With the Kickstarter coming to a grinding halt, it looks as though I won't be able to do the chapter illustrations or the comic supplement; However, because the editing and formatting has gone so well, I've published the book sans bonuses. You can pick up your digital copy at the link below. Print copies will be available after the proof has been approved.
One of the favorite scenes from the alpha readers follows. Phil and his sister Maven have just arrived at Ye Olde Game Shop to pick up the next campaign for the game.
Inside the store, there were shelves lined with board games and books for various role playing games. There were tables where people sat playing a card game that appeared to involve taking over territories with armies of undead monsters. A muted television sat in one corner near the tables showing commercials for newly released science fiction and fantasy books.
Behind the long counter that ran the width of the shop, a sickly looking man with long, black hair stood thumbing through a catalog. His narrow, dark eyes seemed motionless. His cheeks looked as though the skin was on the verge of being torn by his sharp, protruding cheekbones. His boney fingers moved through the pages as though his joints were rusted and it required twice the effort just to use them.
Maven walked up to the counter and inspected the wide variety of dice held in one of the display cases. Phil joined her but addressed the skeletal clerk.
“Hi, I’ve never seen you here before, where’s Karl?”
The man slowly straightened his neck, and after doing so turned his head at much the same speed, met Phil’s eyes. He spoke slowly in a seething, scratchy voice.
“Karl is out sick; he should be back in tomorrow. Is there something I can help you with?”
Phil began feeling inexplicably uneasy. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and wiped the back of his neck with his left hand.
“Umm, well, we just finished the Lore of the Dark Council campaign for Caves and Lands, and I was looking for the next one.”
The man grinned, “Ah, a good story, that one. Everyone’s talking about the end.”
Phil nodded, “Yeah, took us by surprise, we figure we’ll be up against Dark Council itself in the next campaign.”
The man looked as though he were thinking for about a minute.
“Well, the next campaign skips a few years ahead--passed the Dark Council’s attack on Baslyn, but they did release a collector’s edition supplementary campaign that lets you be a part of it.”
“Do you have it?!” Phil asked.
The man grinned his unsettling grin again and nodded slowly. Suddenly he was moving much faster; he almost seemed to slip into the back room with the fluid motion of a serpent. On returning, he carried a mahogany box with what appeared to be real brass coping, hinges, and a turn-hook latch. There were no pictures on the box, but burned into the wood on the lid in ominous lettering was The Fall of Fel’Duhr.
Phil’s eyes widened with wonder. This was, without question, the coolest collector’s edition campaign packaging Phil had ever seen. “How much is it?” he blurted, ready to give the man all of his money without even opening the box.
“Two hundred and fifty dollars, but it comes with a special die set that was hand made to match Trog’s Challenge Dice from…” Phil cut him off, “From the Tailor’s Secret campaign! That is awesome! I’ll take it.” The man smiled again, this time showing crooked teeth that grew from his gums at random angles and in seemingly random shapes.
Opening the box, Phil glanced over the three campaign books and over a dozen maps that were included. He gazed at the silvery blue dice nestled in a small felt lined cubby inside the game box. Their smooth texture and marble-like coloring gave the illusion that there was a faint glow. Phil could hardly wait to use the dice.
To give a better idea of the story, the characters, and the mood, I submit for your approval the first few pages of The Fall of Fel'Duhr:
Chapter 1 - The End of a Beginning Shadows twisted and moved in the stillness of the bare trees, shadows cast by the blazing fire Thome had started with a simple word and a gesture of his hand. Jorgen eyed the old wizard. Thome wore a thick, deep blue robe that seemed to have been made for a man just a bit larger. He had short silver hair and a long beard. Resting between his lips was a smallish, gray stone pipe that emanated thin wisps of blue smoke that curled up into the night air in bursts as he spoke. His voice was high pitched but rough. Thome mumbled to himself and stared into the fire, ignoring everything else. Jorgen was from Ultrimar, the capital city of the Elven kingdom, though he was human. He had been the apprentice of the Guild Master, Olmar, in the Brotherhood of the Hammer for nearly nine years. One of the most important lessons he had learned was never to trust a wizard. Wizards studied the mysterious forces behind the inner workings of the universe; something fighters had little use for. Kammen, a halfling from the Southlands, walked up to Jorgen without a single sound though he walked on dried leaves. Kammen was youthful, and his unusual thinness and clean face served to exaggerate this, but he had a sly look that gave the impression that he was always up to something--which he was. Weeks earlier Kammen and Davian, a Dweller from the caves outside of Baslyn, came to Jorgen looking for someone to help them free Thome from the Dark Council. The Guild of Mages hired them, and though Jorgen wasn’t fond of magic users, he was fond of their gold--a lesson he’d also learned from Guildmaster Olmar. They had been on many adventures together, even before the Dark Council seized power in the Southlands. Davian soon joined them by the fire. Davian was always contemplative, taking in every detail around him and patiently calculating his every move. His pale, grayish skin gave him an ominous image heightened by his contrasting black, almost fur-like hair. His bushy eyebrows, also reminiscent of thick fur, hovered over dark brown eyes with faint hints of gold flakes that caught the light in a subtle shimmer every time he moved his head. His thick leather clothes made him look even more rugged with blood stained metal studs evenly spaced every inch over the shoulders. Even his hard leather boots with sharp metal spikes in the toe and heel had stains from blood dried long ago. Jorgen had been on many campaigns, but he had never met anyone so surprising as Davian. Only days into their first journey together, they had been trapped underground by a cave-in. Davian, having only a modest build, had tossed rocks aside that Jorgen with his massive arms could barely have lifted. Jorgen had been taught to assess the fighting abilities of every person he met, and he reasoned that Davian was not someone he wanted to get into a struggle with, even though the Dweller was nearly three times smaller. “Think there will be trouble tonight?” Davian asked Jorgen in a soft and almost soothing voice that did not match his appearance. Jorgen shrugged, “It’s been three nights, and we’ve covered a lot of ground. With any luck we’ll reach the outskirts of Baslyn before we need to camp again, then we’ll be safe.” The Dark Council had been very bold lately, sending minions into the heart of the Nine Kingdoms, but they weren’t yet strong enough to move on Baslyn, the capital city of Fel’Duhr. Still, there were other dangers besides the Dark Council--even nature wasn’t always friendly. Kammen sat on a nearby rock and started organizing the tools in his rolled up leather tool case. # “You could go scout ahead,” Scott said, thumping his fist on the game table. Kyle shrugged, “I could, but that’s why we have you, the muscle.” Scott and Kyle played Jorgen and Kammen respectively. Kyle always tried his best to irritate Scott--in-game or in real life. When Kyle had joined the group, it seemed he had chosen--quite intentionally--the character class and race that most annoyed Scott. For years, it worked so well that it inevitably led them to an argument at least once per gaming session. Tom, who played the character of the same name spelled Thome, rifled through the Magic Users Compendium, mumbling to himself. He was oblivious to the conversation between Scott and Kyle, as usual. Tom knew the most about Caves and Lands than any of the other players. He had every book, map, or supplementary material every released by Overworld Gaming for the game--he even had an original, first edition rulebook signed by Bob Hensck, the creator of the Caves and Lands role playing system. Roman watched Scott and Kyle bickering and waited for an opportune time to interject and try to continue the game. Of the group, Roman stuck out the most. Though his father was American, his mother was from India, and it was from her that Roman had inherited his dark complexion. He was the shortest of the group, even shorter than Scott. Roman’s character, Davian, had been voted as the party leader very early on because Roman was so patient and attentive. He was the one that challenged Phil, the Game Master, the most. Roman was hard to outwit, and Phil had to come up with some very creative and elaborate situations to challenge him--some far beyond the suggested tricks in the campaign books. “Look, we’re this close to finishing this campaign,” Scott’s tone had grown harsh, “We’ve survived the Tower of Pain, the Caves of Unending Horror, and the Woods of Unspeakable Things. If we get snuffed at a campsite a day outside of Baslyn because you were too busy playing with your tools to scout the area…” “Look, I’m not here to scout,” Kyle cut Scott off, “I’m here to pick locks and steal stuff. You’re the barbarian; you’re supposed to be the one making sure we don’t get killed in the middle of the night!” They were both standing now, an amusing sight to the rest of the group. Kyle was seventeen and stood six feet tall, although he couldn’t weigh more than a hundred and fifty pounds. He had very closely cut light brown hair and no facial hair. Scott was a year older than Kyle but a foot shorter with wild, curly black hair, a sandy stubble that matched his hair, and glasses that heightened his appearance as the stereotypical math geek--which he was. Phil and Roman exchanged glances and synchronously rolled their eyes. Tom continued mumbling as he read. The five of them had been gaming together every weekend for almost six years, and it seemed like this happened at least once an hour during their sessions. Phil’s basement had been the official gathering place for game night since they started playing. Phil’s sister, Maven, came down just as Scott and Kyle slowly, and hesitantly, sat back down, never breaking their eye contact. “You guys ever heard of video games?” Maven asked. Without looking up as if it didn’t hinder his reading at all, Tom replied, “They don’t make a game console that has a higher resolution than my imagination.” Maven walked to the table where the maps and books for the game were sprawled, pushed aside a stack of campaign books and sat down a plate of cookies she had just finished baking. She used the group as test subjects for her cooking experiments because they would eat nearly anything, no matter how unusual the ingredients, texture, or color. Scott watched her as she walked back towards the stairs. Maven had short, straight hair of varying shades of brown that made it appear to be in motion even when it wasn’t. Her eyes were hazel, sometimes seeming more green, sometimes more brown. She had full lips, and round cheeks that made her smile soft and friendly, and her voice was gentle and sweet. She wasn’t very tall, but she was athletically built, and she always wore bright colors to match her usually happy mood. Just as she rounded the corner to the wall concealing the basement stairs, she caught a glimpse of Scott looking at her. She smiled--pausing for a brief moment--before bounding up the steps cheerily. Scott’s face flushed and he quickly glanced around the room to make sure no one else had noticed--they hadn’t. Scott had a crush on Maven since they first started their group, and unbeknownst to him, Maven was acutely aware of it. She liked Scott, too, but she didn’t know how to talk to him--she felt he was much smarter than her, and she had been afraid to try to understand his interests. Scott came too and returned his attention to Kyle. # “I do not take orders from you,” Kammen hissed at Jorgen. Davian walked calmly over to the two men and put both of his hands up slowly, indicating he didn’t want to argue. He spoke as calmly as possible, like a negotiator trying to convince two warring nations into peace. “Gentlemen, I think we’re much safer than we have been for a while now, and setting a night watch without sending out a scout should be no more dangerous for us tonight than arguing loud enough to alert every creature in a three-mile radius.” Jorgen looked at Davian for a moment considering his words and nodded to him. He scowled deeply at Kammen before walking back to his bedroll. Kammen crossed his arms and smiled triumphantly as he returned to the fire as casually as he could manage. Davian sighed and followed them. Thome, now sitting on a log between Jorgen and Davian’s bedrolls, watched the two return then turned his gaze to the fire. Davian checked the horses then returned and sat cross-legged on his blanket. Davian gave the night watch order, and they all took in some rations before Kammen took the first watch. The night went by without a single disturbance, and the group was packed and ready to move just after sunrise. Jorgen and Kammen rode side by side in silence while Davian rode point. Thome slid through the air hovering cross-legged at the same height as the three riders ahead of him. Jorgen suspected this was either a trick to be showy or the sign of a man too cheap to buy a horse. By noon the party reached the outer rim of the woods of Baslyn, marked by a large wooden sign on the side of the main road. They all seemed a bit happier, Jorgen and Kammen were even talking again. “Name one thing you can do that I cannot,” Boomed Jorgen. “Open a locked chest.” Kammen shot back. Jorgen pulled one of his two great war hammers from his back--the head of which was as big as the head of his horse--and waved it around as though it were a stick. “I can smash a chest open,” Jorgen said with a matter of fact tone. “Ok, open a jail cell,” Kammen said while Jorgen still waved his hammer about, now raising his eyebrows. “Get gate keys from a guard without him noticing,” Kammen said. “Easy. He won’t notice his keys gone if he’s unconscious.” Jorgen said as he casually returned his hammer. Thome shook his head and decided to break formation to join Davian at the lead. Davian nodded at the old wizard as he floated up next to him. “We should reach Baslyn before sundown if those two don’t decide to dismount and have a battle to the death over whose tunic fits better.” Thome nodded in agreement and continued looking ahead as they progressed. Moments later, Davian noticed several riders approaching from the distance. He held a hand up, and Jorgen and Kammen fell instantly silent. Davian pointed and motioned to each of them as he spoke. “Thome, hang back. Kammen, into the woods. Jorgen, you’re with me.” They all nodded. Kammen slipped down from his horse and handed the reins to Thome who was now standing on the ground. As Kammen slinked into the woods to flank the oncoming riders, Jorgen caught up with Davian, and they advanced slowly, but steadily.
I am officially asking for everyone's help to get The Fall of Fel'Duhr published. The illustrator, editor, and marketing people have been paid and will continue to be paid, but I could really use some help with it all! Interested in owning a copy of the book, and perhaps some of the artwork? Please take a look at the Kickstarter:
Mephedimus, the arch-necromancer of the Dark Council in The Fall of Fel'Duhr is going to be one of the many pieces of artwork available to backers when the Kickstarter goes live. Below is the first concept sketch.