The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction


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Mines Malingerer

Posts: 44

Joined: Friday, 27th January 2012, 21:50

Post Saturday, 27th July 2013, 13:51

The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

[UPDATE]
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9895445/1/ ... is-Justice

I put it on fanfiction.net because I've been doing a lot of re-reads to try and deal with all of the Chekov cluster-bomblets I've left littered all over the story, and gave it a badass new title ('And Strife is Justice') in the tradition of fantasy falutin, but it's only mostly up-to-date. Basically, I'll put stuff up here first, then once it's been chewed on and I've polished it a bit, I'll put it there. Not that anybody except me is reading this shit anyway.
-----------------------------------------------

Hey guys, this is the story of the misadventures of Jan Havelock - this is about my third attempt at a dungeon crawl fanfic, and there are a few caveats I've had to make to make it work:
-It's not in the dungeon. Rather, it is in the more general world of the dungeon, but advanced by around 100 years. Reading endless scenes of the main character being beaten by hobgoblins is not fun.
-So far, it's very low magic. My style aspiration is Joe Abercombie, so I'm shying away from really high falutin stuff for now.
-At the moment, DCSS is basically 'under the hood', so demons, gods, magic and so on are there - but more like how your heart is present in your chest, as opposed to your eyebrows on your face.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you guys think.

VILLACH


A ragged line of refugees made their way along the track that wound along the eastern border of the valley. On their right, there stood steep slopes of scree, and gigantic granite faces, upon which grew scrags of heather, and wind-bitten trees. On their left, the valley was bare, close cropped by the horses of passing armies, without the meanest scrap of fire-wood. At its bottom ran a brook, cheerfully making its way towards the Middle sea.

They had bound the remnants of their shoes together with bandages, and the grey mud of the track crawled up their bare calves, undrying in the light rain that had been a constant, for several days.

Too-wide eyes, cast with the messianism of hunger, sat in leathery faces. These had been walking for some time, perhaps from the coast.

Leaning against a neglected drystone wall sat a bald man in a dappled grey poncho. He regarded the procession as it wound towards him, with eyes at once sorrowful and hungry. Perhaps, in a less hungry time, he would have liked to consider himself an altruist. As it stood, he had nothing to give but bad news, and the clothes on his back 0 which were in any case so hard-worn that no matter how he tried to wash them, he was unable to remove the smell. Not that he had access to any soap.

He shouted a few greetings, trying a couple of languages he half-knew his way around. One of the refugees - a man who, by the set of his too-visible bones, might have been powerfully built once, stepped warily forward to greet him.

"George Sound," said the big man, leaning forward to take his hand.

"Jan Havelock", said the bald man, standing up unsteadilly from his rock, "Northwards, or southwards?"

"Northwards. I heard it's safer in the North. And you?"

"Southwards. I hope to find a man called Kolhass - you haven't, by any chance, met a man of that name?."

"No," said the big man, after a moment's deliberation. "He live in Villach?"

"I'm told so. That's what my employers have on record."

"Your employers?" asked the man, warily.

"Nothing with cloaks or daggers - I'm employed by a bank."

The man sniffed. "Banks do much business in this part of the land?"

"Masses - although," Jan paused for a second, "I didn't expect it to look like this, knowing the kind of money that's been funnelled in."

"Money? Funnelled? There's not enough coins in this valley to fill a fist, let alone a funnel."

"Yes - as I say, it's not quite like I imagined it."

A man broke off from the blankly staring huddle that had formed behind the once-big man, and whispered in his ear. The man barked something unintelligible in reply.

They said their goodbyes, and Jan watched the ragged column tramp northward, before picking up his rough-cut walking stick, and heading south in turn.

That night, he slept in the roofless shell of a cottage that sat next to the brook, its walls blackened by fire.

In the early hours of the morning, he heard a column of horses galloping by, their riders letting out harsh yells. Thankfully, they didn't investigate the burned-out farmhouse.

He eat a breakfast of fresh water from the brook, and dirty, sweaty bread that he had kept in his shirt, then began the walk to Villach.

It was, he considered, something of a gamble. In the last thirty years, the hungry bands that walked this narrow pass had first stripped it of its sheep, its goats, and its farmers. Then, of its deer, its hares, and its grouse. Then, of all but the slowest wolves, crows, and buzzards.

This valley had witnessed two scourings - first, from the great glacier that carved it from whatever andeluvian plateau that had preceeded it, second by the million hungry stomachs of desperate men.

There was no forage, only wolves and crows, and the meanest scraps of firewood to warn them off in the freezing nights.

As he neared Villach, he saw a farmer ploughing white bones into his field, casting the odd glance to check the cut of the blade, and the straightness of the furrow.

He entered the town through a gap in the earth-and-stone pallisade, passing a grey-faced guard, deep in his pots. It was still the early hours of the morning, and the sun caught the snow-capped mountains with an acrid brilliance. The guard raised a battered eyelid to regard him, before slumping back over his drink.

The town itself was bisected by a straight cobbled road, wrinkled by cart-ruts that doubled as sewers for the houses on either side. Jan was very glad it was not the season for cholera.

Hard-faced old stood watching the street, or weaving baskets, as gangs of hard-faced young played with stones in the mud.

The buildings, built with thick drystone walls, more like fortresses than houses, looked uncared for. More than a few were empty, or looked like they had become the billets of gangs of soldiers from the north, who sat lounging on doorsteps, playing dice to while away the morning hours.

He found the town's only bar, a dusty-looking place, scattered with a few soldiers, slumped over the wooden benches, snoring. The keep looked irritated by his uninvited borders, but unwilling to throw them out, as he swept the table around their tasseled coats, spotted with wine-stains.

"Good morning," said Jan, with what he hoped was a touch of bonhomie.

The man stared at him. Jan was suddenly acutely conscious of what he was wearing - the grease-stained grey poncho, the baggy knee-length britches, the rag-bound feet.

"I'm looking for a man named Kolhass - Benjamin Kolhass - he's an associate of my employer."

The keep looked Jan up and down, then asked, "you're employed?"

"By Purves & Grimes - I can't really go into the business in question - I just need to find Mr. Kolhass."

The barman spat messily on the floorboards.

"He used to live on Viaduc Strasse," he paused, evidently considering whether to give further information, "in the big black house. You can't miss it."

Jan thanked him, then headed the way the surly barman gestured, stepping awkwardly out of the way of two men drunkenly wrestling over a dead rabbit, which was stretching in a disturbingly plastic manner between their red, hairy hands.

The town had picked up pace, and the street was populated by the haggard faces of shambling men and women, looking with bleary eyes at the weak sunshine.

The house was as the barkeep described. However, it was not black due to the colour of the stone, or painted, but rather black due to the fact that it had -at some point perhaps recently- been burned down, then refitted with a roof and shutters without the occupants bothering to clean or whitewash the soot-stained stone.

The fire had obviously burned with a violence Jan found difficult to explain, given the paucity of fuel, and the sullen, wet climate. Over the windows, stone had melted into glassy curlicues and stalagmites, running like dripping wax, giving the house an odd, sagging appearance.

The door was clad out of a sheet of lead, with a single rectangular plate of steel set in the center. Jan could see neither doorhandle nor keyhole. He knocked on the steel rectangle, not wanting to dust his hands with lead, and was suprised at how loud the knocks sounded.

He thought, not for the first time, that his superiors had probably sent him out here to get rid of him.

"Go beg somewhere else, you stupid fuck," came the low, gravelly voice from a doorman whose mottled pink face looked like it had been used as a chopping block.

The door was slammed in his face. He paused for a second, the thought crossed his mind for the third time that day that he should give up, then he remembered that he was a thousand miles from home, and that his job was the single characteristic that distinguished him from his beggar's rags.

He banged on the door again. It was thrown open with extraordinary violence, and the block-faced man barrelled out into the street. He grabbed Jan by the neck, and lifted him a foot off the ground.

"Are you fucking deaf?" he said, raising a disturbingly knobbled fist.

"I'm looking for Mr. Kolhass," said Jan, marvelling at the calm manner in which the words exited his mouth. He had an odd tendency to feel the fear after the frightening event, rather than during.

The man paused, apparently confused by the direction the conversation was taking.

"Mr Kolhass? On what business?" he said, lapsing into an oddly professional diction, still holding Jan in the air by his greasy shirt-front.

"Augur. For Purves & Grimes, his creditors."

The man set him down, before vanishing back inside.

He came out two minutes later with his butcher's-block face moulded into an insincere look of apology, and shrugged his shoulders as he ushered Jan in.

The door opened into a square guard-room, with four meaty looking men playing dice on a table, and a fifth reading a paperback. One wall held a rack of what Jan could only assume to be weapons.

Proceeding out of the room was a wood-panelled hallway, clad in polished and stained pine, giving it the look of walnut. It was a well done job, but the softwood showed the scuffs and marks of use.

Jan racked his brains to remember if anything in the specifics of Mr Kolhass' venture included the need for such heavy security - he was, after all, to Jan's knowledge, something between a realtor and a speculator. Both, professions Jan associated with boring, paunchy middle-aged men, or boring, slick-haired young men, not block-faced, thickset men with scars.

He was guided into a room which was piled almost to the ceiling with bundles of paper, and a harried looking man sitting at a desk, wearing thick glasses.

"Mr Kolhass?" asked Jan. His thickneck guide grunted a laugh.

"His accountant, only," said the man, in a frightened sounding tone.

"Mr Kolhass is through here", said his guide, taking his elbow and guiding him effortlessly through a small door, bordered on one side by another teetering stack of what he assumed were Mr Kolhass's books.

The next room he entered was something of a hall. It was lit by a single window of what looked like red-painted glass, which gave the entire room a hellish feel. Augmenting this dim light were gas lanterns, hanging from the carcassing of the roof on long wires.

Behind the desk sat Mr. Kolhass. He was another very big man, with very sharp eyes of a striking grey. The man regarded Jan cooly, like a wolf observing a small child.

"Jan - the augur. Please have a drink," he gestured to the small collection of bottles, set on a table to the right. He did not rise.

Jan fumbled with the whiskey decanter, feeling those cold grey eyes boring into his back. He avoided spilling or dropping the bottle just barely.

He returned to stand, awkwardly, in front of the desk, before the big man who had shown him to the room set a chair down for him.

"I understand you've been sent by Purves & Grimes to prepare a report for the lending comittee."

Jan racked his brains, trying to remember the correct jargon for this kind of conversation. For three months he had spoken of nothing but pleas and bread and shelter.

"Yes - I have a checklist if you," Mr Kolhass raised his eyebrows, and Jan reached into his shirt to pull out a greasy piece of paper, "would like to fill it out."

Mr Kolhass put it to one side.

"My uh," Jan paused, "My colleagues and I thought it would be advisable to have a, uh, man on the ground. Eyes on the job, hands on, cliff face," he trailed off, seeing the look on Mr. Kolhass' face.

"Since the slump, the senate has been leaning on us to get a better idea of - well, the business models of our debtors, for one thing. I understand you're a" Jan rustled through his shirt for another piece of paper "Realtor, with a seperate loan regarding a freight business?"

"I secured the purchase of that slope, there," pointed Mr. Kolhass, at a barren slope marked with the stubs of trees. "For development."

He paused. "It was a good commission."

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Property prices are soaring here. Everybody wants a piece of the gateway to a new frontier." He gesticulated with a gleam in his eye that could have been humour.

"But nobody usually makes the trek out. I hear the road is somewhat difficult." He smiled, with lots of teeth.

"They buy, through post, and I send the descriptions out, then they sell, through post, to others in the Capitol." He scratched his chin. "Sometimes I wonder if it's about Villach at all."

Jan felt a kind of giddy sickness at the void between the amount of money he knew was invested in this region, and the barren soil that shone red through the glass. Fortunes had been made and broken over these hills without a blade of grass being stirred.

"And, as you might imagine, this makes your arrival a pretty pickle." Mr Kolhass added, leaning forward intently.

"My arrival?" Jan's heart sunk.

"I expect the people who buy the land then let it sit empty here are aware of the situation in Villach, on some level. God knows they invest enough in military ventures to be aware that things are getting burned down, hanged, drunk, murdered in brawls, and so on. But, they have a pretence of not knowing, and that means they can play hot-potato with their competitors, chucking around worthless scrub to see who will be holding the most of it when the bubble finally pops." With the last word, he made a popping motion with his hand.

"And, with every toss of the potato - every time it changes hands, I take a cut, my men get paid, and everybody is happy."

He stroked his chin. "Who sent you, by the way? I'm curious to know who's trying to fuck me."

"Fuck you sir?"

Mr. Kolhass stood up from behind the table, and went over to the bar to make himself a drink.

"I imagine they expected you to arrive some weeks ago - they're probably worried that you've taken so long to report. But, I think the idea is, you arrive here, we meet - I am quickly rumbled as a fraud who has been puffing up prices and forging surveyor's opinions," he took a swig, "their competitors who are holding onto the assets crumble, I get the blame for the whole debacle, and end up having to run into exile."

He grinned. "Of course, they haven't considered my other options."

Jan was conscious of his heartbeat.

"Dogs, pigs, bloated corpse found washed up against a sluice-gate, that kind of thing," Mr Kolhass added in a bright tone.

Jan was speechless.

"Of course, it was a sloppy plan to begin with. You could have easily died on the road, you know." He tipped his drink just a little to Jan. "And that would have been the end of all this nonsense. It constantly bewilders me that people in the Capitol have such a limited grasp of what life is like out here that they might imagine I would simply roll over, call it a day," he paused, "although, I suppose they know me as Mr. Kolhass, the mild-mannered realtor who adheres to every nicety in his letters. And, I expect, if you had arrived here in the state you left the Capitol, you might have had money to send a letter or two - which would, in your hand, be enough, I imagine."

"I won't tell them-"

"Of course not. But, it has occurred to me that the instigators of this rather imbecilic plot have delivered me with something of an opportunity."

Jan could feel a big man moving behind him, and shrunk into his chair as he felt a meaty hand on his shoulder.

"I've made a career out of this kind of thing. Opportunity, crisis - usually the poles reverse if you have a strong arm, or lots of big men with strong arms. Chaotic situations aren't always violent, but the universal language - fear, broken bones, amputated hands, is amplified, often loud enough to drown out better words."

He paused. "I hope we'll be able to keep our conversations ... conversational."

"You see, now you are here, you are mine. Mine to do what I wish with. As it so happens, I am not a sadist, although I do employ some. If you do as I ask, then you will not find out which of my men they are."

Jan stammered out, "what do you want me to do?"

"Glowing reports. Construction work in the sunshine. Bustling markets. Sedate but businesslike people. Exceptional military discipline amongst our almost redundant protectors." He paused, scratching his chin.

"Maybe a little corruption, just so they know that there's enough grease to squeeze the fat through the crowds of the thin."
---
Jan was half-guided, half-shoved to his new room, which had a small window that looked out over the town, and glossed black walls. The window was barred, but other than that, there were few signs to show it was a cell.

He was given new clothes, paper, ink, even a small library, mostly terrible paper-backs, with runny ink and rough yellowing paper.

It was with a disturbing ease that Jan settled into his new life. He would rise in the morning, eat breakfast with the thuggish men who would grunt good-natured greetings with the politeness of ex-cons, go for planning meetings with Mr. Kolhass, who he now called Boss, just like everybody else, which were really editorial discussions of the broader outlines of the story that - letter by letter - he was sending his superiors at Purves & Grimes. He even published an article in a broadsheet, titled 'Villach: The last bastion of the bull market".

He would write these pieces overlooking the small streets which had not even cart-ruts to serve as sewers, watching the inhabitants of Villach -who were, to a child, awful drunks- beat eachother bloody every night.

He also found himself, for the first time since he was a teenager, with an abundance of free time. He spent it chatting to the accountant, who he was fairly certain had a nervous disorder, or playing cards with the security men, or even wandering around Villach.

In truth, there was little difference between the work he did here, and the work he had done in the Capitol, only his colleagues were more polite, his boss less manipulative, and the workload was considerably smaller. He even felt, on the scale from banal to monstrous that banking work spread along, such fraud was a mild crime. It was certainly less morally dubious than the work he had done assessing the business of slavers, of arms dealers and manufacturers, of the financing of military adventures.

This was simply on the fraudulent end of the generalised mercantile optimism and hopeful valuation that characterised banking in general. At some point, the bubble would pop, as everybody knew it would, and the banks that held the most land would go under, beaten down by a legion of lawyer's footfalls, most likely.

Villach itself was host to a near-continuous stream of refugees, who passed through the south gates then, when they discovered the residents had less charitable hearts than the stones of the mountains that rose on either side of their town, out the north. Against this came a constant stream of soldiers, bawdy and brawling, who robbed the shops and trashed the bar, which were then dolefully patched up, the drunkenly scrawled letters of credit used as kindling, and the wooden shutters re-fitted.

The single store that remained, and the single bar, eeked out a precarious existence between fleecing the helpless and bribing the strong.

From what he could gather, the bar had some unspecified arrangement with Mr Kohlass, that kept a dampner on the soldier's revels, and the single store - a grim, fusty smelling place run by a man called Mr. Fasthold, but more often called 'holdfast', appeared to have an arrangement with someone Jan dimly understood to be Mr. Kolhass's competitor.

In any case, while the bar typically had one or more of Mr. Kolhass's lantern-jawed men lounging hard-eyed in the background, Mr. Fasthold had no obvious protection, but the soldiers that walked in stepped softly, and argued with hushed voices.

He asked Mr. Kolhass about it, and immediately regretted the question. The temperature in the room seemed to drop by a few degrees, and the edge of a carefully leashed anger crept into Mr. Kolhass' eyes.

"It's a challenge. That's what it is, and I won't pretend otherwise."

He stopped, and went over to decant himself a glass of whiskey.

"I take it you've heard of Thorsen?"

Jan hadn't.

"Thorsen is… an old man. An old, withered man, a representative of older times, when gabbling and sorcery ruled the lands. Our roads crossed, and I made it clear that my path could not divert to pamper his archaisms."

He threw back a slug of whiskey.

"I am, above all, a modernizer. The human race is dragging itself out of an age of superstition and darkness, and is on the path to a greater time. And, I am the servant of this change. I could no more gainsay this progress than my hand could gainsay my mind. This, progress, a march from an age riven by sorcerors and foul gods, is holy work. For industry, first we must have security. Law, but not the weak law of the senate. The law written in the stones of the land, in the blood of its sons. I learned long ago that the Old Empire was weak because it was in thrall to the corpse of its own past. In thrall to the past, it can only fall before those in thrall to a glorious future. A future of industry, of mastery, of power and glory."

He paused, took another drink.

"Instead, they limp along, poisoned by the intruiges of demons and gods. Corrupt!" he shouted.

"I have wandered off the subject, somewhat. Thorsen. He was the one who burned this house." He gestured to the charred, running walls.

"I forgot, in my arrogance, that just because something is old and decrepid, just because it is doomed to join the wasteheap of history, does not mean it has no strength. It is a foul strength, a strength that no decent man would stoop to, but it is strength nonetheless, and all strength deserves respect."

"Thorsen is a fire-hand, of the old mysteries and the old mould. He lives somewhere in this valley, though despite my best efforts, I haven't found the place. And, worse, he has succeeded in putting his hooks in some of the townspeople, so I must by dint of common law coexist for a time."

"The store, the store is his statement. His store is his challenge that even his kind has a place in these times. That the old has a place with the new. It is not a falsehood I will tollerate for much longer."

He laid his hand on Jan's shoulder. "The old must give way to the new. Thorsen is just one of a multitude who will try and push back the wheel of history, and who will fail, and fall to the hands of men like me. Thorsen is nothing. His store is ash, only the strong wind has yet to come to blow it away."

He paused, darkly in the doorway. "I won't hear about it again, understood?"

Jan stammered out that he understood. He wondered if he could use 'Employed by Lunatic' to flesh out his resume.
----
Last edited by shackleton on Tuesday, 3rd December 2013, 02:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Shoals Surfer

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Post Sunday, 28th July 2013, 17:13

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

While it's great that you're writing, I must say I find it puzzling that you are calling this a "DCSS Fanfic" when it doesn't seem to have much to do with DCSS at all.

DCSS is literally all about the dungeon. For practical purposes, D:0 does not exist. And as far as magical elements being "under the hood," goes, we see from DCSS that, in addition to magical items being created on the surface, wizards and fantastical races abound and the Gods themselves have fanatical worshippers on the surface(Or at least Trog, Ely, Xom, and Yred do).

This "DCSS" fanfic is set in an overworld we know nothing about 100 years in the future from a present we know nothing about, about some manner of criminal economic-political struggle and societal hardship. Compared to the DCSS I know that has magic cats ripping dragons apart in hand to hand combat, this seems a little strange.

I'm not saying the writing is bad or the story is uninteresting. I'm just saying that I don't see how DCSS is necessary for this story. You're already making up an entire overworld, why not have it take place in your own setting rather than tying it to a hack & slash roguelike that isn't actually providing you with anything to work with? It's like writing a Harry Potter fanfiction that focuses on the entirely non-magical exploits of the American Mafia.

Now, you might be thinking "The DCSS stuff is going to show up eventually, you don't know my story" and you'd be right, I don't know what the details are. But what I do know is that you aren't aiming this towards any audience in the right way. Calling a fantasy story a "DCSS Fanfic" is going to attract some percentage of Dungeon Crawl players who will, like, me, see that the story doesn't actually resemble DCSS and get hella confused. And readers of fantasy who do not play DCSS are going to see your story and be like "Oh, I don't play DCSS, this doesn't have anything to interest me," even though I'm pretty sure this story is something that appeals to the "Fantasy reader" audience more than it will to the "DCSS player" audience. So in the end, you are limiting your audience to DCSS players who are also big fantasy readers, when, had you simply divorced yourself from the idea that this is a DCSS fanfic rather than your work of original fiction, you could potentially have a work of fantasy(perhaps even a novel) that would actually be read by more than, say, 10% of the people who browse Crazy Yiuf's.
Spoiler: show
Psst, hey kid... you like roguelikes?

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shackleton

Mines Malingerer

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Joined: Friday, 27th January 2012, 21:50

Post Monday, 29th July 2013, 15:52

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Mainly I was calling this a DCSS fanfic because it's DCSS that does all the work. Failure to acknowledge this would be basically ripping off other people's writing. All the world-building (in terms of cosmology, mechanics, entities involved) is already done. Demons and their subdivisions, gods and otherworldly horrors are all there already. That's loads to work with, just not loads to front-load, since I think it's right to follow the game in providing our hero with very small challenges to begin with, and to save the more fantastical ones for later. Let's face it, as narrative, the first five levels of dungeon are the story of a small-time cut-throat being beaten on by diminutive creatures with sticks. If it's all wizards and pyrotechnics from the get-go, that's lost.

I had a couple of tries at writing 'in-dungeon', and it simply didn't work. What makes a good game makes for a very poor story, since there is basically no intrigue in the dungeon. Most everything wants to kill you, and you're out to kill and eat everything else. As a game, that's wonderful. As a story, not so much.

In terms of aiming it towards an audience, I see where you're coming from. However, I don't think it's quite like you're analogy about writing a Harry Potter story about the american mafia (although that does take my fancy) simply because the magical world is hermetic in Harry Potter. In Dungeon Crawl, judging by the fact that nobody starts with magical items (books aren't in themselves magical), I figured magical things were simply rare. Again, I figured that the world of DCSS is a poor one, since the adventurers that descend into the dungeon are, on the whole, terribly equipped and undertrained. Stuff like felids and djinn are also palpably uncommon.

Placing it a little in the future is basically a nod to the fact that I don't understand medieval characters. If you read first-hand accounts of shit going down in the medieval world, you realize you just can't write about people like that. George R R Martin has often said he has to tone down how psychopathic the medieval world was. If you write medieval people the way, by all historical accounts, they actually were, modern readers will think them poor, unrealistically sociopathic, and unempathic characters. I agree it's a flaw, but it's one I had to include to avoid writing another boring fantasy romanticization with 21st century values in shining armour. Pushing the timeline forwards allows medieval and modern culture to operate simultaneously, and gives me a lot of tension to work with.

But anyway, I'll try and turn it a little closer to the concerns of the dungeon.

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Klown
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Halls Hopper

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Post Monday, 29th July 2013, 23:27

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

This story is very well written with alot of potential to be more than a fanfic. If youre gonna write a fanfic about DCSS, you need to start in the dungeon. Otherwise the reader(who is a DCSS fan) will immediately become uninterested. The only reason i read after the first paragrapgh is because i write fanfics as well. Anyway, keep writing, dude!

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Tuesday, 30th July 2013, 04:59

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:Too-wide eyes, cast with the messianism of hunger, sat in leathery faces. These had been walking for some time, perhaps from the coast.

The faces...had been...walking?

Mines Malingerer

Posts: 44

Joined: Friday, 27th January 2012, 21:50

Post Tuesday, 30th July 2013, 09:29

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

>The faces...had been...walking?

No doubt why they looked so unhappy. Walking on your face is terrible for the complexion.

-----------------------------------

"Ol' Screws himself, eh?" said one of Mr Kolhass' men, Hoarson, Jan thought it was.

"Who's Old Screws?" asked Jan.

"None other than his high and mighty excellency the Earl Alfonzo Seronsa, of noble Hertzland stock, which we won't forget."

"I'm a Hertzlander," said Jan.

"Yeah, but you're allright. You don't speak Gers with an accent, for one thing. For another, you don't have your head so far up your own arse that your hair gets stuck between your teeth."

"Thankyou, I guess."

"Anyway, don't let Ol' Screws give you any shit. The boss owns him, and he knows it."

The other heavies chuckled.


----

Two days after his disturbing conversation with Mr. Kolhass, Jan heard a voice shout out his name.

The caller was none other than George Sound, accompanied by a small ragged group of men.

"George!" Jan said delightedly, but the big man did not smile. The refugees eyes, if anything, were harder than they had been the last time he saw him.

"I take it you found your Mr. Kolhass."

Jan got a chance to take in the appearance of George's companions, who were, even by Villach standards, very dirty. One was missing a hand, and the stump was bound roughly with the same cloth that made his jerkin.

"Yes, I work for him now. And - your travels?"

George gestured to the five men that stood behind him. "Bad."

Jan didn't want to push for an explanaition, but George continued in a flat tone.

"We got hit by cavalry the day after we saw you. Slavers. I wanted to know whether you had anything to do with it."

Jan suddenly realised that there was a knife-point pressing into his back.

"What - what could - I'm a clerk, a pen-pusher, what could I have done?"

"A banker, working for Mr. Kolhass." George's flat tone took on an edge of incredulity. The man behind him put a stringy travel-hard forearm across his throat, and the group dragged Jan into one of Villach's many alleyeways.

"Yes, yes, a temporary position."

"You say you didn't sell those slavers word of our whereabouts, the chances say you did. We're going to hurt you until I'm sure."

"Wait, wait, please-" Jan realized George had drawn a thick knife, about seven inches long, and the man behind him forced his hand down onto a flagstone.

"I'm going to take one of your fingers, just so you don't get any notions about who I am. What I will do. Then I will ask again."

"Stop! Stop!" Jan was screaming, but he knew Villach, and he knew nobody would come running, even if they heard over the din of drunken shouts and brawling in the main concourse.

The knife came down, and caught on the knuckle of his left index finger. George grunted, then, forced the knife down the rest of the way.

Jan blacked out from the pain, and, when he came to, he found his finger was still hanging on with a little strip of skin.

"Next, I'm going to take the finger from the other hand. Did you say anything to those slavers?"

"No, no, please,"

"This doesn't please me to do this. But don't believe I won't continue, until you've not a member left." George's tone was without hitch or waver.

"I didn't, I didn't,"

The man behind him shoved his other hand forward, and pushed it down so it was splayed against the bloody flagstone.

The knife came down, and Jan screamed.

He regained consciousness, finding himself pleading incoherently.

"Let's try again," said George.

Suddenly, Jan felt the thick arm that was around his throat loosen, and he lurched back - more out of fear of the knife than of any plans for escape.

He stepped back, strange stiff feathers brushing against his face, and saw something fly by.

Two of George's companions were down in the mud, transfixed by fat bolts, and George rounded on his attacker, a big man in a mail hauberk, holding a crossbow he was unhurriedly cranking.

George charged him, and managed to bear him down, swatting away the man's attempts to throw him off. He was doing something to the man's face - it looked like he was caressing it. Jan noticed that George had a bolt sticking out of his back.

Suddenly, the big man gurgled, and twitched a few times, then lay still. Behind him came the second crossbowman, who hit him with a thick cudgel, causing George to roar and lunge into the air with his knife. Two other men emerged, and they laid into his open back with cracking sounds of wood meeting bone, until George finally sunk to the ground.

"Allright, up you get old Shakes," said a gravelly voice, and Jan blacked out.

---------------

Jan woke in his bed to find his hands had been wrapped in clean white bandages, only a spot of blood showing through. He looked at his hands, then looked away. He pinched himself. He touched the tip of the stump. He could still feel his fingers, above the cold pain of their amputation.

He gave his stumps a long look of horror, then fainted.

He came around to a rough hand shaking his shoulder.

"You got to eat," said a barrel-chested voice.

Jan mumbled something between a swearword and a plea, and found himself being not ungently lifted into a seating position, by his nurse's massive hands.

"I never figured you for a nurse," said Jan. It was Hoarson. The big man chuckled, and began to spoon soup into Jan's mouth.

"I never figured you for someone with enemies - what'd you do? Write him a nasty letter?"

Jan shuddered, and looked back down at his hands. His fingers were still gone.

"He, uh, he thought I sold his friends to slavers."

"Did you?" said Hoarson, sounding curious but entirely unjudgemental, as if selling people to slavers was part and parcel of getting by. Maybe it was, thought Jan. He pushed that thought aside.

"No, no, of course not."

"Well, you picked one hell of a man to offend in any case." He gestured with one bear-like palm at a cut stapled across his face. "Took out Yaxley, gave me this. Gave Gunner worse. Not easy, doing that armed only with a knife. Man went down very hard."

Jan remembered the cracking sounds of the cudgels hitting George and shuddered.

"When you're ready, boss wants to see you." The big man collected the tray, then, hunching his shoulders slightly, squeezed out of the door.

Jan stared at one of his hands, and began to unwind the copious bandages to see what lay beneath. His hands had swollen like balloons, and looked red and angry. To his horror, he found a blackened stump, roughly cauterized, under each bandage. They hurt like bee-stings as he wound the bandages back over them.

Jan got up on unsteady legs and pulled his trousers on. Somebody must have stripped him. The stumps of his fingers sent cold nails into his nerves with every move, but he tried to ignore it. He kept on fumbling, having difficulty gripping things without an index finger on either hand.

He managed to get the door open on his second try, and walked out to Mr Kolhass' office, where the man waited, watching like some malevolent granite statue.

"You were out for five days. We have a lot of work to do. Sit." Mr. Kolhass pointed to the chair that sat opposite his desk.

"I take it you are aware of the situation in Genoa?"

Jan didn't in fact, know anything about any situation in Genoa. He knew that there was a war going on, with the Old Empire backing the royalists, and Dortmund and the Hetlands backing the republicans, but in Genoa, there was always a war. The nation had seen nothing but intercine strife for generations, and a tide of foreign troops that stripped the land like locusts. Jan tried to avoid reading about wars.

"You really ought to keep informed. It behooves a man to keep abreast of the news."

Jan nodded, dutifully. He hated news.

"As any sensible man might have expected, the republicans are days away from total victory in Genoa."

By republicans, Mr. Kolhass meant Dortmund and the Hetlands.

There was a knock on the door. Mr. Kolhass shouted 'come in!'

In edged a massive man, gone to seed, with a belly and a red nose, decked in threadbare finery, and furs that look like they had the mange.

He was followed by a lithe man, who slid in behind him, hand on a sword-handle that glowed softly with runes, checking corners, and followed by one of Mr. Kolhass' men, who kept gimlet eyes steadily on him.

"I demand an explanation!" The man's voice was oddly hoarse, like a ripe basso gone sour.

"And what, may I ask, do you feel needs explaining?" Mr. Kolhass asked in an even tone.

"I'm not an idiot, Michael. I know what you're doing here. You've kept Thorsen off my back, and I've kept the senate off yours, but this?"

"What is," Mr. Kolhass paused, "this?"

"Fucking seccession, that's what it is! Did you really think I wouldn't notice, the recruitment, the stockpiling? You're preparing to throw in your lot with that bunch of goatfucking republicans, and I won't have it! Villach is my domain, and I won't be the first lord since the fucking Hetlands to have it slip out from under me!"

"Alfonzo, I think you've forgotten the exact nature of our relationship."

The Earl seemed to deflate.

"Do you remember our first meeting?

The Earl nodded, almost absently.

"You were, I remember, rather in debt. And I seem to remember your creditors were hounding you rather severely, were they not? Considering what they did to Cressida? And I, and some of those I represent, agreed to forward you a loan on extraordinarily generous terms. Some of whom, I regret to inform you, were those 'goatfucking republicans' you hate so much. You see, this," Mr. Kolhass stepped forward and seized a handful of the Earl's ratty silks, "is paid for by their money. By my money. This," he said, seizing the Earl's double chin, "is paid for."

The lithe man had stepped forward, then froze, as he realized Mr. Kolhass' man was holding a blunderbuss to his back.

"And, as their representative in this matter, it is wholly within my power to collect."

Mr. Kolhass took another drink from his glass.

"And, don't talk to me about the senate! Among your benefactors, we can count more than a few robed in purple. I don't doubt they would be very displeased to find you had strayed from our agreement. You are a convenient fiction. A lie. Nothing more."

"And, if you become an inconvenient fiction, a lie that serves no-one? I don't care to imagine what might happen to such a person."

The Earl blanched.

"Do you understand? Who I am? What you are? What you are to me?"

The Earl hesitated just a bare second, then nodded with a jerk.

"Good," said Mr. Kolhass, clapping his hands together and beaming. "Now, fuck off back to your stone-pile, we have work to do."

The Earl edged out of the room like a whipped dog. The door closed softly after him.

"What do you think, Goring?"

Goring, the big man still holding a blunderbuss in one massive palm, looked up.

"Could've got messy for a second there, him with that puissant sword."

"The Earl's a coward, his bodyguard less so, but good bodyguards have ever been hampered by weak patrons."

"As you say sir."

"Enough of that - do you think Ol' Screws will remember he has testicles?"

"I expect so at some point, sir."

"I want you to go with Benjen and Hoarson, and return with one of his daughters, unharmed. The younger one, I think, is his favourite. My man inside the castle will let you in - Hoarson knows the signal. I want to be assured of the Earl's compliance in the coming weeks."

Goring grunted assent, then, shouldering the blunderbuss, left the room.

Mr. Kolhass turned back to look at Jan.

"My apologies for all that. It's not every day that one of the dregs of the old powers show their faces, but when they do, it's always tedious. Now, before we get down to business, I'd like to reintroduce you to an old friend of yours." Mr Kolhass picked up a small bell on his desk, and rang it once.

The door swung open, and behind it was George Sound.

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Post Friday, 16th August 2013, 21:20

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Update: In which Jan has a sinister dream.
================================================
Jan spluttered, and lurched back in his chair.

"Why is he here?"

"Apologizing," said George, in his deep, calm, voice. Jan flinched, and moved so the chair was between him and George.

"Jan, you're being ridiculous. George has apologized. What more could you wish for?"

"He cut up my fucking hands!"

"And my men broke most of the bones in his body. George hardly holds a grudge against me, does he?"

George stayed silent.

"He cut my fingers off!"

"You have eight more," said Mr. Kolhass, then he paused, "you can still write, I take it?"

"Yes. No. I don't know, I haven't tried."

Mr. Kolhass passed some paper over, and Jan scrawled upon it shakilly.

"Ah, well, I expect you'll return to your old standard with practice," said Mr. Kolhass.

"Now, I would like you to accept George's apology. I cannot have two of my men at loggerheads over a misunderstanding."

"I'll accept his apology when my fucking fingers grow back."

Mr. Kolhass gave Jan a hard look, at Jan melted like a jelly washed up on a pier.

He glanced at George. His instincts were in full fight-or-flight mode. His eyes seemed to dart around the man's outline, unable to rest on George's face.

"Good, I'm sure you'll learn to work together in time."

He poured both George and Jan glasses of whiskey. Jan gulped his, while George merely looked at it, steadily, like an old foe met at a wedding reception.

"Now, where were we?" Mr. Kolhass smiled at Jan and George, somewhat like a wolf. Jan considered it possible that Mr. Kolhass had no other smile.

"Ah! The situation in Genoa. I suspect you are rather acquainted with it, George, are you not?"

George grunted assent.

"A refugee from those republican dogs, no?"

"And the royalist ones, sir."

"Ah, I rather thought so. You're the real deal. Genoan, a follower of the Shining Lord, no?"

"I was." Said George.

"I have no time for religion myself, but I can respect a man with principles."

George nodded, noncommital.

"I digress. The situation in Genoa - where were we? Ah, I have heard from reliable sources that the Royalist army is at the brink of total defeat in Genoa. That puts Villach right in the center of their exit strategy." He drew a map out from some papers.

"Now, Villach is sited at the joint of two passes. The first, the fat pass, is controlled by Villach itself, and it is along this road the Royalist army will likely stage its retreat. The second is controlled by the Earl's keep."

"Now, I can tell you both right now that the thought of a starving, defeated army coming through Villach, and using the town's stores for forage, does not fill my heart with joy. Indeed, I expect, given the size of the force in question, and the totality of its defeat, we can expect the entire town to be burned down, for the third time since I have set up opperations here."

"This, I cannot allow to happen. Both out of duty to the citizenss of Villach, and the refugees they have sheltered under their roofs, and out of my duty to my creditors and shareholders."

"The last, most sinister portent, should they arrive, is the rumours of dark rituals and warrior-cults, carried with the refugees, that suggest this army may no longer be capable of discipline."

George spat. "Cults of Trog, cults of Lugonu, Okuwarites. Despoiling Genoa."

"The forces men turn to in desperate circumstances, and not forces I would have make camp in Villach."

Jan shuddered, thinking of a horde of crazed berserkers descending on the town.

"But how," Jan said, "can we stop an army?"

Mr. Kolhass grinned. "With another army, of course."

He stood up, bathed in the red glow of the stained window, and his grinning teeth looked washed with blood.

---------------------------

"I really meant what I said about being sorry."

Jan leapt out of bed, and seized his pen-knife, holding it out in front of him. It looked very small.

"What the fuck are you doing in my room?"

"I came to make sure you knew I was sorry." George looked at Jan as if the knife wasn't there.

"Great. What I said about my fingers re-growing still stands."

"I don't doubt that. I just wanted you to know I wasn't shoveling any horseshit your way."

George turned and left, and Jan went back to his bed, pulling his scratchy wool blankets over his face.

He didn't sleep for several hours, and when he did, with the first fingers of morning light shining thinly through his window, he dreamed of hell.

Not hell in the abstract, metaphysical sense. Hell in the proveable, well known but rarely spoken of, sword of Damocles sense. Cocytus, Dis, Gehema, Tartarus. Those realms, or meta-realms, engaged in some bizzare magico-moral relationship with the mundane world. Those realms, like the death that preceeded them, that were euphemized and avoided until they existed in the blind spot of every thought.

Jan stood face-to-face with an ashen corpse, its still-burning remains blowing on a never-ending wind, on a plain of smouldering ashes that stretched to a hazed horizon.

Although, the corpse seemed to be looking over his shoulder. Craning his neck to see what the creature was staring at so intently, Jan saw a dark well. And, at the bottom of the well, he saw his small cell, and tucked up in scratchy woolen blankets, he saw himself.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Saturday, 31st August 2013, 21:58

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

It was a strange, grey fog-shadowed day, and it was the day in which Jan met Dorcas.

Women in Villach fell into two categories, with an unhappy middle. The first, rogued and pale-faced with powder, preened bare-breasted from doorways, calling prices out harshly; women who fought in alleyways and pulled out handfuls of hair, and lay bleeding, garnering only the cursory glances of passing watchmen.

The second were sour-faced and shrivelled, faces set in perpetual frowns, hair cloaked in black headscarves, bleak shadows that stared from the darkness behind windows, and flitted between doorways.

Dorcas fit in neither of those categories, and nor was she inbetween them.

Jan was sitting at his desk, stretching swollen fingers into a writing hand. His handwriting had taken a pained, crabbed air - as if the angry red swelling of his palms had bled down the quill and onto the paper.

He heard a crack, like splitting stone, and the room filled with purple smoke, and out of that smoke came a screaming creature. It snarled and leapt upon him, laying a punch to his eye that made him see popping stars, before grabbing his pen-knife and holding it against his neck. He became aware that the hand that held the knife - and it was a hand, not a claw or a tentacle - was very small.

"Which way is out?" came a voice, hoarse, but clearly a woman's.

"How did you get-"

"Blinked." She tightened the knife against his throat, and he could hear shouts coming from outside the door. "Which way?"

"Well, through the door - but there are a lot of guys. They'll stop you."

The door opened with a crash, as a large booted foot kicked the hasp out in a cloud of dust and splinters. It wasn't even locked.

Shouldering through the door came Goring. Jan could see down the barrel of the blunderbuss he was pointing and could see nothing but roofing nails and stones.

"Don't move or I'll cut his fucking throat," said Dorcas, in an oddly calm voice.

Mr Kolhass walked in from behind Goring, and motioned the big man to lower his gun. It rested steadilly, pointing at Jan's knees.

"Dorcas, I haven't had the pleasure."

He extended one hand, as if to shake, and Dorcas peered at it as if it were the claw of a spined frog.

Dorcas was trying to pull a piece of paper out, quietly, behind Jan's back. He could feel the rustle.

"Where's the rest of my stuff? Give me that, and get out of my way, and I'll let him live."

"Dorcas, that isn't going to happen. I think you need to calm down."

Dorcas was still rustling the piece of paper. She pressed it flat against Jan's back, and he could feel the stiffness of it. A piece of rolled parchment.

"I didn't know you were Warped," said Mr. Kolhass.

"Warper." Spat Dorcas.

"As you like. Don't think it means I can't hold you."

Jan felt a flash of agonizing heat on his back, as if the parchment had suddenly combusted.

"And don't think about blinking out of this room. I have men covering the street. They'll shoot, and I don't want that to happen. I would much rather you went back to your cell."

"Look, if you don't let me pass, I promise you, I'll cut this man's throat."

"That doesn't concern me unduly. I could find a new clerk."

Jan was, frankly, not particularly shocked.

"I am going to count to five, and after that, my man Goring is going to shoot you in the knee. That piece of his is very powerful, so don't imagine that hiding behind Jan here will save you from it."

"Wait, wait, how about we talk about this?"

Jan got the feeling that Dorcas was playing for time - although, what more time might grant her was unclear.

"What," Mr. Kolhass said, in a bored tone, "is there to discuss? You shall return to your cell, or you shall return to your cell without knees. The latter option might discomfort your father, but it would not unduly concern me."

Several things happened at once. Jan felt the floor give in under him, and heard the bang of the blunderbuss, and felt the shot seemingly pass through him - as if he had become a ghost.

There was a momentary feeling of existential dread, terrible weightlessness, and awful disorientation, then he was spat out onto the grey scree of a hillside.

He vomited, tried to steady himself, and put his hand in it.

"First time, huh?" Said Dorcas, who stood, surveying the land, with a cocky grin.

"What was that?"

"Farblink. Teleporting scroll. Beats losing your knees."

He looked at the yellow sick smeared on the grey flat stones of the slope.

"That's not much of a review."

"Well, I can't say it's been a pleasure." Dorcas held out her hand, and Jan gaped at it.

"I have puke on my hand. You're leaving?"

"Places to be, people to see. Kneecaps to preserve."

Jan suddenly had the desperate feeling of a man trapped in a labyrinth who has just smelled a whiff of air. During his time as Mr. Kolhass' employee, he had lost two fingers, a career, and the remainder of his notions about human decency.

"Please, take me with you."

Dorcas had already started down the deer path, and turned, her expression incredulous.

"Are you fucking serious?"

"Please. I was basically a prisoner. I don't want to work for Mr. Kolhass." He broke down. "I just want to go home."

Her face softened.

"Do you think I'm thick? You'll just report back to your boss, or slit my throat as I sleep. I'm not traveling with someone I don't trust."

Jan slumped, and looked down at his hands.

"Fine. You can come."

"What?"

"Don't make me say it twice. If you so much as look suspicious, I'll cut your fucking head off."

"Great." Jan smiled.

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Post Saturday, 31st August 2013, 22:22

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:The first, rogued and pale-faced with powder, preened bare-breasted from doorways

And that, boys and girls, is why they are called roguelikes.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Sunday, 1st September 2013, 00:43

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

>And that, boys and girls, is why they are called roguelikes.

Boy is my face rogue. Can't believe I missed that.
Anyway, further stuff since the preceding chapter was so short.
======================================================================

"This, is disgusting."

"Yeah." Jan slurped the broth, and stared at the thin chunks of flesh that floated within. "I almost forgot how bad crow tasted. Still, better than no crow."

"How did you catch it?"

"I threw stones. Sometimes that works."

"How," Dorcas asked, "did a clerk learn to kill crows for the cookpot with rocks?"

"It was a long road from the Capitol."

"You're from the Capitol?"

"Jan Emery Havelock, at your surface." Jan effected a flouncing bow, the kind the city rakes favoured.

"How in the infinite realms of pandemonium did you end up here?"

"Bad luck."

"Must have been a fierce lot of the other kind, that you survived the trip."

"I never thought of it that way," said Jan, surprised. "Always seemed like unbroken bad luck to me."

He paused. "Thinking about it, I had some of the good kind. At least, some of the things that happened could be construed like that. I met this man, half way out of Plagwiz, and we started travelling together. Didn't talk much, but not a bad companion. Good cook, even if he never seemed to eat much. We were travelling at night, because the imperial patrols that came down the road by day would rob you if they got you, or cut you up for sport."

"The road between Plagwitz is thickly forested. Loads of bandits - second generation remnants of that revolt, the, uh, Renewers. Anyway, it's been so long that they traded their soapboxes for hatchets then their hatchets for sharpened stakes. Real ragged, third-generation townies living off the land half-wild, and still not good at it."

"Soon enough, we were jumped. About thirty men and women, pointing bows at us. Bone-tips, stone-set clubs, that kind of thing. I look at my companion for some kind of plan, but he's just sitting there with a big grin, like a cat that's got the butter."

"The leader came up, a good head taller and a beer-belly fatter than the rest, and was clearly making his mind up whether we were the kind of travellers you ransom, or the kind you eat. My companion's smile hadn't faded one bit. Widened, even."

"They were cannibals?" Asked Dorcas.

"I embelish. That said, people do some pretty rough things in tough spots."

He paused, and took another slurp of crow-broth.

"Anyway, he jerked one thumb over his neck, and gestured to us. And this was the point my companion glides forward, and whispers something in his ear."

"I swear looking at the bandit's face was like looking into a mirror. That pale, white-faced sweaty look, the one you have on you when you're so far past fear you don't see any outside to it. And my companion was just smiling."

"Anyway, the rest of the bandits followed his lead, and left us well alone. I asked him what he told the bandit, but he wouldn't say."

"I didn't keep asking him, because I got a feeling I didn't want to know, and we made pretty good time the rest of the way. Not a peep out of the forest the whole way. Sixty miles of blasted pine boughs sticking out like batteries of cannon on either side of the road, and not one concealed anything more harmful than a horsefly."

"It turned out he was a vampire. I wouldn't have found out if he hadn't been staked when we arrived in Connewitz. Some Shining witchunters were doing a purge. Almost burned me with the same torch."

"They clapped me on the back, called me The Shining Lord's own fool, told me I'd dodged a lightning bolt. And it's true - it's not supposed to be possible for the dead and the living to live together. It's their hunger for our life that drives them, I read, and so it's against the law of their basic nature to be able to coexist. And yet, every night, we would cook crow together, with birds he'd killed by throwing rocks, and he would pretend to eat to make me feel at ease. Maybe he was stalking into the woods, depopulating villages and eating children as I tended the pot. Maybe he was biding his time. Maybe he was just more lonely than he was hungry."

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Post Sunday, 1st September 2013, 02:18

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote: Jan effected a flouncing bow, the kind the city rakes favoured.

You're going to want to study the meaning of the word 'effect' a little more.
Also, where is this taking place? East Germany?

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Post Sunday, 1st September 2013, 11:14

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

>You're going to want to study the meaning of the word 'effect' a little more.

Again, my face. I probably need to proof-read a little more carefully.

The setting isn't exactly real world, but there are a load of reference points. Basically, Villach is in a similar location to where it is IRL, except a little bit south, deep into the dolomites. Except, in this setting, they're gneiss and slate and shale.

The german names are because of two things - first, Jan has essentially walked through the equivalent to Austria. The Capitol is more-or-less where Hungary is. Second, it's imperial policy to stir up ethnic tensions by favouring german-speakers over all others, so the germans are forced to side with the empire when revolts happen. So all the towns have german names, but they might have very few germans living in them. The naming's a bit like the whole 'Londonderry' v 'Derry' thing.

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 01:09

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

This is one of the weirdest things in the Tavern. Please continue.
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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 07:51

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

I think you need more airships.

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 11:02

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

And steam powered land war wagons.
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Sewers Scotsman

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 11:04

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Oswald Bastaple ftw!

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 11:21

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

His wikipedia page sorely needs attention.
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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 12:24

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Yes, ouch. And I need to ensure I spell his name correctly.

I think I might assume the name and identity of the Steel Tsar.

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 13:31

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Keep the same avatar though.
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Sewers Scotsman

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 13:37

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

I meant irl, not here on the forum.

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 13:44

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Pics or it won't happen.
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Sewers Scotsman

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 13:45

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

You will get to see the avatar before and after so you will see the difference.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Monday, 2nd September 2013, 16:36

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Hopefully with less ladies effected by the lead-content of their rogue.
==========================
"What the hell is that?"

Jan looked at the small hovering shape, like a black jellyfish, creaking in the inconstant wind.

"A blimp. Small one. Probably scouting for someone."

"A what?"

"You don't have those around here?"

"Nothing other than Thorsen's taken to the air around here since he burned the last gryphon."

"Villach, arse-end of nowhere, got it."

Dorcas slugged him on the arm.

"Ancient home of the noble house of Seronsa, untouched by cosmopolitan perversion," she intoned, in what he assumed was an impression of her father.

The small, misshapen bulb floated behind some cloud swelling over the mountains.

"I don't like it. It's almost certainly a scout for an army."

"Whose?"

"Does it matter?"

"It does to me. I'm nobility. If it's a republican army, they'll hang me."

"And if it's a royalist army, they'd probably do the same. Or worse."

She frowned.

"We're about half a day from the keep. I'm hoping to get there before dark."

They picked up pace again, down a gulley, smoothed and littered with flotsam, a winter stream.

Ahead of them came the final ridge. The old-father, Dorcas called it. The top, a brutal rock plinth, soared on their right. Jan shivvered as he imagined the bluff a home for stone-giants, laughing in harsh voices as they cast boulders down the slopes.

As they came closer, Jan began to smell smoke, and the scent of cooking meat on the wind. His stomach rumbled.

"Smells like home," smiled Dorcas.

They climbed the last meters onto the bluff, and looked out to a scene of total devastation.

The keep was a pyre, shadowed by murders of crows that bobbed in the thermals from fires that still burned. Stone rose in lonely pillars, blackened and blasted, and even at this distance, Jan could make out the rows of hanged men swinging in the fitful air.

In a blanket covering the entire valley, sat an army, writhing with movement, like maggots on a carcass. Banners snapping, dirty tents sagging, shouts and screams carrying on the wind.

Aerostats floated above the army like flies, their baskets winking with telescopes, and Jan could see the dust kicked into the air by patrols of horses, thundering along the tracks.

Worst of all, was Dorcas' face. It looked hollow, as if somebody had removed the back of her head. Her hands twitched, clutching at eachother like spastic crabs.

"We have to go. An army that big will have scouts up on that bluff. If we go now, they might not see us."

She stared out, still with the same dumb, inhuman expression.

"Dorcas! We have to go!" Jan took her arm and tried to pull her back, but she snatched it from his hand.

"Scouts, you say?" A grey, mud-stained form slipped out from between two rocks. A ratfaced man with a crossbow, pointed straight at Jan.

He called over his shoulder. "Bill! Hey, Bill! I got us some sport!"

Jan could make out the edge of a Longunite brand on the scout's chest, peeking out from under the man's grubby armless shirt.

Bill came clattering over the hillside, another small, grey-faced man, holding a vicious looking sword, its handle bound with some kind of pale leather.

"Hey, look, how about we talk about this. She - she's really important. Your officers wouldn't like it if you hurt us."

"Are you really important too, half-hand?"

"Yes. Take us to your officers, and they'll reward you."

"How about instead of that, we gut you, and chuck you off the fucking hillside, eh?"

Bill laughed. It had the dry, rusting sound of a lamin addict.

"And cut your bollocks off for a bullshitter, eh?"

"I could hardly tell it was a woman under all that dirt," said Bill lurching forward towards Dorcas, who still stood silently surveying the valley.

"Bet she cleans up nice," said the first scout, his crossbow wandering off Jan as he pondered.

Jan saw the opening, and lunged, throwing the scout off balance and onto hard stones of the hillside. The weight he had gained on steady meals made the road-worn scout feel weak, like a child, and they rolled on the hillside cursing. He grabbed at the crossbow, felt the scout's fingers slip free, then rolled onto his back, just in time to see Bill lurching towards him, drawn sword in his hand.

The bolt went through the man's chest, and the scout seemed not to notice, continuing forward, feeling the bolt gingerly, as if he didn't understand what it was. Jan scuttled up the hillside to avoid Bill's short, brutal slashes, until the scout tripped, twitched, then ceased moving.

Down the hillside, the other scout picked himself up, cursing, pulled out a hatchet, and came at Jan with murder in his eyes.

Jan threw a rock, but the scout dodged, fast as a rat, and kept on coming, impossibly sure-footed on the shale.

He didn't see the second rock, flying from behind him, and it knocked a bloody arc into the grey sky, before he fell down boneless.

"Ok. We go." said Dorcas, her back to the valley.

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Post Tuesday, 3rd September 2013, 00:18

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:Hopefully with fewer ladies effected by the lead-content of their rogue.

ftfy

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Post Monday, 9th September 2013, 17:02

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

If I made less mistakes, I'd be effected with less of a ruddy, rogued, alcoholic's countenance.

Apologies this one is so short - it's just fairly self-contained, and I liked the end-point.
===============================================


They spent two days trecking north, hiding in drizzled bushes as spears of riders clattered past, eating cold grain Dorcas had managed to lift from a passing supply-train. The crossbow Jan had taken from the scout had worn a divot of scabs on his shoulder, and, stringless in the constant rain, was little more than dead weight.

Dorcas had not spoken since they had left her father's valley, and Jan's rare words were greeted with a kind of indifference - like a cat presented with a potato.

Finally, in the heady adrenaline rush of avoiding yet another patrol, one in which a rider had dismounted, approached them, then undone his fly to piss in a runnel that warmed Jan's hands as it streamed under the brush he was lying face down in, she spoke.

"I hated him."

Jan looked up, in surprise.

"Hated. He was a monster, you know? Worse than your Kolhass, probably. On my fifth birthday, he had my nurse hung. He told me it wasn't proper for a Hertzlander to have soft heart, especially a soft heart for our lessers."

"When I was sixteen, I tried to run away. He made me sleep in the stables for a month, to 'learn what life was like outside of the castle.'"

"A year later, I ran away again. This time, I ran to Thorsen, who protected me, and taught me, and fed me for five whole years. And, he sent me messages, first commanding me, then asking me, then begging me to return."

"Like an idiot, I believed he'd had a change of heart. But, as soon as I got back, he told me if I ever left again, he'd kill my sister. He already has his heir - Tomsen, being a dandy the capitol. We were just chattel, weighing one side or another in a marriage contract. And property he couldn't control wasn't worth anything to him."

"And now, it was all for nothing. Him, and his keep, up in smoke. Along with my sister. The only innocent in the whole valley. Burned. And all my hate, and all my plans, were worth nothing. Waterfleas in the spring-surging stream."

"Are we going to Thorsen now?"

"Where else?" said Dorcas, eyes fixed grimly on the horizon.
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Post Monday, 9th September 2013, 17:17

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Taking shape, though I would like it more without so many metaphors. Spears of riders, a divot of scabs, cat with a potato: those don't really work for me.

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Post Monday, 9th September 2013, 17:37

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Cat with a potato doesn't work for you? I thought it was a stroke of genius.
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Post Monday, 9th September 2013, 17:39

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

To be honest, I've never presented a cat to a potato - nor vice versa - so I'm not certain of the kind of indifference that that would engender.

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Post Monday, 9th September 2013, 17:46

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

You see? It calls for exploration of new facets of reality.

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Post Tuesday, 5th November 2013, 16:08

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Jan shivered in the strange despair that you sometimes feel after a strong electric shock. They had been attacked by a beast composed of clouds and writhing filaments that had dropped down from the thunderheads as they had forged a path over a peak. It had twisted in and out of sight, chitinous claws skittering amorphous, rolling and dripping with electric sparks.

It had wrapped strange organs around him, and, caught in its electric rictus, Jan had been unable to let go, to fight, to do anything but piss himself and hold on with clenched hands. Dorcas had stabbed it from behind, and its corpse had disintegrated into a strange and flickering mass, like chicken guts lathered with lightning.

-------------------------------

They walked during night-time, and curled under shrubs and between rocks to sleep during the day. Jan found it hard to sleep, his mind flashing back to the surprised, slightly acusatory look on the man's face, as the rock hit him in the back of the head. The other man, prodding gingerly at the bolt through his chest. They stood, the pair of them, painted on the backs of his eyelids.

In the darkness, they could hear the army. Chanting, shouting, brawling, screaming sometimes.

They were moving just ahead of it, and they often had to hide from teams of scouts, hard faced and decked with ritual scars, wearing scuffed cavalry jackets decked with dirty braid.

He could feel the sluggishness and deep cold of bone-tiredness, each step costing him worse than the one before, but they kept on.

They were nervous. They had been walking along a valley that, in an area characterized by its bleak, empty lack of cover, reached the absolute of this characteristic by having no features at all. A cold bowl, scooped by some great hand, with no tree nor no rock to hide behind.

Along its dry floor ran the track, and in one side, sat a crack. The house of Thorsen, nestled in a cave that cracked the mountainside like a fracture in a china bowl.

They were half-way through when Dorcas spotted a plume of dust from the valley mouth. They began to hurry, but in the remote distance, they could see horsemen, no more than thirty, but more than enough.

They were almost laughably tiny, like ants, all rendered in watercolour by distance and haze.

Dorcas broke out into a run. This valley wouldn't take more than an hour to cross on horseback. Jan struggled behind her, and the wind carried the yells of horsemen. He stopped, chest heaving, and threw up, then ran to catch up. Dorcas was fast.

He spared a glance behind him. The horsemen were larger now, but still crawling forward. Perhaps they had been spotted by now, but Jan thought it hardly mattered. He was going to die, spitted on a dirty lance in the middle of nowhere.

The clouds above them were thick and ominous, deepening black and roiling, lightning flashes flickering along their undersides.

They could hear the clattering of hooves and the harsh shouts of riders now, carried to them by the gathering wind, along with the first sprays of rain, and the rumble of the thunderheads gathering over the mountain.

"I can't run any further," wheezed Jan, grabbing Dorcas' arm.

"Run you fucker," she shouted, grabbing him and pulling him forward.

"Just leave me."

She swore at him and dragged him on, his legs sending shocks of dull pain with every impact on the ground.

The horses sounded awfully close now, the clattering of their hooves merging with the concussions of thunderbolts striking the hillsides.

Dorcas tripped, and Jan fell down with her.

"Any ideas?" he wheezed, trying to get up, but not finding the strength. He could see the maniac lather spilling from the horses' mouths, and the tattooed faces of their riders, warped by lunatic smiles.

She grabbed him, and Jan suddenly felt that awful weightlessness, as if he was falling through a void with no dimensions at all, simultaneously spread over an infinite distance and compressed into a mote. A glimpse of stygian towers, then he was back, vomiting bile onto tough heather and soft moss.

The riders wheeled on the road, then turned their horses towards them. Too close, still, for any hope. One horse foundered on a hollow and sent its rider flying, but the rest continued on.

There was a flash of light, and for a moment Jan thought a thunderbolt had struck the horsemen, horses screaming, trailing tenacious flames that sizzled like fat. The riders broke in all directions, falling off their horses, scattering in mad terror. A man was on fire, running towards them, smoke billowing black and greasy behind him,

There was another strike, and torrents of fire exploded in a great ring, vomiting forth cackling elementals that ran through the heather, leaving streamers of flames in their wake.

"Thorsen," breathed Dorcas. Jan covered his face with his hands to shield it from the heat.

From the heart of the fire itself came an old, bald man, swaddled in a ring of fire that slid off him as he emerged into the open.

Jan passed out.

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Post Tuesday, 5th November 2013, 16:20

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Confidence Interval wrote:To be honest, I've never presented a cat to a potato - nor vice versa - so I'm not certain of the kind of indifference that that would engender.

It looks a bit like this:
Image
Spoiler: show
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Post Tuesday, 5th November 2013, 17:58

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

"I have no opinion."

"Come on, Dorcas, opinions are like aresholes. Even aristocrats have them." The old man poked at the fire roughly with a length of steel.

"Or do you bluebloods hire someone to do the shitting for you?"

"I see you've grown no more tasteful with age."

"And if there's one thing I've learned in all these years, it's that everybody's a critic."

"Frankly, I'd have liked it if you'd turned up a little earlier."

"See? There you go! I am sorry about that, by the way. It takes a bit of time and no small amount of skill to make a fire elemental laugh. But it's worth it."

"They don't usually do that?"

"No. Normally dour as a golem. Too distanced from the material plane to find anything funny, unless you pump them full of hellfire, and I don't like messing with that stuff. Draws just a little too much attention from down below."

"Is it worth asking what difference it makes, whether they laugh?"

Thorsen grinned. "Magic's not really about the explosions. Any two-bit sorcerer can make a big bang - hell, these days, any lunatic with a keg of blasting powder can do it. Magic is all about the theater. Shock and awe. Scaring the enemy shitless."

"Can't you just burn the enemy? That's pretty scary."

"How many blasts like that do you think I can throw around? I'm at the top of my game, shit, I'm probably at the top of the game, at least when it comes to the mortal leagues."

"Brag, brag, brag."

"Wait, you haven't heard my point. My point is, that even I, hideously powerful lord of fire, can only throw about, say, ten blasts. If I bowed to some crotchety old tosser of a deity, I could push that up to twenty, if I caused enough carnage."

He paused, a frown appearing on his face.

"Topsides, I could burn about fifty men to their hideously painful deaths, and add another fifty to my conscience."

"I didn't know you had one."

"When I was as young as you, I hardly noticed it, but I can tell you now, the burden of conscience only grows as you get older, and you only get less able to carry it."

Dorcas grunted, perhaps thinking of the scout she had killed with a rock.

"Anyway, even if I had as light a conscience as some of the other old bastards that like to fly about interfering and throwing lightning from their palms, there are a hell of a lot more than fifty men out there, marching on my valley."

"So you put on a show..."

"Shock and awe. I go on a few day trips, wiping out their supply chains, scaring the living crap out of their scouts, that kind of thing. Get the main army primed."

He poked at the fire again with the length of metal.

"Then, once they're good and ready, once they're used to fearing me, I appear over the battlefield, wreathed in golden fire. Blow a few things up, weave a few compulsions and a little terror into the air, clean up a few heroes, then sit back and enjoy the sight of a thousand men running from my awesome power."

He paused.

"It's something you might want to think about with your warping. You see, there's something very scary about somebody who can appear out of thin air. Makes every shadow threatening. Makes men fight themselves before they even have a chance to try a blade on you."

"If I could get a hang on picking the spots where I turn up. Half the time I pop out of the air and I'm as surprised as they are."

"Well, you'll get a feel for that in time. And there are a couple of rituals that can help."

"Ever the teacher, eh?"

His face turned sad, "Ever teaching things I'd rather not. Turning magic to theater so you can scare a bunch of boys and halfwits seems a poor trick to pass on."

"When I moved out here, I came with the intention of putting all this fire and blood bullshit behind me, so I could do some serious study. Then that fucking idiot Hortensense stirred up all this shit in Genoa, and I haven't had a lick of peace since."

"King Hortensense died three centuries ago."

"Agh, showing my age. It's awful how a man can be dated by his references, eh?"

"How old are you?" asked Dorcas, eyes wide.

"Old enough to deserve a break from your finagling questions, girl."

He looked up at the great old copper kettle hanging off a hook. Dorcas took the hint, and filled it from the wooden tap that sat on the side of a steel-bound tank, then set it on a grate suspended over the fire.

A groan came from the corner of the room. "It's too bright in here," came a muffled voice.

"See? Everybody's a critic."

For this message the author shackleton has received thanks:
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Post Tuesday, 5th November 2013, 18:31

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:with no tree nor no rock to hide behind

This should be "with not no tree nor neither no none rock to hide behind".
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Post Tuesday, 5th November 2013, 20:18

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

I like it. 7/10, would crawl again.

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Post Monday, 11th November 2013, 18:50

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Jan woke up with a start, attempted to launch himself out of bed, tangled himself in his blankets, then landed on an incredibly hard stone floor.

"Coffee's on the boiler," said an old man, one crooked claw pointing at a steaming pot. Thorsen. The old man was Thorsen.

"Uh, thank you, sir." Jan shook his head, trying to dislodge the image of that man on fire.

"Sir? I like that. Can you remember when you used to call me sir, Dorcas?"

"The foolishness of youth," called Dorcas, from what looked like a galley. He could smell cooking.

"Manners. A surprisingly recent invention. Can't say I ever had much use for 'em." Thorsen burped.

"What do you mean by 'recent'?" came Dorcas' voice, laced with a mocking tone.

"Recent!" he bellowed, the fire billowing a little as he spoke.

Dorcas brought in bowls piled high with eggs and muffins and bacon, and handed them around.

"There's something I taught you that's worth a damn. You wouldn't know it now, but when Dorcas came here the first time she could hardly bake an egg without it crawling off to try and merge itself into the nearest necromancer's abomination."

"I had servants."

"Servants. Best way of rending someone as fat as they are stupid, being waited on."

Dorcas puffed out her cheeks, and affected a crosseyed look of indecision as she reached for another muffin.

--------------------------

The rain was pooling under Thorsen's iron-bound front door, and muffled thumps could be heard as lightning-blasted rocks made their wandering paths down the mountainside.

Jan had stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air, but immediately regretted it, finding himself in a cave-mouth that was both more colossal and less well sheltered than it appeared from the valley bottom.

Water poured in thundering pillars from high above to unfathomable deeps bellow, where the crack in the mountainside stretched into the bowels of the earth. The only access to Thorsen's door was a rusted iron gantry, pinned to the sheer wall faces of the cave mouth, which made a winding path between outcroppings and over daunting drops to a tiny goat-path, perched precariously on a cliff face.

Thorsen had been out nearly every night. As far as Jan could tell, the old fire-hand didn't sleep. He would come back, shrugging the rain off an old oil-skin he wore as a cape, whistling tunelessly.

Dorcas had retired to Thorsen's library, which was large and stocked with strange and frankly frightening tomes, embossed with wavering writing that made Jan's head hurt, or emitting a weird humming sound that would disappear when he looked away. Several, he suspected, were bound in human skin.

Jan himself slept fitfully, haunted by strange dreams, occasionally woken by phantom pains in the tips of his missing fingers.

"What's it to you, if an army passes through your valley?"

Thorsen shook the rain off his hat.

"What do you think this is about, son?"

"The army?"

"Yes. Why do you think they're coming through here?"

"To foil the Royalist retreat?"

"And then what?"

"They go home?"

"No, no. This is frontier land. It's been fought over for a thousand years. Ever since Genoa split from the empire - and that's a long time ago, even by my reckoning. Villach, shithole though it may be, is crucial to controlling the only viable pass through the dolomites. They'll want to do more than litter it with corpses."

"Annexation?"

"Exactly. You control Villach, you control the border. Republican armies could strike deep into Imperial land with impunity. It would be carnage."

He suddenly frowned, staring at his thick, big-knuckled hands with an air of menace that suddenly pressed upon Jan like a weight of iron.

"It's my valley. Mine. That's not something I'm in the habit of letting people take lightly. I informed this so-called 'general' of who he was stepping on. He chose to insult me. Me."

The fire was uncomfortably hot on Jan's face.

"Of course, they replaced him with somebody of a similar mind. The death of a single maggot rarely serves to convince the mass of human maggots to sway their course."

He threw the rough cut steel poker to one side, and reached into the fire to re-arrange the logs with his bare fingers.

"For that, it will take a firmer hand."
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Post Tuesday, 12th November 2013, 08:39

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

"The foolishness of youth, called Dorcas, from what looked like a galley. He could smell cooking."

I think:
"'The foolishness of youth,' called Dorcas, from what looked like a galley. Jan could smell cooking."
would be clearer.

"Servants. Best way of rending someone as fat as they are stupid, being waited on."
I don't think you mean rend, though that would be an interesting thing for someone to say. Possibly you mean render, though a simple "making" might be preferable.

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Post Tuesday, 12th November 2013, 16:20

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

"I have used Golobrian portals to move two divisions of Royal cavalry to a position here."

Thorsen had fashioned a simulacra of the valleys around Villach in dancing flames, and used a thick, broken-nailed finger to point to a hillside, concealed by a rise from the approach of the Republican army.

"What about the aerostat?" asked Jan.

"I put a hole in the last three they've sent up. Doubt they'll have many willing airmen left."

Jan pictured men tumbling into the open air, and shuddered.

"You two have a simple role. I've set some barrels of blasting powder here," he pointed to a flickering cliff-face. When the fireworks start, I want you to light the fuzes, then blink to a safe distance."

"An avalanche?"

"I don't expect anything so dramatic, but at the very least, it'll seem like one. A few big rocks falling sounds a lot like an avalanche to a man in the dark."

"And the horse will charge in the dark?" asked Dorcas.

Thorsen grinned, "exciting, eh?"

Jan thought it sounded suicidal, but didn't want to say.

Dorcas opened her mouth, and Thorsen interrupted, "Ah," 'but', "Ah," "Ah I say!" then wandered into the kitchen, muttering about leaving old wizards their mysteries.

He bustled back in, and handed Jan and Dorcas two stubby leaden wands. "In case of emergency."

-------------------------------

The night was sultry, the humid heat of a clouded day that turned by degrees into the ominous prickling skin and languid sweat of an approaching thunderstorm.

"Do you ever have decent weather here?"

"It's not raining, is it?" said Dorcas, as if that ended the matter.

"No, but-"

"What you complaining about, then?"

Jan opened his mouth, then shut it.

Down below they could see the campfires of the republican army, like a starscape, spread across the valley floor. Red and angry stars, thought Jan.

Villach, in contrast, was almost entirely unlit. Aside from the few watch-fires, the town was hardly visible at all - a few cracked patches of darkness, against a dark background.

In the distance, the Royalist army looked much the same as the Republican one, a host of angry constellations, baleful and crouching on the pass.

There was a shrieking sound, like the doors of hell being opened, and the Republican camp bloomed with light.

A great torrent of fire sprang out of the ground, illuminating the entire valley, and from it floated strange and wavering orbs of lightning, that floated into the air, too bright to look at directly.

Jan could already hear the screams, carrying on the thick air. Screams and maniacal laughter, and the bellowing of bulls.

Motes of brightness struggled their way between cookfires that belched and lashed in every direction, and Jan could see they were burning men.

"We've got a job to do," said Dorcas, but Jan wasn't sure he wanted any part of it, any more. He lit the gunpowder-filled straw fuse, and Dorcas grabbed his hand.

"Time to go."

Space warped, and Jan felt bottomless emptiness and anomie, then doubled over against a wooden post, retching.

A wooden post?

He looked up, to see to his horror that his straining pale hand was resting against one of the posts that rose from the walkway around the Villach palisade.

"You call this a fucking safe place?"

From here, the 'fireworks show' was horrifyingly real. The two divisions of horse were charging through the arc-lit camp, screaming harsh cries, their small numbers multiplied a thousand-fold by the terror of the soldiers.

Jan could see men running in every direction, babbling, fighting each other, flopping face-down in the mud like beached fish, and above it all, like a demonic visitation, shone Thorsen.

He floated, his face turned monstrous by his fiery aura, flinging bolts of lightning and fire at fleeing men, momentarily obscured by the columns of greasy smoke that had started to rise, pulling fire elementals newborn and screaming from the flames and throwing them into the air.

Dorcas was saying 'shit', again and again, just under her breath.

There was a crack, and a smell like burning hair, and Dorcas' skin began to glow an unpleasant blue.

"We had better find somewhere to hide," said Dorcas, in a strangely gentle voice, then collapsed into Jan's arms.

Jan swore, then started to drag Dorcas' unconscious form to one of the stone towers that rose from the town's battlements. It had a rent torn from its top, and no door. He hoped that meant it would be empty.

Outside, in the darkness, he could see men firing crossbow bolts at Thorsen, and the bolts passing through his form that flashed insubstantial as they flew, or diverting in mid-air to avoid him. A horse ran screaming and mad dragging its rider by one stirrup, a fire elemental gleefully holding on to its back, like some demonic jockey.

A man in an old and ill-fitting chainmail shirt appeared out of the tower door, and saw Jan.

Jan swore, and fumbled around Dorcas's unconscious body for the lead wand Thorsen had given him. The man was raising a crossbow that looked more suited to game than killing men, but it was caught on a strap.

Jan depressed the stud on the side of the lead wand, it barked like a musket, and a glob of fire threw itself from the end, before alighting on the man, who screamed and fell into the darkness, his clothes alight.

The tower was half-collapsed inside, and through the rent Thorsen's dark work shone, illuminating a blanket roll and a half-eaten meal.

Outside, he could see men with hideous wounds rising from the ground, and setting on their companions with grasping hands and teeth, and hear the demoniacal laughter of elementals, and the sounds of ten thousand men turned mad with terror.

Dorcas stirred, then slumped again, and Jan took the blanket, unrolled it, and spread it over her.

The blanket of the man he had murdered. His last meal sat there, a bite out of a hard-boiled egg he had shelled. Jan could smell cooking pork. His stomach rumbled.

He could hear Mr. Kolhass' voice from the gatehouse. He was shouting orders, flanked by George and Hoarson, while his men heaved the gates open. He waved a hand along the battlements, and a group of big men started jogging in their direction, led by George.

'Shit,' muttered Jan, and fumbled for the wand, ducking behind the door. Maybe they wouldn't be seen.

He risked a glance, and saw the men were much closer. Close enough to risk a shot. Jan leaned out and the wand spat a gobbet of fire, but it glanced off George's chainmail with a spray of sparks. The men broke into a sprint, pulling well-worn weapons from belts and slings. A blunderbuss went off, and iron nails made cracking ricochets through the tower. Jan felt a sting on his cheek, and felt a piece of metal embedded in his face.

It started to sting, shockingly painful.

He rolled out again, and shot another belch of flame, but it was wide.

George launched himself through the door-frame, and there was a brief raised eyebrow as he recognized Jan, then he was on him. Jan tried to bring up the wand, but George's knee was in his gut, and his iron grip was on his wrist, twisting it painfully around, and his weight was on top of him. Jan couldn't breathe. He felt a noose being drawn tight and wound around his hands, which were pinioned behind him.

"Boss'll want to see this one."

"What about the other?"

"Her too. Take her to HQ, put her in the sub-basement cell, put her in mage-restraints."

The man raised an eyebrow at that, before lifting Dorcas effortlessly over one shoulder, and climbing down a ladder with steady care.

"Thought you were gone," said George. "What made you come back."

"Missed your conversation," said Jan, "and Hoarson's cooking."

Hoarson grunted. "Don't mock what you can't copy."

"Shame," said George. "You shouldn't have come back."

"Yeah, shame," said Hoarson.

"Shame enough to let me go?" asked Jan.

Hoarson looked at him. "Sadly not."
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Swamp Slogger

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Post Tuesday, 12th November 2013, 16:46

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Keep writing! This stuff is really good! I'd buy it if it was a real book!

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Tuesday, 12th November 2013, 18:28

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Confidence Interval wrote:
"The foolishness of youth, called Dorcas, from what looked like a galley. He could smell cooking."

I think:
"'The foolishness of youth,' called Dorcas, from what looked like a galley. Jan could smell cooking."
would be clearer.

"Servants. Best way of rending someone as fat as they are stupid, being waited on."
I don't think you mean rend, though that would be an interesting thing for someone to say. Possibly you mean render, though a simple "making" might be preferable.

Indeed 'rendering" is what I think was meant here, I'm not sure how you could "tear someone fat"
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shackleton

Mines Malingerer

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Post Tuesday, 12th November 2013, 18:49

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Yeah - it's rendering, but making is better. It's actually a major project of mine to get rid of the accademicisms that normally creep into my style. The high number of typos are due to the fact I use an extremely bare-bones program to type (I'm highly susceptible to distractions, so having just a blinking cursor as the interface helps), which doesn't spellcheck, and is difficult to actually re-read the stuff you've written.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Wednesday, 13th November 2013, 00:40

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

"Goring, I want you to take Hensley and Shen, go into the houses along this street and draft fire-control teams - get them out of their beds if you have to. Each of you take eight men, you'll find buckets in the store!" Kolhass turned and screamed at a rider from the Republcan army that had come clattering through the gate, "Manfried is holding rally at the central square! Just keep on, and you'll get there!"

The man gave him a wide-eyed salute, then spurred his horse and disappeared into the dark.

"Boss," said George, but Mr. Kolhass brushed past him to shout at a man in a cavalry jacket and spurs, "get that fucking idiot Hobsbawn out there rounding up men! Act fast and we can save the army!" The man wobbled a salute, then ran off along the parapet.

Above them, Thorsen drifted lower and closer, his gaze turning to the cluster of men around Mr. Kolhass like the beam of a lightning rod.

"Down!" yelled Mr. Kolhass, and everybody ducked as a bolt of fire thundered into the parapet, setting light to an officer's hair, who was then bundled under a coat by one of Mr. Kolhass's men.

Thorsen shrugged, then disappeared in a gout of black smoke.

"Where the hell is he?" muttered Kolhass.

Out of thin air stepped Thorsen, who grabbed Kolhass by the neck in one thick-fingered hand, and lifted him into the air.

Suddenly, the sense of Thorsen's will, that terrifying and baleful aura, was overpowering. A republican officer in a cavalry officer jumped off the parapet. Mr. Kolhass' men cowered, covering their heads, as above them Thorsen rose into the air, one meaty hand locked onto Mr. Kolhass' neck like a man toasting with a goblet.

Where the fingers dug into Mr. Kolhass' skin, it greyed and mottled, bruises forming with the speed of ink spilled on paper.

Mr. Kolhass was fumbling for something, a vein in his forehead pulsing. He pulled it out - a dagger, and stabbed Thorsen in the side.

"You maggots never understand. I cannot die," said Thorsen, and the dagger came out of a wound that did not bleed.

Thorsen threw Mr. Kolhass to the ground, retching and clutching his throat, then turned outwards, pouring gouts of flame at the collumn of men that were trying to get into Villach.

They broke in all directions, trailing streamers of greasy flame, screaming with voices rough from smoke as they tried to beat out the flames, pushing others out of their paths and trampling them underfoot.

Mr. Kolhass let out a roar, and jumped off the parapet, both hands holding the dagger over his head, and drove it into Thorsen's back.

There was a sudden blush of silence, then Thorsen was folded into a rent in space.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 13th November 2013, 04:39

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:a simulacrum

ftfy
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Eringya's Employee

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Post Thursday, 14th November 2013, 13:02

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Needs more JIVYA.

Yes, the misspelling of the god's name is intentional.
MuCK;
  Code:
612 | D:1      | Xom revived you
614 | D:1      | Xom revived you
614 | D:1      | Slain by a gnoll

Mines Malingerer

Posts: 44

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Post Thursday, 14th November 2013, 16:20

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

At least, the cell was one of the nice ones, thought Jan, leaning back on his cot. He felt a flicker of guilt, thinking of Dorcas in the under-basement cell in mage-restraints. He had seen both, neither looked in any way comfortable.

From outside, he could hear the rumble of gunfire. The dull whump of cannons. The sharp cracks of muskets firing, or the scream of their misfires. Shouts, and orders, and hours of nothing. The sounds of a siege. Jan guessed Mr. Kolhass' efforts to save the republican army had managed, at least, to salvage enough of it to put up a fight.

George had come by, earlier. Told him that Mr. Kolhass was in bed, two shattered ankles, a broken femur, and no end of piss and vinegar, barking orders rapidfire to his accountant, who had taken on the role of battlefield courier, and was -apparently- not taking the change in profession well.

Then he'd left, leaving Jan with his thoughts, which had started at a foreboding grey and only become darker. Had he been part of that…carnage? A part responsibility? He hadn't heard the explosives detonate. He had killed a man. Burned him.

He couldn't tell whether he was being too harsh or too gentle with himself - taking on more or less responsibility than was truly his. He felt a great and inhuman horror in his stomach, as if a patch of the spaceless void had taken residence there, but it was a wordless horror. It did not tell him whether he was guilty, or whether he was simply sad.

He supposed it didn't matter. All those men, fathers, brothers, sons. Dead in the most obscene fashion imaginable - torn apart by their re-animated comrades, burned alive. He had taken a part in that…shocking and radical evil. He had wandered along with Thorsen's banal implications about necessity, and lesser evils, and then - the horror.

And he thought of Thorsen, dead, and felt irrepressibly glad and despairing at the same time. The friendly, jovial, ruddy-faced man, and the ghoulish alien. Both wiped away, like a letter from a dead friend, burning to ash.

He expected to be hanged. Mr. Kolhass would know he had been working with Thorsen. George hadn't said anything of it. Strange, that his last friend should be a man who had tortured him.

And Dorcas? Was she, in the darkness, feeling this same sickness? Or did she have a piece of the alien inside - that alien that rejoices at burning men?

The door swung open, to admit Hoarson.

"Boss wants you."

Jan got up from his bed. It felt like the room was lightly vibrating. The world was dark and confusing, and he found it hard to understand what he was seeing. He was going to die. Did it matter?

Hoarson led him outside, and up some stone stairs onto the parapet, where men stood bored or frightened or both in the morning drizzle. Outside, the trenches and earthworks seemed molehills against the mountains that rose in the background, and small figures sat hunched under oilskins, or dragging burned and punctured bodies into a great pile, like logs for the winter.

Mr Kolhass had tied himself to a chair, and had two men carrying it, and was reading a book.

Behind him, there was a scaffold, errected above the gatehouse. Two men stood on stools, with rope around their necks, and a third calmly pulled the stools away, one after the other, and they jerked like fish on a line.

The man, and an assistant, loosened the nooses, and pushed the corpses over the side of the gatehouse, where a pile of them could be seen in a pit.

Another two were pushed onto stools, strangely docile.

"What must be done to traitors," said Mr. Kolhass, by way of a greeting, maybe. One snap of taut rope, then another.

"Working for the enemy. Those who work against the wheel of history must be crushed by that selfsame wheel, or barbarism will have perpetual dominion, eh Hoarson?"

"Yes boss," said the block-faced man. Another two snaps. Somebody was crying.

"Discipline. That is what separates men from animals. Discipline is made of iron, and rope, and hungry pits in hard ground."

Jan's thigh felt warm. A pleasant sensation.

"Learning. A place and position. The great institutions, and the bounds of tradition. Without those things, a man is a beast. Worse than most beasts, even. Capable of far greater perversion." Two more snaps.

"We got another pit? This one's looking mighty full!" shouted the hangman.

"Just chuck 'em in, you mind your job, I'll mind mine!" came the reply, from a man with a spade in his grey hands.

The hangman kicked the corpse he was holding off the side of the gateway, and it tumbled into the pile, locked in an awkward embrace with another. The gravedigger began to wrestle its boots off.

Mr Kolhass waved his hand at the scaffold, where two men were being bullied into place. "Law, in short."

He handed the book to Jan.

"The Annals of Governance. A great work, but a testing one, and I have -" he waved his hands at the army beyond the walls "-much to contend with."

"However, this cannot be left for later. It is law that divides rightful conquest from barbarian pillage, tyranny from government, execution from murder. The justice of my actions is undoubtable." Two snaps.

"The legality, less so." He turned to take Jan in that merciless gaze. "You are a man of letters, and it is just this kind of man I need. I want a treaty, drawn up and ready to sign within the week, establishing Villach as a protectorate of the Republic of Genoa, and myself as its lawfully elected Consul."

The hangman was leading a particularly small prisoner up to the scaffold, a child, perhaps, and put the noose around their neck.

"Without such a documment," he waved at the line of prisoners, winding towards the gallows, "all this is indistinguishable from the basest murder and insurrection."

The child jerked, and struggled. The drop had been too short for their weight, so the child's neck had not broken. A boy, or maybe a girl? Suffocating. The hangman got down on his knees, and gave the child's legs a powerful yank, and the struggling stopped.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Thursday, 14th November 2013, 19:54

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Now we have children getting executed.
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Sewers Scotsman

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Post Thursday, 14th November 2013, 20:43

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

This is some tasteful shit.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Thursday, 14th November 2013, 21:27

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

I was aiming for humour, but I think I might have missed the mark and hit a passerby.

-------------------------


"You've made an error here." Mr. Kolhass pointed to section 12 in the mass of revisions that made the third draft of the treaty. "More care, it deserves more care! With a document like this, an innocent little spelling mistake can snowball into civil war, and children being hanged from the rafters before you can say 'proofread!"

That was a joke. Mr. Kolhass was in a good mood.

There was a colossal crash as one of the cannon-shells found its mark in one of the pallisade-top towers, and by the sound of it, brought it down. Jan thought he heard screams, but it was hard to say over the thunder of returning cannonfire.

His hand was crabbed and inkstained from writing, and his neck hurt. He considered it was probably a testament to the human condition that he could feel self-pity in a situation like this.

A situation where everybody, even Mr. Kolhass, dined on starvation rations spiced with horseflesh. Where daily raids, the bloody shits, and cannonfire carried scores of bodies to the constantly working pyres every day. The population of Villach had been drafted to construct great earth ramparts behind the wooden palisade, armed with pikes and cheap muskets that were as much a danger to the user as the target.

And where Dorcas was confined in the darkness, and Jan hadn't lifted a finger to help her. Too busy working on this infernal document, that grew longer with clauses and subclauses, day by day. Too busy looking after his own skin.

The siege had stepped up in intensity - a second republican army was slouching its way up the pass. Jan found himself the silent witness to councils of thigh-slapping officers, drinking wine and talking war under the iron eye of Mr. Kolhass.

"They're reduced to forage!" barked one young man, a medal on his chest. "The sixth legion have entirely cut their supply lines! I say we sally!"

"Take the fight to the cowards!" said another, not to be outdone in bravado.

"Sweep the field!"

Jan thought of the screaming, and the chaos of what little battle he had seen, and marvelled that men had such an appetite for it. He wondered if he had somehow found himself in a conference of locyproca, wearing human skin. He certainly couldn't imagine ever entertaining such an appetite for death and destruction.

But then, maybe that was because he was a coward.

"Sally with what? We ate the last horse, three days ago," came the voice of George Sound.

So with some glowering, that settled it. The siege was going to be won by the side with the tightest latrine discipline. The keenest and meanest quartermasters. Not by the side with the bravest men, or the greatest strength of arms. The art of war seemed, to Jan, to be mostly a matter of pedantry about where people shit.

These meetings were carried out in the basement of the old bar, and above, they could hear the thump of cannon. The cries of the fire-crews, and the crying of the wounded waiting for the dubious attentions of Villach's one doctor, and the army's single surgeon, who seemed to be in competition for the most blood-spattered apron, if not for the most patients saved.

On the ramparts, the regulars of the republican army mixed with pressganged drunks, and bevies of armed prostitutes, old men and boys.

"Here, here, and here!" Shot Mr. Kolhass. The interminable cycle of mistakes and revisions, clauses and their rewrites, continued in all weathers, and all circumstances. Once, a cannon-ball had hit the roof they were sitting under, and rolled into the corner of the room. Mr. Kolhass had hardly lifted an eyebrow, before turning back to the treaty.

And, outside, the royalist army prepared itself for one last push, ahead of the relief force. Everybody was preparing for it, like some great harvest festival, except instead of feasts, and presents, there would be slaughter, and swords.

Mines Malingerer

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Post Friday, 15th November 2013, 01:28

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

A real class act.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Two wags had daubed "The king fucks arses", on the gate in whitewash, and were now being hoisted back onto the gatehouse by their hooting comrades, cheered on by a gang of women, who stood, handkerchiefs around hair, pikes in hand, on the pallisade.

"Tasteless, but it gets the message across," said one young officer, tugging on a long, blonde moustache.

"What does taste even mean, amongst all this?" said Jan, casting an eye over the remnants of the failed raid, wounded men crying for water in the mud, crawling, dead.

The oficer turned to look at him, with a disapproving frown. "Taste is the abillity to avoid naming that which is obvious to all, unpleasant, and entirely necessary. You are not the only one who palls at such terrible slaughter, but you are the only one so tasteless to go on about it!"

Jan looked at all the men, scattered on the muddy hell of the gatehouse approach. He had been harping on, now he thought about it. He couldn't think of anything else. He couldn't understand how everybody could be so energetically engaged in turning a brief stretch of mud into the closest approximation to the Iron City of Dis one could imagine. What, exactly, had changed to turn the usual, stolid indifference to the fate of others into this homicidal mania?

Necessary for what? What could possibly necessitate this kind of wholesale slaughter? He couldn't imagine what could come out of this… monstrosity of waste and banal misfortune.

"At the front again," came Hoarson's deep voice.

"Half the town's the front." The royalists had broken through the east gate the night before, and were now held at a ramshackle set of barricades, fighting house-to-house, through people's bedrooms, homes macerated by war.

"Ain't that the truth." Hoarson tucked his thumbs into his belt, awkwardly.

The big man chewed on his tongue, trying to frame the words.

"Look, I'm not saying it's going to go south. But, in my experience, these events rarely don't. And, when it goes south, you don't want to be trapped in hole, in restraints. Best case scenario, you starve." He paused, awkwardly, glancing around. Nobody was close enough to hear, certainly not over the constant sound of gunfire.

"Ain't had many chances to do somebody a good turn in my line of work." He pressed a key into Jan's hand.

"Don't let her make me regret it. Leave Villach, and don't ever come back."

Dorcas. Jan was going to free Dorcas.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Friday, 15th November 2013, 07:46

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

shackleton wrote:I was aiming for humour, but I think I might have missed the mark and hanged a child.

ftfy
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Sewers Scotsman

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Post Friday, 15th November 2013, 08:14

Re: The Township - Dungeon Crawl Fanfiction

Nothing like some comedy slaughter of the innocents to lighten the mood.
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