Monday, May 20, 2019

127 - “A Dangerous Dagger” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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Immediately, instinctively, Granthurg scanned the hall. He had no weapons, no friends, and the only exit he could see right away was the main door which was blocked by a third man. He was the bigger and stronger of the three, a towering stone wall of intimidation.

The two giants stopped before him. One, on the left, was about Granthurg’s height, maybe a little taller, and the other had a full foot and a half on Granthurg. They both wore simple tunics of gray and green and leggings tucked into short boots.

“Y’re Rinkmorr’s hand, aren’t y’?” The shorter one spoke first. The taller one slowly drew a shortsword, but in his hands it looked more like a dirk or a dagger. “There’s a high price on y’r head.”

He stepped forward, then added, “Actually, I couldn’t care less ‘bout y’r head. The high price is on the dagger. So, if I have t’ take y’r head to get it, I will.”

The taller giant said, “So, you can tell us where you’re berthed, and we’ll go search it.”

Granthurg’s eyes narrowed. “And no one has to get hurt, right? I know the story.”

The taller one shifted his sword in his hand. "Well, we've been waiting here for so long, we might have to hurt you anyway," he smiled a gap-toothed grin, "just for fun!"

The dagger they want isn't on the barge. It’s the only weapon I have with me. I might have to use it, but I’m not so sure that drawing it and showing it is a good idea. Granthurg stood in a defensive posture, tense and set.

"How about y' take y'r arguments out int' the street," the innkeeper said in a nervous voice, "so my tables don' get smashed." Nobody moved.

Except that Granthurg caught a motion in his peripheral vision. Someone had stood up next to the far wall and was carefully moving toward the giant guarding the door. He carried a long and twisted staff in his hands. He looked directly at Granthurg and quickly nodded his head.

Granthurg glanced away and saw others across the room trying to catch his eye as well. He breathed in relief. I guess Rinkmorr had some friends here after all!

The tense moment hung in the air, everyone waiting for someone else to move first. Suddenly, Granthurg sucked in a breath and looked past the taller giant’s shoulder, making a face of alarm and surprise.

The taller giant turned his head to see what had happened. Granthurg seized the moment that his ruse had bought him and lunged to his left, jumping to the far side of the firepit. As he did, he saw the man with the staff swing it in a wide arc at the face of the man guarding the door. The mercenary saw the blow coming and raised his arms to block. The stick caught him against his forearms with a hard crack and he wailed in pain.

The shorter giant ran around the fire to face Granthurg. He swung his fist wide in a hook to Granthurg’s face. Granthurg ducked his head and raised his left arm to block the hit. His heart raced. He stepped in and swung his right hand low and up into the man's gut. His attacker stumbled back with a grunt, but didn't drop.

Granthurg backed away and hazarded a look over his right shoulder. The taller giant had followed him around the pit and loomed large as he lunged, sword stabbing forward.

Granthurg braced himself, unsure how defend against both the incoming blade and the first attacker. The man who had been turning the pig on the fire leaned his shoulder into the taller giant, knocking him off his balance and into a table. The legs cracked and chairs tumbled away.

Taking advantage of the distraction, the shorter giant tackled Granthurg and the two of them hit the floor hard. The impact winded Granthurg, and the attacker rolled over and straddled Granthurg's chest and pulled a blade out of his belt. Granthurg, his eyes wide and fearful, flailed his arms up trying hard to block the blade and grab his opponent's wrist. He felt a slashing pain on his right forearm that shot through his shoulder and made him jerk back. A warm trickle ran down his arm.

The attacker shouted in anger and raised the knife up high, pointing it for a plunge down into Granthurg’s neck. Granthurg winced through the pain in his arm and jabbed his right fist straight up into the other man’s belly and ribs. He grunted and dropped the knife, which scratched a line on Granthurg’s cheek and clattered to the floor.

Granthurg punched with his left, then twisted to his side. The giant fell off of him, and they both scrambled to their knees, breathing hard with exertion through gritted teeth and angry faces. A quick flash of bloodied steel appeared in between them, and Granthurg scrambled back, out of breath. His startled gaze followed the hand on the hilt, up the arm, to the scowling face of the man that had been tending the meat on the fire. He pointed the sword at Granthurg’s attacker and yelled at him to stay down. Granthurg looked across the room. The giant guarding the door was not there anymore. Behind him, he saw the third attacker rolling on the floor in pain, over a widening smear of blood.

“Thanks!” Granthurg wheezed through his heavy breathing. The man with the blade kicked hard on the back of the attacking giant’s head, knocking him out cold and dropping him flat on the floor. He smiled and nodded to Granthurg.

Granthurg crawled to the injured giant and rolled him over. His face was twisted in pain and there was a deep gashed stab wound through his side. His blood covered his shirt and pants. “Is there a healer in here?” Granthurg shouted. “Anyone with jade gemstone?” He looked around, into the quizzical faces of those around him. Nobody spoke.

He turned back to the man before him, then shed his own vest and his tunic. He wadded his shirt and pressed the linen hard against the wounded man’s side. The pressure made him wince slightly, from the pain, before he eased and dropped limp.

Granthurg leaned back on his legs and sighed, then stood, taking a deep breath. Everyone in the bar stood in a bit of a daze, but gradually began to rearrange the tables and sit back down. The innkeeper called to a barmaid, a tall girl with strong shoulders, and pointed at Granthurg. She grabbed her towel and moved to his side, taking his arm and wrapping it in the cloth.

“Thanks.” He said softly, then more loudly, “Thank you all!”


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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

126 - “Looking for Trouble” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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As Granthurg walked up the pier to the quay, then to the street, he idly wished that he had brought a cloak with him. The darkening skies brought a damp wind, especially near the river. Normally, he wasn’t bothered by chill in the winter or spring, but it was a bit uncomfortable in the summer when he expected it to be hot. It also wasn’t typically that dark at this time in the afternoon, but already some of the oculi raised up on poles along the street were starting to glow.

He walked east down the RiverFront street. Not too far from the berth where he had docked the barge would be The Old Steersman Inn. If anyone knew where to find Rinkmorr, someone there would tell him. Every time they had passed through Twynne Rivers, which was at least once every couple of weeks, Rinkmorr had stayed there, while Granthurg had slept on the barge as a guard. The last couple of nights he had done the same, partly out of tradition, and partly out of a more intense sense of a need for security. Some people had been willing to kill to get that strange white dagger. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, still, but he wasn’t willing to risk anyone of friends getting hurt over it.

He looked up at the clouds. Maybe I’ll actually get a room tonight, instead of sleeping on the barge.

He, Thissraelle, and Eddiwarth had spent a couple of days looking for Karendle. They’d had to be careful about how they dressed and where they went, to keep Thissraelle hidden from the eyes of the Wizard’s Guild. Thissraelle was tense and on edge, looking with suspicion at almost every passerby and every market vendor. She was certain that her father, the Wizard’s Guildmaster, was still looking for her, even if it had been several months since she first ran away from her tower in the guild hall. She and I first met a couple of months ago, here on the RiverFront. ‘Course, that was further downriver, where we were docked then. Karendle was there, too, when she suddenly appeared in that fight...

The search for Karendle was also difficult because they had no idea who she was wanting to meet or where she would look for them. Granthurg had quietly asked a few of the other rivermen if they’d ferried a half-dwarven girl with red hair to the city from Dirae, but nobody said so.

Oddly, none of them seemed to remember Rinkmorr, either. Even the ones that had recognized Granthurg said that they didn’t know his old boss. It doesn’t make sense. I know he had lots of friends in the RiverFront Quarter. Now, it’s like everyone’s afraid to admit they knew him.

Up ahead of him he saw the familiar shape of the Old Steersman, the carved wooden namesake statue in front of the inn. It was of a tall old giant with a bowed back and a long beard. The wood itself had aged and its paint had faded and chipped, adding to the overall look of tiredness in the carved giant’s shadowed face. Light from a large window shone across its back giving it an almost heavenly look.

The Old Steersman Inn. Granthurg recognized the statue and the inn. The entirety of the building was bigger than those next to it. The door was taller and wider and the windows higher. The stone walls of the ground floor were easily three to four feet higher than those of the buildings next to it and the whitewashed wattle and daub upper level towered up high. He had been here many times but had never actually been inside. Rinkmorr had been the one to stay here and Granthurg had stayed with the barge on the docks. Granthurg stepped through the heavy wooden door.

The main hall was huge, with a sunken floor and a high ceiling. He stepped down off the entrance porch onto the floor. It was planked, much like the deck of a barge. As he stepped down, he straightened his back and smiled. He didn’t have to lean or stoop! This inn was built for the river running giants!

The tables were all taller and the chairs stouter than any he had seen in a pub before. There were, perhaps, a dozen or so other rivermen, also giants, sitting at the various tables drinking ales from huge steins. The room was lit by various lanterns and a few oculi, all hung over each table using the same poles and hooks that were usually found on the bow of a barge. Nets and ropes hung from the pillars and rafters above. There was a round central fire pit, lined with large, jagged stones. Above it was a metal cone to direct the smoke into the flue.

Granthurg took in a deep breath of the smell of the roasting pig that was being turned above the pit as he stepped past on the way to the bar. He leaned on the counter and the innkeeper stepped up. Granthurg recognized his face but didn’t recall his name. He’d seen the man on the dock talking with Rinkmorr many times. The innkeeper was taller than Granthurg, by at least a foot, a bit broader around the middle, had thick, wavy gray-black hair, and a long beard full of thin braids. Under the beard was a dark shirt and a messy white apron. The lines in his face showed how many years he had spent himself on the river. A slight glint of recognition may have crossed his face as well as he asked Granthurg what he was to be drinking.

“Just an ale will be fine.”

“One ale!” He poured a tall drink for Granthurg.

Granthurg smiled. “Now, THAT’s a good tankard for a giant. Humans might as well drink from teacups!”

The innkeeper laughed as he set it on the bar. “I think I’ve seen y’ on the docks before, friend. Haven’t I?”

“Yeah. I’ve worked the river as a deckhand for a few years. My boss used to stay here a lot.” Granthurg took a drink.

“But now y’ve got y’r own craft?”

Granthurg set the tankard down and sighed satisfaction. The innkeeper nodded a thank you. “Yeah, I do. At least I think I do. I’m not really sure.” Granthurg looked at the eyes of the innkeeper, wanting to see if he could be trusted. “Actually, I’m looking for my barge’s owner. I haven't seen him in a while and I need to talk to him.”

“I’ll bet I know pret' much every giantish river runner that passes through Twynne Rivers. What's his name?"

"Rinkmorr."

Immediately, the old innkeeper hissed through his teeth, looked out over Granthurg's shoulders, then leaned in closer to whisper, "Get out."

Granthurg leaned back, shocked.

The innkeeper repeated, with greater urgency, "Get out. Now!"

"I- Ah- I'm sorry..."

"Don’t be sorry. I'm not angry. I'm helping y' get away." He tried to nudge Granthurg away. "There'r dangerous people that’ve been looking for Rinkmorr. They say he's got somethin' of theirs. They may've killed him already. Now go on!"

"Wait. Who is looking for him?"

"No time for-" The innkeeper was backing up. "Nope. Too late."

Granthurg spun around. Two large Giants were walking towards him, past the fireplace. A third was standing with his arms crossed in front of the door.

...And, of course, I left my hammer on the barge.


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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Start the whole story from the beginningStart from where this current story arc begins. Start from where the current story part begins

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Noblebright Fantasy

I just discovered something very exciting, and I want to share it!

Actually, to be more accurate, I discovered that something I already liked and believed in has a name and a movement, and I want to share that!

In the world of words, of writing and reading, a lot of fuss is made about the taxonomy of genres. It seems that each author wants to have their own sub-sub-sub-sub genre. Well, I have just found the one I want to be shelved into!

The name of this subgenre is “Noblebright”, and since I write fantasy, it becomes “Noblebright Fantasy”. The idea is ages old, but in modern publishing parlance it arose out of a reaction to the “grimdark” subgenre. In grimdark, there are few, if any, good guys. Everybody is out to better their own position and win in the dog-eat-dog world of the story. It’s well-suited for dystopian novels, but it can really fit in any time period and any style.

By contrast, Noblebright has at least one character that strives to attain a certain nobility. In a lot of ways, they’re paragons, or at least want to be. Here’s a clip from a website about it: 

“The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better.“

It goes on to say that even if the world is an unholy dystopian mess, the overall tone of the style is hopeful, inspiring.

Yes, characters, like people are complicated, and we don’t always know how to choose good, because we might not be fully aware of what “good” is. That’s OK, it’s all a part of the exploration and the growth.

So often, in tabletop RPGs, players leap for the evil side of the alignment scale. It’s not only easier, but in many cases, more fun to play someone that’s a crazy, bloodthirsty murder hobo. In a world without consequences, who would blame them?

But a big, big part of the reason why I made The Hero’s Tale game and taught it to my sons, and why I’m writing the story of A Tale of Heroes, is that it’s better to be a good guy.

So, now, I’m proud to announce that all of this, the game, the story, is part of the Noblebright movement!