NOTICE: Website Changes & Updates

Greetings to all:

I just wanted to take a moment and let you know that there has been a change with the Valian Chronicles website.  We’ve changed hosting companies and have transferred a majority of the files and articles over.  However, we were unable to transfer the user accounts over as had hoped.  The best that could be done was to individually add contributing users to the new site, meaning that a majority of the users who had accounts were not transferred, resulting in the loss of more than 12,000 accounts.  Fortunately, most of these were accounts that had nut been used in a long time and were probably no longer active.

If you had an account here and are not able to log on at this time, go ahead and create a new account.  We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Sincerely,
Robert Westerman, Administrator

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Pickaxe Point Part I (Encounter)

1. Encounter

A light gust of early morning wind caressed his face. It should have been cool and refreshing but it was not. Riding along with the breeze was the indescribably foul odor of the army below. The smell made his stomach rebel while his senses of smell and taste were under an all-out assault. He thought about holding his breath but it was too late. It would take days or maybe even a week before food would register its normal, familiar flavors. The epic poems and bard songs never spoke of this aspect of facing off against the ancient enemies of the goodly races, the man thought to himself.

He peered over the boulder. From this vantage point the ranger could clearly see down into the valley known as Wizard Pass. Wizard Pass was the primary route through the small mountain range known as Kane’s Knuckles. The spire of Pickaxe Point could be seen distantly beyond this valley and its surrounding foothills. The cadaverous light of dawn gave the sky a dark purple color as though the mountain had bruised it. A chill started at his waist and ran up his spine. The woodsman did not know if the chill was from the cool autumn morning or from the gut wrenching fear from seeing the teaming mass of unfettered evil below.

The carrion birds had already started their incessant circling of the Despiser’s instrument of death and revenge. From this vantage the army below milled about in an age old ritual where the strong took from the weak in an effort to reinforce the social pecking order. He thought he could make out goblins, orcs, bugbears, ogres, and giants but he would have to get closer to make sure. He shuddered at the thought. There was no way he was getting any closer to them unless it was as part of a battle line.

The ranger pulled back, spoke a minor curse and tried to spit the taste out of his mouth. It was a futile effort and only served to sour his mood. He froze. What was that? His head slowly moved left to right and back again looking for the source of the sound. The image of an orc scout filled his mind’s eye, cruel and cunning, just waiting for the right opportunity to sink his blade into the man’s back. He dropped to a crouch and waited. The light woods appeared to be silent but it was hard to tell because the noise from the camp below grew in volume as more of the vile creatures woke and added their voices to the unintelligible chittering of the whole.

Sweat beaded on his forehead while he slowly unslung his bow. His eyes continued to scan his surroundings looking for a possible threat. He pulled an arrow from his quiver. His heartbeat filled his ears drowning out the din from the valley. The woodsman realized he had been holding his breath and slowly exhaled. Another chill hit him. It felt like a spider or some other hairy insect was scrambling up his spine. The primal part of his brain was screaming, “Run!” His eyes quickly focused on the bowstring as he seated the arrow. He thought that the creaking of his leather armor was as loud as a series of thunderclaps even though logically he knew differently. The intensity of the situation along with his desperation to remain silent amplified every noise to him. His muscles tensed as he held the loaded bow, ready to pull it up and fire in an instant.

Minutes passed and no enemy revealed itself. His paranoia did not decrease. In this type of situation paranoia was your friend. It heightened your senses, pumped adrenaline into your system, made you think about your next move, kept you alive. The woodsman gradually rose, his head slowly panning as his eyes darted back and forth. He could feel several large trickles of sweat plummeting down his back. Cautious, deliberate steps moved him along the wooded ridge in the direction of the rear of the enemy camp. He paused every few paces in an effort to detect anyone or anything which may be shadowing him. This slow dance seemed never ending as he covered the distance from one end of the encampment to the other.

Nothing presented itself other than a large squirrel which darted between two trees. The little creature scrambled quickly up the trunk in a serpentine path placing the trunk between the man and itself. He unloaded his bow and slung it across his back. A thick bladed knife was now in his hand. A gnome or a halfling would have considered it a short broadsword. It served as both a tool and a weapon. The ranger slowly lowered himself to his belly and looked around before he crawled to the edge.

The fire giant king, Falgar, stood out. Bright orange hair capped a black skinned body which was head and shoulders taller than any other being around him. The only exception was his mate which stood dutifully near the giant king. He wore a great breastplate and greaves which were blackened as if exposed to some extreme heat. The brute was engaged in conversation with a human sized figure dressed in a black cowled robe, a wizard of some sort he guessed. Falgar seemed to be doing most of the talking. His gestures involved a lot of finger pointing and head shaking.

He had to give the giant a measure of grudging respect. It was not every day that a leader could come along and cobble together an army composed of creatures who would normally cut each other’s throats on sight. The wizard probably played a large role in bringing them together but the king was the cement which bound them. Brute strength commanded respect in each of those societies. The giant had it while the wizard did not. The wizard was most likely viewed as another lackey, albeit a powerful one, but not an equal.

The ranger continued to watch as two ogres or possibly giant youths brought a prisoner before their liege. The prisoner appeared to be a male human or elf in chain armor. His hands were bound behind his back. The giant king appeared to address the prisoner who stood head down. Minutes passed slowly. A sinking feeling came over the ranger. His gut tightened with dread. Suddenly one of the guards ran the prisoner through. The business end of the guard’s blade had burst through the captive’s chest. The prisoner shuddered violently. The lifeless body flopped limply over. The other guard cut the bonds which had immobilized the corpse’s wrists.

The wizard banged out a strange cadence with his staff and raised his arms. The body kicked and twitched then struggled to its feet. Terror began to creep into the recesses of the woodsman’s mind. The thought of not being able to escape his tormentors by the release of death brought the acid taste of bile to the back of his throat.

He pushed himself back from the ledge. The ranger closed his eyes, rolled on to his back and began take deep controlled breaths in an attempt to keep the contents of his stomach from coming up. The knuckles on his knife hand turned white from the strain of his grip which had involuntarily tightened. His free hand desperately clutched at the wooden holly leaf which hung from his neck suspended from a leather thong.

The image was finely worked but would have been considered crude by an art merchant. Nevertheless it was one of his most prized possessions having been crafted by his father. His father had been a farmer by trade who filled the long winter months whittling whatever took his fancy. The holly leaf was the symbol of the god Kane, from whom all green things of the earth sprang. It only seemed fitting that a man who spent his years tilling the soil and tending to plants would pay homage to Kane.

His father presented it to him on the day that he left home to learn plant and animal craft from the rangers of the Piney Forest. It had touched him more deeply than any of the words of sorrow and goodbye either one of his parents had said to him. The token had come to symbolize who he was and what he believed as well as a reminder from where he had come and why he had chosen to lead a life only slightly less solitary than that of a monk.

Wordlessly he whispered thanks to Kane and a plea to Selene, goddess of the dead, to spare him the unending doom of the poor soul below. Normally he would find a measure of solace in communing with the gods however this time the cold worm of fear which crawled through his guts would not be banished. The danger was too palpable, too near. He was contemplating as to what he needed to do to win the gods’ favor and prevent the unsavory fate which would be in store for him if he was caught when he heard the snort from a beast. His ears told him it was large and near.

His eyes opened while his hand desperately swiped with his knife. He scrambled to his feet. His breaths were short and rapid. The man froze in place at the sight before him.

It was an elven male at least that was his best guess, standing in front of the biggest moose he had ever seen. The antlers were large and flattened with wickedly pointed protuberances jutting out around the edges. Its dark eyes were large and hinted at an intelligence beyond the norm for its kin. Another loud snort released a vapor cloud into the chill morning air.

The elf was unlike any which he had met, not that he had the acquaintance of more than a handful who were his instructors in wilderness lore. They all had been well groomed and their equipment spotless. He had wondered more than once if the elven folk even had a word for unkempt. The elf before him was the antithesis of those memories. His delicately masculine features were partially obscured by smudges of grime which seemed to be decorations. Instead of having long flowing hair, his was dreadlocked to the midpoint of his back. A smattering of forest debris clung to the mass of hair in various places. Two curved blades hung at the stranger’s waist one long the other short.

The strong smell of mint cut through the stench which filled the ranger’s nostrils. The elf held up two empty hands to show peaceful intent. The ranger’s attention was drawn to a holly leaf shaped scar on each of his wrists. A spark fired in his memory, those scars identified the elf as a wild emperor, one of Kane’s stewards. This was a rare sighting. There were rangers’ who went their entire careers and never encountered one member of this very reclusive order.

The elf bowed, “I am Myrlis and my friend is Wapiti.” His arm swept toward the moose. “You are?”

“Agriculus Farmerson,” said the ranger quickly without thinking. “Everyone calls me Gric.”

“Gric, we need to talk.”

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Map: Kingdom Of Dwarnor

Kingdom of Dwarnor

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Consequences

Lanterns blazed in Fürth, a trading town on the edge of the Desert of Quills. Humans and humanoids alike came to trade their wares, no questions asked. The death rate was high in Fürth because the law of the sword prevailed. Along the narrow unpaved streets drunks lay, garbage was piled and the rats feasted on both. Steel and flesh mixed in a strange blur in the many inns and whorehouses. Hearty laughs and light giggles, at times, exploded above the constant din as the different races caroused.

A black cloaked figure made its way toward one particular inn, the Grinning Norker. The Grinning Norker was a place where mercenaries for hire went seeking employment. The lyrics of a bawdy song drifted to the figure’s ears as he approached. He frowned in disgust.

The giant wars brought many sell-swords, human and otherwise, to the area. Both sides utilized their skills in the hopes of gaining the upper hand in the bloody conflict. The need of fresh meat for the grinder ensured their purses stayed full.

After entering, he could see rude jests being made and stories being told to the approval of all. A young barmaid shrieked as she was pinched left and right. An even younger boy wove in and out of the throng picking up a few coins along the way. The figure took a seat by the fire after his initial inspection the surroundings.

His wandering eyes landed upon a motley crew seated a few tables away. This group consisted of an ogre, three gnolls, and a goblin. The ogre was a grotesque figure of glutton. He was dressed in studded leather armor. The blackish-brown hide of the ogre was laced with scars.

The reddish gray manes of the gnolls seemed to erupt from their padded leather armor. Their battle axes were of sinister craftsmanship and fearsome to look upon. They lapped at their bowls of drink. The laughter of the dog men tested the ear’s endurance.

The unlikely leader of this group was a four foot tall goblin. His face looked as though the Despiser had sculpted it himself. Malice exuded from his every pore. His dingy gray cloak partially covered his leather armor. A morningstar hung at his side. The lights of the inn played wickedly on the points of the weapon.

“Your order sir,” requested the young barmaid, breaking his concentration. She had a thick northern accent. She wasn’t old enough for her harsh lifestyle to have marred her natural beauty.

“A jack of ale and the house special.”

“Yes ma lord, anything else?”

“No, not now.”

“As you wish,” she replied.

The bar maid went about her business leaving him to return his focus to the patrons. The tavern was full. A smoky haze hovered above the throng. Trulls paraded their favors to those who looked as though they could afford an hour or two of pleasure.

A new burst of laughter exploded from the goblin’s table. The figure saw that the ogre had caught the boy trying to pilfer some coins. The youngster was red faced and wiggling with everything that he had.

“What have we here mates? A young footpad perhaps,” said the ogre with an exaggerated look of surprise on his face. He held his prize up by the back of his collar.

“Looks like a packrat to me,” said a gnoll. His voice was guttural. A fresh round of laughter went up from the group.

“How should we punish him?” asked another gnoll.

“Cut off his hands,” the last one suggested.

“Pluck out his eyes,” said the goblin. “I haven’t had a good eye in a long time.” The creature held the boy’s chin with his left hand. He looked him straight in the eye, “You wouldn’t miss one now would ya? Which shall I take, right or left?”

What was that? Something had flashed over the boy’s face. It had actually blotted out the youngster’s facial features in a burst of light. The figure blinked his eyes. What was it? It looked like a sigil, maybe a rune of some kind. The humanoids didn’t even flinch. Couldn’t they see it?

The boy’s efforts to escape became frenzied at the thought of these horrid prospects. They held him fast. The goblin produced a dirk. A contemptuous smile decorated the goblin’s face. He drew closer to his young victim.

There it was again, only brighter and more distinct this time. Again there was no reaction from the mongrel band around the boy. He could make it out. It was the Holy Shield! The gods had chosen the boy to join the order.

“Leave him be,” said a deep voice. The group looked around startled. All focused on the stranger who was now standing.

The cloak was at his feet, the man’s features were now visible. His basinet was battered and dented. A longsword was sheathed on his left hip. The gauntlets he wore were blood stained. The centerpiece was his massive breastplate embossed with a shield symbol. It was pitted and marred from where countless weapons had impacted but never pierced. This ragged plate mail covered a large heavily muscled frame. Sun bronzed skin encased his bluer-than-blue eyes. A rough black beard was peppered with gray.

“A nosey fellow, eh,” said the ogre as he set his prize down. The boy promptly scuttled to a place of safety. The room was silent. The patrons cleared out of the way in expectation of the fight to come. “Maybe you’d like to take his place, eh?”

“Leave now in peace or I shall show no quarter,” said the aged warrior in an almost pleading tone.

In an instant, the ogre lunged at him. As if by reflex the warrior planted his right fist in the ogre’s midriff. The ogre made a wheezing sound as the air was forced from his lungs. With another motion he threw the hulking figure into the opposite wall. The ogre made a loud crash and sat there gasping for air.

“Outside, damn you, outside!” yelled the barkeep.

Instinctively the knight drew his magical sword, Losch.

“Slice ‘em all,” screamed the sword in its familiar battle cry.

The gnolls howled as they charged with axes raised. Not waiting to be rushed upon, the man became a blur of motion. A mighty kick sent the first gnoll to the ground doubled over. Another one fell, its half severed neck a fountain of blood. The last one showed some skill in its attempts to dodge the knight’s onslaught.

The warrior’s head swam with stars after receiving a blow to the head by the ogre. The ogre spewed curses as he closed in for the kill. A desperate thrust ripped into the ogre’s chest. It gurgled as it fell.

The crimson knight rose and met the attacks of the gnoll and goblin. Losch licked out; the gnoll fell. Blood spurted from his stump of a leg. The goblin swung and missed. His morningstar imbedded itself in the table. The warrior brought Losch down and chopped through the morningstar’s handle. The table shattered from the force of the impact.

The goblin dropped to his knees as he begged for his life. The crimson figure grabbed the goblin. The foul creature closed his eyes and swallowed hard. The warrior threw him aside.

“Away from me dog and pray that our paths never cross again,” grated the knight. The goblin and the remaining gnoll ran whimpering from the inn.

Sword in hand, the warrior picked up his cloak. He strode out of the bar to drink in the cool night air. The sound of the innkeeper complaining followed him out of the door. The air was cool but it stank of dung and offal. The street lamps bathed him in light, protecting him from the darkness that threatened to engulf all.

“You’re becoming soft,” stated Losch.

He stopped and eyed the dripping blade a moment before wiping it off. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his temples throbbed with his pulsing blood. His muscles, full of unspent adrenaline, sent tremors through his hands. Breathing heavily he began to place the sword in its scabbard.

“Be aware of knives in the dark. They’ll seek revenge,” warned the blade as he slid it into place.

“Don’t they always,” replied the knight. Movement caught his eye. He left his hand on his sword’s hilt.

“Come here son,” he said.

Slowly a pair of eyes peered around a corner. The warrior motioned with his hand. Hesitantly, the youngster from the bar came to him. He placed his left hand on the boy’s shoulder and squatted.

Their eyes met, the old warrior of many campaigns and the boy embarking on life’s journey. He asked, “How old are you?”

“I’m six summer’s old…almost seven,” the boy added with a smile.

The knight grinned, “Seven! Why you’re almost a man. Where are your parents?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders, “I haven’t got any.”

“Where do you sleep?”

He shrugged again, “Where ever is safe.”

“How would you like to be a knight like me?”

The child’s eyes grew with amazement. He shook his head vigorously.

The veteran removed the plated gauntlet from his right hand. The knight held his hand palm up and began flexing his fingers in a strange rhythmic pattern. The boy stood amazed as a glowing tattoo appeared on the knight’s palm. It was an ornate shield similar to the one on his breastplate. Almost immediately it transfigured into an eagle. His fingers continued but in a slightly different dance.

A silver colored disk materialized on his palm. The knight put the disk in the boy’s hand. The child’s eye went wide as he examined the disk. On one side was the Holy Shield with an eagle on the other.

“Keep it safe. Now, go get whatever you own and meet me at the northernmost gate in the morning,” said the knight.

The boy ran off and disappeared from sight. The old warrior’s knees popped as he rose from his squatting position. The veteran smiled and shook his head.

The boy’s heart raced as he ran down the alley. The smile was soon wiped from his face as a gnarled hand reached out of the shadows to grab him. The boy was drawn close; the hand now covered his mouth.

“You little brat,” said the goblin from the bar. His heavy breathing was mixed with speech. “You’ve caused me too much trouble for me to let you off of the hook.” The creature drew forth his dirk. “My friends died now you must die.”

The boy’s scream was muffled. Even though he savagely bit into the goblin’s hand, it was not removed. The dirk bit deep. The boy’s life-blood escaped him. The goblin’s laughter echoed in the utter darkness.

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Riddle — Tongue of Flames

Tongue of flame

Speaks silky lies.

Golden bed

under watchful eyes.

Deep in wilderness,

Deep in cave,

Greedy and cruel,

Rogue and knave.

What am I?

Answer: Red Dragon

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Joke — Stupid Spear

Why did the orc throw his spear away?

Answer: The spearhead was on the wrong end.

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Joke — Ice

Why did the orc pay half price for ice?

Answer: It was melted.

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Joke — The Stirge

What did one stirge say to the other stirge?

Answer: Hiya sucker.

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Joke — The Orc

Why did the orc cut his finger off?

Answer: He wanted to write shorthand.

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Joke — The Lurker

What did the lurker above say to the unwary dungeon adventurers?

Answer: Hands up! I’ve got you covered.

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