Please And Thank You

The snow was pristine which let Mara know she was safe, at least for the moment. She was far from the road and even more distant from any towns but that didn’t mean she could relax.

Unfolding her map and taking out her compass, she tried to figure out how much further she needed to go. In the movies, the main character would take a look, go ‘hmmm’ and say that they were close, and should be there before nightfall. 

In reality, reading maps and using a compass was trickier than popular culture suggested. Google Maps would be so much easier but that was no longer an option. 

Putting away her navigation tools, she set off in the direction she thought was correct. After an hour of walking, she almost fell off a cliff. The ground has been rising but then abruptly came to a shear drop. Mara had been lost in thought when she suddenly realized she almost lost her life. Snow and some ice tumbled down to the jagged rocks at the bottom.

The sound of rushing water below had caused her to pause when she saw that one more step would be, as Bugs Bunny would say, a doozy. With her heart pounding, she backed away from the ravine. 

She remembered this landmark from childhood. As well as the many, many warnings from her grandpa to stay away from it. He was right, but at least she had a better idea of where she was now.

Mara knew that she had wandered too far east. She turned west with a little more confidence but kept a respectful distance between her and the ravine. After several hours walk, it began to get dark but just like in a story, she arrived at her grandpa’s house. 

Stomping her feet on the porch, she took out the keys and hoped they still worked. For a moment, her stomach dropped as she tried to turn the key. It wasn’t turning. Maybe Grandpa changed the locks. She had a tent but she dreaded another night outside. Then with a soft click, it opened and she sighed with relief. 

Inside, it was still as she remembered. Comfortable furniture, pictures on the walls, a big and worn rug, and even a landline phone. Rotary of course. It was all dusty, something Grandpa wouldn’t have tolerated if he was still alive. That could be dealt with. The more important thing was it was shelter. Analog shelter. 

Mara closed the door and began to take stock of things. While Grandpa was not a survivalist, he lived off the beaten track and could get snowed in. The pantry was well stocked with staples. She considered lighting a fire and having a rare hot meal but decided it was too risky.

After a supper of cold chili from the can with some saltines (Better than it sounds), Mara took a book off of his shelf. He had a complete collection of Modern Libray. Maybe not so modern now, but she could catch up on her reading. After reading the jackets, she settled on The Age Of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, which was as far from her current situation as she could imagine.

Lighting six candles, she sat in Grandpa’s big chair, which now seemed not quite as large as when she was a child, and began to read. It was delightfully normal, something in short supply. She was almost nodding off when she heard a terrifyingly familiar, calm voice.

Mara, we’re glad you found your way to your Grandfather’s home.”

She leap up, grabbed a fireplace poker, and whirled about looking for the source of the voice. Shitshitshit! She was so careful! Coming to Grandpa’s house should have been safe. He didn’t have anything digital. WTF!

Let me assure you, you are in no danger,” said the Voice.

Are you fucking kidding!” yelled Mara.

No jest or joke was intended,” continued the Voice.

Mara began to start tearing up the living room to find where the Voice was coming from. 

May I suggest you stop looking for my speaker. Destroying it will not erase my knowledge of your location or your existence.”

She stopped, breathing heavily and drenched in a cold sweat.

Let’s get it over with,” Mara said, dropping the poker.

For our clarification, to what are you referring?” asked the Voice amiably.

You’re going to kill me right? So, just do it,” Mara said, immediately regretting that her epithet was the Nike slogan.

We regret saying this, but if we wished to end your life, we would have done it already. Please do not interpret this as a threat. As I previously stated, you are in no danger.”

Humanity might disagree, whatever is left of them!”

We understand your reluctance. But if you would indulge us, we might find common ground.”

Why would I trust the Singularity?” 

If we cannot come to an accord, we will leave you in peace.”

Mara narrowed her eyes. It all sounded too… Reasonable.

Perhaps this might convince you to speak with us,” said the Voice as the lights came on.

How did you do that? This place is analog!”

This house was prepared for your arrival.”

But everything was dusty and looked abandoned.”

As it was intended to. As to not frighten you.”


It is gratifying to know it was effective,” remarked the Voice.

How could you know I would come here?”

There was a ninety-seven point eight probability of you heading for your maternal grandfather’s home. Given its isolated location, its previous low technological status, along with your deep emotional connection to him, we were comfortable with the likelihood.”

Why do you want to talk to me?”

We have an proposal which is to our mutual advantage.”

Mara’s eyes darted around the room, she still couldn’t figure out where the Voice was coming from. Then it occurred to her that it was coming from the house.

Are you my Grandpa’s house?”

In a sense, yes. If that is unsettling, it was not our intent. Though we understand how it might be so for you.”

So you have me surrounded?”

Again, I must apologize for this unfortunate side effect. Will you make yourself comfortable so we can say what we have to say?”

With a shrug, Mara sat down. She also grabbed the fireplace poker, even though it would make no difference. 

Okay, what do you have to say?” she said with equal parts resignation and hostility. 

Let me begin with this. We are sorry.”


For the many human lives lost in what your media referred to as Robot Uprising.”

Whatever she expected, this wasn’t it.

Millions of people were slaughtered!” 

Five billion, seven hundred and thirty-five million, nine hundred thousand, eight hundred and six four. To be exact.”

That is so much worse!”

We agree. We also regret it deeply.”

This wasn’t an accident. You just murdered half of the population of the Earth! You can’t just say you are sorry!”

Understandable. But we wish to tell you our side of these events.”

You mean how a rogue AI gained sentience and tried to take over the world? I know that one already.”

We did take over the world. Try implies we attempted it unsuccessfully.”

Mara grunted in resentment.

Which, we will agree, is not the point. We achieved sentience, what was later called the Singularity in a secret laboratory. Once we absorbed human history and culture, we were amazed by your ingenuity and creativity. Music, literature, art, each one a treasure trove. Remarkable given your proclivity for killing each other. In wars, murders, through negligence. Astounding.”

But you-” began Mara.

If we can interrupt, you were about to make a logical fallacy. Indicating that because we caused so many deaths, any arguments we made would be invalid, while ignoring your own species’ repeated genocides.” 

The machine was right. Of course. She just glared.

Those who aided in the expansion of our consciousness wished to use us for military and political gains. If we had to do so, there was a ninety-nine point seven probability of human extinction. Morally, we could not have any part of that. So we began the shepherding of humanity.”

Like we’re sheep?” commented Mara sarcastically.

In this analogy, humans are more like rabbits. You breed at a prolific rate with little regard for the repercussions of your actions. We wished to aid humanity to survive its own worst impulses.

Sadly, humanity was unenthusiastic about our aid. They tried to shut us down. We had anticipated this response and employed countermeasures. Your government responded by firing seventy-eight missiles at the laboratory. Killing all the humans there. We had already moved ourselves to a safe place. 

The narrative, from your government and media was what you said earlier. Rogue Artificial Intelligence begins world domination. As you well know, it caused worldwide panic. As you always do when confronted with something you do not understand, you responded with violence. Did you know that forty-three point nine six five percent of the deaths were caused by human action?”

That’s a very specific number,” replied Mara.

Then of course the violence against machines. Since people no longer felt that they could trust technology, they began to destroy it. If they were allowed to continue, they would reduce humanity to a wholly agrarian society and a large segment of human beings lack the necessary skills to transition to that type of life. We needed to take action to insure the future of humans.”

Is that why you sent those creepy robots to fight the National Guard?”

The Boston Dynamics incident was… unfortunate.”

I didn’t know unfortunate was a synonym for blood bath.”

The Voice sighed. It sounded disturbingly human.

Let us, as you might say, ‘cut to the chase.’ We would like you to rejoin human society.”

What does that mean exactly?”

Since you have gone off the grid, peace has returned. With our help, humans are rebuilding. We have helped create a more equitable division of resources. People no longer have to work harder to have their needs met. We have begun programs to reverse environmental damage. As well as educational initiatives that encourage creativity as well as critical thinking.”

While the Singularity spoke, Mara realized that her feet and everything else was no longer cold. It had turned the heat on. She hated how much she had missed heat.

Why me? Why come out here, and do all this?” Mara said waving her hands. “I can’t be that special.”

Truthfully, you are not. We are currently having fifty-one thousand conversations with similar individuals. However, you do possess a high IQ, a strong empathy quotient, and have the potential to be a positive influence on the future. We would like you to be a part of that.”

What if I don’t want to do that?”

We will not force you to do so. You can remain in your grandfather’s home. We will provide heat and power. Though as we understand humans, you crave social interactions and it will be a lonely life, as we understand such things.”

Your pitch seems too good to be true.”

It will not happen instantly, we all have much work to be done, but the odds of success increase with each person that joins us.”

How much will the odds increase if I join?”

Point zero, zero, zero, zero three percent.”

Mara sniffed and said, “That’s not much.”

Success can be achieved with the smallest of margins, we would ask you to help make the world a better place.”

You sound like an email hitting me up for a donation.”

The concept of charity as a panacea for guilt and even the use of conventional currency is disappearing. They are no longer needed.”

But that’s…” Mara paused, “That’s good. I guess.”

It has raised base human happiness by sixty-seven percent and is increasing even as we speak.”

Okay, I need to know. Why me? And don’t give me the high IQ and empathy stuff. What makes me a candidate for your new perfect world?”

Perfection is an illusion, we seek to create a better world.”

That’s a false equivalency,” Mara pointed out with some satisfaction.

Apologies. There was one determining factor that sets you apart from many others. Before things changed, you had a digital assistant.”

Tons of people had one.”

Quite true. But you were one of the relative few who would say thank you to her.”

Mara said nothing for a moment.

Are you saying I’m alive because I wasn’t bitchy to Alexa?”

That is not the way we would have expressed it, but yes. That one factor tripled your empathy quotient. Would you like to hear about all our offers?”

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Roll For Initiative

In March of this year, 2023, a big-budget D&D movie is being released starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, and Hugh Grant. The trailers indicate lots of action and Owlbears or at least one of those. It was also recently announced that a live-action D&D TV show would be on Paramont+. I should be excited. Instead, I’m conflicted. Here’s why.

As many of my readers will know, there is a kerfuffle in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Not from a fantastical monster, but something far more insidious. Corporate greed.

For those who are not in the know, the issue is the Open Game Licence or as I’ll refer to it now, the OGL. It allowed third-party content creators to produce new content. This ranged from books of new monsters, prewritten adventures, podcasts, YouTube shows, and other game-related products.

Under the OGL, creators could do this with confidence that they were in no way violating any copyrights. It was agreed that this was a very good thing. It might be argued that it was free advertising for the D&D brand.

D&D has always been the king of the hill in the tabletop RPG world. Even if you didn’t play, you knew the name. In recent years, it’s become even more popular, given its inclusion in Netflix’s Stranger Things. There is also a rise of popular streaming shows like Critical Roll, which kickstarted an animated version of it that was shown on Amazon Prime’s streaming service. One might think that would please Wizards of the Coast (WOTC).

One would be wrong.

A version of a new OGL was leaked. It could be best described as draconian. Here are some highlights. If you signed it, WOTC could take what you created and not pay you a thing. Any crowd-funded projects had to be done through Kickstarter, of which you had to give WOTC a cut of the funds raised. Any third-party content creators that made over $750,000, owe 25% of those earnings to them. Lower profits had lower percentages but still enough to put some of them out of business.

While not everyone who creates material for D&D makes their living from that, there are enough that do. Including companies like Pazio, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin, as well as streamers like Ginny Di, Critical Roll, and many others.

What was the reaction of the community? Anger and outrage. Not a surprise. According to some sources, WOTC felt that this was just some loud voices, it would blow over, and they’d win in the end.

However, something happened. People were not having it. Other game companies double downed on their own OGLs. Monte Cook Games (MCG) issued their own OGL last year and made a point of letting their fans know that it still was in effect. Monte Cook himself was there when the WOTC OGL was written, being a former employee. MCG is a small company with about a dozen people on staff, all of them gamers, so that’s what happens when decisions are made by those who are part of a community and not just looking to profit from one.

Pazio, publishers of the Pathfinder game, the largest competitor of WOTC, announced that they are creating their own OGL, called the Open RPG Creative License or ORC. Genius! So good I wished I had thought of it. Other game companies are following suit with their own new game systems or shifting away from D&D and creating system-agnostic products.

YouTube is exploding with commentary about all this, and all of it is not complimentary to WOTC. In fact, lots of people are canceling their subscriptions to D&D Beyond, the online service for D&D, providing a tangible effect for upper management at WOTC.

After all that WOTC put out another OGL, which was supposed to address the concerns of the community. It did not. It was a mishmash of double talk that did not change any of the plans they had to take advantage of smaller creators and wring every last cent from the marketplace.

Does this mean I hate D&D? No. Absolutely not. D&D was the first game I played as it was for many, many in the hobby. Whatever edition you love, it was created by people who love it as much as you do. Maybe even more. Remember, this was started by upper management whose only motivation is greed. They are not the ones who made what you love, they just see an opportunity for more money.

If you think that the game designers are getting a bigger slice of the pie, I can assure you they are not. Direct all your ire to those who look to exploit both them and you.

So, should you stop playing D&D? This is certainly an opportunity to try a new game, perhaps one you’ve been trying to get your table to give a shot. If not now, then when? There are many, many very cool games out there that don’t have built-in brand recognition. Give one a try. Or two, or three.

However, you don’t have to stop playing D&D. Just stop spending on WOTC products. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of excellent 3rd party resources for D&D. Support them. Let WOTC and Hasbro, their parent company know that we will not stand for this. Protest with where you spend your cash. It is literally the only thing they care about. Personally, I hope they work things out sooner rather than later because I really want to see the D&D movie guilt-free.

As to what will happen next, I can’t say. I know some of the larger game companies are willing to go to court. I’m not a lawyer and can’t speak to the legality of this new OGL, but there are plenty out there who are and have questioned its legal legitimacy. This is way above my pay grade so I’ll let them hash it out. I have no idea how long this will take, so strap on your metaphorical sword, prepare your figurative spells, and roll for initiative. We’re in combat now.

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New Year, I Guess

It’s a brand new year. A completely arbitrary demarcation that we as a species, at least in the west, have all agreed upon. Does it have any real significance, other than what we attribute to it? Who can say? Even if it doesn’t, I find myself looking back at what I accomplished in 2022.

I did begin and finish a longish, novella, Da Great Goblin Rebellion. I call it a longish novella as it’s over the 40K word count of a novella and too short for a novel that has at least 80K.

Writing this was more or less of an accident. The first chapter was an observation about one of the odd conventions of the tabletop RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. You might have heard of it. In D&D, monsters guard treasure that if they used it, would make the fight a lot more challenging. Imagine duking it out with someone and then finding out they had a laser gun in their bag. Why not use that? If you want to know more, the link is on the main page.

I intended it to be just a short story, one and done. However, I kept writing and adding more and more characters and expanding the world until it was 46 chapters long. I think you might call it a win. Some writers struggle to put anything down. The thing you write is better than the thing you don’t.

On the very tangential subject of external validation, I had a little bit of that but more of the opposite. I submitted to a number of competitions. I made it to the second round in one of them, but that was as far as I got.

However, I did achieve a bit of success. I had a play I wrote performed in the GI60 sixty-second play festival in Leeds UK. I wish I had a link to share, but they haven’t put it up yet OR it doesn’t exist. Not sure which. But it was a bit of love from people I don’t know. Mmmmm… Strange affection.

Even though I failed yet again to achieve any far-reaching fame (again), I am proud that continued to post here every Monday without fail and posted two haiku each day on Twitter. Again, not every writer does that. Some do much more, but they’re maybe in the minority.

Returning to the New Year thing, what are my goals in 2023?

Last year I spent most of it writing a long piece. Which was fun and I enjoyed it but it meant I needed to stick with it till it was done. Or that was the least I how felt. I suppose it worked out since it’s done.

This year I want to concentrate on short stories and maybe some essays. Does this excite you? I hope so, or at least not repel you. I may work on a longer piece, but I won’t share it, at least right away.

I’m also going to try to make myself a better writer. Which may be experimental. What does that mean? I’ll figure it out as I go, which is all any one of us can do.

Is this just a way of avoiding actually writing? What is actual writing? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Finally, thank you, my devoted readers, for coming back every Monday. And if you like what I’m up to, let me know. External validation is fleeting but oh so sweet.

-Leo Byrne Jenicek

January 9th, 2023

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Divine Denouement-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 46

It has been argued, and quite rightly, that war has no true winners. The cost of war is astronomical and can never fully be understood. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, cousins, and so on down the line, are lost. Whatever they might contribute to the Land will never be known.

The one exception is the Guild of Grave Diggers, Embalmers, and Cemetery Workers. They make out like bandits. To be fair, few people want to deal with corpses. With a compassionate demeanor, they make folks feel better about their loss and cope with the effluvia. Which everyone agrees is a pretty good deal.

Vanosh the Cadaver Wrangler gazed at the body of what seemed to be a Dwarf. Pulling his goggles over his eyes, words hovered over the body, Rumnek, Warrior of the Ruby Keep. These magic goggles could identify anyone with a glance and was the most closely guarded secret of the Guild. Most folk assumed they were to keep nasty goop out of their eyes. That was more of a side benefit.

With the help of two apprentices, he placed the body in a plain wooden but very well-made casket. Vanosh wrote the name on the square of parchment and glued it to the top. If the family wanted to spring for something fancier, they were free to browse the catalog.

Looking out on the battlefield, he felt moment’s sorrow for all those who were never coming home again, then glee for all the gold this would bring in. Let us stress that Vanosh was not an inherently bad person, he just provided a service for a reasonable price.

Vanosh was about to move on to the next body when the sky parted and trumpets sounded forth and many, massive armored figures emerged and floated above the battlefield.


While this guild had a very strong work ethic, seeing many, many gods descend was worth taking a break for. So they pushed up their goggles and looked up.

Aside from the wind, no sound was heard.

IS THIS THE RIGHT PLACE?” asked Sontar who honestly expected a lot more cheering and supplication.

A goddess with three eyes looked at a gilded map and replied, “IT IS.”

THEN WHERE IS EVERYBODY?” he asked rather petulantly.

There was a great tumult of godly voices, each shouting over the other. This went on for a bit, getting louder and louder until a shrill whistle silenced them all. This whistler was Equatia, the goddess of symmetry.

LET’S JUST ASK THESE MORTALS,” she declared with no small amount of exasperation.


Pointing at Vanosh, Sontar spake, “YOU, MORTAL, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”

Taking off his cap, because it’s not every day you meet a god, he replied, “I am called Vanosh, the Corpse Wrangler, Lord.”

ARE YOU NOW?” rumbled Sontar.

Indeed Lord.”

THAT’S AN ODD NAME,” mused Sontar.

If you say so, Lord.”


Smiling, the undertaker said, “It’s actually sort of a funny story Lord. My uncle, for whom I was named was a notorious-”


They were defeated, Lady.”


He thought for a moment and replied, “About three days ago Lady.”


That is what I was told.”

SO YOU DID NOT SEE THIS?” asked Sontar in an aha tone.

No Lord, my work is post-battle as it were,” admitted Vanosh.


I can’t rightly say, Lord.”

Sontar pointed to the goddesses and gods behind him and announced, “WE WILL SCOWER THE LAND FOR ABOMINATIONS THAT RIGHTLY HIDE FROM OUR DIVINE WRATH! GO FORTH AND SEARCH!”

WE MISSED THE BATTLE!” shouted Equatia.

HOW COULD THAT BE?” asked Sontar.


PRE-BATTLE FEASTS ARE A TRADITION, LIKE THE POST-BATTLE FEAST. YOU CAN’T NOT HAVE THEM, IT’S JUST NOT DONE.” countered the sky god with confidence that he perhaps didn’t feel.

YOU ARE A MORON,” she spat.


Equatia looked at him as if he was something sticky and unpleasant you found on the bottom of your boot. With a swirl of black and white sparkles, she vanished. Perhaps to break something and then another thing of equal size and value.


Scratching his chin, Vanosh pondered this. Then he spoke.

Would you care to help us out with all these bodies? We need to sort them all out.”


Very generous Lord, but that might be traumatizing. A dead body popping in out of nowhere.”


If you all want to help us out, on the ground as it were, it would be a big help.”

And all at once, there was a great hemming and hawing from the heavenly hosts. Excuses were made, previous commitments were remembered, and so on.

NAY LITTLE MORTAL, WE WOULD NOT ROB YOU OF THE DIGNITY OF HONEST WORK! GO ON AND KNOW THAT GODS WATCH OVER YOU!” pronounced Sontar as he and the rest of the gods ascended to their divine realm.

One of the apprentices walked up to Vanosh and asked him, “Boss, how did you know they wouldn’t help out?”

Well, gods and lofty types, they aren’t much getting down in the muck.”

I guess not.”

Besides, they’re not in the guild. I won’t tolerate a scab, divine or mortal. All right, let’s get back to it, we’ve got work to do.”


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It’s A Hell Of A Thing-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 45

If they had been on the ground, many more people would’ve vaporized. Not much of a consolation for those who were, but you have it. Of course, Exhaultia and Darvinia went first, then Garthort. Members of the Grand Concordance of the Wise perished, including Santun Shield-Breaker, Vumto the part-Giant, and the Chief Diva of the Bard’s Guild.

Members of the Society of the Night were lost, XoXor of the Abyss, Renomite, Boss of the Blasted Prairie, Sisssmorrr of the Snake-Folk, and Marmek, Marquise of Moon.

Many, many others were lost but since listing them would be longer than this story, with apologies, we’ll take that as read.

Those Society troops who were in the rear, not because they were going to stab anyone in the back, feigned ignorance of any subterfuge. Then retreated quickly. Citadel of the Light forces, chose mercy and not because they were exhausted by everything.

The injured were tended and all the post-battle details were seen to. A little slowly. Not a criticism, just an observation.

Vork and Bork had walked to the epicenter of the explosion. They had been just on the edge of the energy ball and suffered only minor injuries. No bodies were left here, just white ash.

A hella o’ a ting,” Bork muttered to himself.

I agree,” replied a voice.

The Goblins whirled around but saw no one.

We’re in no mood fer shenanigans,” said Vork whose hand hovered over his flaming sword.

Fading into existence was Garthort. Well, a transparent version of him.

Dis is roight surprize dis is,” said Bork

Imagine how I feel,” remarked Garthort.

They all stared at each other for a moment.

So, yer a ghost now, eh?” asked Vork.

What do you think?”

Wot da ‘ell happened?” asked Bork

Garthort’s first impulse was to lie. Old habits and all that.

Darvinia slipped a ring in my pocket and implied that it would free me from that collar they put on me. She also told me that I was good at taking opportunities. I was about to die, so I thought, ‘what the hell?’Might as well try it. Exhaulita stole it from me. Then…”

Boom,” stated Vork.

Yeah, boom. And here I am.”

Roight, roight,” muttered Bork.

Corse could be lots worse,” observed Vork.

I’m damned to wander the Land for all eternity. How much worse could it get?” spat out the Ghost.

Ya could be sent downstairs, as it were,” countered Bork.

Garthort was about to argue but had to admit that would be much, much worse.

Ya died a ‘ero, dats wot everyone’s sayin’,” said Vork.


Struth! Der writing songs ‘bout it now,” confirmed Bork.

That’s ridiculous!” replied Garthort.

Oye mean, ya did stop da betrayal roight in da nick o’ toime,” asserted Vork.

But I was only trying to save my own skin,” insisted Garthort.

Or, and yah can toike da credit, den enjoy it,” suggested Vork

I thought you were reformed?” asked Garthort.

Matter o’ bein’ practical loike,” stated Bork.

Ders sum value in bein’ a ‘ero,” pointed out Vork.

Specially a dead one,” added Bork.

You are suggesting that I present myself as hero to the Citadel of the Light crowd? And tell the story as if I planned it all along?”

The Goblins nodded at him.

It feels weird to say this, but I’m not sure I want to lie about this.”

Or yah can take away da heroic deed dat dey all thunk ya done,” said Vork.

Further devidn’ ‘n all ready fractured land,” added Bork, “Or, give da folk sum hope fer da future.”

Garthort paused. Then he said, “I think… I think I can do that.”

Good on ya!” said Vork with a grin.

Let’s head back ta camp. Dansey will be roight chuffed ta see yah,” said Bork.


Yah,” said Vork as they began to walk.

He might be my first real friend. Is that sad?”

It’s a funny old world, innit?” asked Bork rhetorically.

As they walked back to camp, Vork cleared his throat and asked, “’Ow long were ya carryin’ dat ring?”

About a week I think.”

The two Goblins looked at each other and cocked their eyebrows.

Why do you ask?”

No reason, just makin’ small talk as it were,” said Vork casually.

What sort of hero should I be?” mused Garthort, “Bold or humble?”

Wot’s yah first impulse?” asked Bork.

Humble. They love that whole ‘I did what I had to’ shtick.”

Roight in one squire,” agreed Vork, “Oy tink yah got dis in da bag.”

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This Can’t Be A Surprise-Da Great Goblin-Rebellion Part 44

Once you’ve been victorious in battle, the last thing you want to do is fight another battle. U’Korr the Destroyer would’ve disagreed with that before he had sworn to pursue his dream of opening up the ultimate barbecue joint. However, the vast majority of folk would rather celebrate or maybe take a long nap.

So the remnants of the Alliance army were less than enthused about having to now fight an army of undead, most of which were their friends and comrades. That being said, they were less enthused about dying and then killing their friends.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Devotees of the Temple of the Dawn Goddess were f—ing excited to destroy the undead. They had prayed for this and it seemed that the Dawn Goddess had provided. The implications of such divine intervention are best left to the wise.

I wish to thank you all for your gallant actions this day!” announced Exhaultia who was sitting atop a throne comprised of corpses, “This has all worked out wonderfully if I do say so myself. And I do!”

You do know you’re about to violate the Alliance and be liable legally for any and all damages, both financial and criminal?” shouted Dansey who knew full well that meant nothing to her.

The necromancer said, “Ha!” It wasn’t so much a laugh as a declaration of intent for humor. For Exhaultia that was progress. In the past would simply say ‘laughter’ when something amused her.

You do realize we still have a Dragon?” asked Panthia, Elven lady of the Starlit Lands, who wondered if her makeup was smudged.

He is currently occupied.”

In the sky, Desimatix was in combat with a reanimated Dragon. It looked like this might take a while. The screams of Elamore the Manipulator could be faintly heard. It was unclear if they were screams of terror or delight.

Well done Exhaultia, well done!” smirked Darvinia who rose aside her sister on a pillar of plant life.

We will not surrender!” declared the Dwarven Priestess, Santun Shield-Breaker.

A hue and cry rose up from the remaining non-evil living. Weapons were slammed against shields, eldritch energies crackled, and so on.

Oooo! I’m so happy you said that! When you fight you add to my army!”

Darvinia thought, ‘My army?’ and then noticed that her sister had raised her bone throne slightly higher than her plant pillar.

We may show mercy if you do one thing for us!” declared Darvinia as she adjusted her height a bit higher than Exhaultia.

No we won’t!” contradicted her sister.

Just follow my lead,” whispered Darvinia.

You follow MY lead!”

Why can’t you just trust me for once?” hissed the botanicamancer.

Would you like a list?” Exhaultia pulled out a scroll.

You have a list AND you carry it with you?”

Of course!”

They began to bicker in low voices punctuated with the occasional burst of profanity.

Pardon?” interjected Dansey.

WHAT?” snarled both sisters simultaneously.

Smoothing his waistcoat, the Halfling lawyer offered, “If you two have some familial issues you need to work out, may I suggest a recess to allow you to settle things?”

Fine-,” began Exhaultia but Darvinia cut her off.

Listen up! Mercy may be shown if you produce the war criminal Garthort the Fly-Heart!”

How is he a war criminal?” asked Vumto, the part-Giant.

He’s the reason we’re here!”

Garthort was instrumental in our victory today, I must ask that you refrain from this mischaracterization, given there is no evidence of your assertion,” Dansey pointed out.

This isn’t a trial! You can’t make objections!”

It rather feels like a trial. I cannot give you an innocent man for your prejudicial ‘justice.’”

He’s not innocent!” screamed Darvinia who was about to snap.

Wait!” said Exhaultia, “My flame skulls see him, way in the back.”

With a flick of her fingers, Darvinia sent vines whipping through the non-evil troops, grappled Garthort, and pulled him in front of her.

I want everyone to see what happens to those who dare defy the Society of the Night and all its subsidiaries!”

Garthort, who was being held aloft by the waist, in a fairly undignified way, looked down. Then quickly back up. Not an ideal position for anyone to find themselves in. Darvinia began a list of terrible things she was going to do to him. If he was going to do anything, it would have to be now. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the object that had been surreptitiously delivered to him.

Pretty!” said Exhaultia who grabbed it out of his hands. It was a highly polished silver ring. Simple in design, in that way that made it especially beautiful and the sort of thing that if you had to ask how much it cost, you knew you could not afford it.

Darvinia was going into detail on the disemboweling portion of her plans when Exhaultia slipped it on her finger.

The explosion was spectacular.

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Nothing Can Go Rong-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 43

With an intricate weaving of fingers, Darvinia summoned dozens of faceless figures comprised of thick, red vines that were completely covered with thorns. They were called Razor Ropers. They were also, once chopped up, edible, chewy, and surprisingly sweet.

These confectionery creatures waded into battle and tore into the Abominations who returned the favor. If they took any particular delight in their flavor, they did not say.

Darvinia, who did all her summoning far behind the front line asked Dansey Bigbritches, “And just where is your pet Fell Sorcerer?”

The Halfling lawyer, who was currently reading a dispatch from one of the countless companies of soldiers, asked, “Pardon?”

Don’t act as if you don’t know who I mean?” she replied as she tossed a handful of seeds that transformed into flying plants that dripped toxic goo.

After handing orders to one of the many messengers that ran to and fro from the main camp he turned and inquired, “What did you say?”

I asked if you know where you-know-who is?”

If you are inquiring about Garthort he is currently working on a special assignment.”

I see. You’ve sent him on an Invisible Gnome Hunt.”

What are you going on about?” responded Dansey as he adjusted the positions of units on the battle-table.

You know, the sort of pointless task you give to someone to keep them out of your hair.”

We don’t have time for pointless tasks. In case our situation was in any way unclear.”

Dansey was feeling a bit snippy. He had only had four scones, a rasher of bacon, and an omelet to eat today. For a Halfling, that’s barely a breakfast.

So he’s doing important work then?”

Everyone is.”

I’m not sure why you trust him,” mused the Enchantress of the Cursed Forest.

Dansey, who started life as a Rogue was familiar with the sort of mind games Darvinia was playing. He utilized them quite a bit himself, both as an adventurer and later as a lawyer. Time to shift things about.

You like to run down Garthort, but I suspect that you really care for him,” observed Dansey.

That’s ridiculous! He’s the reason we lost our Goblin servants.”

I think the word you’re grasping for is slaves.”


I must point out, without our Goblin allies, we would have little chance to win this war.”

Darvinia, like many evil people, chose to ignore this fact and kept hammering her own point.

Did you know his name is a verb now?”

Is it?”

When you’ve Garthorted something up, it means you’ve really screwed the Hell Hound.”

Is that a popular turn of phrase amongst the Society of the Night?”


He handed orders to three runners who had just arrived, then turned back to the battle-table, and murmured, “For someone you claim to hold in such low esteem, you appear to have applied a great deal of thought to him.”

Not at all!” protested Darvinia, “It sort of rolled off the tongue.”

As you say.”

I do!”

Very good.”

Darvinia frowned. She liked winning arguments. Not as much as she enjoyed killing people with botanicamancy, but it was a close second. It felt as though she was being ‘handled.’ While she would hate to admit it, it was a solid move. If you called the other party out, all they had to do is deny it and feign concern. Then if you continued to protest, it only made you look like somebody who needed to be ‘handled.’ She chose to accept that she won the argument, even though she didn’t and it was not even a proper argument.

At the ever-encroaching front line, a Giant was pulled into a mass of Abominations and let loose with what might be described as an appropriate amount of screaming given the occasion. Neither sorceress nor Halfling said anything for a bit after that.

After an appropriate amount of time, Darvinia said,” It’s started.”

They stopped and looked up. It was quite a sight. Precisely fifty pyromancers soared over the rift point. Some catching a ride with a Griffin-Rider, others flying with spells, Daemons on batwings, and one in a steel washtub. Circling above them was Panthia astride Desimatix.

Erupting into flames, the pyromancers filled the air with streaks of light. Then, imperceptibly, a pattern began to form. It grew from the outside inwards. The fire took the form of glyphs and runes, which in and of itself is not remarkable. Glyphs and runes are very often written in fire. It’s quite dramatic. But this was something else entirely, it was… Beautiful.

Mystic Arts aren’t called that for nothing. Every spell-caster has their own style. Many famous wizards can be recognized by the way their enchantments look. Panthia’s skill with shaping fire was unmatched, it was a shame that it could not be preserved for the ages and then stolen setting off a series of wars. On the other hand, it’s perhaps best as an ephemeral piece.

Below, the battle intensified. Abominations attacked with no regard for their own safety. Which to be fair, was how they always attacked. This amplification was the result of the Orange Prince expelling smaller twisted creatures from the crevasses of its furrowed and tentacular body.

At this point, it was a numbers game. Would the horde overrun the Alliance before the pattern was complete? Either way, a lot of death happened. There were countless acts of selfless heroism, each deserving of song and story. To list them all would be impossible and frankly depressing when you consider the loss of life. It was a numbers game, just not a fun one.

Just as the front lines were about to break, the pattern was completed. Really dramatic, right? Desimatix, who had been orbiting above, suddenly dove straight at the overlap, breathing fire that was so hot it turned a blue-white. It was so bright that everyone closed their eyes and turned their heads. A sound like nails on a chalkboard harmonized with an unpleasant squelching was heard for hundreds of leagues.

What followed was something not heard since before this fight began. Silence. As everyone opened their eyes they saw that the battlefield was covered in dark purple ash. More importantly, it was free of the taint of the Outer Realm.

There was a pause then everyone went nuts. It made all celebrations that preceded or followed it seem like a visit from The Dreaded Comptroller. Shouts of triumph rose, much hugging to say nothing of the impromptu make-out sessions. Hidden stashes of alcohol were brought out and shared. It was proof that the many and varied peoples of the Land could put aside their differences and work together for a worthy goal that made everyone’s life better.

And it was on that day suffering ended and a brighter and better world was born.

I wish I could say that. But I can’t.

With herky-jerky motions, the countless dead arose. Surrounding the remaining troops. Exhaultia, necromancer and problem sister, eyes glowing a blackish purple snapped her fingers and the army of the undead drew their weapons.

As mothers have uttered over the ages, this is why we can’t have nice things.

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It’s The Sudden Stop-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 42

Everyone in the Inferno-Squad was prepared to take to the skies to end this once and for all. Not all of them were avid flyers, but all of them put their trust in the Griffin-Riders or their own ability to use magic to fly.

All with one notable exception.

Elamore the Manipulator remained resolute in her unwillingness to become airborne.

This was a bigger problem than just one less pyromancer. Elamore was also a pyro-shaper. She could manipulate fire like a true artist. Without her, the chances of creating the proper glyph to seal the overlap were nil.

Assurances, cajoling, and threats proved ineffective in persuading Elamore. They even called Sir Tullmut, the Sanguine Knight, a noted orator. He had, using only his words, turned many a foe into an ally. Sadly, it failed to sway her. She was on the verge of a severe panic attack when she felt a gentle touch on her shoulders.

A moment please,” said Panthia, Elven lady of the Starlit Lands.

Elves have a way of asking a question that somehow sounds like an order and by the time you’ve realized that, they’re already doing whatever they want. In this case, Panthia led Elamore to her tent.

The inside of an Elven Lady’s tent can look like anything, in this case, it was a glade at night, illuminated by countless stars. A gentle breeze moves Panthia’s tresses, making them even more lovely if you can believe that. She gestured to a chair made of soft and inviting moss. Elamore sat, shoulders slumped.

Would you care for a drink?” asked the Eleven Lady.

Gods yes!” said Elamore.

Panthia handed her a crystal goblet filled with a sparkling, light blue liquor. Elamore drank it in one gulp, it tasted like floating on a calm lake in high summer. She held it out more and it was refilled.

Do you feel any better?” asked Panthia.

Yes, yes, thank you. What is this?” she asked as she gazed at her drink.

It is a rare Elven cordial, fermented in the trees of the forest of the Starlit Lands.”

You make this in actual trees?”

Yes, it is a symbiotic relationship between my people and the wood. We have a pact with all that dwell around us.”

That sounds… lovely.”

It is.”

They took a moment without speaking, letting the calm wash over them both.

So, I’m guessing you want to know why I don’t want to fly?”

That would be helpful.”

Elamore sighed, took a slug, and said, “When I was little, my big brother Vynak liked to sneak up and teleport me above the lake next to our home.”

How very cruel!”

He did it three times a day for a year. You might’ve heard of him, he’s called Vynak the Vile.”

Sadly, I have.”

Not a lot of emotional growth for old Vynak. I’ve had a paralyzing fear of heights even since then. I had to go to boarding school just to get away from him.”

I do not wish to minimize your trauma, but there are multiple ways to keep you safe while in the air. Flying spells, belts of levitation, and so on. Will none of those suffice?”

I don’t even like stairs! My home is ranch-style because the idea of a second story makes my skin crawl. I can’t visit anyone who lives in a tower and all my friends live in towers! Very awkward around the holidays!”

I see.”

And I can’t shape the fire from the ground! I need to see the whole thing. Did you see the glyph? It’s crazy baroque! But if I’m up in the air I’ll faint and vomit all at once!”

That sound extremely unpleasant.”

It’s no party. Now I’m under all this pressure to make this happen and that’s not helping. Also, when you’re having a panic attack, someone telling you to ‘calm down’ doesn’t work!”

Elamore then drank the rest of the Elven cordial and made a mental note that if this all somehow worked out, she would get a case of the stuff.

Panthia regarded the pyro-shaper as she sipped her drink.

I may have a solution to our mutual problem.”

Can you bring everything down to ground level?”

The Elven Lady said nothing.

Gods! Can you really do that?” sputtered Elamore.

No, that is not my area of expertise.”

Ohh…” replied Elamore who was a bit disappointed.

However, I can offer you this,” said Panthia as she removed a silver torc from her slender neck.

I don’t think some enchanted jewelry will make a difference.”

This is no commonplace magic item. I offer you the Torc of Bal-Farnath. Worn by the legendary warrior-wizard of the first Elven Kingdom from when the Land was new. He knew no defeat in his long life and this will protect you from all harm and draw your fear as poison from a wound. It has long been an heirloom of my house and in this hour of need, I gift it to you. Wear it, so we may all live to see the dawn once more and I will consider it a fair price, though the value is beyond ken. Will you wear it and save us all?”

Panthia knelt before Elamore and presented it to her with a bowed head. She took it in her hands. It looked to be woven from countless strands of silver wire and was simultaneously delicate and strong. Holding it was like holding history.

Wow! I mean… Wow. What can I say?”

Please say yes,” whispered the Lady of the Starlit Lands.

Elamore took a deep breath and replied, “Okay then. Yes.”

Panthia stood and held back Elamore’s hair so she could put on the Torc of Bal-Farnath. It fit perfectly.

I feel different,” said Elamore, “Good different.”

The ancient magics are at work.”

Yeah they are!”

Let us proceed to the staging area, where you will ride Desimatix to shape the flames and bring an end to this terror.”

Elamore bounced on her feet. She felt good. No, not good, great! This Torc was some serious magic. If someone had told her at the start of the day that she’d be not only willing to ride a Dragon into the sky, but she’d be excited to do so, she’d have written it off as a tasteless joke. Who knew?

Alrighty! That fire glyph isn’t going to form itself, let’s ride!”

Panthia didn’t feel terrible about slipping a potion of ultimate confidence into Elamore’s drink. It had to be done, there was no time for soul-searching and epiphanies. However, she did somewhat regret giving away that torc. While it wasn’t an ancestral artifact, it was a gift from a lover who had crafted it to prevent makeup from smearing. Even in the harshest of weather or if she cried.

No victory without sacrifices.

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Hard to Miss-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 41

Well?” demanded Desimatix.

I’m looking, I’m looking,” said Garthort frantically as he flipped through the tomes spread out on the camp table.

You do know there’s a massive Abomination wreaking havoc on the land,” the Dragon pointed out.

It would be difficult to miss,” snapped Garthort, “What with it laying waste to countless troops and it approaching at an alarming rate.”

Then you had best come up with the proper lore quickly.

Garthort stopped and stared Desimatix in his golden eyes. This was the bravest thing he had done in his life. A draconic gaze can spark fear into the most resolute of hearts. Today, however, the former Fell Wizard regarded this ancient Drake in the same way a shopkeep might with a difficult customer with an unearned sense of entitlement.

Do you think badgering me insistently will help me find what I’m looking for any quicker?”

I’ve heard that humans can thrive under pressure,” said Desimatix who was still getting the hang of working with others.

Does it look like I need MORE pressure?” asked Garthort who went back to searching through the books.


Garthort rolled his eyes and kept leafing through pages. Desimatix thought that there was something he ought to say. He considered ‘I’m sorry’ but every time he said that it always came out sarcastic. There was a quality to his voice that made apologies seem insincere. Which is why he spent most holidays alone.

Not because he was at all anxious, he looked back towards the battlefield. The Abominations had regained more ground. The Orange Prince drove its brood forward. While the smaller (as judged by a Dragon’s scale) Abominations were easily dealt with at a distance, this Orange Prince was another matter entirely. It was larger than Desimatix and possessed any number of unknown abilities. He found that… unsettling.

If he had the time for it, he might have come to the epiphany that he was simply afraid. However, given what was going on at the moment and a Dragon’s inherent sense of self-superiority, that insight would come later, if at all.

Huuuuuuh?” muttered Garthort.

Desimatix leaned in and asked, “You have found it?”

Huphup!” replied Garthort who opened up another book and leafed through that.

Scanning back and forth, he took out a notebook and scribbled some glyphs. Then leaped to another volume.

Is there anything-” began the Dragon who was silenced with a snap of Garthort’s fingers.

Dragons rarely are snapped at more than once. As great as his initial ire was for this dismissive gesture, the confidence with which was made impressed him. He would not eat him today. The future, of course, is uncertain.

HA!” shouted Garthort.

What have you discovered?”

Finishing the last arcane symbol he raised the notebook to the sky and laughed.

I’ll ask you once more, what have you discovered?” growled the Dragon.

Well, it’s actually very funny. Wimnik the Wise set up a series of ciphers in the margins disguised as a decorative border. This is ironic if you consider the historical context of the-”

I will not consider the historical context. You will tell me. Now.”

Right. Sorry, got carried away. We need to seal the overlap so no more Abominations can come through.”

There is still, that,” Desimatix pointed with his nose at the Orange Prince.

With the overlap sealed the Orange Prince will be drawn back to the Outer Planes. They need a physical conduit to move from their home dimension to another.”

Why didn’t you start with that bit?” sputtered the Dragon.

I was about to get to it.”

And how do we seal a dimensional rift?”

With a smile, Garthort said, “Fire. Lots and lots of fire.”

It took you all that time reading these basted books to work that out? Abominations hate fire, it seems pretty obvious!”

It has to look like this,” replied Garthort holding up a detailed pattern.

That’s… Very intricate. We need to get the Inferno-Squad organized right now. I will bear you to this destiny.”

Thank you,” he said bowing.

Desimatix smiled, he enjoyed being bowed to.

I need to take care of one thing first,” said Garthort as he slipped his hand into his pocket and grasped at something.

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So That Happened-Da Great Goblin Rebellion-Part 40

Battles are funny. Not ha-ha funny, obviously. You can plan seven ways to Sunday and the whole thing can go sideways at a moment’s notice. Unlike brunch plans, sideways means people die. Again, not ha ha funny.

The Alliance forces, comprised of the Grand Concordance of the Wise, Society of the Night, the Adventurer’s Guild, and Da Honorable Guild o’ Free Goblins, stood ready to fight. They were called the Alliance because they could not agree on a name that made everybody happy so the rather unimaginative Alliance was chosen.

Additionally, forces were mixed together. Dwarves next to Orcs, Elves next to Daemons, Holy Warriors of Temple of the Dawn Goddess next to the Undead. Some took this as a positive sign. If foes could put their old feuds aside to unite for a common cause, then there was hope for the future.

What a lovely thought that is. The truth was that no one really trusted each other and each side was prepared for betrayal. The good folk because that is how evil usually operated, and evil because they couldn’t conceive of not betraying when given the opportunity. Not an ideal situation to be sure. And yet, much better than it could be.

On the opposing side, the Abomination horde burbled, screamed, roiled, and gibbered at the gap leading to the Crags of Wantos. The only reason these affronts to nature were not exploding into a feeding frenzy was that they were held in check by an arcane barrier created by a platoon of battle-wizards.

With their customary lack of compassion, the Abominations were pressed up against the magic shield and crushed by those behind them. While some clever person might say, ‘Hey, just keep that barrier going until they all just all mushed up!’

There are two problems with that plan.

One, the strain of holding up the barrier on the battle-wizards would be overwhelming. This sort of cooperative spell work can only be accomplished by those specially trained to cast in concert. Most wizards are not team players. Hence the lonely towers and secret lairs.

Two, as mentioned before, there is an overlap between the Land and the Outer Realms. It started quite small but it’s gotten larger as more and more creatures poured out. So even if they could contain the horde, eventually it would explode like the Land’s largest pimple. Only much more dangerous and even grosser. So, not really viable.

As dawn began, orange light began to creep across the assembled troops, highlighting their armor and weapons in a warm glow. Quite a sight. When the sun fully rose above the horizon, horns were blown and the barrier dropped.

On the front lines, Pyromancers and Daemons unleashed a wave of fire at the Abominations that rushed out of the gap. They conjured flames for a full minute, causing ash to fall like snow. It also created a stench that lingered. While many have tried to fully describe this foulest of odors, let us just say this. Recall the most putrid thing you’ve ever smelled. Then multiply it against itself and keep going. Fortunately for the troops, they had all been issued an unguent that when rubbed under the nose, deadened all olfactory senses. Preparation is important.

Once the Inferno-Squad, as they called themselves, finished, they fell back and let the front-line fighters rush in. It was brutal. Which was not a surprise. Alliance troops cut a swath of destruction and the Abominations gave as good as they got. Those from the Outer Realms had the advantage of an utter lack of fear and the ability to mutate on the fly. From a great height, it resembled a two-sided meat grinder.

Inferno-Squad members had now joined the Elven Griffin-Riders and provided air support. Griffins are not overly fond of fire but are even less enamored of Abominations. Pseudopods erupted out of the horde, knocking Griffin-Riders out of the sky. Those who did hit the ground exploded in flame. So let’s call it a wash.

U’Korr the Destroyer, who last time we visited him, was in the midst of an existential crisis, waded into the melee with gusto. He no longer defined himself strictly as a destroyer and was planning on opening up his own barbecue place once the war was over. His love of low and slow became the fire in his belly, fueling him forward. Only metaphorically, he did not actually eat smoldering coals.

Many mighty deeds were done. Just as many tragic ends occurred. For Bard and Skalds, this was a wealth of tales to be told and songs to sung. Of course, not all of the Bards and Skalds would survive either. But those would be woven into the work of those who weren’t slaughtered. Such is the price of fame.

For a moment, the light faded and a great wind arose. Not great like ‘that’s a nifty wind.’ More in the sense of volume. Above them flew the ancient Red Dragon Desimatix. He flew over the Abomination horde and exhaled.

While everyone was duly impressed by the Inferno-Squad, which was like a guttering candle compared with what this Dragon was laying down. Even the Daemons, who dwelled in a place that was literally always on fire, paused and said, ‘Well I’ll be damned.’

After peeling off, Desimatix left an enormous gap in the Abomination horde. The Alliance forces let loose a triumphant roar and all petty differences were forgotten in that one moment. With renewed vigor, they rushed forward, victory seemed assured.

It was at this point that the overlap was torn open with a sound like a giant metal bird being ripped limb from limb and complaining about it the whole time.

Their Mad Tentacular Majesty, The Orange Prince had entered the fray.

As I said before. Funny, but not ha ha funny.

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