations to scholars, sages and entertainers to visit her court. 
When the Draconic Empire turned its legions toward the south, there was some concern over how Alinshrae would react. However, when a company of Draconic soldiers marched into Alinshrae, they vanished and have not been seen since.  Intelligence acquired from the Draconic Legions suggest that their armies were ordered to avoid Alinshrae after similar disappearances began to undermine morale.
Today, Alinshrae remains complete unto itself. In the aftermath of the war, Alindema has repositioned its troops along the border they share with the Land of Shadows, but whether this is a precursor to an attack or saber-rattling on their part remains unknown. If Alindema were to attack Alinshrae, it is doubtful they would find allies among their neighbors. Indeed, certain factions in Hylondek might actually ally with the Nightshade Queen to further their own goals.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comic Recs for 5/17/2017

Astro City #44
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Kurt Busiek's Astro City.  Part of its appeal is the fact that is an uncomplicated universe, not bogged down by longwinded stories that have no longterm effects. Another reason is that even after twentysomething years, Astro City still manages to charm and surprise. This issue is a perfect example of that. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Mirror Broken #1
Okay, who doesn't love an Evil Universe? Star Trek set up the premise for the Mirror Universe, where the good guys are bad and the bad guys good, way back in the original series.  We saw more of it, strangely enough, during Deep Space 9's run, but we've never really gotten a look at the setting using the Next Generation cast.  So, ST: TNG Broken Mirror is an interesting little book. The story pulls you in pretty quickly and the art is surprisingly lovely.  Also, there is humor in this book, which surprised me. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Re Lux Tenebris

I just realized that with the writeup of Countess Leona Tierce I have written one hundred pages of background data for the Lux Tenebris campaign world.
How did that happen?
Lux Tenebris started as a one-off, a riff off of Critical Role's Vox Machina. Somehow, it grew into something bigger and stranger.
I don't know. You be the judge.
I'm just shocked it's gotten this big!

Lux Tenebris: Countess Leona Tierce

COUNTESS LEONA TRIECE, L8 Noble Human Mastermind

STR     14 (+2)
DEX    16 (+3)
CON   14 (+2)
INT     20 (+5)
WIS     15 (+2)
CHA   16 (+3)
HP       59
AC      14 (Leather armor)

Languages: Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Halfling, Sylvan, Thieves’ Cant,

Proficiencies: +3
Armor: Light
Weapons: Simple, Hand x-bows, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords
Tools: Cards, Chess, Thieves’ tools, Disguise kit, Forgery kit
Saves: Dexterity +6, Intelligence +8
Skills: Deception +9, History +11, Insight +7, Intimidation +6, Investigation +8, Persuasion +9

Position of Privilege
* * *
Sneak Attack
Cunning Action
Roguish Archetype: Mastermind
- Master of Intrigue
- Master of Tactics
Uncanny Dodge

Rapier. Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d6 +3 slashing. Finesse.
Shortsword. Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d6 +3 piercing. Finesse, Light.
Daggers (2). Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d4 +3 piercing. Ranged, 20/60. Finesse, Light, Thrown.
Leather armor. Light armor. AC 11 + Dex Mod.
An explorer’s pack, thieves tools, a set of fine clothes, a scroll of pedigree, a signet ring and a purse with 25 gp.

Countess Leona Tierce has not had an easy life. The youngest of four children, her father was killed during the Crucible Regime. Her mother went mad and her idiot brothers got themselves killed in the most appalling manners possible, leaving Leona with the title and the obligation to recover Hylondek. It’s not a responsibility that she ever wanted, but it turns out that Leona is quite good at ruling. She’s created a stable region within the country, and has established a network of spies and assassins that she uses with care and precision. Although she has her own personal guard, the countess has also employed reputable mercenary companies to protect and expand her interests.
There are rumors the countess has extended feelers to the neighboring countries, to Alindema and Alindrast and even sent an emissary to Alinshrae, looking to forge alliances. She doesn’t bother reaching out to any of the petty warlords who have torn Hylondek apart, she knows they can’t be trusted.  It is said that the countess has even met with agents of the Veils and the Black Glove, drawing them into the byzantine politics of the region.
Her detractors claim that Tierce has met, clandestinely, with ambassadors from the Draconic Empire, that she would ally with them in exchange for their military support. Whether this is true or not remains unclear.
More alarming to many are the whispers that the Countess Tierce has sought an alliance with Alinshrae’s Nightshade Queen. Although this could be a ploy, to draw the High Magister of Alindema into her camp, any sort of diplomacy with Alinshrae is frought with danger.
Of course, most of these stories are just rumors. There’s no proof to any of them. However, if even one of them was true, it could tilt the balance of power throughout the Southern Palatines. Which, in the end, may be just what the countess is after.