I hope you all know where your towels are today, guys. It’s Geek Pride Day.
I hope you all know where your towels are today, guys. It’s Geek Pride Day.
This is the book I’m reading at the moment. Well, one of them. I’m still reading A Wizard of Earthsea because it’s been one of *those* weeks. I started reading Smoke and Mirrors because I thought it might help me remember how to write short stories. Gaiman is sharp, to the point and his short stories have the same wit mixed with creepiness you find in his longer stories like Neverwhere.
I haven’t read many of the stories in this collection, but I enjoyed reading about the discovery of the Holy Grail in an Oxfam shop in London. Because that’s where it would end up, isn’t it? In between that and an adventure with a demon-fighting cat, a very short, very unnerving paragraph turning my understanding of Santa Claus on its head.
And now over to you. This is a bank holiday weekend and I’m spending it pretending my Dyson handheld is a gun (it makes vacuuming less tiresome) and Dungeons and Dragons. EvilDoers Anonymous – conquerers at last night’s Geek Pride Quiz – continue on their quest to defeat the Iron Circle. Or at least to get through the next few hours without killing each other…
I possibly shouldn’t even be showing you this right now. Only I can’t help it. I got an email today from Jen, who’s been working on a map of Amnar for me. We first met to discuss this back in 2012, and I have to admit… I was scared.
I mean, she was offering to do this for free, and I knew her work from the Bas-Lag map that appears on the Wiki page. I’d had a map in my head, of course. But I think the problem was that I’d never really handed over some creative aspect of my work to anybody else.
Not that I didn’t think she’d do an awesome job. It was that I knew she would. Other fantasy authors might be sniffy about maps, but as I’ve already said, I’m a geographer and I know maps are fundamental to how humans organise and understand worlds, whether real or imaginary. So they can sniff away.
Today, Jen sent me the first draft of the map. Just a rough draft that needs to be changed. I caught the email while I was out shopping for Thanksgeeking prizes. I didn’t even take a look until I got home. And then I about fell off my chair.
I mean, this is a first draft. Click on it and you can see a larger version.
It needs work. I need more ocean, ocean names, to correct the spelling of Nahabi and such, sort out the rivers and make sure that the whole thing is much better realised. The Duum continent is about the size of Africa, so I may need to do some fiddling about with the big continent on the right (part of which is Basrat).
However, I thought you might like to see what it looks like, building a world and then realising it with a map. The last thing I saw was a basic black and white outline. This was not what I was expecting!
Tomorrow, first thing, I’m going to get a good print out from the library so I can start editing. In the meantime, people who read the Amnar books, you have a tiny glimpse of what the world looks like.
This is a bit off-topic, but what the hey. I just caught up with xkcd and what should I find but this comic right there on the front page:
I peered at it for a long time. I’m a synaesthete, and I can’t see “two big numbers”. I can see a massive circle with numbers that are so impossibly mushed up as to be unrecognisable.
I got a little panicked, taking it a bit too seriously (I’m prone to that). Surely, I should be able to see numbers. I’ve been presented with a lot of these tests in the past. They are designed by people who aren’t synaesthetes. They present me with a blob of 5s with a big number made up of 2s in a specific font. To me, 5 and 2 are a very similar shade of silver-white. They are different, but in a blob of numbers, I am going to struggle because the colours are so alike.
As the xkcd Explained site tells us, this test wouldn’t work for synaesthetes generally. The big numbers in the circle are made up of a jumble of numbers. The joke, really, is you squinting at your screen, trying desperately to see big numbers that are only there when they are given colours for you.
One person in the discussion said they could see the big numbers, but only if they squinted really close to the screen. They explained why they could see it, because all the colours to them have an association with being warm or cool.
What I saw was rather different. I would have to get very close to the screen to see a colour pattern. Certain numbers have stronger colours than others. Six is very dark green, and stands out, along with eight and four, which are subtly different shades of red. Seven is so different to 2 and 5 and 3 (which bright orange), that when used in a random combination to make up a bigger number, just looks like somebody did a Jackson Pollack all over the page.
Of course, you can have synaesthesia without being a colour-grapheme synaesthete. Some people smell or taste numbers, letters and other sensory input. Colour-grapheme is the most common (I have it, but I’d be what I think they’re calling poly-chromatic, because all my sensory input is processed through colour), but doesn’t mean you’d be able to see the numbers presented here.
The coloured version of the test produced on the Explained page is even more baffling for me. Yes, I can now clearly see that the big number is 42, but it is not easy to look at by any stretch of the imagination.
I don’t like looking at graphemes. Really, I don’t. I do find it difficult to read in colours other than black and white (I am viciously critical of websites that use anything else). It is almost painful seeing 0 as red when clearly it is a colour between yellow and white (I can’t be specific there. I seem to have way more colours in my spectrum, especially when referring to synaesthetic associations, than anybody else knows about).
All colour-grapheme and polychromatic synaesthetes have their own alpha-numeric colours. As I understand it, there are some that are more common than others. It’s more common to see A as red than anything else. I see A as white (well, a shade of white – yes white has shades) so that freaks me out.
By chance, it was likely that Randall would catch at least one synaesthete who had the right colour associations or projections so they’d see the two big numbers easily. For the rest of us, it’s like looking at colour soup.
I do get asked what it’s like being a synaesthete a lot. Um, how do you answer that? What’s it like NOT to be a synaesthete, huh? How do you cope? Even my emotions are tied to colour (and vice versa). I spent a very long time with a deep dislike of the number 3 because it’s a very bright, almost lurid orange and orange doesn’t have the kind of personality I got on with well. I have no idea what it’s like to live without that kind of shit going on in your head all the time, so I can’t really tell you what it’s like to live with it.
I will say this. It’s entirely personal, but I name characters synaesthetically. Not always, but in specific cases. The Capillites have always had names with particular letters because of the colours of those letters. On the other hand, Talija’s personality is brilliant red and gold, but it’s entirely absent from the letters of her name.
The whole structure of my world, how I remember things, how I read, is based around these perceptions. Of course, yours is no different. It just doesn’t use colour.
The first time I read this book, I was about ten or eleven. This was the book that introduced me to the word ‘archipelago’. I thought it was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I wanted to use it in all the books I ever wrote. So many syllables, so many colours.
Le Guin stands out as one of the most influential authors of my youth. So influential, in fact, that I often forget to name her. After Tolkien came Le Guin, and then after Le Guin came McCaffrey, and after McCaffrey, Eddings. While other authors have tended to follow in the footsteps of Tolkien, Le Guin has always stood out as somebody whose imagination could be both fantastical and different to the standard fair on offer from most authors in the field.
I am re-reading it again now, and it is still as engaging as it was 24 years ago, when I first picked it up. It is a children’s book, and was originally published in the early 1970s. It belongs to an era when books were shorter and never talked down to kids, and I have to add it’s a bit of relief after churning through 500-600 page books for weeks, reading something that’s all of 166 pages makes a nice break.
I’ve also got a copy of the book now that thankfully doesn’t have as awful a cover as the first one I owned. I’m not surprised great fantasy and science fiction is dismissed as nonsense. For a long time, book covers were as cheesy as the worst writing in the genre. See Good Show, Sir for some of the most hilarious examples. This was the cover I had. Somebody being intimidated by a half-bird, half-person wearing green Primark tights.
Admittedly, you would be a tad surprised if a birdman came at you like that. But what’s the guy doing behind the curtain. “Oh, I’m sorry, I see you’re busy. I’ll just come back when you’re done…”
It’s no wonder nobody takes fantasy seriously. That isn’t a great advert for what is an incredible book.
Le Guin’s style reminds me now of The Iliad and The Odyssey. She doesn’t shirk from telling the reader in the first paragraph that this is a book about a nondescript little boy who grows up to be a famous wizard and hero. There’s no pretence that this fits the classic mould of fantasy, and tells a fantasy story. Equally, she wastes no time on unimportant matters, and does away with much of Ged’s early childhood in a couple of sentences.
She has a knack for summing up with both clarity and poetry. It does feel a little strange, after reading books where the tendency is to zoom in very close, offer extended conversation, complicated plot twists and turns and the like, to move so quickly over long periods of time with barely a glance.
I’m still in the middle of this book, so I’ll have to come back to it when I’ve finished to do a proper review. I recommend it, though, because Le Guin is a great author and the story is a delight.
When I was a kid, most of my holidays were spent looking at various Sites of Historical Importance. Britain has no shortage of these. Many of them are former castles, ruins of previous ages reduced to – in Eddie Izzard’s words – a series of small walls. Sometimes, they weren’t even that. Some of them were significant because, for one reason or another, they played some part in a battle. The Heroes is a book about that kind of site.
Having explored vengeance in Styria in Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie has returned to the North for this book. It’s pretty obvious that he, like a lot of his readers, has a soft spot for the Named Men of the North. The book deals with the fight over a particular area of land, a hill with a ring of stones called The Heroes, because it has military significance in a larger war with smaller motivations.
One thing is clear: Joe Abercrombie knows his subject. He knew his subject when he tackled fantasy tropes and clichés in The First Law trilogy. He deftly played with reader’s expectations through characterisation and plot, producing an absolute classic that had the benefit of also being beautifully written. In Best Served Cold I got the impression he was moving more and more to another pet subject: military history. The twists and turns of vengeance, plotting and Nicomo Cosca kept the actual fighting to a minimum. It seems The Heroes is there to move us more assuredly into the world of total war.
I have a sense that although these last two books are technically stand alone works, Abercrombie might be working toward some grand, overarching plot the like of which we can currently only guess at. The unseen players, The Cripple (Glokta), Bayaz, and Gurkhul, are clearly the chess Grandmasters, while we spend all our time following the lives of the pawns.
What marks Abercrombie out as a great writer is a combination of three things: a clarity of phrase and the ability to reflect, word by word, the thought patterns of his characters; clear knowledge and refusal to bathe in false glory and myth when it comes to that subject (he likes his grit); the constant twists and turns and subtleties of his plotting.
His writing has great immediacy to it, and gives a strong feeling of the turns of chance and planning, rather than the sensation that it’s all destiny and fate and all he has to do is take us there. The characters interact with grim humour, coming to life off the page because of Abercrombie’s talent for recreating the rhythms of their inner world. He doesn’t tend to rely on “so-and-so felt this, and worried about that”, as though peering at their inner selves from outside. He picks up a sense of accent that is much more subtle than you normally see in fantasy.
As far as plotting goes, there is a Chekhov’s gun strewn on every page. Some of them are very subtle, others more obvious. He never usually underlines the presence of something we should take note of for later, trusting readers not to need this. When the hidden plot finally flowers and reveals itself, we don’t need to be reminded of these things from earlier, and they aren’t inserted so late they look obviously as though they were only thought up at the last minute.
When it comes to battle, Abercrombie clearly knows his stuff. He knows, in The Heroes, the importance of geography in war. He understands, from the way he writes, that he gets the messiness of each battle, the difficulties unique to each side in promotion, leadership, control and tactics. He is also keenly aware that while it might look like chess, much of the activity on the battlefield is dictated by smaller parties, by chance, by sudden outbreaks of heroism and cowardice, and that the outcome is never entirely certain.
Poking through other reviews on Goodreads, I could see why many people gave this only three stars and felt disappointed. Joe Abercrombie uses an awful lot of characters, many of whom appear momentarily. Huge swathes of the book are battle scenes. Maces, swords and axes hacking off limbs and staving in skulls. There is far less of the subtlety of his earlier works, and I have to admit, it can be hard work reading through those sequences.
He has managed to balance the grand battle with the personal, however, and I have to admit, I was quite emotional at certain deaths, laughed out loud at the banter of the Northmen, and caved to four stars rather than three in the end because I simply could not stop reading it.
Abercrombie handles his material well. While it isn’t the same as The First Law, he has moved in new directions. The Heroes is Abercrombie’s take on another staple of fantasy tropes: the epic battle. This time, he has chosen to drill down into the detail of what makes individual battles work, and what doesn’t, the balance of ambition, stupidity and competition amongst allies, and the swiftly changing nature of political allegiances.
This won’t be for everybody. If you are looking for more traditional fantasy, with at least a shred of magic or glamour, you won’t find it here. However, of particular interest is the rise of Red Beck, the fall of Black Dow, Finree’s character arc (especially well handled, I thought), and the legendary Corporal Tunny. Abercrombie has – yes, I’m gonna say it – a Shakespearian gift for the comic sideshow, and he more than delivers. This is definitely a book for people who like their wars cold, brutal, and where the humour is always on a knife edge.
Right. How shall I start? I gave this two stars on Goodreads, and having seen authors complain about low-starred reviews, I think it probably warrants an explanation. I picked up this book, and its sequel, because such a fuss was made about the release of the final part of the trilogy.
Notice: This review contains spoilers.
The premise is interesting. Demons rise every night to attack your standard dark to early middle-ages style world because reasons. It’s standard fantasy fare, including the traditional farm boy becomes avenging hero, with disappointing father and death of mother.
For the first 60-70 pages, the story unfolds at a fairly slow pace. I have to admit, I didn’t feel scared of the demons. The people have wards to keep them off homes and farmsteads, and the demons don’t have the intelligence to do anything about it. Getting from place to place is difficult, but nobody seems to have come up with the idea of warded inns or at least making it easier to get things from place to place (since the few major cities absolutely have to trade with each other in order to survive).
The writing steals much of the thunder big scenes might have. It lacks energy and pace, and the characters appear to have been taken from all the standard fantasy tropes without any real effort to spruce them into something with depth. We continually have to be told how they’re feeling, rather than being able to work it out, which gets tiresome. I felt like what I was reading of Arlen’s life was essentially back story. I was waiting for the story to begin proper, and it never seemed to get started.
Just as I was getting excited because Arlen was out on his own, away from home, protecting himself from demons by himself, the author switches to his main female protagonist, Leesha. And this is where the book really suffers. None of the women in the story seem to be remotely interested in anything other than genitalia and the various things that can be done with them. Well, two things: sex and babies. The explanation is that “every baby born is a win against the demons”, or words to that effect, which made me uncomfortable (it’s very similar to slogans certain types of fascists like to use).
Leesha’s entire personality and its development comes down to what she is or isn’t doing with what’s between her legs. I’m starting to think that Lindsay Ellis’s suggestion that writers get one shot to use the “she was raped!” character development idea in their entire career might not be a bad idea. Some variation of it is used for every stage of Leesha’s life. I swear, even in the darkest of ages, women had more going on than this. Even the apparent power of women in the nearest city is entirely based on their ability to have children, so I don’t really see this as a saving point for the tedious and flat sexual politics.
What annoyed me most was that while Leesha brushes off nightly sexual assaults on her journey to this city to finish her apprenticeship as Herb Gatherer (the one opportunity women have to do something slightly different, although it still largely boils down to messing with other women’s bits), when she is raped by bandits later in the story, it’s the end of the world. Please, male writers, talk to actual women about what it might be like trapped with demons on one side and a rapist on the other and having to tolerate that every night. I promise you, they won’t be greeting their rapist with a hug and smiles when they meet him later.
About halfway into the story, we are introduced to a third protagonist. Now, I have no issue with multiple protagonists. It’s just that the space between them is too large, and I was struggling to care much about the first two. We don’t know much about Rojer’s life, but it is dealt with in a more perfunctory way that might have moved the story on a bit for the other two. Still, all this time feels like back story.
It should be obvious to absolutely everybody that the fabled Deliverer turns out to be Arlen, and that this is how he ends up being “The Warded Man”. I’d been wondering, all through the story, why people didn’t tattoo themselves with wards. It’s only explained at the last minute that people do get tattoos, but not of wards. I thought the explanation for why weapons aren’t warded was flimsy. It’s another case of making it so that everybody has to sit around waiting for destiny to point its finger at certain people.
The story only really starts when Arlen appears as The Warded Man. Turns out all sorts of stuff has happened in the meantime, and now he’s all tattooed and has demon abilities. Only now are we told about many of the ancient stories about the Warded Man, which is a bit like a writer, having not pointed out Chekhov’s gun at the beginning, now informs the audience that it was right there and now it’s being fired. This happens a lot, throughout the story. You can do that, but it feels tiresome and as though it was added at the last minute.
In other places, things that we never knew were part of the world are introduced in order to make plot points happen. Bandits attack Rojer and Leesha, on their way to save Cutter’s Hollow (stereotypical Olde Worlde Village). Bandits? Arlen never had to think about bandits when he was on the run from his own village – demons were enough of a worry. I couldn’t help wondering how bandits could possibly survive for any length of time in a world that’s essentially violently fatal to humans for as long as it’s dark every single day. They stole the wards, but what did they do before that? Where were they? And why weren’t they a problem before?
Up until this point, I was veering between giving the book two or three stars. What happened next made it very hard for me to resist giving it one star. The Warded Man appears to save Leesha and Rojer from the rather more pressing threat of demons, in true Slightly Grumpy Fantasy Hero fashion. Fair enough. Then he mentions his horse.
His horse called Twilight Dancer.
That is what instantly arrived in my head. I laughed out loud. Admittedly, it’s not actually Twilight Sparkle, but I am pretty sure in the old days of My Little Pony there was probably a Twilight Dancer. It’s far, far too close to MLP for me to take even slightly seriously.
Here’s the thing. We all know from Terry Pratchett that Death’s horse is called Binky. In Terry Pratchett’s world, this is fine. Terry Pratchett writes humorous fantasy, stuff that doesn’t take itself as seriously as this is trying to do. Every single time Twilight Dancer got mentioned – especially the fact that he was a huge stallion – I laughed. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. It was 50 Shades and Salad Fingers all over again.
It made it impossible to take the climax and conclusion of the book even slightly serious. Twilight Dancer is mentioned on almost every page. What with Leesha’s character falling apart as the inconsistencies became too much for it to bear, The Warded Man having taken on yet another rather overdone fantasy cliché, and the long spell in the desert with the Very Obviously Muslim Arabs, I was lost.
It’s a shame. There are some really interesting ideas in here. The magic system, when it was finally explained, is intriguing and I wanted to see more of that. The idea of tattooing yourself with wards and fighting demons is an awesome one. Yet it felt as though this was 400 pages of back story and 50 of actual story. I didn’t need to know, in that much detail, how Arlen came to be who he is by the end of the book, especially as it feels like excessive time was spent on some bits, and vital scenes took place off-camera. Most interesting of all is Rojer’s violin playing and its impact on demons. Yet this is brushed over as just a sideline to the central story of the Very Obvious Hero Who Does Traditional Fighting.
Part of the problem is that when you have more writers poking fun at, or deliberately mocking, traditional tropes, you have to be damned good before you start using them seriously. It was hard work reading to the end, just because I’d entirely lost the ability to take any of it seriously. Twilight Dancer, poor sod, is probably partly to blame for that. It’s not good if you read a book constantly wondering how other authors would have handled scenes – or the entire plot – in a better way. So if you do want to write traditional serious fantasy, do it very well, be careful that your tropes don’t descend into clichés, and don’t name your horses after My Little Ponies.
Anybody who read me gush over Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy knows I’m biased about his writing. I have to admit, it took me a long time to get to his follow-up standalone books, precisely because his first trilogy was so damned good.
Not to mention, I’m That Kind of fan. The kind of fan that wants to read about the same characters over and over, even if they’re all dead and gone back to the mud. I get emotional still over hearing the names Rudd Threetrees, Harding Grim, Black Dow, the Dogman and of course, Logan Nine-Fingers.
They appear in Best Served Cold only as memories, of course. Time has moved on, and the focus of the story has shifted from Adua and the North to Styria and its surrounding lands. It is a much more focused story. Where The First Law was a sprawling epic fantasy – well, stuck its tongue out at the grandeur of the sprawling epic fantasy – Best Served Cold really is much more about one woman, and her quest for vengeance.
I don’t often like to wade into issues of gender politics, but I loved that Abercrombie put a brutal, twisted, and morally conflicted woman at the heart of his story. Not only that, but he’s avoided the tendency of authors, when they pick a female lead, to spend the entire time going over and over the rigid sexual politics that must, of course, lie at the heart of their struggle.
Abercrombie doesn’t ignore the fact it’s unusual for a woman to be the captain general of an army, and a mercenary one at that, he doesn’t make it the central issue. This isn’t about a woman who has bravely broken through stereotypes and the inevitable cost to her personal life and relationships, yada yada yada. No, Monzcarro Murcatto is far more complex than that. Scarred and battered by Orso’s attempt to murder her, she still gets plenty of nookie, battle and respect. Often all at once.
All Abercrombie’s characters are so richly painted. This is a book about characters, and about war. I don’t think he’s making big, sweeping statements about the nature of war and how much it damages people, because Abercrombie is too subtle for that. As usual his book is as twisted as his central protagonist. He is a fan of the battered anti-hero, and by battered, I mean really battered. Monza is as contorted a character, physically and mentally, as Glokta was. And here he is again, never named, but now overshadowing the whole story.
This book in particular is a relief for all those tired of the image of war as somehow grand and noble. None of Abercrombie’s characters are great or noble in any sense that fantasy understands. There are no heroes here, and none of the obvious tear-jerking moments that you might get in Tolkien or other giants of the genre. To some extent, Abercrombie is poking fun, but he’s obviously keenly aware that the glittering stories of the great epics hide a rather more complex, gritty and often comic truth.
On the other hand, Abercrombie’s grim view of the world can wear thin. I think this was why I found Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris such a relief. After reading much of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and then a lot of Abercrombie’s books, where any attempt to be genuinely ‘good’ is either masked by cruel and biting wit (Tyrion) or just out and out failure (Caul Shivers and Logan Nine-Fingers), it was a relief to read about people whose good intentions paid off, who could be altruistic without being annoying. And who won out in the end without being too tarnished or twisted by the effort.
Fantasy seems to swing between the need to portray heroes doing great deeds and generally saving the world in battle and cutting the myth of the great battle and heroic deeds apart. I tend to have to swing between one and the other, because as much as Abercrombie might be right about people, one does need a little light in the darkness, occasionally.
Still, I continue to love Abercrombie’s books. I feel a little sting in the corners of the eyes at the mention of certain names (I’ve always loved the Named Men of the North), and the unfolding saga of the Circle of the World continues to prove enjoyable, interesting, and incredibly twisted.
I was really hoping I’d be able to make it through this. I had a plan for the letters G and H and I hoped that I could carry on. However, I seem to be seriously physically unwell at the moment and don’t have the energy. I feel a bit guilty as I haven’t been able to read anybody else’s posts, either. I hate quitting on things but I have to focus on treatment for a while.
It took a bit of finagling to wangle a title that fit with the letter F and Dungeons and Dragons, but somehow I did it. Sadly, the D post day passed before our first adventure began. Now, however, I am able to tell you the tale of Evildoers Anonymous, and their escapades.
It all began when the local baron decided to cut the cost of beheading the troublemakers of the area and set about trying to improve their lives, instead. He conveniently outsourced the issue to the nearby Temple of Bahamut, who agreed to take on the problem. A Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society was established. Its findings led to the establishment of the land’s first Evildoers Anonymous.
The group was intended to meet every Tuesday in the temple’s Community Room, after Dwarf Scouts and before the Orcs’ Weight Watchers meetings. Nobody especially wanted to take on a group of hardened ruffians, after the first few meetings descended into accusations of doughnut pilfering on the part of a local necromancer ended in a brawl and several people being turned into frogs by an angry wizard. In general, evildoers preferred the option of beheading to sitting in a dank room once a week and mumbling, “Hi, my name is Gavin the Warlock, and I’m an Evildoer.”
However, the Temple of Bahamut was determined, and finally found somebody to lead a new group of recently captured Problematic Individuals who could be put through the 12-step programme. No-one wanted the duty of leading the group, so it was left in the hands of one Paladin, Athos, a thirty-six year-old veteran of a holy war who rumblingly described himself as more Awful Good than Lawful Good.
Largely drunk and more concerned with the acquisition of loot than holy conquest, Athos was considered more likely to appeal to the kind of people he would have to guide onto the path of righteous behaviour. His job would be to encourage his group on this path with practical tasks rather than simply sitting around fiddling with tokens and fighting over doughnuts. Instead, they could help locals with their problems and thus practice doing good as well as saving the baron the cost of dealing with it himself.
Athos’s first and most eager customer was Cordiana. A young Tiefling princess recently escaped from her father’s control, she was desperate to learn how to be A Good Person. Her eagerness to help out a local farmer’s squabble with a neighbour had ended in six deaths by Vampiric Embrace, a burnt barn and a homicidal chicken going on the rampage through Fallcrest. Keen to make amends, and to learn how to do good without actually killing the people she was helping, she was quick to sign up.
The second candidate chosen was Shivra, a drow who wandered into Fallcrest one evening and was arrested for riding a horse whilst looking evil. Nobody knew who she was, but the baron’s wizard thought he recognised the tattoos typical of a drow assassin who might possibly have been employed as a holy killer and decided action should be taken. Shivra has never explained who she is, why she left the Underdark, nor confirmed that she is the assassin the wizard assumes she is. She does, however, have an air of sadness when people press her on it.
Finally, the group was joined by Edrik Mortimer, a Templar Cleric of the goddess of death, the Raven Queen. A tall, grim man with a taste for outrageous fashion and an enormous sword, Edrik was the only survivor of a fight with the local cult of Orcus. He was found sitting outside the dungeon carefully tying silver wire around his sword by the baron’s men after an explosion alerted them to the trouble. Since he refused to explain himself, and the dungeon had upset a group of Dwarf Scouts out on their Baron’s Silver Award Expedition, he was put onto the programme. Just in case.
Now, I would love to tell you of the fate of Evildoers Anonymous and their first adventure, but sadly, I think this post is long enough. Soon though, I shall have the pleasure of recounting how the party explored their first dungeon on a mission for a local merchant, ran into a dragon, and argued over whether or not it was worth stealing a very old, pee-stained carpet just in case it was worth something on Fallcrest’s answer to the Antiques Roadshow.