Year: 2021

Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 6

By the time Geoffrey found and returned with four raw eggs, word of the competition had spread. Several villagers were camped out on the edges of the training ground, placing bets. The soldiers were no longer competing just for the gold stars. They were now competing for an audience, which meant that Ohoudulus might well survive …

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Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 5

Ohoudulus stood with his hands on his waist, watching the troops try to organize themselves into teams. “Watch and learn,” he told Geoffrey. “Watch and learn.” He walked to the first team. “Your ties are too loose,” he told them. “If they come undone, you’re disqualified.” He walked around behind the team, sniffed, and continued walking …

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Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 2

“This isn’t going to end well,” Bartram told Geoffrey. “You’re right, Flame is going to find out.” Geoffrey could see how it would play out. Flame Bunyips, Heartburgh’s alliances and outreach coordinator, would find out that Geoffrey hadn’t been injured in battle at all, and that she had provided medical care under false pretenses. She …

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Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 1

“Well, this is exciting,” the Duke said. “Our first official after-action debriefing.” For the purposes of the meeting, the atheneum had been turned into a war room, with a large map of Krim hung up on one of the walls, completely covering the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A slate slab was propped up against the shelves on …

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Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 9

Geoffrey was very good at riding horses. Sowing hatred and discord usually required lots of travel. He was even better at riding dragons, since they were the faster mode of transportation on World of Battle. Krim, unfortunately, had no dragons. That was a pity, because it could have significantly reduced the time it took to …

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Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 8

“I guess he’s not going to have his soup then,” said Jim, and sat down in Bartram’s chair. He leaned over it and breathed in the scent. “Beans and… turnips?” “Skirrets,” said Quarta Pappa. “And garlic and onions, a little fennel.” Jim slurped up a spoonful. “Tasty.” “Is your friend really planning to walk all …

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Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 6

“When you get to Cleig Grijan, look for Quarta Pappa.” Flame handed Geoffrey a packet. “She’s the village elder.” “Her house is right next to the church on the village green,” added Abigail. “You can’t miss it.” “Fine, I’ll go,” said Geoffrey. “But just to Cleig Grijan. I don’t want to go to the sex …

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Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 3

Olav nudged Geoffrey awake. “Mr. Napadayushyi? Mr. Napadayushyi?” Geffrey propped himself up on an elbow. “Did we have a meeting scheduled? We did, didn’t we?” “No, no, I mean, yes, you wanted to talk to me today, but this is about something else. Duke Percheval would like you to come up to his suite.” Olav …

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Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 7

“Wait, you can’t go in there…” the page said. Geoffrey shoved him out of the way and threw open the door. The general was climbing out of the bathtub and his derriere, glistening with water droplets, was pale and flabby. “Hey!” The general grabbed for a towel and turned around. “What’s the meaning of this?” …

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Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 6

“General Lukomendrius Dungerame is in here,” the page said, opening the door. Hot, steamy air washed over Geoffrey and he stepped back. “Is that you, Geoff? Come on in!” The general was soaking in a large tub, one leg hanging over the edge, in a small, wood-paneled room that smelled of eucalyptus and juniper, probably …

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Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 5

Geoffrey’s lodgings were located outside the castle proper, in an inn not too far from the castle entrance. He headed for a side door, instead, to avoid bumping into anyone he knew. He opened the door and walked right into Flame Bunyips. “What the hell!” Heartburgh’s alliances and outreach coordinator staggered to keep her balance. …

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Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 4

“General Dungerame! The new military strategist is here.” General Dungerame turned around in his seat. “Hello, Geoff.” He dismissed the page with a wave of his hand. “Sit down.” “Hi, Luke.” Geoffrey walked out through a set of heavy wooden doors onto a stone balcony that overlooked the training field. Below, Heartburgh’s army was doing …

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Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 2

Geoffrey found Flame Bunyips in the stables, brushing one of the horses. “There you are,” he said. “Who, me?” said Flame, turning around. “No, the horse,” said Geoffrey, and stroked the animal’s neck. “The stablehand said there’s nothing wrong with her.” “Then I’m sure she’s happy that you’re here with her instead of him,” said …

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Krimspiracy: Part 15

The accountant rubbed his wrists and staggered around the fire. “Did you have to kill them all?” Ellison stepped over one of the corpses, working the kinks out of his arms. The stars were bright in the sky. Normally, in Krim City, the constant smog blocked much of the view. Out here, you could see …

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Krimspiracy: Part 14

Ellison lunged towards the fire, trying to grab the poison capsule, but it was gone. One of the guards immediately grabbed him by the back of his jacked and pulled him away. “None of that,” said the guard. “We went to a lot of trouble to catch you.” One by one, the prisoners were re-shackled, …

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Krimspiracy: Part 13

Ellison didn’t know if the cult was watching him or not, so he followed the recommendation to go the King’s Arms and asked loud and detailed questions about the menu. “What do you mean, you don’t have turkey legs?” he complained at the bar. “The Middle Ages were all about turkey legs.” The bartender pointed …

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Krimspiracy: Part 12

Ellison stepped through the gate in his new avatar, wearing a randomly-generated face and a default adventurer outfit. He looked around as if he were on Krim for the first time. Matilda was nowhere in sight, but there were a lot of people milling around between the merchant stands in the Gate Plaza. Or she …

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Krimspiracy: Part 11

Ellison and Matilda met with the Round Krim Society late the following morning to deliver the bad news. The brothers were in the main meeting room downstairs, sitting around one of the long tables at the back, drinking herbal tea. Linota stood up when she saw them walk in. “Did you find him?” Ellison shook …

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Krimspiracy: Part 10

The wench avatar was a big mistake. Barking Street was much shorter when Ellison had walked up it while wearing the assassin outfit, with its long pants, jacket, and heavy, hooded wool cloak. Walking back down to Aldwich Row in a skirt and a bodice-baring chemise was an endless march. At least the skirt had …

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Krimspiracy: Part 9

Matilda and Ellison exited the Aldwich Row Community Center through same back door that they had come in through. There was a line of people in the alley and they pressed in as soon as the door was opened. Matilda pushed the most aggressive devotees aside but Ellison had neither her forceful personality nor the …

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Krimspiracy: Part 8

In the hallway outside Remember Keturah Bohannon’s office Ellison stopped to check the floor. “Do you see any scuff marks?” he asked Matilda. “You mean, from when Remember dragged Fulke out of his office, into hers, and threw him out the window?” She pursed her lips and looked at the floor, then grabbed an oil lamp …

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Krimspiracy: Part 7

Returning to Krim never got any easier. Even knowing that the fleas were all in his head, the minute he stepped through the gate, his entire body began itching again. His body felt heavier. His shoes were too tight around the toes, and too loose at the heel. The air, full of soot and aerosolized …

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Krimspiracy: Part 6

After getting back to city center, Ellison veered off for the central gate while Matilda continued down Knots Hollow Way, to the rooming house on Marylebone Place where Fulke lived. Ellison’s brother, Jerald Crewe, owned an investigation agency that mostly handled background checks and delivered subpoenas. When Ellison got out prison, Jerald was the only …

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Krimspiracy: Part 5

“You should have come and talked to me first,” the waitress said. She came up to the banister, keeping Ellison between her and Matilda, and looked over the bay as she tilted her head towards him. “I know all the goss. I’ll give you the straight story.” “What did Captain May lie about?” Ellison asked. …

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Krimspiracy: Part 4

“Apparently, to have a completely realistic physics engine, you need a computer as big as Krim itself,” said Ellison, walking up to Matilda’s table at the King’s Armpit. She normally sat at the bar. The choice of the table, in the far corner, was so that she could have a private conversation with some guy. …

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Krimspiracy: Part 3

Taenaran the Bard confirmed that he saw nobody else upstairs except Brother Fulke before the rehearsals began, then nobody else went up and down all afternoon. “We were short of chairs and a couple of guys had to sit on the stairs,” he said. “Nobody snuck past us.” “Did you go upstairs at anytime during …

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Krimspiracy: Part 2

“So let me get this straight,” said Ellison, looking around the office. “You want us to find evidence that Krim World administrators kidnapped your leader…” “Brother Fulke,” said Brother Linota. “…And are keeping him trapped in some kind of secret dimension where they keep everyone who disagrees with them.” “Yes.” “So that you can sue …

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Krimspiracy: Part 1

Damp darkness surrounded the back door of the Aldwich Row Community Center. It was colder by the door, with a mist rising up from somewhere to the right of the entrance. The only light was a faint glow from a second-floor window of the building on the other side of the alley. Someone up there …

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25. Angel with a jewel

Why would Rodge hire someone to steal a blank notebook? Ellison stopped under a streetlight and pulled it out of his pocket. He felt the pages. There was still nothing hidden in them or between them. He put the notebook away and continued down Leadenhall back to the Barley Mow Inn. Maybe Harmen Chapman stole …

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24. A spider in the corner

Quimby Plummer, owner of the Barley Mow Inn, refused to tell Ellison where Donna lived. “I know you’re working for that Rodge guy,” Quimby said. “After you two dragged my customer right out of here, I’m seriously considering kicking you out. Next time, drag them out after they’ve paid for their meal.” Ellison sighed, then …

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22. Fork full of skirrets

“Wait at the entrance,” Matilda told Ellison as she walked into the inn. “Don’t let him go upstairs or into the kitchen.” She pantomimed a knife across her throat. “You want me to slit his throat?” he whispered. “No. If he gets to the kitchen he might slice his own throat and we’d lose him …

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21. Pretzels, fur coats and trash chutes

The city hall was, in theory, a great place for secret meetings. Krim administrators didn’t allow any hanky panky inside the building. They had no problems with their residents being subject to grotesque acts of violence, but didn’t want to become victims themselves. Any user who violated the rules could be permanently banned from the …

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20. Send for the fishmonger

Rodge Bannister didn’t want to offer a reward for the return of the Jewel of Rhotar. They’d recovered everything except a dozen or so of the smaller, less valuable previous stones and historic artifacts. The Gang of Four had either hidden them somewhere where Rodge and his mercenaries couldn’t find them, had already sold them, …

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16. A steaming pile

“I suspect that Gervis has been finding opportunities to climb that back watch tower and drop the stolen goods down to one of his accomplices standing outside the wall,” Ellison said. “It’s hard to see who’s going up and down because the guild house and the stables are in the way.” “Well, now that’s all …

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14. As the bowl turns

“Don’t look now, but there’s a table at the back with four guys at it,” Matilda told Ellison in a low voice. “I know. My guy is there,” he said. “The one who just walked in?” “No, the one he kissed when he sat down.” “That’s Trozganoth the Anointed,” she said. “He knits scarves and …

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12. Around the corner

Ellison stepped out through the front gate of the Armforge guild, onto Knots Hollow Way, and debated about whether to head straight back to the Barley Mow for some dinner, ale, and a good night’s sleep, or to try to catch up with Matilda. On the one hand, Matilda could be just about anywhere. On …

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10. Horse sense

“They’re the Gang of Four,” said Matilda. “They’re famous. They case their targets, figure out who has access but doesn’t interact with other people much, and steal their identities while the commit the crime. They usually knock their victims out and tie them up somewhere, but getting Hellcut, Gorehair, and Rainbow Squirtle passed-out drunk was …

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7. Time to see the wenches

Before leaving, Ellison and Matilda had a chat with some of Rodge’s security team. They weren’t happy that Rodge had brought in outsiders to deal with the problem. “It’s almost like he doesn’t trust us to do our jobs,” said Two Teeth Tom, newly back from the dead. “Just because someone got the drop on …

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The Assassin’s Assassin Part 6

“So it all hinges on Ismena’s testimony.” Ellison leaned over the hand-written statement from Gus’s girlfriend and sole alibi. “Do you think she’ll be credible?” Matilda shrugged, then raised her self on her elbows so she could look over at the paper, her head almost touching Ellison’s. “Look here,” she pointed. “She writes her letter …

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The Assassin’s Assassin Part 4

“Hey!” Just outside the doorway, Gus threw up his hands. “Warren already told you that he didn’t see who attacked him!” The chancellor grudgingly nodded. Or perhaps the chief assassin did see who attacked him, but was too embarrassed to admit that he’d been caught out. Saying so out loud, though, especially without any evidence …

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The Assassin’s Assassin Part 1

“Have you heard the latest?” Matilda Scarletstrike took one of Ellison’s greasy, overly-salted deep-fried skirrets. The skirret was a stringy, pale root vegetable about the size of a pinky finger. A bitter, anemic carrot. Or maybe a zombie pasnip. She pointed the skirret at Ellison. “The head of the assassin’s guild has been assassinated.” She …

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Farewell, My Krim: Part 4

Ellison teleported to Facepage’s Main Street. Eventually, everybody came through here. Even people who hated Facepage dropped by, because their friends lived here, or because it was the most convenient spot to meet. Technically, Facepage was just another virtual world, like Krim. But practically, it was more of an all-purpose platform. People who still had …

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Farewell, My Krim: Part 3

Back on Banking Street, Ellison shifted Bella’s framed portrait from one shoulder to another. He should have argued harder for removing the canvas from the frame. He checked the list Bob gave him. Bella’s gallery was off to the south. But Matilda’s favorite bar was to the north east, and the Barley Mow Inn was …

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Farewell, My Krim: Part 2

“Your wife is trapped inside the rug?” Ellison stepped away from Bob to get a better look at the man. He didn’t look crazy, but, on Krim, you never knew. “Why not? It’s a virtual world, isn’t it? Anything is possible.” “Krim doesn’t have magic,” said Ellison, slowly and carefully, to avoid setting Bob off …

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Farewell, My Krim: Part 1

Fried skirrets. Fried cabbage. Fried skirrets with cabbage. Cabbage soup. Ellison Davo stared at the chalkboard with the day’s menu. His stomach growled. Last night’s dinner was also cabbage. Breakfast had been leftover cabbage from the night before. “Sorry,” said Quimby Plummer, the proprietor of the Barley Mow Inn. “We’re still having problems with our …

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6. The list of suspects

“Well, I’ll leave you to do whatever it is you need to do. Let me know when we can move the body.” Rodge frowned at the corpse. The flies had found it, and were beginning to buzz around it. “Hold on, what do you expect us to do?” Ellison asked. “Well, you know,” Rodge waved …

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4. The oldest artifact

“The man had me kidnapped and tortured.” Ellison tried to dig his heels in but Matilda easily dragged him out of the Barley Mow Inn and onto Leadenhall Street.

2. Mayhaps a petty chare

Ellison walked away, not glancing back. If Usman was going to stab him in the back, Ellison wanted it to be a surprise. He didn’t want to see it coming. It was the anticipation that was the worst.

1. Perchance a missive

“World of Battle doth have much to be admired.” The speaker raised his flagon of ale, spilling some on the bar patrons around him. “To the World of Battle!” Someone tossed a fried skirret at his head.

12. A meeting at McMeaty’s

It was Wednesday, so Mitchell had the day off. For a while, he puttered around in his garden, watching the dragonfly drones nibble at the grass. Once in a while one would spot a weed and dive bomb it. But after a while, even watching the grass grow got boring.

11. The ancient scepter of Krimtheros

The door to the King’s Arms banged open and Donna, startled, dropped the stack of souvenir coasters she was in the process of distributing to all the tables. The woman who stepped in was tall, easily a head or two taller than Donna. Muscular. Her metal armor was dull and banged up. She was a real warrior, not a noob wannabe. And she looked familiar.

10. The sum of ale fears

The coach rolled down one street, made a turn, and down another. Mitchell peered out the window as the gate faded from view. The gate that would have taken him off of Krim and back to civilization. “I’ve got the plague, you know,” he told his captor.

1. Epystells of ye immortal folke

“Well, hello miscreant!” Ellison Davo grinned as he looked backat the ID print in his document packet. Yup, it was the same guy. “Who, me?” The warrior turned towards Ellison, blood still dripping from his sword as the victim at his feet screamed in pain.

7. Chop you up with a rusty knife

“I’m not a weirdo stalker,” Mitchell told the bartender at the Bouncing Octopus. The tavern was about twenty-minutes from Krim’s gate. That was about how long it had taken to walk to the bachelor party on Saturday. Wasn’t it?