Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PAX Adventure 2017

Conventions are great and I don't get to go to nearly enough of them. My wallet is very happy about this, but I still making it to PAX and make my wallet cry for mercy every time. For a few years it was a matter of building up my collection of board games and getting cards for games like Magic or the World of Warcraft game when it was a thing. Now its mostly directed towards RPGs. Well, I still get board games. Today I want to take a look at this year's PAX East and what I managed to get out of it.


The Learning Curve
I am ALWAYS on the hunt for panels that will inform me not just on great new RPGs to play or indies games I should try, but also on how to GM better or move forward making this more of a career. This year, however, I was a little disappointed, though not because I missed a day. Mostly, there was a lot more panels on streaming of video game development. This shouldn't really come as a surprise, but it still kind of sucks. It is a lot easier getting to Boston for me than it will be to get to Philly for the PAX Unplugged. Budget is also a bit of a problem. Still, I may try to make it if I can figure out how.


Board Games....Always
Something that I always do is buy board games at PAX. Mostly, it is an excuse to do so, but there are always games I have my eye on or haven't discovered yet. This year I walked of with three games and, despite their expensive nature, they seem to be great choices. First is Mega Man, which I have wanted for what is essentially forever. We haven't played it yet but the figures and game look great. I mean...it's Mega Man. The other two games were Evolution, which I have been eyeing for years, and Mysterium.

Evolution is a very good game. It is competitive and the way it works each game will feature slightly different strategies no matter what. Not only that but the pieces and rules are pretty straightforward, which is great because it means not setting up forever and explaining it is quick. Mysterium is very similar, though it has more pieces. Set up time shouldn't be bad at all now that we've had a chance to play. This one is a cooperative game where one player does something different than the others. There is a round limit and only one way to win. This is a really fun game and if you are looking for a different style coop, this is it! Both games have a nice ~60 minute play time which is perfect too.


Dice, Books, And Stuff
It is tradition that I boost my dice collection while at PAX. Generally I find dice I really like, sets for specific games, or a themed set for a certain purpose. For example my dice from last year that I got specifically for the Curse of Strahd. This year I picked up Paizo's goblin dice and the Mummy's Mask (I think?) adventure path set. How can you beat those!? I also grabbed a 4E monster book because, for cheap money, I can't not add that to my collection. Aside from those I picked up a fun, if older system, lair/encounter book for a future giveaway as well as some pieces to utilize for the board game we're working on.


New RPGs And Decisiveness
Last year I bought three games and the Untamed Scribe picked up one. We have managed to play two of those. While the intent would be to play all of them before I get even more, I just don't have that kind of control when PAX is such a good excuse to buy hard copies of certain games. Instead, I decided to focus on getting games, not just for our one-shots, but that the player's would look forward to playing as well.

To start I grabbed two new Powered by the Apocalypse games. We all loved Monster of the Week and I see this system as one people will love using to try a new world / setting. It is also a great game to run quicker adventures through, so that will help me in my one-shot designing. In order to spice up our table I grabbed Masks and Epyllion. Masks is the supers game that is designed to feel like Young Justice or Teen Titans. I think it will be the perfect way to get supers to the table with a group that loves the fantasy focus. Epyllion is a fantasy setting, but it is one that is a lot different from the usual. In it players get to be dragons! How can you go wrong there? Of course Magpie Games is becoming a favorite publisher of mine, despite the games not having been played yet. Determined to get all of them in ASAP though.

The other direction I wanted to go was things that were pretty much guaranteed to be over in one session / night. These are fairly hard to find, but I did re-discover Microscope and discovered Downfall. Both are games that aren't anywhere near traditional and they should both be playable within one night. The great thing about these is that the serve another purpose: world-building. Both of these are universe/world builders and I cannot wait to sit down and create with my group. Finally I picked up Ryuutama because it is hard to find and it was there in hardcover. I am in love with the idea of this game and hope to fit it in sooner than later.


Using It All
With all this new stuff, there should be even more for me to write about and there will be. First though, we have to play it all. Then I can get some reviews out and you guys can have some Untamed Dice to listen to. I will likely review the board games as well because, while not RPGs, they are table top games! Of course I must mention that things will continue to be slow in March, but a new website overhaul and a lot of podcast episodes are coming. Leaps are being taken and we aren't really sure how to fly yet....

Monday, March 6, 2017

Libris Monstrum #3: Worm That Walks

We are back with the third entry into the Libris Monstrum. This time I chose the subject, but next week I will be posting a Twitter poll looking for your input again. This week's monster is a creature I have always been fond of, mostly for the creep factor, but also for all the ways these creatures can exist.


Person Or Swarm?
The worm that walks is a crazy creature that is actually a lot of smaller creatures. Well, sort of. For those who have never heard about the worm the walks, its most common form in Dungeons & Dragons is that of a hooded figure. Perhaps it is a priest, a mage, or a cultist. Silhouetted the creature looks humanoid, can pass as humanoid without a look at its body, but if you do grab a look at it you realize it is nothing like that. No, this creature is one made of a writhing mass of worms that just happens to be human-shaped. Despite this form, it is somehow one, powerful creature that moves and acts like the person it pretends to be.


Before There Was Kyuss
Well before the advent of the famous demigod who would herald the Age of Worms, there was Lovecraft. To be fair, H.P. Lovecraft wrote about indescribable horrors and many of those descriptions are vague or wild enough that there are plenty of interpretations. Nevertheless, there are a few descriptions that are commonly interpreted as a worm that walks. For one of those accepted references, just read The Festival. Of course, this isn't the instance of the worm that walks outside of fantasy RPGs, but we can talk about some examples in a little bit.


Kyuss And His Wormspawn
As a fair warning I do not know a great deal about the Greyhawk setting. Nor have I run Age of Worms or gotten to go crazy with that concept (awesome as it is), so if I am incorrect in any of my specifics, just leave a comment! Anyways, Kyuss used to be a simple priest but now he is a demigod bent on bringing about the end of the world. The Wormgod appears to be the original Worm that Walks within this context and has created a great deal of spawn for a variety of reasons. In the Age of Worms itself, this was not limited to the undead followers of Kyuss, but also minions that may have once been living lizardmen, dogs, dragons. Basically, you think it and a Kyuss worm could turn it into an undead monster aiding the undead entity in its quest.

I'd start running right about now. Great art from dungeonsanddrawings.blogspot.com


But What Is It?
So we haven't really discussed what the worm that walks is. First off, it doesn't have to be a mass of worms, it could be a mass of any small creature. Vermin are common and things like bugs, spiders, or worms are most common. There are two major things that go with the worm that walks, no matter what. First is that it is a swarm that moves together well enough to act as if it is a single human. Secondly, the swarm has a hive mind. While not necessarily required, there are a few other common qualities. One of these is the idea that the worm that walks will always be back. Often this is the result of the idea that as long as one of the individuals of the swarm survives then the worm that walks, that greater being, also survives to return after it has recovered. Because the creature is a swarm, and people are people, fire is generally the answer, as in: kill it with fire!!


Unique Versions
There are plenty of monsters that would qualify as the worm that walks, but lets talk about some interesting ones. The rat-king is one such creature, sort of. So the legend of the rat king is from before there were New York sewers. Dirty "modern" (for the time) cities have always had lots of rats right? What if there were so many their tails started growing together? That is the rat-king: a horrible mass of writhing, angry, tangled rats. The truth of the matter is rats are pretty clean animals. Sure they go in sewers and trash, but they won't create a situation where there are so many of them together and certainly not long enough for a rat-king to develop. But in your world, why not. Hells, go one better and make it some magical accident and it is a smarter creature that will re-create itself from a single surviving rat.

Another great example is Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The villain of the movie, the afforementioned Oogie Bogie, is the worst of all the Halloween monsters. He wants to take over the town and is generally an asshole. When he is finally defeated it is when his body falls apart. The thread holding the burlap together into his body is pulled out and all of his insects and spiders and such escape. With that, Oogie Boogie is defeated. Of course there was also a snake in there and if it escaped, perhaps Oogie will be back.

Who would I be without pushing Doctor Who? In the introductory episode of the character River Song, there is a horrible creature that kills people within the library planet that the episode takes place on. That creature is called the vashta nerada and it is an unseeable swarm of shadow things. These live in the shadows and even get into the space suites of the characters. They are then devoured and only their bones and the suite are left. What makes these more than just a swarm is the odd ability to take over and animate the suites. With in-lit helmets, the skeletons that walk around are terrifying. Add the repetitive nature of causing the suits to transmit the last thing the victim said, "hey, who turned out the lights?" and these creatures become one of the creepiest on the show.


Using The Worm And More
As a GM, there are some pretty simple ways to use the worm that walks. You can take the undead cult of demigod worshiping monsters. You could also do a recurring unique villain. Those are simple methods of using them, and there are even more you can find in various horror and supernatural films. I have some ideas for you though. First is by creating a recurring mummy villain. Screw the lich, he is a little over done and everyone knows to look for the phylactery. Take a mummy instead. He can be the powerful undead priest equivalent for some long-dead god. Now, instead of a phylactery (or in addition if you are really mean) do the "from a single maggot" part of the trope. If one gets away the creature can eventually reconstitute itself. Perhaps even if it dies than the villain has a phylactery. You will drive your players nuts! You could also take the idea and apply it to a rogue group of druids who become so one with their vermin swarm forms that they too can regrow from surviving shapeshifted from a single worm.


Do you have any ideas for how to use the worm that walks trope? Any good stories or a movie to watch for ideas? Leave comment and let us know!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cracks of the Rift: Chapter Six

Chapter Six: A Dinner Party

By: Erin Rowan, The Untamed Scribe
Adapted from the Notes of Erin Rowan & John Crowley III
Based on the Characters from a Home Brew World in our Pathfinder RPG Campaign


Jolan Brightwind waited patiently for the strangers to enter the hall.

What could be taking so long?

“Again I will state my disagreement to this plan, Baron” the spymaster’s calm voice whispered next to him. Brightwind didn’t have to look at Spymaster Bloodclaw to know that he was tense. They had been arguing for the better part of the morning. Bloodclaw stood confidently next to him watching the doors as well. He donned his dark worn leathers and an untrusting gleam in his eyes. He stood with his hands behind his back and straight as a board.

He slightly rubbed his hand over his scruffy chin, a tick the baron knew all too well.

“This is our best chance to learn more about what is happening,” Jolan said, turning to face the spymaster. “This city can wait no longer.” He made his way over to the head of the table and sat as Bloodclaw spoke.

“We should go to the south. It is the best option,” the spymaster moved to his seat at the table.

“There are too many threats for us to handle all of them,” Jolan stated as he turned to face the spymaster. His patience was wearing thin.

Brightwind and Bloodclaw stared silently at each other. This argument was not a new one.

“The baron is right,” the silky female voice cut through the tension that was starting to rise again. “We need help.” Jolan looked over to see Advisor Willow seated calmly next to him at the table, waiting. Her straight black hair lay flat against her back. She wore a simple red velvet dress with gold trim to greet their guests that flattered her slender figure. Her crystal blue eyes spoke of a vast knowledge that few could understand. She sat upright with intent, her slender hands resting in her lap. She looked serious but elegant, as always.

“Everything will be decided in due time,” the baron stated as he saw a figure enter the hall. “Please sit Spymaster Bloodclaw. There is still much to discuss.”

Bloodclaw sat slowly as he collected himself. Once he was seated they all watched with curious eyes as the strangers entered the hall one by one.

The first to enter Jolan recognized as the captain. His uniform newly cleaned and polished with the sigil of Aggramon etched into it. He walked to the table with purpose and came to a stop next to one of the chairs, bowing low. “Baron Brightwind, it is an honor.”

The baron nodded slightly to the Captain in acknowledgement. “The honor is mine Captain Highwater.”

Jolan spoke no further as he saw the floating creature beyond the captain. He sat a little straighter at the sight before him. He had heard of this half-blood creature born of smoke and flames. He glided slightly over to the table, his eyes distant. The baron had only one thought as the tendrils of smoke lifted from the cracks in it’s skin. How beautiful. Such raw power barely contained! It was fascinating.

Another man entered the hall. This must be the one they called Aikos, a watchman on the docks. Despite his scars and his ornate sword, the baron couldn’t help but notice that Aikos walked as though he had not a care in the World.

Interesting…

Spymaster Bloodclaw looked over towards the doors as the men who had already entered took their seats. He ran a hand over his chin again, agitated.

“Just wait,” Jolan whispered as he grabbed a grape from off of one of the platters before him. He placed it in his mouth and chewed slowly.

“Of course Baron Brightwind,” the spymaster whispered back bowing his head slightly.

“The grapes are exceptional this season,” the baron said as he grabbed a few more.
 
Advisor Willow picked one off the platter and popped it into her mouth, finishing it off quickly. “Indeed, they are.”

After another brief moment another man entered the hall. The baron noticed his ears first. He was the half elf they called Samson. His polearm was strapped to his back and he walked with confidence. He took a seat at the table with the others.

“Please, help yourselves,” the baron gestured to the table. He waited as the men at the other end of the table started to partake in the drinks offered.

The spymaster rubbed at his chin again, clearly impatient.

Jolan poured himself a goblet of wine and slowly took a sip.

“Baron Brightwind, perhaps we should start?” The spymaster whispered as he shifted forward in his seat.

“Soon,” the Baron said as he took another sip of his wine. He grabbed another grape and bit off the end. “You should try these Spymaster, they are delicious.”

Bloodclaw ignored the comment, and the grapes, as the Baron ate.

The baron heard a faint shout from the doorway and a few moments later a woman entered the hall. She was beautiful despite her tough appearance. She was slender but not fragile looking. Her curly red hair was pulled back into a braid and she wore leathers that were well used. As he watched her walk to the table he noticed daggers here and there on her person.

This must be Freya.

She made her way to the table and sat between Samson and Aikos. The baron watched as Freya joined the others in conversation. He also couldn’t help but notice the captain staring at her from across the table.

He rose from his seat and whispered so only Bloodclaw and Willow could hear him, “Now we can start.”

“Firstly, welcome,” his smooth baritone voice slightly echoed through the room as Freya and the others quieted. “On behalf of my companions, and myself, thank you for joining us.” He gestured to the seat on his left, “This is Advisor Korintha Willow.” Advisor Willow bowed her head in introduction. He gestured to the seat on his right, “This is Spymaster Saelin Bloodclaw.” The spymaster bowed his head as well. “And I am Baron Jolan Brightwind,” he bowed to the group. “We are in need of your assistance.”

“Firstly, on behalf of my companions and I, thank you for everything that you have done for us,” Captain Highwater paused for a brief moment. “I am truly grateful.” His voice held many emotions as he spoke, but the baron could tell that he was sincere. “Secondly, I know that what you have done for us is a debt that deserves to be repaid, of that there is no question. Whatever you ask I, and I alone, will do without hesitation.” He paused as he locked eyes with the baron. “But my companions are free to make their own choice. If you and yours are agreeable to that, then me and mine are ready to hear your proposal.” The captain held his gaze but for a moment more before looking away.

The baron noticed the tension at the other end of the table as the captain finished. The men wouldn’t look at the captain, either uninterested or uncomfortable. Freya, despite trying to hide it, had a firm set jaw and reddening cheeks.

Interesting group…

Brightwind also couldn’t help but be impressed with the captain. Here he was protecting the people of Aggramon - even the ones that stood by him. This was exactly the kind of man they were looking for to help them.

“Agreed,” the baron stated plainly as he took his seat once again. There was a clear look of shock from the captain, but he recovered quickly. “So, now that we are in agreement, let us discuss what help we require. Advisor Willow, if you please,” he gestured with a hand for Willow to proceed as he grabbed another handful of grapes.

Willow bowed her head, “Thank you Baron.” She sat up straighter, which didn’t seem possible, and her gaze found the strangers at the other end of the table. “As you know first hand there are many creatures that are now threatening Aggramon,” her voice was commanding but soft. “We have reports of strange sightings from every direction of Aggramon’s borders. To put it simply, we are surrounded by enemies.”

Advisor Willow clasped her hands together and paused for a moment. Brightwind saw that she had their attention, their eyes solely focused on her, as he popped another grape into his mouth.

“In order to combat these threats we need to start to investigate some of these reports. Aggramon cannot spare any more men, they are vital to the survival of the people. This is where you come in. We need you to help us investigate.”

“Why us?” Aikos asked as he took a swig from his mug.

“Last night you were some of the few who fought to help save the city. You were also already planning to be guards for a caravan which, unfortunately, no longer requires assistance, so sending you doesn’t diminish the protection for Aggramon.”

Brightwind watched as Captain Highwater closed his eyes, his jaw clenched, at the news of the caravan.

“I was not a part of that original deal. I came across these fools just last night,” Aikos said around a small smile. “I know James and he is a good man, and I’m all for a fight, but I don’t see why I would leave the city.”

“Indeed. Well, Aikos Durandal, according to the dock master you show skills beyond most of the other men, and you love fighting so much that you constantly go to prove yourself in the local bar brawls,” Willow stated simply.

“Exactly! Why would I give that up?” Aikos’ excited voice echoed out across the hall.

Advisor Willow continued without hesitation, “Your skills are better suited for the battle field, but you know this. You also find no challenge when you fight among the men of the city, most of them have even stopped fighting you. You crave for something more,” she searched for the right words, “sweetly satisfying,” she leaned back slightly. “To put it simply, you are bored.”

Brightwind watched as a smile grew across Aikos’ face. It stretched from ear to ear and soon became a hearty laugh. It cut through the silence of the hall.

“I’m in!” Aikos said around his laughter. He raised his glass toward the others.

The baron caught Bloodclaw rubbing at his chin again from the corner of his eye. The spymaster was clearly becoming impatient.

“Do you know what is causing all of this to happen?” Freya asked staring at all of them. She watched them with calculated eyes as Willow continued.

“Most call it The Rift. It is a magical portal in the north east. It was opened 100 years ago by a cult of mad Cyclops - their goal for doing so is lost to us. We do know that it used to be the homeland of the elves. In an attempt to stop The Rift the elves discharged a primordial bomb that resulted with the forest twisting into something dark and unnatural.” She paused briefly, “And it caused their destruction,” Willow’s voice held a slight tinge of pain that Jolan knew all too well, but she recovered quickly. “In that destruction was born hope, as their weapon held The Rift from growing further, their sacrifice not made in vain. We still don’t know much more than that about it. We are hoping that by sending out small parties, such as yourselves, to different areas can help provide us with quicker answers on what is happening and how best to close the portal.” As Willow finished this explanation Jolan saw Freya’s expression shift. He could tell that she trusted what she was hearing.

“With so many threats we need to determine where is the best place to send you,” Advisor Willow let out a small sigh that only Brightwind noticed. “The spymaster believes that sending you to the south near the desert is where you will be most useful.”

Spymaster Bloodclaw used the opportunity to speak, “There are reports near a small village, of lights and chanting at night off in the distance. They claim golems, strange lights, and new denizens. I believe you will be able to find more answers there.”

“Why do you believe that?” Samson asked.

Bloodclaw stared at Samson for a brief moment. “For over one hundred years we have had little to no information on The Rift. Going south towards Death’s Desert will provide answers of some kind. For your group this is a threat that you can handle.”

Before Samson could speak further Advisor Willow interjected, “I believe that your skills would be better used at the heart of the problem. I purpose that you go north east towards The Rift. This is where activity is highest and it has the largest number of threats to the villages that surround it. But be warned, the villagers there are a stubborn lot, not yet ready to leave their homes. On top of which there are reports of undead monsters that roam the foothills,” Advisor Willow looked down towards the table briefly, and then back towards the group.

“What aren’t you telling us?” Freya asked as she stared at the advisor.

Perceptive girl, thought the baron.

“Going towards The Rift will almost certainly mean your deaths,” Willow stated without emotion. “You are all very skilled, but The Rift holds immense powers beyond your understanding.”

Freya nodded with realization. There was something at stake for everyone.

“Either way there is a chance of death. There is even a chance of death if you stay here,” Bloodclaw stood from his seat. “The most important thing that you can do is go south to investigate further. We are in need of answers that have eluded us for far too long. There is more to know down there.” Bloodclaw’s voice was firm with warning.

“Having the help at the source is a more advantageous use of resources. More can be done to hold back the tides,” Advisor Willow stated from her chair.

Brightwind held up his hand before Bloodclaw or Willow could speak again - no doubt to restart an argument. Jolan had been watching the group as the others by his side had spoken. They all had their doubts and their fears, of that there was no question. But ultimately he trusted that they would help them. They were not the type to sit by and watch the world burn, which they had proven.

“As you can see there is much debate as to where we should send you,” Baron Brightwind stated as he got to his feet. He gestured towards Bloodclaw who, after a moment’s pause, sat back in his seat.

The baron looked over the group, his gaze landing finally on Captain Highwater. “This is why I am leaving the decision to you.” He noticed the slight tenseness that filled Bloodclaw as he spoke. Willow sat straight as a board, unmoving, with her hands resting in her lap once more. His guests couldn’t keep the shock from their faces.

Captain Highwater spoke, cutting through the whisperings of his companions. “With all due respect Baron Brightwind, but such an important decision shouldn’t be made on a whim.”

“I agree,” Bloodclaw stated from his seat.

“This decision is not on a whim,” Willow interjected as the voices in the hall started to rise, a mix of questions and confusion.

The baron held up his hands for silence. After a few brief moments the room was quiet once again.

“There is darkness surrounding our World. It is leaking through the cracks of the unknown to threaten my people and I will do everything in my power to protect them,” the baron paused as he looked at the group before him. “That includes using the strong to help the weak.” Brightwind took his seat once again, draping his long arms over the arms of his chair.

He thought for a long moment before speaking again. “Let me be clear, I helped you because it was the right thing to do.” He turned towards Freya and stared into her eyes. “You fought for the city, as a part of it. That makes you one of the strong. You are a part of my people,” his gaze swept over the others, “all of you are.”

Brightwind shifted in his seat ever so slightly as he continued, “What I ask of you all is not something I ask lightly. I am asking for you to give your lives should it be necessary. But I,” he held his hand to his chest. After a slight pause he swept his hand to include Willow and Bloodclaw, “We, need help. I have sent out as many groups, such as yourselves, as I can, and I will continue to do so. Those people of Aggramon willing to fight for it. Truthfully some have not returned and are believed lost. But some, a small few, have returned with invaluable information.”

The baron leaned forward in his chair placing his forearms against the table, his hands clasped in front of himself as if in prayer. “We are unprepared for what may be coming from The Rift and we have few left willing to fight. This decision has to be yours to make. I will not be another force determining the fates of my people. And make no mistake you are my people. That is why you must choose. If you are going to fight for Aggramon it has to be your choice.”

Baron Brightwind unclasped his hands and sat back in his seat. They needed the help, but he wouldn’t force them. He couldn’t do that.

Never again.

“None of you are indebted to me or mine. Please, take a moment to discuss this among yourselves.” Baron Brightwind started to make himself a plate of food as his guests sat at the other end of the table unsure of what to do.

Eventually under the silence that followed, Captain Highwater convinced his companions  to gather in the far corner of the hall, where they whispered, shouted, and decided amongst themselves.

As they did Bloodclaw and Willow grabbed food from the table and barely uttered a word. Brightwind had made his decision and there was nothing left to be said.

Brightwind was finishing the last bits of food when his guests sat back down at the table. He held a piece of thick cut bread in his hand ready to lap up the juices on his plate, “Captain Highwater, have you come to a decision?” He put the bread aside and took a sip from his goblet.

Captain Highwater stood and faced the baron and the others. “Yes Baron Brightwind, we have.”

“What have you and yours decided?” The baron asked plainly, leaning back in his chair with his goblet in hand.

“All of us are willing to fight for Aggramon. We will head south towards the desert in agreement with Spymaster Bloodclaw, if you will allow us,” Captain Highwater bowed low again towards the baron.

Baron Brightwind waved for Captain Highwater to take his seat. He then bowed his head towards the group. “If that is your decision I am in favor,” he raised his glass. His guests did the same, as did Bloodclaw and Willow. “To you and yours Captain Highwater,” he took a drink from his goblet as the others did the same.

He could tell that Bloodclaw was pleased with their decision. His demeanor had changed as the toast finished. Willow remained elegant as always, sitting politely with little outward emotion. He knew that she was alright with the decision, they were still gaining help that they desperately needed.  

“Now that is settled, we will get you whatever you require for the journey ahead. For now, please help us partake in this food and some light conversation!” He raised his glass once more and finished off the wine within.

Jolan snapped his fingers and servants came in with more wine and ale. They stopped just shy of the table, waiting. Jolan, moving his hands in elegant patterns in the air, whispered a few words under his breath. As he finished with a sweep of his hand towards the table his guests found themselves sitting closer to Jolan and his companions.

Highwater was now sitting next to Bloodclaw and Samson was now sitting next to Willow. There were a few stares and hands on weapons as the table shrunk to become more intimate and the food became hot once more.

Baron Brightwind started to laugh, a low chuckle under his breath, as the servants quickly moved towards the table and started to fill glasses. His guests took a few moments to recover. Hunger, ultimately, won out as they started to fill their plates and relax once more.

Brightwind grabbed the platter with the fruit that was in front of him and held it in front of the captain. “You must try the grapes,” he said as Highwater took the platter. “They are exceptional this season!” He clinked his goblet against Highwater’s. As the conversation started to break through the awkward silence, Brightwind filled up his newly clean plate that sat in front of him.

We won’t be able to discuss the journey seriously if I’m still hungry. Best to not be distracted by such things, he thought as he grabbed another piece of bread from the table.