Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grammar Magic (lore)

Billobi sat alone in the attic, with a flickering candle as his only source of light. He reached down into the large, open trunk in front of him, and pulled out a small sheet of paper. Upon further inspection, he realised it was a fragment of youth, a reminder from a more naïve period of his life: it was from his school-days.

He dug deeper in the trunk and found the rest of the book from which the sheet came: a book of selected exercises to the course Grammar Magic. Skimming through it, vague memories of boring calculations and Hagberg models surfaced, but nothing more.


"Bill?" a warm voice from downstairs sounded. "Dear?"

"Up here", Billobi answered. "Attic."

"Just don't hit your head, dear. Again."

"I won't, Ana."

"My brother will be here any minute, just so you know."

"Yes, dear."

He returned to the small booklet, and read until he heard the front door open and close.

"Bill, dear? Thomas is here now."

"I'm coming, I'm coming."

He closed the book and returned it to the trunk, and managed to bump his head into the low ceiling before climbing down.

This little booklet is a piece of lore from the world of Rustfoot. If you ever went to the school of Badgerbrough to study magic - you have probably already read it!

It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Download it here (PDF, 110 Kb).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystery Egg (magic item)

The people living in the southern parts of the country were known for being self-sufficient and hard working. There was a steady flow of merchant caravans between nearly every larger settlement and these parts; crops and meat and what not, things that had grown in or fed off the rich and nutritious ground.

Hamphred Dungbeetle used to tell his younger cousin that what they didn't grow, they didn't need.

"Except for one thing", he added with a smile. "You know what that is, Bill?"

They all sat around the dinner table and ate a strange stew, a mixture of edible things not usually combinable. It was food experiment signed Billobi's father, who had spent the entire day shopping in the nearest town. As guests, he wanted to show his appreciation for the hospitality. It was unclear whether it worked.

Billobi shook his head, and said: "No, what?"

"A bathtub!" Hamphred started to laugh so hard the table moved a bit. "Did you know, Bill, I once dreamt I was farming bathtubs? It's true! They just grew right out of that soil, like gull flowers ready to be picked. Filled with water and everything..."

They finished their plates, and while Billobi's helped his parents cleared the table, a loud knock on the door called for Hamphred's attention. He walked over to the front door and opened it.

"Hello, dearest Sir", said a tiny voice, "I hope I am not interrupting anything." It came from a thin and small man, wearing rugged clothes and a small brown hat. He held onto a small cart with one hand. It was filled with all sorts of things.

"Only my digestion! What do you want? You're not selling anything are you?"

"Well, no..." the man said nervously and took off his hat with his free hand. "Not if you're not buying..."

Hamphred snorted, and said: "All right, show me your goods then. I don't have all season!"

"Very well, dearest Sir!"

The tiny man put on his hat and turned the cart around. When Hamphred took a step closer to look inside it, something growled at him.

"I'm sorry, dearest Sir", the tiny man said and patted the cart. "It's one of them faithful carts. Never mind it."

"Never heard of them", Hamphred said and took two steps back.

The tiny man started to browse through the debris on the cart.

"Maybe I can interest you in some...long, rusty pipes...? No? How about...some...bent nails? Also rusty? No? Well then, how about...this brown little...thing...that opens, and plays a melody? Listen! Isn't that the most beautiful... No? All right...how about..."

"Not interested in junk", Hamphred declared with a monotonous voice. "Have you tried selling it to them out-of-towners? They buy anything."

"Look at this beautiful egg!" the tiny man suddenly said and held up an enormous, spotted egg. "Food for days to come!"

"More like one breakfast", Hamphred said and inspected the egg. "Can't say I recognize it. What animal is this?"

"It's...a...bird! A big bird!"

"Really?"

The tiny man nodded, and said: "Absolutely, dearest Sir. Tastes wonderful. And for you...only two and sixty."

"Drop the two and you got yourself a deal, peddler."

"But that's...! It's huge! Two flat, no less."

"One flat, and I won't throw it after you."

The tiny man scratched his neck with his free hand, and said with a low voice: "Deal."

Coins and egg changed owner, and the tiny man disappeared into the clear night. The next morning, Hamphred relieved Billobi's father of all chores that involved cooking, and announced an all omelette breakfast outside. They gathered wood and made a fire just outside the house. The second largest frying pan was fetched from one of the barns and placed on the fire.

"And now", Hamphred declared solemnly with the large egg in his arms, "the big crack!"

He walked over to the fire and the sizzling frying pan, and while holding it firmly with his left arm over the pan, he punched it as hard he could with the other. It cracked into two halves immediately, but instead of the expected yolk and white, a tiny humanoid creature fell out and into the hot pan. Its skin were pale green and covered in warts. A long, crooked nose grew from its small face in a bent shape, and nearly punctuated its chest. It had a narrow tail instead of legs, much like a tadpole.


It screamed horribly as the hot oil burned away on its body. Unable to move away from the heat, it melted slowly. The screaming lasted only for a couple of seconds, and a minute later there wasn't more than a grey goo left in the pan.

"It's probably still better than that stew of yours", Hamphred told Billobi's father.

Mystery eggs are small, magical organs that feed on their surroundings. Much like mushrooms, they can be found everywhere. They start out as tiny, round balls, and grow as they "feed" on the immediate environment; it collects emotions, parts of magic, thoughts, shapes, languages, and everything else that is specific for the location, and stores this in its soft tissue. This is the first phase.

In the second phase, after being fed enough, they develop a hard shell that surrounds and protects the soft interior. The egg will not grow any more now, and goes into its third phase, in which it summarises the things stored in its tissue and converts it into something materially.

After the third phase is completed, the egg goes into a sort of hibernation. This is the final phase.

Mystery eggs are so called because of their gambling nature; you never know what to get since they have been known to materialise living things as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Music box (magic item)

The day that no one thought would ever come finally arrived on a hot summers day: the day when Billobi's good friend Thomas Althorp got married.

Graduation day was still fresh in their minds, a memory only a year old. All dressed up, a day as hot as this, their heads and hearts filled with plans and motivation, eager to get going. Thomas had bought an old shop in Horsehead, Billobi needed to travel the countryside, and Tristan had signed on to the Acorn Afloat to take him overseas. Naturally, all ceremonies follow the same universal speed, written in stone at the beginning of time, to make all formalities as tenacious as possible: the pace of a snail.

Billobi wiped the sweat from his forehead, and wondered why all ceremonies had to take place outdoors. He sat on a hard, white chair, and waited for the groom, much like everyone else. Long rows of white chairs were placed in front of a crudely built stage, which was decorated with flowers and hay. It swayed even at the slightest breeze. The priest, stationed in the middle of the stage, looked nervous.

"I just hope my boy remembered to buy her a gift!" whispered the women next to Billobi. It was Thomas Althorp's mother.

"Well, he's managed to keep his antique shop for a whole year now, so I wouldn't worry", Billobi whispered back with a smile.

"You've ever been to his shop, Bill?"

"Yes, but w...? Point taken, Mrs. Althorp."

Suddenly out of nowhere, Thomas came running, half-dressed. He jumped up on the stage and took place next to priest, finishing up on his tie and shirt. The stage waggled a bit, much to the enjoyment of the younger ones in the audience.

"Sorry!" Thomas said and waved to the rows of people. He tried to avoid his mother's gaze.

"Are we ready?" said the priest with a snooty, high pitched voice. When Thomas answered with a nod, three young girls from the front row got up on the stage, each carrying a small trumpet. As soon as the stage had stopped moving, they began to play.

"Let me present to you", said the priest and raised his arm slowly, "the bride!"

Everyone stood up, and to the horrible sound of untrained trumpeters battering their instruments, a women dressed in a beautiful green wedding gown walked up to the stage and took place next to Thomas. To everyone's delight, the three young girls stopped playing and returned to their seats.

"We have gathered here today, on this hot Horsehead day, to witness the completion of the union of the circle of the once broken lines of love and honesty that is the ritual that needs to be and wants to be fulfilled with the two formerly lost but now to be connected in the short infinity that we speak of and think of as life. Of love. In the circle. Of the union. And so on."

Billobi yawned. He could've sworn that his old headmaster said something similar a year ago.

"Shut that mouth of yours, Bill, or I'll put my fist in it", whispered Thomas mother to Billobi, who shut it promptly.

"But the circle in the union", the priest continued, "of the lines that was broken and shattered and lost but found and reunited and forged back together, cannot be all that if the two souls that are about to meet in the perimeter of the circle that is the union of honestly love don't participate in the lovely exchange that fulfils the contract. Of the union. Of love. In the circle. And so on."

The priest smiled and looked at Thomas, who smiled back.

"Great speech", said Thomas.

"As I said, the union of love that makes the circle complete needs its worldly exchange to take place."

"So?"

"So..." said the priest, clearly annoyed. "Do you have your part of the exchange?"

"Oh! You mean the gift!"

The priest smiled and nodded.

"Yes, I have it right here..."

As Thomas began to search his pockets for the gift, Billobi heard the words "He'd better!" leave Thomas mother's mouth.

"Here it is!"

Thomas pulled out a tiny box of metal and handed it over to his bride. The box was dark brown in colour but didn't have any other significant features, except for a small hinge on one side.

"How lovely", said the priest. "The groom have completed his part of the lovely exchange in the circle of the union..."

"Open it!" Thomas interrupted.

With great care his bride slowly opened up the tiny box into two equally sized parts, connected only by the hinge. The two parts looked identical, with a perforated lid covering their contents. A lovely melody immediately began to play.

"It's a music box", Thomas explained with great joy. "I knew from the day I first got it at the shop that it would make a perfect wedding gift!"

"It's wonderful", his bride responded. "I didn't know they made instruments that small."

"Oh, there's not a single instrument in there", Thomas said. "It's one of them old, genuine magical music boxes."

"Let me see that", the priest said and started to inspect the small box. After only a glimpse he immediately closed it, and bellowed: "You fool! Do you know what this is?"

"Yes, it's a magical music box", Thomas said. "A gift for my..."

"It's not a gift, it's a torture chamber! It's not a suitable gift for something as lovely as the union of the circle in which you two are about to enter! No, young man, your gift to this lovely bride will be the release of that poor soul - or, souls! - that are contained within this cursed and wretched piece of torment! Destroy it!"

"But..."

"Now! Pry the lid open and redeem your idiotic actions!"

The priest handed over the box to Thomas, who slowly opened it up as if he was expecting something to pop up. As soon as he did that the wonderful melody that played before spread yet again. It was a soothing and beautiful sound.

The thin, perforated lids broke under the pressure of Thomas thumb. In an instance, the music stopped. Peeking inside, the space under the lid was empty.

"You've cleared your mistake", the priest said and then turned to the bride. "And you?"

"Y-yes?", she answered, slightly shaken by the events.

"Do you still want to merry this idiot?"

Music boxes can be found all over the known world. They're small, brown and made out of thin metal. Once opened, they play a melody that depends on the soul captured within it.

These devices originates from a vicious group of people that experimented a great deal with music. Somehow, they found a way to extract the very life essence of beings and store it as music in various contraptions, such as the music box.

When opened, it begins torturing the captured soul to make it sound. By breaking or otherwise destroying the device the soul is released. Dealing with these kind of devices are generally considered unethical.

The melody depends entirely on the soul, and is said to be a summary of memories and emotions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Gardener (map)

Billobi's cousin Hamphred Dungbeetle sat as usual in the large bathtub stationed outside on his front lawn, with Billobi next to him in an old, water filled wagon. The day had been long and sweaty, but they always were in these southern parts of the country.

"Ev'ery problem has a solution", Hamphred said with a slow voice. "Hellish weather, heavenly bathing!"

Billobi nodded in agreement; helping out on the farm was everything but vacation, but it was better than school. He gently filled his cupped hand with the cool water and poured it over his face, pretending he was a living waterfall. Far away the sun was setting, as red as his cousin's nose during the annual eel feast. At least that's always what his father used to say; Billobi had never gotten a red nose after eating eel, so he assumed it had to do with a particular type of eel that only Hamphred ate.

"See that old man over there, shaped like a horseshoe?" asked Hamphred and pointed to the distance. "We call him the Gardener."

"Is he called that because he works as a gardener?" asked Billobi and squinted.

"Sort of! He got tricked by them burghers, sold him one of them aar-chi-teqs. Don't ask me how it's spelled! Some fancy word for a little worm that eats dirt."

"Why did he need to buy worms? I see plenty every day, and they all seem to eat dirt."

"As I said, Bill, them burghers fooled him with their fancy words. The gardener thought he'd came up with a brilliant plan: he would use them worms for digging himself a set of underground tunnels."

"What would he need tunnels for, Hamphred?"

"Well, for crops, obviously. Haven't you ever tasted pearl potatoes, those white, small things?"

Billobi couldn't remembered he'd ever did.

"Never? I need to talk to your parents, 'cause pearl potatoes are nothing but pure candy for your soul! Anyway, those potatoes loves dark places, and growing them in a underground tunnel is heaven for them - only upside down. Well, look here!"

The Gardener walked up to their bathtubs and waved lazily. He had a long, white beard and old clothes covered in dirt. His eyes were no bigger than two dots in his pale face.

"Good day, Hamphred. Another bath, yes?"

"Keeps me alive!" answered Hamphred and laughed. "Any news on those worms of yours?"

"No, no", said the Gardener, shaking his head as if he was answering himself as well, "no news. Well, maybe one: I found one of them dead, yes. So, yes, one news perhaps. One."

"That's good to hear, only one more to find then!"

"No, no, found him I did. Not the dead one, no, although I found him too. No the other one, he's the fattest I've seen. Lives in the furthest room. He spoke to me, yes."

"The worm...spoke to you?" asked Billobi.

"Yes, yes, spoke to me he did. No, not the dead one, he got to the size of dog, then he died. But the fattest, he's bigger than your outhouse, Hamphred. Two, perhaps. Grown tired of dirt, he said. He wants to eat real food now, yes. I fed him once, but now I've locked the three doors, yes."

"That's the spirit, let the monster starve", said Hamphred and washed his face.

"Yes, starve the fat architect. Shouldn't ever have gotten them, nope. Well, I need to get going now, got them cows on pasture so I'll better keep an eye out for them. Farewell."

The Gardener turned around and walked away with his bent body.

"Do you think the worm really spoke to him, Hamphred?" Billobi whispered excited.

"You never know, Bill. One time at the harvest feast I thought I heard an eel say something to me."

"Really? What did he say?"

"I never found out, 'cause I ate him before he'd talk himself out of it!" Hamphred said with a laughter.

Billobi turned his gaze toward the pink horizon; maybe it was the talkative eels that gave you a red nose?


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lady Prunella's Lovely Locks (magic item)

The town of Badgerbrough, like any larger town, housed a numerous amount of small shops, each with their own kind of goods and services. In school, Billobi was taught that there existed some kind of balance between what the people wanted to buy, and what was actually in stock; if a rare item was highly sought after, it generally costed a whole lot more, and vice versa.

It was the opposite that got both him and best friend Tristan curious and slightly confused; if a certain item wasn't in demand, it would become cheaper. So if this continued, they reasoned, then the item would eventually cost nothing!

"I hope everybody stops buying candy", said Tristan and kicked a small rock.

"Why?" asked Billobi.

"Because, if no one buys candy, that means no one demands it, and therefore it will drop in price, and if it continues long enough, all candy will eventually be free! Free, for me to eat!"

Relieved that school was finally out for the day, they crossed the school yard with their backpacks dragging in the gravel.

"I don't think it's that easy", said Billobi. "Mrs. Alcott said a lot of other things about that too."

"Like what? I don't remember any of it."

"Me neither."

They walked on for a bit and arrived shortly at a street famous for its small shops, packed and stacked like items on a shelf.

"Do you think Angela Burdett's Candy is open?" said Tristan with dreamy eyes. "That nice lady always lets me taste for free..."

A scream interrupted their cravings; it came from a small store behind them. Curious, they rushed to see what was going on.

Inside, they found a young woman with arms crossed over her chest. Her clothes were bulky and colourful, and looked like a mixture of pants and dress in one. Her hair was pitch black and all over the place.

"Are you all right, madame?" asked Billobi.

She looked at them with wide open eyes.

"I just... That lady scared me, that's all", she said and pointed towards the wall.

The boys followed her arm but couldn't see anyone there; the wall looked ordinary, cluttered with shelves and strange cloth, and it was only the three of them.

"There's no one there, madame", said Tristan.

The woman dropped her arm slowly with a surprised look on her face. She walked up to the wall and inspected it carefully.

"Ah!" she suddenly said with a relief in her voice. "It was only my reflection! Damn those mirrors, ey?"

She walked over to a narrow counter at the back of the room, also cluttered with various things.

"Care for a sweetstick, boys? That fine woman Angela gave me these the other day. Taste a bit like bark, but good. I had five, but I think I lost one in me dress. So, so, don't be afraid."

Billobi and Tristan walked over to the counter and received the sweetsticks; they did actually taste like bark.

"Thank you, madame."

"No need for that, say Prunella, that's me name. Well, not really, but you may call me that anyway. So, what are two small boys as yourselves doing in my little shop? Fancy a lock for those backpacks, do you?"

Billobi and Tristan shook their heads.

"We hea'd you sc'eamin'", said Tristan, mouth filled with sweet candy.

"Ah, and you came to me rescue, didn't you?"

Billobi shrugged, and took another bite on his sweetstick.

"We'e adventu'e's", said Tristan.

"You are what?"

"Ad-ven-tu-es", Tristan repeated. A small piece of half-chewed, sticky candy fell out of his mouth and landed on the counter.

"Ah, adventurers! Yes, I saw that immediately the moment you walked in! And by what names do these brave adventurers go by?"

"T'istan."

"Bi'obi."

"Tristan and Billobi, my brave rescuers, who helped me defeat that awful lady in the mirror!"

A knock on the window interrupted them. A tall man walked in and started talking.

"It's 'bout them locks."

"Yes, what about them?" said Prunella and smiled.

"They're great..."

"I'm pleased to hear, not many of me customers comes back and complements my items!"

"Yes, they're great, but me wife and I decided that we need ordinary locks, like we said. Not the disposable ones you recommended."

"Absolutely, come this way."

Billobi and Tristan chewed away on their sweetsticks while witnessing the purchase of three new locks by the man.

"Another happy customer", said Prunella and smiled when he had left.

"Wha' wos w'ong wi'h hes locks?" asked Billobi.

"Ah, nothing. Some people just don't know what they want!"

Billobi and Tristan finished their sweetsticks, said good bye and left Prunella's shop. When they started thinking about what she'd said about people not knowing what they want, they realised that at least they knew what they'd want - and went straight to Angela Burdett's Candy.

Lady Prunella's Lovely Locks has a rather large assortment of devices for locking things up, and not only doors. Her sales philosophy is that every customer should come back and buy more, which they often do for obvious reasons.

Besides the ordinary type of locks found in every other store, she also has a selection of locking devices not necessarily useful. Unless noted, they all look and feel the same as ordinary ones. Naturally, combinations of these exists.
Here follows some.

Disposable locks
Works a fixed number of times, before they either crumble to dust or just stops working.

Irreflexive locks
Only appears on one side (e.g. on only one side of a door; there have been reports of people locking themselves out while installing these).

Mood locks
Need to be pleased to be operational (the unforgiving ones may take weeks to work as expected again).

Sweet locks
Needs to be eaten to unlock (the name is misleading since its taste will vary greatly).

Invisible locks
Discontinued (impossible to handle in stock).

Twin locks
Twin locks are two ordinary locks with a relation; if they like each other, they share the same state (e.g. either they're both locked, or both unlocked), but if they don't, they will strive to be the opposite of the other (e.g. if one is locked, the other will unlock, and vice versa).
Although rare, there have been twin locks that all of a sudden have started to dislike each other, and therefore changed their ways of working. Some twin locks also forgive one and other.

None locks
Not considered as real locks by many, since they only lock things when someone tries to unlock them (e.g. with some key or by picking). Only way to open anything with these types of locks is to treat it like it's unlocked.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The almost secret tower of Leasspell, part 2 (map)

It was a chilly morning. Billobi stood by the window of his room on the second floor, and looked out over the treeless scenery; the ground was covered in white mist as if the clouds had become too heavy and sunk from the sky. The flat, ghastly view and the silence made his mind wandering; he imagined abominations lurking in the mist, white spiders ten feet wide but no taller than an inch, like living traps unnoticeable in the early morning, just waiting for someone to step on them...

The sound of a bell struck three times indicated that lady Darnton was serving breakfast downstairs. Billobi quickly awoke from his daydream, put on his jacket and headed for the stairs.

"Good morning, lad", said old Badsey, already on his second plate. "For a minute there I was worried that a WALLEATER had taken you. Nasty things, eats people's walls, leaving only floor and roof, and then - BANG! - everything collapses on ye. Nasty critters, yes, yes."

Billobi sat down on an empty chair next to Badsey and started filling his plate with various forms of meat, bread and something that resembled stew.

Lady Darnton swept by their table, filling their cups with a warm, black substance. Old Badsey gave her a big, warm smile, unfortunately covered in half-chewed breakfast.

"I dreamt about that tower last night", Billobi said and took a sip of the warm liquid.

"What tower?"

"That tower you told me about, remember? The one the people couldn't see."

"Ah, yes, yes, the tower of Leasspell, nasty tower, yes, yes. Could use a good walleater that one!" Old Badsey chuckled so much a piece of meat got caught in his throat. He coughed a couple of times, and finally spat it out on his plate, only to put it back in. "In it goes again!"

"I dreamt I was stuck inside it", Billobi continued, "traversing its floors, but it was ever changing. I felt completely lost."

"Sounds just like the time when I accidentally put the eye-patch on me healthy eye", Badsey said and pointed at his eye with the fork. "Walked right into a tree, I did."

"Finally, I found the exit, and found myself surrounded by people - I was in Leasspell. Somehow, I just knew it was Leasspell. A woman approached, and said: 'Stuck in place but not in time'."

"And...?"

"And then I woke up."

Old Badsey chewed intensively while observing Billobi.

"You know, lad", he said after a while, "I've heard something like that before, yes, yes, long time ago. Back then I though she was crazy - crazy with a nice backside, I might add - but now... She told me that exact line, yes."

"Are you making this up?" Billobi said sceptical.

Badsey raised one arm and held the other one on his heart, and said: "Swear on me mother's hair! That woman said the same thing!"

"Did she say anything else?"

"Well, something about the tower and the people only sharing the same space, but not time. I don't remember too well, I was already ogling her sister by that time."

"I don't understand", said Billobi.

"Me neither", said old Badsey and bit off the end of a large, grey sausage.

Lady Darnton swept by their table a second time to refill their cups.

"Thank you, fair lady!" said Badsey and smiled big.

"You have stew on your eye-patch", said lady Darnton and left.

The zipped archive contains a one paged PDF with the seven floors of the tower, with a small map key. Also included are the seven individual floors as separate files (in PNG-format).

This map is intended to be stocked and populated by you; there's no monsters or any hooks. Just seven floors, accessible by the central winding staircase. The floors are numbered but not necessarily in order.

If you want to simulate the feeling of being lost (just like Billobi felt), you could roll a 1d10 every time the adventurers are using the staircase. A result of 1-7 means they enter the floor with that number, 8-9 means they enter the same floor again, and 10 means they enter the same floor again only to meet themselves (they've travelled one minute back in time).

Everything in the archive is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Download it here.

(Read the first part of the story here: The almost secret tower of Leasspell)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deck of Hand, Head and Heart (non-magic item)

It was the last week of school before the summer break, and for Billobi and best friend Tristan "Hum" Beadle it also felt like the longest. All the tests and projects for this term were completed, so these last days served no other purpose than to torment the poor pupils with "fun facts" and "interesting people" - at least, that's what Billobi thought. He failed to see the fun in listening to old people talking about how things were when they were young in Badgerbrough (mostly how much more expensive everything had become), or cleaning your desk for the tenth time.

On the last day an old man visited the class. The teacher presented him as Mr. Pimbleman, brother to the famous brewer.

"Good day, young students!" he said and took off his hat. "A fine day for indoor activities, isn't it?"

Outside the sun drenched the schoolyard in warmth, making the horizon ripple nervously. Tristan buried his head in his hands with a sigh and longed for the ocean.

"Just kidding! I was once in your seat, believe it or not. I'll make it short, I promise. Have any of you ever seen one of these?"

Mr. Pimbleman pulled out a thin deck of cards, and held them up high. No one answered.

"Apparently not! It's called a deck of hand, head and heart, and it is used for fortune-telling. Does anyone know what that means?"

At this point, the teacher stepped forward and whispered something in Mr. Pimbleman's ear with a troubled look on her face.

"No, it's all right, Mrs. Alcott", he said to her with a smile, "I'm sure they can handle it. They won't be cursed or anything...or WILL THEY?"

He paused and glanced over the class room to see if he'd caught anyone's interest - he hadn't.

"Anyway... A deck of hand, head and heart tells something about someone, by the use of special symbols on the cards."

The teacher stepped forward again and whispered something into his ear, still with a troubled face.

"No, the symbols aren't magical, Mrs. Alcott, I assure you no one will come to harm."

He went silent as he shuffled the deck with great care.

"But what use is a deck of fortune-telling cards without anyone to tell the fortune to? I need a volunteer. Anyone?"

Remembering what the old man said about not taking too long, Billobi raised his hand to end it quicker.

"Lovely! What is your name, young man?"

"Billobi Rustfoot."

"Billobi, let us see what the cards have in store for you. We'll draw three cards from the deck: one for the heart, one for the head, and one for the hands. The heart card tells about your feelings or inner beliefs. Okay?"

Billobi nodded.

"Okay. So, the heart card is a...aha, look at this, a Lady of Love!"

Mr. Pimbleman held up the card for the class to see. It had a rather obscure drawing of a women with strange, oversized proportions, especially the bosom.

"This, young pupils, is the Lady of Love. She most often stands for love and affection. Tell me Billobi, is there a special girl in your life at the moment?"

At the sounding of those words, Billobi felt how his heart began to beat harder. He stared Mr. Pimbleman in the eyes and shook his head intensively.

"Really? Not a single one? Maybe someone in your class? Someone slightly more cuter than the rest?"

As his heart kept racing, Billobi could feel the sneering looks from the other students, pointing at him and giggling. A warmth started to spread in his face, and he wished he could blame the sun for it. He shook his head again, harder than the first time.

"Okay, we'll leave it there", said Mr. Pimbleman with a smile. "So, you have the Lady of Love in your heart, let's see what your head says!"

He pulled another card from the deck and showed it; it was a grotesque picture of a whale with the sun and the moon in its mouth.

"Of course, the World Whale! This ugly creature stands for surroundings, or the day and night cycle. While the heart card reveals your true feelings, the head card tells what you're thinking about, or how you reason with your heart. The World Whale in your head tells us that the love in your heart is someone you're thinking about all the time, day and night!"

The giggling had now turned into laughter. Billobi sat there in silence, face red as sunset, wishing he had never raised his hand. Tristan would surely remind him of this day for the rest of his life.

"And now, the hand card, which tells us how you deal with these feelings and thoughts. Let's ask the deck once more..."

Mr. Pimbleman pulled the last card from the deck, and showed it to the class. The card had a square, bearded head pictured on it, with its mouth closed.

"Obviously, it is the mute, or the shutter; he who closes up and reveals nothing! So, Billobi, according to the cards, your heart desires someone - or something - that you can't stop thinking about, but you handle it by not to telling anyone about it. Does that sound accurate to you, hmm?"

Billobi shook his bright red head in silence.

"Very well! Well, that's all I've got. Thank you all for your time, especially you Billobi, and thank you Mrs. Alcott for having me, it was a pleasure."

Mr. Pimbleman received a round of applause before Mrs. Alcott wished everybody a nice summer, and declared the start of the summer holiday. During the chaos and cheering that followed, Billobi all of a sudden met Ana Althorp's eyes across the class room - and they were bluer than ever.

A deck of hand, head and heart contains cards with various symbols or drawings, and is used for fortune-telling.

The fortune-teller first draws one card for the heart; this is said to tell about inner beliefs, true feelings, and so on.

The second card drawn is for the head; this tells about reasoning and logic about what the heart believes.

The last card to be drawn is for the hands; this reveals how the person deals with all these things through words and actions.

The possible meanings of the symbols are infinite, and the ones presented below are just some of the more common. Some of the symbols found on the cards include:


The Lady of Love

Possible meanings
Love, Affection, Lust, Fertility, Naiveness, Inability to take action

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Love

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Not thinking clear

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Fumbling








The Striped Sword

Possible meanings
Battle, Duality, Sharp-sightedness, Toughness, Readiness, Wit

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Undecided

Possible meaning when drawn in head
On the alert

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Looking for a fight








The Devourer

Possible meanings
Gullibility, Hunger, Searcher, Keen learner, Yearning, Theft

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Regret

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Eager student

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Thieving








The Mute
(or The Shutter)

Possible meanings
Liar, Ignorance, Nonchalantness, Hiding, Dumbfounded, Starvation

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Ashamed

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Withholding information/lying

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Hiding






The Reversal

Possible meanings
Opposite, Inversion, Negation, Conflict

Possible meaning when drawn in heart/head/hands
Depends on the other two cards, often negating a feeling/reasoning/action (or stating a conflict)






The Tainted Tree

Possible meanings
Escape, Growth, Escalation, Filthy, Deceitfulness

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Bad intentions

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Plotting

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Spreading rumours/mongering








The World Whale

Possible meanings
Surroundings, The entire world/everything, Transitions, Day/Night, Cycles, Enclosure, Imprisonment

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
In control

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Megalomaniac

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Repeating with obsession





The Mask of Mazes

Possible meanings
Delusion, Confusion, Entanglement, Chaos, Craze, Hindrance

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Despair

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Lost

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Uncertain about what to do




The Serpent Spot

Possible meanings
Concealment, Traps, Fraud, Unsafe spot, Hidden agenda, Sneaking, Crawling

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Dominated

Possible meaning when drawn in head
To serve or go by unnoticed

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Covering one's tracks

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Message sticks (magic item)

It had been yet another night of face licking for Billobi, but at this point he was used to it. Sleeping on the floor in Mr. Bickleigh's brick house was a sure way of getting your face clean by the house cat; Mr. Bigglesworth sure had a rough tongue.

Living all alone in the middle of the Ogrebelly forest meant giving up on some of the convenience of a city or village, but Mr. Bickleigh didn't mind. The forest had everything he needed in terms of food, magical ingredients and - strangely enough - intellectual exchange.

"I talked to some heather last night", Mr. Bickleigh said and put a pot on the stove. "You'd think they'd be quite the conversationalists, Mr. Rustfoot, but sadly they just talk in riddles and twisted wordplays. Bah, it's easier to talk to a stream!"

Billobi got up on his feet and walked over to the kitchen window to adore the scenery for a second.

"How does one talk to heather anyway?" Billobi asked.

"What do you mean? With your mouth of course! But Mr. Bigglesworth, what are you doing! You stupid cat!"

Billobi turned around and saw the cat looking back at them both with a postage stamp attached to his nose, and one sticking out from his mouth half-chewed. It didn't seem to understand what the fuss was about.

"Congratulations, Mr. Bigglesworth! Your indisputable and unmatched hunting abilities have yet again led you to the feast of your lifetime - my box of stamps! I admit my defeat, you fat cat!"

"I don't understand", said Billobi, "he likes stamps?"

"Oh, 'like' is such a weak word", said Mr. Bickleigh and started to fumble with the pile of wood over at the stove. "I would rather say that he crave for them! I guess they shouldn't make the sticky stuff on the back so tasty, am I right Mr. Bigglesworth?"

The cat pulled off the stamp on his nose with the paw, and started to chew on it. Mr. Bickleigh took a bunch of narrow sticks from the wood pile, and headed for the front door.

"Come Mr. Rustfoot", he said and opened up the door. "I presume a man of your curious nature never turns down an opportunity to witness something old and magical?"

Billobi shook his head and smiled.

"Besides, I need to borrow your pen and some paper."

Mr. Bickleigh led Billobi to a small fireplace just outside. It consisted of big chunks of rock formed in a crude circle, with some charcoal in the middle from last night's cooking.

"Since that fat cat of mine decided to feast on my stamps on the very day I needed them, I guess I'll have to resort to more unconventional ways of communication. Put some logs on, will you?"

Billobi went around the house and fetched some logs and piled them up nicely in the middle of the stone circle.

"Stand back, or I'll have your nose hair burned off!" Mr. Bickleigh said, and snapped his fingers upon which the logs started to burn immediately.

"People tend to believe it's the motion, when it's really the sound", he added somewhat proud. "Anyway! Pen and paper, please!"

Billobi handed his pen and a piece of paper, tools which he never left home without. Mr. Bickleigh started to write immediately.

"There! This" - he folded the paper twice - "is my message, and that" - he threw the paper into the fire - "is my way of sending it. And now, we'll peel some sticks."

He handed some of the narrow sticks he brought with him to Billobi, and started to peel off their bark. After doing about fifteen or so, he bundled them together and threw them on the fire.

"Those are my receivers", he said and pointed at the sticks, which began to twist and turn in the heat. "A stick for a letter, so it's best to peel aplenty. Quick! Pull them out! Hurry, before they all turn into c's! Quickly, Mr. Rustfoot, my fingers are to valuable for such labour!"

Billobi performed some sort of hopping dance while trying to get the sticks out of the fire. He lined the burned and twisted sticks up in front of them. Somehow, nine of them had turned into crude, ornate letters, and one single stick remained straight but with a small dot placed on it. Mr. Bickleigh immediately started arranging them in different ways, until they spelled out two words, with the dotted stick in between, separating them.

"Hmm..." he said, clearly annoyed. "That's not very nice."

"May I ask what you wrote on the paper?"

"It was merely a request from one friend to another - or, so I thought! - about deliverance of certain beverages to my home, at his expense. Nothing fancy, maybe just some bottles of Pimbleman's Teeth or Horsehead's Stout. Maybe some ripe cheese. And that tasty sourdough bread... Well, that clearly shows that you can't be friends with innkeepers! Pen and paper, please!"

He wrote a new message, folded the paper and threw it on the fire.

"Come, Mr. Rustfoot", Mr. Bickleigh said and headed towards the house again. "No need to wait for an answer to that!"

Message sticks are a way of communicate over long distances using only fireplaces and narrow sticks. Any type of stick will do, as long as the bark is peeled off.

To send a message, one must write it down on a piece of paper (or some other material), fold it and throw it on the fire. Since it's impossible to know how many letters the response will contain, it's best to throw as many sticks as possible on the fire, since one stick corresponds to one letter.

After some seconds, the sticks will begin to twist and turn into letters, at which point they should be removed (or they'll turn into C's). Straight sticks with a dot on them should be treated as word dividers.

Unfortunately, the sticks need to be arranged properly after turning into letters, since they come out all scrambled. This is why most people prefer writing letters.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Slow exchange (spell)

Slow exchange
Range: One object (special)
Duration: One week (special)

It had been a boring week of mostly sitting down for old Billobi Rustfoot, when there all of a sudden was a knock on his door. He put on his glasses, grabbed his walking stick and got up from the comfort of his favourite piece of furniture (an old present from his long gone cousin Hamphred). With a little help from his stick he managed to fight gravity long enough to reach the front door. Opening it revealed a young woman dressed in all black - obviously a letter carrier in service of Penny Black.

"G'day Sir", she said with a firm voice, jaws barely open. "Letter for Mr Rustfoot."

"That's me", said Billobi and smiled.

"G'day Mr Rustfoot, that will be one and six, Sir."

"One and six? Well that's just... I remember when it only cost a flat one..."

He continued to mumble while searching through his pockets with his free hand. There, deep down, could he feel the coins waiting for his gnarly fingers.

"Say... You remind me of someone", Billobi said and inspected the young woman's face.

"Is that so?"

"Yes... Why you look... Cursed coins! You will appreciate your former strength when you get this old!"

"Is that so? One and six, Mr Rustfoot", she said, not overly enthusiastic.

"Yeah, yeah... Now I know! You remind me of my...my daughter!"

"I'm flattered, Sir. One and six. Hurry up or Penny Black will make a visit, Mr Rustfoot."

"Yeah, yeah, you'll get your money you..." - his words disappeared when he finally got a hold of the coins. He reached out his hand to the letter carrier, who collected the right amount without a word.

"Thank you. G'day to you, Sir."

Just a sudden as she had appeared, she was gone. Billobi closed the door and defied yet again gravity with his walking stick. With a soft thud he fell into the chair, embraced by the warmth of the stuffing.

He inspected the envelope carefully. It was thick, thicker than average. The writing on the front was too small for him to read. He reached for his letter knife on the table next to him (also an old present from yet another gone friend; old Badsey, the former ferryman of Ketch-in-Loch), ripped up the envelope and pulled out a letter written on a thick piece of paper.

He started to read it: "Dear old friend! As I write this I'm looking out over miles and miles of pure gold; warm, yellow sand that forms the beach right next to my small cottage. The heat, good lords, the heat! Tall, naked trees that carries fruits sweeter than your dear mother's apple pie - gods rest her soul - and tall, naked women... Dear friend, you'd love it here! Our old bones and joints need this paradise. To give you a taste of the good life, I've attached a marker. It looks like a stamp, only larger."

Billobi turned the letter around but couldn't see anything that resembled a stamp. But when he shook the envelope upside down, a square piece of paper fell out. It was thin and had a drawing of a cat on it.

He continued reading: "I've drawn a cat on it - don't laugh, I did my best! Now, what you have there is a very special marker, enchanted by a good friend of mine. What I want you to do now is to lick on its back, and attached it on something the size of a small cat. Think of it like putting a stamp on an envelope! (I didn't have the money to pay for the stamp on this letter, though. Sorry about that, old friend!) "

While muttering about his cheapskate for a friend, he searched his living room for anything as large as a cat. Finally, he settled for the torn wastepaper basket that sat next to his chair. He licked the square piece of paper, and pressed it against the side of the basket. It sat loose, but didn't fall off at least.

He continued: "As soon as you've done this, it will be impossible to remove it."

Billobi reached out his hand and tried to pry it off, unsuccessfully.

The last lines of the letter read: "I have a similar marker here, which will start to glow as soon as you've attached yours. Now, over the next seven days, keep an eye open, and don't through away whatever you've attached the marker to - you'll see, old friend! / Your friend overseas, Tristan".

Over the next seven days, Billobi experienced something truly extraordinary. Every day, one small part of the basket was replaced by something thorny and dark brown. On the seventh day, the basket was completely gone, and replaced by something that looked like a brown little ball, with green, hard leaves on top. After a careful investigation by his friend down by the docks, he was informed that it was a pineapple, and was shown how to eat it. Though sweet, he didn't really care for the taste.


Some weeks later a new letter from Tristan arrived. Yet another one and six shorter, Billobi opened up the envelope and found a short note along with another marker. The note said: "Dear friend! The village enchanter has made a stronger marker! Just look at the drawing and you'll understand. See you soon! / Your friend overseas, Tristan".

After turning it around a couple of times, Billobi finally recognize the drawing on the marker. He immediately licked it, attached it to his forehead and went straight to bed.

A slow exchange-spell is usually cast upon a pair of stamps, which then are attached to the objects that the caster wish to swap out. The stamps must be made out of a fine piece of paper (not necessarily magical).

It takes one week for the exchange to take place. Every day, one seventh of the two pieces are swapped, resulting in quite fascinating (or horrible) mixtures. Living things such as fruits, animals, humans, etc. aren't harmed by this remarkable piece by piece exchange, although it may affect their ability to walk and talk (e.g. exchanging a man and a barrel).

It is custom to draw something the size of the object to exchange on the stamps as a guideline. Exchanging objects that differs too greatly in size may result in death (or worse).

Casting this spell upon an object directly (other than a pair of stamps) will cause it to disappear into a special kind of void, where it will sit and wait (forever, if so). The next time the spell is cast directly upon an object, it will trade places with that object, and so on. Note that this is independently of whoever cast, so that a person who casts this spell twice in a row can't be sure to get the first object back (it may already been replaced).

The markers will come off by themselves on the seventh day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dowsing rod (magic item)

As a traveller and explorer, Billobi had seen more than anyone usually do in one's lifetime; from the brightest shining gemstones, to the darkest slimy creatures, he had seen it all. But even as he grew older, things still seemed to pop up from nowhere and surprise him. If he was lucky, he had his pen ready and could add it to his journal. If he was unlucky, he had to run for his life, pen or no pen.

The only person Billobi knew of that had seen as much strange things as himself was his old friend Thomas Althorp, owner of the only antique shop in the town of Horsehead. Visiting his shop was a sure way of experience new, weird things.


Almost.

"A branch?" asked Billobi and looked at the twig at the table. He and Thomas stood by the counter, opposite sides, observing the dead piece of wood.


"Yep", said Thomas. "Not very exciting, eh?"

"Not the least... What does it do?"


"Well..." - Thomas scratched his chin - "The gentleman who sold it to me said it could be used as a dowsing rod."



"A dowsing rod? Surely you know those never works, dear friend?"

"That's what I told him, but he assured it wasn't meant to be used here, and certainly not for water."


Billobi picked up the y-shaped branch and studied it up close, without noticing any kind of interesting features. "What do you mean 'not here', as in not in Horsehead? Soo...he sold you a dowsing rod that doesn't work in this town, or not at all for that matter? Maybe retailing isn't your cup of tea..."


"Hey! Maybe I'll make you buy it!"
They stood quiet for while, inspecting the gnarled thing, when Thomas all of a sudden said: "Oh, I almost forgot! He was in a hurry so he had prepared a pamphlet for the rod. Let me just fetch it."

He disappeared into the backroom, and Billobi could hear him going through - possibly - piles of papers, cursing and mumbling. Some minutes later, he came back with a small grey piece of paper.

"Here it is! Let me read it for you", Thomas said and unfolded it. "'Dear new owner of this dowsing rod, know what you hold in your very possession, because it is the Key in your dreams. Owner, if you have pursued this item as I have, we both know what you are going through. For six days or less, you've been having nightmares, impossible to escape from, in which you're being hunted by the projection of your curse. Owner, you may have been beaten senseless and scared half to death in your dreams, but know that with the Key on your nightstand, it will guide you in your darkest dreams, to the safehaven where the projection may do you no harm. Treat it well, and keep it with you always, as you will never know when you will sleep the next time! But know this, owner, after the sixth day, no Key will help you, as the projection will take..."


Thomas stopped, obviously shaken by the words.


"What does it say, dear friend?" Billobi asked, almost whispering.


Thomas continued: "'...as the projection will take the step into our world, where you have to face it alone. Owner, know this, I too dreaded for the seventh day, but I stood tall and defeated my projection. I am now free, and pass this rod on to guide your through your six nightmares. Owner, I wish you the best of luck.'"


"Well..." Billobi said and wiped his fingers against the counter. "Whatever vile curse it is that cause that kind of nightmares, I sure hope it isn't contagious..."


These kinds of dowsing rods only works in dreams of a cursed person, where it will look and feel as in the real world. It is employed in the same way as ordinary dowsing rods, with the difference that it will find a spot (or "safehaven") in the dream where the projection that haunts the dreamer cannot harm him or her (as long as the dreamer stays put till he wakes).

Nobody knows for sure what the cause of these curses are, but they all seem to progress in the same way. Since the cause is unknown, so is the incubation period, but when the disease breaks out the affected person will have nightmares, six nights in a row. In theses nightmares (which will vary greatly, probably depending on things such as origin of the infection, the person infected, etc.), a terrible projection of evil will hunt the dreamer and hurt him until they wake up. The projection may change from night to night, but will almost always have some personal meaning to the affected person.

On the seventh night, the projection will take on a real life form and approach the person. If defeated, the curse is defeated and the person free. The projection must be killed by the affected person, otherwise the projection will go back into the dream plane where it will hunt for another six nights.

There have been reports of people unaffected by the curse being able to use these rods in ordinary dreams, finding wondrous places and peoples, and strange, magical things - or even themselves.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Itchy tree (monster)

Hamphred Dungbeetle, Billobi's cousin and the second largest person in the whole county, didn't care much for prudishness. The hot climate in the southern parts of the country were notorious, and demanded "certain solutions", as Hamphred often declared. One of these included a large, stationary bathtub out on the front lawn, next to the big road.

"Them believers always talks 'bout sacrifices and pleasing them gods and what not", Hamphred told young Billobi once while lowering his naked body into the bathtub. "So if - aaaaah! - them fancy gods created this warmer-than-a-cat-on-fire-weather, one would think they'd expect some sacrifices, right? Well, I'm sacrificing the very dirt and sweat on me body, I am! The best there is!"

He also made a bathtub for Billobi by taking the wheels off an old wagon and filling it with water. Every evening, after a full day's work, Hamphred and Billobi undressed and got in their tubs, cooling down while the sun slowly set in the distance - and greeting anyone passing by.


Billobi cherished every memory he had of these moments - especially one. It was after a particular warm day. Both he and Hamphred lay in their tubs, eyes closed and minds adrift.

Suddenly, something shaded them both. Something that said: "Good evening, fellow brothers!"

They opened their eyes and saw a naked man, grinning at them both. Judging from his posture - among other things - he must've been old.

"Yes, good evening to you too, old man. A bit warm, are we!" Hamphred said with a laughter.

"Noo, well yes, it's quite hot today, isn't it, but noo, clothes are the burden of the ones yet to be blessed, the non-ascended, don't you agree?"

"I don't care for words I don't know", Hamphred answered and closed his eyes again.

"Well, yes, it's understandable, although a bit ignorant, I must say. However, why don't the two of you come join us in the merry blessing's of the trees? We're building quite the community, you know."

"Them words leaving your mouth doesn't make any more sense than a bucket on a head, old man."

"Well, to make a long story short... By the Itch, is that your dog?" The old man suddenly shouted.

"If this is about them gull flowers..." Hamphred said and opened his eyes, only to discover his neighbour's dog Ten happily wagging his tail next to the bathtub. Usually hairy as a bear, the dog now had a large hairless area on its left hind leg. In the centre of the otherwise pale skin was a strange symbol in red, almost pulsating as if it was breathing.

"Ah, Ten, you dumb dog", Hamphred said and splashed water at the dog. "Couldn't stay away from them itchy trees, could you?"

"This dog's been blessed!" the old man proclaimed with a solemn voice.

"No, he's... Wait a minute... Old man, don't tell me you're one of them rashers!"

"We prefer to call ourselves Huggers!"

Billobi never forget the sight of Hamphred flying out of the bathtub and chasing the old man off his properties under heavy cursing, dressed in what mother nature tailored for them at birth. The dog licked the rash a couple of times, before running after them in an unnatural high speed.

Itchy trees are called so for their highly toxic bark. Touching the bark will most certainly cause complete hair loss at the affected area. More interesting, in some rare cases will the rash form a strange red symbol, pulsating at a slow pace.

The symbol will affect its wearer by some magical means - beneficial or harmful. There have been no successful reports of how to determine this behaviour.

Consuming the bark is lethal, and have never resulted in any magical effects taken place - only death.

The rash will last for a couple of days, after which both the symbol and any magical effects will disappear.

A multitude of cults have evolved around these trees, of which nearly all revolves around the idea of stripping down and rubbing one's body against the bark, in hope of being "blessed". The most famous of these are called "Rashers", although they prefer to call themselves "Huggers".

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Glassblower (magic item)

To the very far north of the country lies the Talltops, the mountain range that runs through Ogrenose. It was surrounded by endless tales of mystical and magical creatures, horned and winged and headless and what not, tales of brave men and women forever lost in the rugged landscape, leaving only fragments of themselves for others to find, of glowing swords and bows that sang when wielded...

It was no doubt a popular place to visit. People of all ages and classes travelled from all around the country to see the legend that was the Talltops. Naturally, most of the myth was developed by the town of Ogrenose, that made quite the income on the never ending flow of tourists. But one thing that no one could really explain was the Glassblower.


Billobi first saw the Glassblower when he was on a school trip to the Talltops. As a young boy visiting the Talltops for the first time and expecting to see winged monsters breathing fire down upon them, he was not impressed. In fact, he (along with the rest of his class) was utterly disappointed.

At the base of the mountain stood three men; two well-armed guards, and one cloaked figure. The cloaked figure stretched his arms towards the sky, and said with a loud voice: "Come closer, I dare you! Witness the magic of the GLASSBLOWER! Come, come!"

Young Billobi and his class gathered around the three men, still not impressed.

"Here, children, look! Behold...the GLASSBLOWER!" said the cloaked figure and stepped aside, revealing a strange formation in the mountain side.

It looked like a long, narrow spout, coming out from the very mountain. It was about three feet above ground, and reached almost ten inches.

Needless to say, Billobi was still far from impressed.

The cloaked figure raised his left fist, and said: "Sand...from the coast of Ketch-in-Loch..." He then raised his right fist and said: "Potash...from the woods of Ogrebelly..."

As he started to pour the dry contents in front of the spout, he said: "Behold children, the magic of the GLASSBLOWER!"

A howling sound could be heard as the sand and the potash seemed to melt together in mid-air, forming some sort of colourful pitcher. As the last of the ingredients left his hands, the sound vanished and the pitcher fell to ground.

The cloaked figure picked up the pitcher, bowed to the mountain and said: "We thank you, great glassblower, for this pitcher. We are but your humble fetchers."

Billobi closed his mouth and released Tristan's hand. He was now, in search of better words, convinced.

The Glassblower is a strange spout, coming out of the base of the Talltops. Thrice per day it releases warm air for a short period of time. Pouring the right dry ingredients on this hot stream of air will melt them into various things, all made of glass.

Depending on the ingredients and their origins, the newly crafted thing may be bestowed with magical properties - or even cursed.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Penny Black (deity)

The postal service around the country varied greatly for a long time, both in structure, costs and reliability. The town of Horsehead for example had their Whispery Men, a group of people that delivered short, spoken messages within the town borders. Unfortunately, the messages always seemed to transform into something else along the way, making the whole thing quite unattractive to use despite low fees and fast runners. As time went on, the Whispery Men became notorious for breaking up marriages and starting fights between friends.

The situation was similar across the country, although in general not as bad as in Horsehead. Suddenly one day, round boxes started to appear. First in the larger settlements, and then even on the countryside. Billobi remembered the day when he first saw one of these tall cylinders in Badgerbrough. He was on his way home from school when he turned a corner and almost knocked his head against the black metal. Billobi had never seen anything like it before; it stood as tall as him, and the metal was pitch black and warm to the touch. There was a thin slot near the top, for reasons he couldn't understand.

As he ran his fingers over its body, he could feel the presence of a relief:


Time passed, and Billobi eventually found out that the round, black boxes served as letter containers, placed by the postal service of Penny Black, a new organisation that was devoted to the delivery of letters and packages (and actually succeeded in this task, much to the people of Horsehead's enjoyment). "Penny Black never misses a letter" became a famous phrase across the country.

The letter carriers were easily recognized by their black dresses, pale skin and, strangely enough, empty stare. It soon became evident that the letter carriers of Penny Black actually were servants of a deity with that very name. This deity, often depicted as a young woman with long, dark hair and finer clothes, thrived on the servants' satisfactions upon fulfilling a successful delivery. Every single parcel and letter held a tiny amount of contained energy, drawn from the sender, and released upon delivery. Penny Black fed on this, and she never missed a letter.

Being a letter carrier in service of Penny Black has certain advantages, although many would argue that they don't make up for the fact that you have to devote the rest of your life to be in her service.

These letter carriers are easily spotted all over the country, although no one seems to know how to enrol willingly into her service.

If the sender doesn't pay for the letter, the receiver must upon delivery. Otherwise, they're both subject to the Distrain-spell (see below).

The letter carriers are known to possess certain spells, most likely bestowed by Black Penny herself, to ease their duties. Some of these are:

Distrain
Range: One person (or home)
Duration: Immediate

If payment upon delivery isn't possible (or the sender/receiver refuses to pay), the letter carrier marks the subject with this spell. The next night, Penny Black will try to find a suitable compensation for the non-payment (depending on the size of the package and the distance travelled). In a worst case scenario, Penny Black will claim the person, turning him or her into a letter carrier.

Seal
Range: One letter/parcel/package
Duration: Until delivered

All items that are picked up by a letter carrier have this spell cast upon them as soon as possible. It will protect the package from being tampered with until the delivery is completed.
Anyone trying to open a sealed package will be marked in the same way as if the Distrain-spell was cast upon them. The only difference is that Penny Black won't accept any less than their soul (thus turning them into a letter carrier in her service).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Society of Bow and Tea (people)

The forest of Ogrebelly held many strange things and beings, not necessarily evil or monstrous, but just - not so ordinary. After years and years of travelling through those woods, Billobi concluded that the only thing that was even remotely normal was the mushrooms, and picking them was something he very much enjoyed (at least the ones that didn't bite him).

Getting familiar with both the environment and the people living there helped a lot, especially when travelling long distances (or just picking loads of mushrooms). Mr. Bickleigh lived alone with his fat cat in the middle of the Ogrebelly forest, and was one of those peculiar but friendly faces in the otherwise hostile environment. Billobi often stayed for a night or two, in exchange for some freshly picked mushrooms, of course.

One cool, late summer morning, Billobi awoke to something other than the usual face licking from the cat (one of the drawbacks of sleeping on the floor). It was an intensive rumble, growing in strength for every second. He got up on his feet and looked out the window, but couldn't spot anything.

"Sit down, Mr. Rustfoot, have some tea", said Mr. Bickleigh calmly. He sat by the table, still dressed in his striped pyjamas. "It will be over soon."

"What will?" Billobi asked.

"What do you mean, the rumbling of course! It's nothing to worry about. Do as Mr. Bigglesworth and have some breakfast. Unlike him, it's good for you."

The fat cat sat on his own chair, rebuild and raised by Mr. Bickleigh so that the cat would reach the table. It even had its own plate, from which it ate. Billobi sat down next to the cat and took a slice of bread. The rumbling continued, almost unbearable.

"Won't be long now", said Mr. Bickleigh, and a second later, all was quiet.

"Mr. Bickleigh, will you now please explain to me what that was?"

"Of course!" said the old man and got up. "Follow me. And you, Mr. Bigglesworth, that's your last egg! You hear me? Don't need you any fatter..."

Billobi followed the old man outside, and was completely taken by surprise with what he saw. Outside the small brick house, as far as his eyes could see, riders dressed in red clothes filled up the forest. While some of them carried small flags or golden horns, most of them wielded bows. All of them wore finely crafted clothes, that probably costed more than the old man's house.

Suddenly, one of them spoke: "Mr. Bickleigh, a very good morning to you, old chap! Seen any foxes, have we?"

"Yes, it WAS a good morning..." Mr. Bickleigh answered. "And no, I haven't seen any. Not that I would tell you about it, anyway."

"Ah, shoot!" said the man. "My scouts could've sworn they'd spotted several red hounds in this area. Ah, well, what to do? Why, good day to you, good sir!"

Billobi nodded dumbly, unable to speak from the chock.

"Ah, a mute! You would be perfect as a scout! If you're ever in Ogrebelly..."

"Master!" one of the younger boys in the troop suddenly shouted. "Master! I've spotted a red hound!"

"Men! Nock an arrow and follow me! Mr. Bickleigh, I bid you and your mute a fare well! Men! We ride!"

Several of the riders pulled a strange looking arrow from their quivers; the arrowhead was replaced with a round, stuffed ball of leather. The sound of the hoard riding into the forest was almost deafening. A moment later, they were all gone.

Mr. Bickleigh shook his head twice and went inside. The door didn't even close before his booming voice could be heard: "OH LOOK, MY PLATE IS EMPTY WHEN IT WAS FULL JUST A MOMENT AGO. THAT IS REALLY STRANGE! DON'T YOU THINK, MR. BIGGLESWORTH?"

The Society of Bow and Tea is a gathering of upper-class, riding hunters, formed in Ogrebelly. Their coat of arms consists of a bow, two crossed arrows, and a teapot, all lined up in a single row.

The arrows used by the society have their heads replaced by a leather ball, stuffed with the finest goose down, to guarantee that no one gets hurt.

There hasn't been a single successful hunt in the society's entire history, much due to their choice of arrows but also the unclear objectives of the actual hunt, as stated in the decree written down by the founder: "The purpose is to hunt. In the woods. Sometimes, we will see foxes. In the woods. And we shall drink tea. In the woods. Among foxes."
This has made it unclear if the purpose really is to hunt foxes, or to just have tea in their vicinity.

The society's motto is: "To ride, to hunt, to drink tea".