June 5, 2021
A Border Fort
Upon the sluggish river a fortress has sat since before these neighbouring lands knew indigenous kings. Hands recruited from far away laid the stones, and build the first boat-traps across the river.
Now the sons of the Southern kingdom dwell within the fort, watching for flat-hulled vessels moving down the river, carrying Northern troops - or taxable goods.
There are twelve of them - all are local, bar one. The outsider has been banished from Southern courts in all but name - a punitive posting. The other eleven, border families for generations, have no great love for either kingdom. Identity is mostly a matter of payment.
They take it in turns to slip away for 2 weeks at a time, in pairs. They ride down the river, spend time in the nearest town. They return penniless, without fail.
As no-one is willing to spend their rotation with the outsider, he has been on-duty for a year. He gives them money to buy books they cannot read.
They have chain shirts, swords, spears and crossbows. They do not wear the shirts. The crossbows are mostly used on rabbits and stray deer. The swords are carried to impress people, and to settle drunken disputes when off-duty. The spears gather dust.
The fort is a single square tower, accessed via a ladder to a door, 12ft up. The walls are thick, old stone, whilst the floors are wooden. The upper floors have tight arrow-slits, and shutters of wood - for dousing fires set beneath the fort. Inside there are 4 floors:
- A basement granary, where food is hung to stop rats accessing it.
- A ground floor, where the low fire coughs smoke out gently.
- The first floor, where they sleep when off duty.
- The second floor, where nominally they should watch from. It is used as a second bedroom.
- The roof is accessible, although a large, angry seabird has nested there. One of the soldiers lost a finger to it.
An empty stable is beside the main building. They should have a horse to warn of any activity - it was stolen months ago. Another has yet to be sent.
The boat-trap consist of a large wooden beam, reinforced with bands of iron. From this juts spikes and bars of wood and metal. A large crank can raise it, but the handle is kept within the fort. The mechanism needs re-greasing every time it is used.
The wide, flat expanse stretches away - there is almost nothing to break the wind as it sprints from distant shores. It howls around the fort - the inhabitants keep the fire low. The roof has burnt down before, the fire leaping like an eager hound at the return of its loved ones.
June 3, 2021
d12 Desert Plants & Miscellany
||Flowering, fleshy, purple cacti. Tangled “blisters” of fat, short needles.
||Delicious once needles are removed.
||Narrow, tall cacti. Hair-like needles cause irritation. Ghost-white roots.
||Bitter sap can be cooked, albeit unappetising. Makes decent herbivore bait.
||Gnarled tree with thin, waxy, dark green leaves. Small red berries hide amongst the leaves.
||Wood burns well. Berries are tasty, but picking a tree clear would feed one person.
||Low, small leafy plant. Tongue-shaped leaves surround a central stem with a caustic-yellow flower.
||Sap is fantastic protection against the sun. Can be dried into a glue.
||Small, dense shrub. Fat leaves, slightly cupped. The branches within are thick with spiders.
||Horses grazing on this have a 4-in-6 chance of a fatal spider-bite.
||Brown-red leaves densely curl around spidery branches during the day. At night, they unfurl.
||Can be smoked or brewed to alleviate pain. Smoking has mild hallucinogenic effects.
||Low, creeping vines with heart-shaped leaves. The vines spread themselves wide.
||Beneath the soil, a fat tuber with creamy, succulent flesh.
||Long, hard dagger-like leaves defending a tall, mottled stalk topped by many smaller bell-shaped flowers of varying colour. Smells incredibly sweet.
||Flowers are always full of burrowing bees. Their hive is never far.
||Tall, thin tree with coiled funnel-leaves. Bark is incredibly thick.
||Can be tapped for water, although this kills the tree. Bark floats and is easy to harvest. Burns poorly.
||Human-height plant made almost entirely of needles. Limbs reach skyward like a man who has lost everything. The needles forming the trunk fuse together, the result something like wood.
||If trunk fibres are separated and dried, can be woven in lightweight and durable material.
||Squat tree with dark wood and leathery leaves.
||Wood outputs incredible amounts of smoke if burnt.
||Coiled, dense branches with inwards-facing thorns. Succulent fruit hidden amongst the coils. Decaying bats, birds and straggles of fur mark the plant, hiding small, globular leaves.
||Fruit is incredibly nutritious. Acts as ready-made bait for patient hunters.
Feral Horse Canyon
A feral horse lives here. A feral animal is not wild. It knows about people, and trusts them even less. There is a splinter of hate in the heart of a feral animal.
The horse is emaciated, and one eye has been put out. Flies do not touch it. It moves as little as possible, but will bite and kick any trying to touch it. In health, it was a giant.
It will scream if it hears people approaching, the noise echoing from the canyon walls.
It knows where the most vicious plants are, and will try and shove potential captors into them.
Worming into the rock, polished smooth, strata exposed. Crystalline structures grow, breaking up the smoothness. If the rain comes, any within will be washed away and will never feel the sun again. In the upper levels, a series of holes have been bored into the walls. They correspond with the opposite wall, and are 2’ up. Spiders live in them now.
Cliff Dwellings I
A small doorway adjacent to windows, carved directly into the stone of the cliff-face. The shadowed space within is much cooler. Two rooms, one lit by the windows, the other engulfed in darkness. This second room is used as a den by a scarred puma. It returns as the sun falls, and will kill anyone invading it’s home.
May 31, 2021
To be married to the Sea is considered unseemly to these coastal people. The sea is like an animal, to be tamed and used, not loved.
Found in hidden, shameful places, these are dinner-plate sized iron disks with square holes in the centre. They are usually an inch thick, with no decorations or designs.
Before adulthood is obtained, one is expected to wear the weights and reject the Sea’s embrace. Those lost, it is hoped, sate the hungry waters. They act as a reminder for those who return.
The genuine, used articles are worth 100gp to collectors, removed enough to not fully grasp what such an item being for sale represents.
Those openly carrying them on the coast are shunned. They might wake up, pinned down and branded.
May 20, 2021
item magic treasure
Found in the soil. Blunt, rounded. Has no guard - a loose grip ensures cut fingers. Carved into each is a face, mouth yawning open.
Drinks blood. Note damage done. This blood can be wrung out and drunk - healing the damage done.
Stores up to 15HP.
The face is that of an Eater - a class of spirit in the local folkloric traditions. Whether the knife represents, contains, or is an Eater is unclear. Wielding it openly results in protective gestures, narrowed eyes and terse conversation. At night, the brave or desperate might steal into your camp to steal the knife.
May 8, 2021
All of the below should be treated however you treat revolvers.
May 6, 2021
- Huge, pitted iron revolver. Pulling the trigger tires the finger. Roars when it fires - louder than a gun should be. Has marks on the grip that you did not make.
- Made of many different guns - a true jury-rig weapon. Sharp, snappy barks. Gets hot - like a frying pan left on the stove for too long. You could not identify the constituent elements if you tried.
- Sawn-off revolving rifle. Barely held together with twine, and has a modified chamber to down-size the calibre. Sounds like a cannon.
- Small, black-lacquer with the lightest pull. Hand-made, hand-carved, hand-weighted - and not for you. Pulls to the left ever so slightly. Hard, packed shots which hurt the ears more than most.
- Full of dirt. You can take it to pieces, wash it and put it back together again - but it will still be filthy. Muted report.
- Everything buttery smooth - almost to fault. You can barely feel the mechanical action. The sound leaves no questions however. Like an eager dog on the hunt, nostrils full of prey.
New Zine Release - Black Knights
A zine with my words and the incredible art of David Hoskins can be bought here now.
A UK release is forthcoming.
Get the UK release here