a beer, a deity, a pig roast

I actually thought the one in the middle was holding a trident….

The people of Gremyr don’t worship gods. They revere the idea of virtue. Or the embodiment of a thing. Here are just a few examples. And one notable one.

Adherents who wish to receive The Blessings of Zyvtar need only open their heart and mind to them. Once they do, and they accept that life is a gift and everything that happens is for a reason, realizes that Zyvtar’s blessing are everywhere. From the tsunami that submerged two thirds of Benour under the Tarwyrian sea, to the gold piece you found while walking the streets of Skiplewen.

Or you can think of Penitents who seek the Wisdom of Arin pour over curious pour over their mysteries like this one – A battle-hardened dwarf general in Ancient Almahrrak travelled across Gremyr to seek the Wisdom of Arin. He found a Penitent of Arin meditating alone on a mountain. When the Penitent didn’t acknowledge him, he roared. “Don’t you know that I am the kind of dwarf who can run you through without blinking an eye?” To which is Penitent replied, “Don’t you know I am a human who can be run through without blinking an eye?” Deeply impressed, the general sheathed his sword and became a student of the the Penitent’s for the rest of his life.

Or the gamblers and risk takers who rely on The Chances of Meies provided to them. Or the nagini who lay flat to feel the word of Yslin from the heat in the ground. Or even Kan’s “thunder stick” and flute – which were both instruments of Thyztris’s vengeance. Kan never came to know, but the flute he crafted was called Thyztris’s Woodwinds among the gods. And how the gods themselves laughed when Azrush’s Lament managed kill what they thought never could be killed.

How is it that an idea can laugh at something? That’s a question worthy of one of Arin’s Penitents. But it does have an answer. The Powers of Gremyr do find the need to take possession of an Aught – most often a humanoid (elf, dwarf, human, orc, nagini, aylvan, cyclops). Sometimes they enter a tree, or a rock, or a fish, just to know what it feels like and perhaps imbue some of their virtue into that item. More often than not, another creature will happen upon that and take it for themselves to be a good luck charm – a gift from the gods.

And there was no Power of Greymr who had taken to an Aught than Thoher’s Thirst. They almost always become one with a humanoid, with no particular preference. But whatever form they took, it’s anatomy had to appreciate the taste of beer. They would be born and grow and live among them, with the sole purpose of making a home in a part of Gremyr where they could cultivate barley in order to make beer. And the rest of The Powers of Gremyr would lie and wait for the first batch to be brewed. Then they would come in droves. And they did. They slaughtered rams from the hills and roasted them over the blast furnace heat of a fire made from the logs of a Viking Oak tree.

When the Azruth’s Lament was sung, the Aughts of Qaotl of The Afterlife, of Mozmis’s Good Fortune, of Neneyar’s Beauty, Iarin’s Bough of Fertility, Cinmis’s Breath of Summer, Vutar’s Sense of Governance, Voren’s Bellows of Winter, Eteus’s Bond of Marriage, and Enphin, the antithesis of Mozmis, found themselves high on Mount Valour, looking across their Broad Pool of Seeing at the men fall asleep one by one, never to wake again. From where they were, they could hear the words, but were unaffected by the song.

Thoher roared with laughter. They did so because Aldaesan’s Grandfather, the father of the Scekahian Golem, Rudhos Of The Mountains was not invited to the First Night of Thoher’s batch. Rudhos preferred to be born into humans who have a family history of strength. Thoher, in this incarnation of his Aught, chose an elf – who ultimately was kicked out of Tarwyria and blocked from ever returning.

“Rudhos, you old fool,” Thoher joked. “You can never make anything indestructible. You merely eliminate what can destroy it. You never would have thought your grandson could be defeated by a song.”

“Oh?” Came a voice from the pool. From within came a large, eight foot tall human wielding a mace made from the polished stone of the Khagalahni mountains. He always stashed it as he sense his Aught was about to expire and found it again when he returned. How he came to be at the bottom of the pool was something Thoher would make it their mission to find out. “Did you write that song? It sounds like the drunken ramblings of a fool in love.”

a boat, a crown, a harp

This one is going to be a toughie….

“Hey!” Cain said walking briskly through the people who were still boarding to approach this new boat. “Do you have room for passengers? Name your price for me and my squire.”

Rothmir bristled under the weight of being called a “squire” but went with it for now. His lord was in a mood.

“Are you not listening to me?” Cain yelled. He walked up behind someone who was checking the lines and rigging. It looked to him like they were about to set sail. Which only made him all the more anxious to get their attention. Before Rothmir could stop him, Cain grabbed their shoulder and whipped them around.

“When a Gryphic Knight calls you, you turn around,” he commanded.

He expected a male pirate and was confronted with a female sailor. She had bandana tied around her head and her hair was tied in a pair of braids. She stared at Cain in anger, breaking his grasp on her shoulder and dropping her harp. Rothmir got in between the two of them to apologize.

“I apologize on behalf of my lord,” Rothmir said. As one of his duties when serving Cain, it required him to apologize on his behalf. “He is anxious and keen to get on his way.”

“And I want to know if you’re brave enough to cross the Ildritch Sea,” Cain demanded. “And I want to know now.”

The lady just smiled and pointed behind them. They turned to be faced with a eight foot tall nagini. Cain attempted to draw his sword but the nagini batted it aside then grabbed him by the throat. And before Rothmir could even think of anything the nagini’s serpentine tail wrapped around his legs, sending him sprawling to the ground.

“You have a problem with Tessa,” The nagini hissed. “You got a problem with me.”

“You alright captain?” Tessa nodded in reply.

“What do you want me to do with them?”

Tessa made a hand gesture neither Cain nor Rothmir could interpret.

“Tessa is going to let you off easy,” the nagini said. He dropped Cain and released Rothmir. “Gather up your things and get the hell off her boat.”

“We want to hire your boat,” Rothmir said, before Cain had the chance to say something noble and stupid. “Name your price.”

“Yslin’s Hate is not for hire,” the nagini said.

“Are you refusing a knight in the king’s service?” Cain demanded. “I can have your arrested.”

The nagini reared up to its full height, over nine feet tall, and loomed over Cain. “They’ll never find your body.”

Rothmir remembered tales of the giant snake humanoids, swallowing humans whole in the service of Yslin, their sacred water deity. Armour and all. And this one looked hungry.

“Good sir,” Rothmir said soothingly. “How may I address you?”

The nagini turned on Rothmir but his look softened, if only a little. “Address?”

“Your name, good sir,” Rothmir said, glancing over at Cain. His lord had the good sense to look grateful. He would have fought this nagini to the death to preserve his honour.

“Call me Balder,” the nagini said. “And it doesn’t change my mind.”

“And your captain? You said her name was Tessa?”

“I speak for her,” the nagini said. “I know her mind.”

Tessa ignored the two of them as she plucked away on the strings of her harp, satisfied that they seemed to be in good order. What struck Rothmir as odd was that for as much as the strummed the harp, he couldn’t hear a single note. Judging by the look on her face, it didn’t seem to matter.

“What if I told you a crown was at stake,” Rothmir said. “And that you can name any price?”

a chest, a dragon, a monster

I’m thinking that if I end up building a LARGER story, I have to include the “monster” cube with every roll.

Ervok’s mother kicked him out of her nest once he came of age.

Others would consider that a euphemism. In truth, Lindwyrms nest high in the Valor Mountains, even higher than the kens of hawk family Aylvans. They do this in order to keep themselves safe from predators. Lindwyrms have an overriding desire to mate every fifteen years. The desire builds more and more until it finally overcomes their natural instinct to protect themselves. Once a Lindwyrm lays their eggs, the female is abandoned by the male, left to fend a year for herself and provide for her brood. The exact moment their children’s wings moult, the mother kicks them out of the nest to fend for themselves.

“But mother!” Ervok protested. “You’re supposed to give me my first gold piece.”

Lindwyrms aren’t quite dragons but they could easily be mistaken for one. The source of their strength comes from the precious metals of their hordes. There is no limit to how large they can grow. But it all comes from that first gold piece granted by their mothers.

“Your father left me with nothing,” she countered, going nose to nose with him, brimstone smoking from her nostrils. “And now I need to build my own treasure chest again.”

And with that, she shoved him him and took to the skies.

But Ervok bounced off every nook and crag on the way down until he landed at the mouth of a cave. He spread his wings in an attempt to fly, but he couldn’t raise his right wing. He looked over to see it was broken. He knew instinctively how to heal himself – if only his mother gave him that gold piece. In the meantime, he would just have to wait.

He folded his wings and walked into the cave to get a nice sleep. The rising sun heated the cave quite nicely, reminding him of his mother’s nest. He put the notion of his mother out of his head. She would travel across Gremyr, as far as possible to distance herself from her kin and to find a castle she could pillage or a town she could charge for protection.

He found sleep quite easily. The sound of the spring wings passing through the cave created a gentle, soothing sound that practically hypnotized him to sleep.

“You want gold?” a voice asked. He shot up immediately and prowled around the room looking for the source. It sounded like a human, but a deeper, more full voice. The words they chose were simple, but he suspected it had more to do with a language barrier than a lack of intelligence.

“Who’s there?” Ervok said in his most menacing voice. In truth, this was the first time he’d even spoke the common tongue. Between then and now, he spoke the language of Lindwyrms.

“I not here,” the voice said. “But I know gold.”

“You’re trying to confuse me,” Ervok complained. He wanted to unleash his fiery breath but knew his ignition bladder didn’t have enough fuel to fire. But he still had his fangs.

“I not here,” the voice said. “Does not mean I’m not here.”

Ervok roared and charged the back of the cave only to bump his head.

“Wind dying down,” the voice said. “Not much time. Once wind goes, I go. I know gold.”

a knight, a throne, a monster

I rolled this last night, actually

Rothmir knew his liege lord, Gryphic Knight Cain Amador did not like waiting, boats, or wasting time. And right now, they were standing on the dock of a passenger vessel set to sail from Noreria to Par-Shar. He could see his master tensing up beneath his armour.

I told him not to wear full armour to the docks.

When they booked passage, Cain had railed on about how he could not just charter a vessel to sail straight across the Ildritch Sea. Rothmir attempted to explain that staying along the coastlines and obeying the shipping routes was the safest way to travel.

“Thank you, sir knight,” a half-elf maiden said to him as she passed onto the boat. Many others offered the same show of thanks. Some offered a few coins, others offered food, one gentlemen offered his daughter. Cain took care to refuse all of their offers and waited for them all to board.

The truth of the matter was Rothmir booked a large suite in the middle of the boat – only one of 3 available (including the captain’s) – while most other passengers were travelling as steerage. Cain kept his temper in check only because he knew if he waited for every single person to board this vessel, he could still lock himself away in his stateroom and not have to get out until they landed in Par-Shar.

“How long will we be at sea?”

“No really at sea, my master,” Rothmir corrected. “The Ildritch Sea is called a Sea, but it’s not very big by Nemedian standards.”

“How long?” Cain sighed.

“About two weeks,” Rothmir answered. “About a fortnight. Depending on the wind.”

Cain stomped his foot in frustration.

“Aldaensan isn’t going anywhere, sire,” Rothmir assured him. “That beast has been hiding in the foothills of the Valor Range for hundreds of years. A few more days won’t matter at all. You will get your prize.”

Cain leaned in close to answer Rothmir. His voice was seething and he spoke through gritted teeth. “And that is what every other mercenary, rogue, wizard, and priest is thinking right now. And each one of those is doing everything they can to get to County Daran to defeat the lone remaining Scekahian Giant on the face of Gremyr and assume the throne of Daran. What are we doing? Going on a two week leisure cruise.”

“This is not a leisure cruise,” Rothmir corrected. “In that case is every book from Melcanth’s extensive bestiary. We will need to read that and study that. There may be hundreds – even thousands – of others who want to claim this prize. But only we will be victorious.”

“Bah!” Cain said, dismissing Rothmir. He’d been assigned by his mother after she assumed head of the household when his father was killed in battle five years ago (it could have been six or maybe seven – he didn’t see much of his father after he turned 9). Cain appreciated how Rothmir always looked out for him, but he had no sense of urgency. no sense of adventure. And he didn’t seem to grasp. If he was the Lord of Daran, he would finally have his own throne and be out from under the thumb of his mother. And if some scheming mercenary happened to sneak up on that giant and take it out with a single blow, that would mean the good people of Daran would have to exist under the bumbling graces of someone who had no idea what it was to be a Lord.

Then Cain looked over on the other side of the dock. A smaller boat with a crew of only 5. And it didn’t look like they were taking on any passengers.

“Hey!” Cain said, walking briskly through the people who were still boarding to approach this new boat. “Do you have room for passengers? Name your price for me and my squire.”

Rothmir bristled under the weight of being called a “squire” but went with it for now. His lord was in a mood.

about role-playing games

I played mostly Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Made it to the second edition and then tried some other role-playing games. “Star Frontiers”, “Marvel Superheroes”, “Mechwarrior”, “Battletech”, “Heroes Unlimited”, “TMNT”, “Palladium”. That’s as many as I can think of off the top of my head. There are more. Those are the ones I played at least 1 session in. Over time, I lost contact with my friends and stopped playing but remained interested.

My son’s shown an interest in role-playing games. We made a table-top based one for a project at his school. We’ve played a few sessions of “Warhammer: 40K”. We’ve played a few sessions of “Lost Mine of Phandelver”. We always have fun. But I can see the rules making him lose interest. So I’ve been researching some alternatives and considering making a version of my own.

d20 – Beautiful looking system, but somehow the breakdown of the rules were not comfortable for me. I guess I was looking for something closer to AD&D second edition. And I know D&D adopted the d20 system eventually. But remember. I’m old. Give me STR, INT, WIS, DEX, CON, CHA, and savings throws for PAR/POI and POT/POLY and RSW. Even give me THAC0. Give me a 10 foot pole and 50 feet of rope.

CORTEX – Amazing system. But it deals more with reactions and solving puzzles. I didn’t see any combat system. I was having trouble having to learn a system in order to design my own combat system. Plus, the system of magic and special powers was lost on me. I’m used to spell books. I started to worry about having to covert all the spells I knew into the CORTEX version. Didn’t strike my fancy. I did my part. I bought a rulesbook from them.

GURPS – I was more comfortable for this because it developed alongside the AD&D I knew. After reviewing the rules, my only honest complaint was “I only use a d6? I mean, I have bags and bags of polyhedral dice. What am I going to do with them?” The more I read though, the more I liked. I could totally see me playing this. I still had some trouble with understanding the magic system, because I envisioned a campaign where anyone can do some magic. I didn’t want to have to invent my own spells and rules and stuff.

So I started reading about Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game. The name of the game sounded ridiculous, but when I started to read it, it’s actually almost perfect for what I’m looking for. Because, it turns out, I really don’t have the time and energy to invent a roleplaying system right now. I downloaded the PDF (from the site, as a Digital download and not stolen) and I’ll pour through it later and see if that’s the direction me and Reid go.

I’m going to find an excuse, though, to incorporate my other dice. I can’t just use a d6. It’s not Yahtzee for Christ’s sake.

a gift, a dropped ball, a bouncing ball

Jen accidentally drops her gift while opening it while enjoying drinks before dinner on the first night of a two-night Niagara Falls vacation Gloria arranged and paid for to celebrate her 50th birthday. Jen and Gloria abandon their meal to chase the bao ding balls down Clifton Hill.

“Go on,” Gloria said, sipping her beer. “Open it.”

Jen pushed the gift back. “No, no. You’ve already done too much.”

“Screw that. I did this as much for you as I did for me.” They sat at the top of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls on the Kelsey’s patio, sipping draught beer and pondering the menu, while a musician performed “Let’s Go Crazy” acoustically, accompanied across the street by a homeless man in ragged clothes standing on a milk crate shouting bible verses. Jennifer examined the wrapping before opening the gift, taking her time to peel back the tape and avoid ripping the gift wrap paper. Gloria only shook her head, knowing better than to correct her friends habit.

Gloria held up her pint glass, coaxing Jen to do the same and they toasted to each other’s health.

“Now open your damned gift,” Gloria said, downing what was left of her beer and tried to make eye contact with their server.

Four hours ago, Jen’d been one the couch, in comfy pants, flitting through Amazon Firestick channels looking for a least objectionable that would distract her from being alone on her 50th birthday. Before she could chose, she snatched her ringing phone, hoping for one of her two daughters, only to find the mischievous smile of Gloria’s caller ID picture. Jen guessed she’d heard about what happened at work that day. How does bank branch gossip make it to her so quickly? she had wondered.

It was a pine box decorated with Chinese characters in red ink. Its lid was on brass hinges, unlocked by a simple brass clasp. Jennifer opened it to reveal two jade spheres just as the server came by.

The server came by when Gloria was still shaking her head and asked “Did you change your mind?”

“No, ma’am. My friend’s gift unwrapping just continues to dumbfound me,” Gloria answered. “Two more pints please.”

“One more,” Jen interjected.

“Bring two,” Gloria insisted.

“Bao ding balls!” The server exclaimed when she looked up from her order pad. “Those things are supposed to be great. My friends tell me they help with stress.”

“So I’m told,” Gloria said, downing the last of her beer. The server grabbed the empty glass and went to the bar to grab their second round.

Jen had a question about her fit but the passing group of bikers going down Clifton Hill, looking proud on their loud, gleaming machines drowned her out.

“What?” Gloria yelled.

Jen held up the pair of balls and yelled her question louder just as the bikers cut their engines when parking at the curb by the Travelodge, unintentionally broadcasting her question to the whole patio.

“These are for my vagina?!”

a priest, an accused, a monster

For the record, I have organized a world for the places and people I referenced in “A Flute, A Giant, A Hypnosis” so it wasn’t all off-the-cuff. I actually went back to my notes for a few things.

Let’s hang around in Gremyr for a little while longer; shall we?

Raleal leaned against the wall on the tips of his toes to give his shoulders some kind of respite. Reapers of Arnamak took him prisoner a day and a half ago. They’d suspended him by shackles welded into the wall just high enough so that his toes could touch, which was more maddening than being suspended higher up.

They trick you into praying to touch the floor for a moment. Like it’s even possible. When he did manage to get on his toes the rush of feeling into his arms nearly had him pass out.

“Confess, my son,” the priest said from the other end of the prison. “Confess. And you will know peace.”

Raleal opened his eyes to see a small, round, tonsured man in a homespun robe secured at the waist with a coil of hemp rope.

“Is that fifty feet of rope?” Releal asked the priest. “Don’t tell me you have a ten foot pole with you, too?”

“My son, you are delirious,” the priest said, producing a waterskin for the Raleal to drink from. He had enough sense to hesitate, expecting to have the bag pulled away at the last second or maybe the priest would drink it all himself while Raleal watch. “No. Please. Drink.”

And he held up for Raleal to drink. He steeled himself to the notion that he would kill this priest if the slightest opportunity presented itself.

“For whom do you speak, priest?” Raleal demanded. “Who’s voice? The Blessings of Zyvtar? The Wisdom of Arin.”

“Meies,” the priest whispered. “I am one with Meies.”

“The Chances of Meies,” Raleal said. Suddenly, a cramp gripped him. He drank too much, too fast. The shackles did not help.

“Damn these chains,” Meies cursed then proceeded to unlock Raleal and lower him down. As comfortable as Meies looked in the robes, he had enough muscle to handle the six-foot Raleal with ease.

“I thought you were here to give me my last rites.”

“Meies brings you choices,” the priest said. “Meies lets you take a chance.”

“Let’s hear it,” Raleal said, wincing as he moved away from the priest to rest his back against the jail-cell wall. This sycophant owns my soul. I was sent here to die and he is honorbound to the Gods of Gremyr. But Meies gives you a chance. And Meies plays dice with Jarron, The Silent One.

“There is a beast in the hills to the north. A Scekakian Giant.”

“I know the story of Azrush’s Lament,” Raleal said, insulted that a native of Daran did not know the story of Kan’s Regiment.

“I want you to bring it to me alive,” the priest said.

Raleal laughed then asked “And my other option?”

“You can hang by your arms and I can send in my pigs to root around the floor. Let’s see how long you last once I don’t bring them dinner.”

“You’d let me go on my own?” Raleal asked. “You wouldn’t come with me?”

“I have freed my chains from your shackles. You may do as you wish.”

Raleal went to lunge for the priest only to be frozen in place. The shackles began to heat up and sear his flesh. He roared with pain and fell to his knees.

“If your wish is to do anything immoral, then your bonds will remind you. I don’t need to be with you. Your shackles will make you mine.” The priest joined Raleal on the ground and looked into his eyes. “So, once you swear to bring me back The Monster of Azrush’s Lament, the shackles will not let you stop, even if you die trying.”

“I swear,” Raleal said. “I swear I will bring you The Monster Of Azrush’s Lament or die trying.”

The Priest laughed and clapped him hard on the shoulder. Raleal winced and made a second oath under his breath. I swear that I will stand over your bleeding corpse or die in the attempt.

He felt equally pleased and curious that his new shackles had no problem accepting a vow that involved murder.

a flute, a giant, a hypnosis

This is my most favourite one yet.

Azrush shielded his eyes from sunlight that peeked between the gaps in the boulder that sealed off their cave. He crawled to be closer to it. A few hours from now, the sun would have passed overhead until the next day.

“Kan,” he whispered to the man asleep at his side. “Kan. Come. Come with me, my lord. Today looks very nice.”

It took three tries to wake up Kan. He bolted upright with a start, staring at Azrush with eyeless sockets, backing away from Azrush. “Is it here? Is it here?”

“No, no,” he said, holding out his hands so Kan could identify it as him. Kan, skittish and jittery, trembled and waved until he connected with Azrush, who reeled him in like a fish and hugged him like a bear.

“Aldaensan,” Azrush began. It was the name of Scekahian Giant that imprisoned the entire army in the caves high on the eastern face of Mount Valor.

Upon hearing his name, Kan smacked him. “Don’t say his name. He can hear you. You know what happens when he hears his name.”

They found it out the hard way. Months ago, plotting the escape of Kan’s army, they’d whispered Aldaensan three times. The giant heard it from the other side of the island. He marched for two days straight. Before that, his men were chained to a post inside the cave but could enjoy each other’s company. After, Aldaesan took them by two and locked them in the caves with a boulder. He would come by once a week to give them food. He promised to them he would send them home once King Lythande sent word from his throne at Whiterage Keep. After he shook that promise, he looked down on Kan and said, “You will go home. I promise. One piece at a time.”

King Lythande had sent Kan and his army to stop Aldaesan at all costs. And now that they were captured, to Kan’s mind the only thing worse than dying was not fighting until his last breath. He had to convince Azrush of that before they could move on his with plan.

“How many times have you said it?” Kan demanded. “While I was sleeping. Did you mutter that name?”

“Absolutely not,” Azrush answered, coming to attention. He felt certain Kan could sense when he didn’t stand straight.

“Good,” Kan said, clapping Azrush on the shoulder. “Now. Help me find my flute.”

“Yes, Kan,” Azrush sighed.

“I heard that.”

“Heard what?”

“Your tone,” Kan said as he crawled hands and knees to his hiding spots around the cave, pretending to take inventory but in reality, he’d forgotten where he’d stashed the flute. “You don’t believe it will work.”

“It was a song my mother taught me,” Azrush stood up and said. He watched his commander with a smile – Azrush knew perfectly where the hand-made musical instrument was hidden but wanted Kan to suffer for a short while. “And her mother taught her, and on-and-on all the way back to the first breath Kymos blew into the clay models of Gremyr’s First Peoples.”

Remembering again how Aldaesan had popped Kan’s eyes out with his taloned hand and ate them like candy, Azrush felt shame. “I’m sorry, my lord. It’s right here.”

“It’s a good tune,” Kan said. “I enjoyed learning how to play it.”

He blew and experimental few scales.

“Are you ready?” Azrush asked. Kan nodded.

“Aldaesan, is the best,” Azrush said in a casual voice. He walked closer to the mouth of the cave. “I tell you, Kan. I would sooner be in the tender cares of Aldaesan than any of the finest castles in all of Gremyr.” Then he sighed.

“What you want?” Boomed a voice from the mouth of the cave.

Scekahian Giants are the offspring of giants and Scekahian Golems. Aldaesan hadn’t put a boulder up against the mouth of their cave. He was the boulder at the mouth of their cave. Kan couldn’t get away fast enough. The giant snatched Kan, making him drop the flute, smashing it to pieces.

“What. You. Want?” He boomed into Kan’s face. Kan couldn’t answer because the giant squeezed him too hard.

Azrush panicked. The flute was destroyed. Not that it mattered. He had no skill with it. Kan had been patient, but he was a better leader than he was a music instructor.

“Aldaesan!” Azrush yelled. “It was me! I wanted you!”

The giant released Kan, leaving him in a tangled heap as he advanced down the cave’s throat to face Azrush.

“What. YOU. Want?”

“I want to sing you this song,” Azrush said, glancing over to his commander, hoping what he didn’t imagine he saw him draw breath.

Come just a little closer, Azrush said. He’d remember Kan’s practises, and where he would sit to get the best acoustics. He didn’t dare turn around or lose eye contact with the giant.

“Me tone-deaf,” Giant said. Azrush smiled. The flute wouldn’t have worked, no matter how much magic Kan tried to convince him was in the firewood they used night over night.

Firewood, Azrush thought. He sat close to the firepit.

“Then just listen,” he said. Then he sang.

I could never have loved anyone 
the way I loved you 
I bequeathed to you an enduring love 
I would have loved you through time 
our souls were connected, 

But our love was just a figment of a truth 
it cuts me  
there was only the dark night 
so I bid you good night.

The giant slowly took a seat, then he crossed his legs. By the end of the last verse, he sat with his chin his hands. The magic wasn’t in the music. It was in his mother’s words. Somehow she spoke to the giant through him.

I could never have loved anyone 
the way I loved you 
was there no promise? 
through time in a flash 
was there no truth? 

But our pulse was just a wish unfilled 
it destroys me  
you never believed 

Maybe one day…

It was the song she sang to him every night. He remembered seeing the moon through the canopy of leaves from where their house was cradled in the arms of a Viking Oak forest at the edge of Khagalahni’s Hills. What he saw now were the wide pupils of the stupefied giant before him.

“NOW!” Azrush yelled. He couldn’t see his commander and prayed to Kymos to sense the winds of the soul He breathed into every living being on Gremyr that he heard. The plan had been for Azrush to stab Aldaesan at the base of his skull with a jagged piece of firewood (also enchanted – Kan called it The Thunder Stick) and then they release the rest of the army. We would bury our dead – those whose debts were paid in full – and make our way home.

Azrush walked around Aldaesan, who did not so much as budge, and continued to sing to keep his attention, only to find Kan also had heard the song.

“Oh no,” Azrush said. The acoustics had been good enough for everyone to hear it for miles around. Not only was the giant stunned, but so was the rest of the army.

He will never roam the mountains and kill. Families will be able to live in peace. We will have accomplished our mission. King Lythande sent us to stop this monster. We will have accomplished our mission.

And so he continued to sing.

I could never have loved anyone 
the way I loved you 
I bequeathed to you an enduring love 
I would have loved you through time 
our souls were connected, 

But our love was just a figment of a truth 
it cuts me  
there was only the dark night 
so I bid you good night.

There are still times, when the fall winds blow past the Low Mountains of Valor’s Range, it whistles through its fluted caves, carrying the sad tones of Azrush’s Lament.

I could never have loved anyone 
the way I loved you 
was there no promise? 
through time in a flash 
was there no truth? 

But our pulse was just a wish unfilled 
it destroys me  
you never believed 

Maybe one day…

a gift, a shovel, a wall

I love my Story Cubes

Skippy Cavanaugh frowned at the gift Carrie handed to him.

“You don’t like it?”

“I didn’t say that,” Skippy said quickly.

“Then what is it?”

“Well, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”

Carrie snuggled up next to him on the couch. “I considered putting it into a big box and then wrapping the box.”

“No, that’s not it,” he insisted. He slowly unwrapped the gift, taking care to peel away the tape and not rip the paper. 

“Stop beating around the bush,” Carrie said. She sat up straight and took a better look at him. “You don’t like the shovel.”

Skippy folded the paper into a neat 4 x 4 square, balled the tape and pitched it into the garbage bin next to the couch. Carrie watched all of this patiently, doing her best not to sigh too loud.

“It’s a great shovel,” Skippy said as he stood up and hefted it, testing its weight. “I’ve just never owned a shovel before.”

Carrie jumped off the couch and ran over to the sliding back door. “You’ve been talking for years about making a fire pit in the backyard. Something we could put chairs around and enjoy on summer nights. We could bring friends over and play music. Or we could hang a sheet and watch movies on a projector.”

Skippy watched her with astonishment. Sure, he’d mentioned about it before, but only in passing. In truth, he wasn’t that handy. He’d snuck over to his friend’s houses before and tried to get them to show him how to make a birdhouse or a bookcase. In short, he did not meet with much success. Carrie never saw those experiments. 

But he could dig a hole. By God, he could dig holes. He’d spent summers for four years digging foxholes and trenches on Canadian Forces Bases – either for his training purposes, or as he advanced up in rank, training others how to dig trenches. His fellow soldiers through they were tricking him into helping, but the truth of the matter is, he didn’t see it as work. Once the trench tool was in his hand, his mind shut down, his problems went away, and he felt more peaceful with each shovelful of dirt. Digging a firepit in the backyard was the perfect thing he could do to make his house a home.

Now he wanted the shovel more than ever. A smile grew on his face and he went to be with his wife at the window to see that she was crying.

“I had no idea how much you wanted this firepit,” he said, putting his arm around her. “I’m so sorry. I know we haven’t done much to make this house a home. We both work so much, we hardly spend enough time together, much less working on the house. Maybe you should have got two shovels, one for each of us. We could do it together.”

Carrie shook her head and cried even harder. “The doctor said this might happen.”

“About the shovel?”

“About the hormones. I might get emotional, he told me. My mom did.”

Skippy came around to hold her shoulders and look her in the eye. “Hey, look at me. It’s going to be okay. I can dig a fire pit on my own in a few minutes.” He left out having to build a brick wall around it and a grill on top. He compared it to making a foxhole, using wood to create a little shelter where you could sleep. That could be adapted. Still, he would check som YouTube videos just to be sure.

“It’s not about the firepit!” She exclaimed, crying even harder.

“Then what is it!” Skippy insisted.