Sunday, December 16, 2012

Page 24

One spell.  Tenser had just one spell, preserved magically in his mind.  A combination of arcane components would activate the spell and it would leave his mind.  He could speak the same words again, make the same gestures, but there would be no more magic associated with them until he had rested and re-prepared his spell the next day.

For any magic-user, no matter how powerful, there was something a little frightening about casting that last spell of the day.  Leaving yourself defenseless to the world until you had your spell or spells back.  Tenser had felt that way many times in the rough neighborhoods of the City of Greyhawk.  Here in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, he expected to feel infinitely more powerless.

But that didn't matter.  His friends needed to be protected.  He cast his spell.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Page 23

After handing off his torch, Tenser fumbled with a scrollcase tied to his belt. He opened the case and unfurled a sheet of parchment from inside it. He then reached into a pouch in the folds of his robe and produced a piece of charcoal. He began sketching lines to represent the rooms of the dungeon, guessing at random how large to draw them in relation to his sheet of parchment.  He considered using boxes for doors, but it was more time-consuming to get the boxes just right and he settled for single strokes of the charcoal.  

Yrag insisted on skipping the doors and moved to the far right end of the room and the open archway there.  Their eyes must have been adjusting to the dim and smoky light of the torches because they could make out the far end of the room, past the pillars, from the archway.

"What did you mean by separated?" Tenser asked. "There wasn't anything in the plan about separating."

"Not by choice, lad. This dungeon is tricky. Tricky like a maze. Zagyg wanted people to get lost in it."

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Page 22

Trailing wisps of smoke behind them, the two young magic-users lined up behind Yrag, with Ehlissa at the rear. Yrag's armor jingled malevolently as they marched down the stairs, as if trying to alert whatever menaces awaited them below. Because Yrag seemed not to care, Tenser tried not to care too, though Ehlissa was increasingly unsure about having not hired someone stealthier, or perhaps even having come at all.

The stairs were not in an open stairwell, but closed off on either side with walls of sheer stone. The steps were also hewn from the rock the castle sat on. The stairs were not overly narrow, yet there was a strong sense of confinement. They were descending underground now, and the walls seemed as thick as the world was wide. The torches gave some comfort, but belched up clouds of black smoke that hung overhead and reminded them of a storm brewing. Every step on the stairs seemed to grow louder, as if announcing their presence. And still the staircase continued to spiral ever downward.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Page 21

Tenser and Ehlissa were both invigorated by the sense of lurking danger Yrag imparted on them. They unfastened the torches from inside Yrag's shield and laid the sticks on the ground. Producing flint and steel from her belt pouch faster than Tenser could, Ehlissa handed him pieces before taking some in hand for herself. Ehlissa bent low over the torch, striking steel on flint as fast as she could over the burlap covering the pitch on the torch. Tenser took the time to pull up a handful of weeds and spread them over the end of the torch for tinder. He dawdled as he worked at his torch, glancing up after every other strike to see if an ogre would appear in answer to the noise. Ehlissa quietly scolded the flint for taking so long to spark. As if in answer, a spray of sparks set her torch to smoldering. Tenser gently laid some of his tinder atop it, and the fire was lit. Ehlissa gingerly picked up her torch and held it against Tenser's until the wrappings on his burned as well.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Page 20

Tenser and Ehlissa crossed the drawbridge and followed Yrag through the seemingly abandoned gatehouse.  Empty murder holes stared down on them.  There was no sign of any inhabitants, except by smell.

"What made that awful smell?" Ehlissa asked.

"Eigers, most likely," Yrag said. He emerged first into the bailey beyond the gatehouse and his eyes fixed straight on the ramparts above, watching for signs of danger.  "I have seen a few lurking about the upper ruins before."

"Eigers...ogres?" Tenser asked. "Giant shape-shifters?"

"No, lad, only in fairy tales. Ogres are no more magical than most folk, just a lot bigger and uglier."

"I'm not sure if our spells can handle ogres…" Ehlissa said, shrinking towards the gatehouse.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Page 19

Yrag surprised them both by turning and walking away from the castle.

"Shouldn't we...go in?" Tenser asked.

"We don't need the mule in there," Yrag said as he walked away.  "We need to backtrack a bit and find a place to leave her."

The area around the castle was a 'clearing' only in the sense that it was mostly treeless. It was a tangled thicket of brambles not unlike what they had crushed their way through a few miles back. They retreated 80 yards to a small grove of dead trees. Yrag pushed his way in, breaking some branches so he could pull in the mule behind him. After lashing the reins to a branch, Yrag emerged with a brace of torches in hand from his saddle bags.

"We can carry more provisions in if you like, or keep our initial foray short just to get a feel for the place," Yrag explained as he strapped the torches to the inside of his shield.

Tenser and Ehlissa looked at each other for guidance from the other, but after a short pause Tenser said, "Shorter is fine."

"Very good," Yrag said. "Then let's head back up to the gatehouse."
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Friday, September 7, 2012

Page 18

It came slowly into view, stone by stone, from the tower, roofs, and parapets on down. It loomed larger and larger as they drew closer. Tenser and Ehlissa had seen castles before, and some larger than this, but there was still a sense of awe of this place.

That the castle was old was unquestionable. That it had endured the elements of many seasons was attested to by the eroded smoothness of some of the stones. That it had endured sieges was attested to by the cracks, holes, and scorch marks that scarred the rest of the stones.

And it was quiet and lonely. Terrifying in its apparent emptiness, moreso than if a bandit guard had been atop its walls, like back at the fort.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Page 17

Tenser won the argument, of which he was immediately quite proud. Yrag, after all, had seemed obsessively worried the whole trip with staying undetected or unnoticed. Even Ehlissa seemed to have been swept up in this strange desire for stealth. Tenser had gone along with it at first, but it had become increasingly tiresome as the long march through the rugged terrain continued. Right now, he did not care who they encountered. If an ogre blocked their path, and offered him a comfy chair and a cushion for his feet in its dungeon, Tenser would be tempted to take it up on its offer.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Page 16

"Did you think the tangles back there posed a danger?" Ehlissa asked at last.

"I didn't know," Yrag said, "and that's what was dangerous. I know it's been awhile since I was through here last, but they were not here before and could have been placed to conceal a trap."

"This far from the castle?" Tenser asked.

"Stay cautious," Yrag warned. "I will keep my shield on me and my sword in hand from here on. I advise you do the same with either your dagger hilts or your spell pouches, whichever you place the most trust in."

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

page 15

"It was good to see you solve your problem with your wits," Yrag said, "but why not a spell?"

"Our magic," Tenser confessed.

"Heh. Apprentice magicians..." Yrag said with a playfully mocking tone.

"I've never seen centipedes so large," Ehlissa said when they were moving again.

"A mad demigod's power bleeds into all the surrounding land, making whatever grows here more dangerous."

"Zagig was a powerful wizard," Tenser said.

"And you would love to add his spellbooks to your own, I suppose," Yrag said. "Like I warned you before, the monsters of the castle will not give up their treasures easily."

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Page 14

There were, of course, worse things than being stuck up in a tree, in the middle of the Cairn Hills, and not knowing if your plan had killed all the giant centipedes or not.

Take, for example, Svenny. Widely reputed to be the ablest fighting man to ever come to Blackmoor, Svenny had just killed his 108th orc when the cumulative effect of so many light wounds overcame him and he swooned into unconsciousness.

An endless stream of fresh orcs were climbing over the corpses of their comrades piled high in front of them. While the balrog that had allied with them watched their backs, Mello and Debelfry tossed sacks of gold onto Svenny's chest before lifting him up and carrying him out of the great hall of the Orc King Frederick.

So, yes, there were far worse things than being stuck up in a tree and not knowing if there were any centipedes left up there with you. But, at the present, Tenser and Ehlissa lacked the perspective to appreciate it.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Page 13

Tenser pushed at Ehlissa's back, urging her to climb higher, as a desperate plan developed in his brain. He reached several times for the dagger at his side, still in its scabbard, but hesitated to rely on its reach being long enough to keep his arm out of biting distance. Instead of centipedes, smaller branches bit at his face and snatched at his sleeves and the lower hem of his robes. Ehlissa faced worse resistance above, as the branches grew both smaller and more numerous. Small enough for Tenser's plan...

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Page 12

Yrag had started to walk away, stopped, thought better of it, and returned for the saddle bags off his mule. They were heavy with armor and weapons and Yrag sagged from the weight even with both hands. "Time I was getting ready..." Yrag said, but not exactly to Tenser or Ehlissa. Instead he was gazing off in the distance, as if intuiting that they were far enough from the city to expect danger now.

Ehlissa sensed it too. This creeping foreboding, a feeling that the woods were somehow closing in about them...

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Page 11

They were on just a trail now, one that they had to follow only single file from time to time. The hills rose and fell around them and were increasingly forested. As their visibility lowered, and the trail narrowed, there was a mounting sense that they had left the safe world they had known for someplace else.

There were hints of it all around. Large rats, rather than fleeing or remaining still at their approach, followed and seemed to be stalking the three humans and their mule. Birds that resembled no breed living in the city circled overhead and gave piercing shrieks. Green things slithered over moss-covered rocks, so camouflaged that only their motion betrayed their presence. To Tenser and Ehlissa, these things were unnatural and unnerving. Whether they bothered or portended anything to Yrag, he gave no indication.

Ehlissa, for her part, dealt with it by talking about what she knew of Castle Greyhawk...

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Page 10

Greyhawk was a sprawling city, but the rough wilderness of the Cairn Hills to the north curtailed its sprawl in that direction. Because of this, Yrag, Tenser, and Ehlissa had quickly left the city's suburbs behind and most of the furthest villages were passed after an hour and a half of walking. The most remote manor houses and fief-like hamlets were now heavily fortified, like small keeps. This was the borderland and beyond it was dangerous wilderness. Somewhere in the midst of that wilderness stood the lonely ruins of Castle Greyhawk.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Page 9

The next morning, Tenser cracked open his spellbook and sat it on the writing table next to the open window of his room. It was a fine book, smartly illuminated with brightly-colored inks that shone in the morning sun. The vellum pages were still crisp and made a sound as each page was turned. There was, sadly, a far greater number of blank pages than spell pages in the book, but this would surely soon change. He imagined the treasure chambers full of spell books and scrolls he would soon recover from Castle Greyhawk.It did not take him long to choose what spell to memorize. He had one for detecting magic that would help in those treasure chambers, but would be useless in winning past their guardians. Luckily, he had a powerful enchantment that would serve him well for at least one battle.

The morning bells rang. Had the hour struck so soon? Tenser had memorized the one spell and then absentmindedly skimmed the remaining pages and dreamed. But it was now too late in the day for dreams. He would have to rush now to meet up with Ehlissa and then join Yrag at the stables...

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Page 8

The Velunan Fireamber had burned going down, but left a pleasant aftertaste, warmed the gut, and dispelled all lingering doubts that they were doing the right thing. When they were done, Yrag did not bid them good night or see them to the door, but merely picked up his knife and figurine, returned to his stool, and continued whittling. Tenser and Ehlissa saw themselves out, pausing only to turn down the gift of a cat from Yrag's housekeeper.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Page 7

There was something familiar in Ehlissa's passionate prodding and only a moment's reflection told Yrag that it was the same passion he had felt on his first adventure. His resolve to push them away faltered and his demeanor softened at once. To calm her, he put on his best manners.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Page 6

Yrag's voice trailed off as he rose to his feet. He dismissed the flood of memories that came back to him when he allowed himself to get too nostalgic. He had to have the measure of this man face-to-face, he realized.

Tenser stood his ground as Yrag stepped up to him. And he noticed, too, a painful look behind Yrag's eyes that perhaps had something to do with this man sitting down here, expecting friends, but having none with him.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Page 5

The wooden stairs creaked underfoot as Tenser and Ehlissa descended into the cellar. The smells of fresh wood and old wine hung as thick as cobwebs in the air. They could see their way clearly by the light of an oil lamp in the room below. The lamp sat on a table next to the man they had come to see...

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Page 4

Luck was with Tenser and Ehlissa, for information on Yrag's whereabouts was not hard to come by. The fighting man was spoken of respectfully by every man that recognized his name. This only assured Tenser further that he was on the right path, though Ehlissa clung to some reservations...

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Page 3

It was not the sort of day for spending indoors. It was a beautiful day in the City of Greyhawk. A fresh breeze had blown in off the Selintan River and chased the stench of the city away. The streets of Clerkburg had been freshly cleaned by the Streetsweepers Union. It was a good day to go for a walk, a better day for a walk with purpose, and a still better day with that purpose shared.

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Page 2

Tenser remained at his table long after his friends had left. The idea to leave his fate to random chance had not been his and now the consequences left a sour taste in his mouth. But he gulped that down with the last of his beer and thought of how to make the best of it...

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Page 1

Once upon a time...

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In 1971, Gary Gygax invited members of his family to play his new game that would become Dungeons & Dragons. The campaign world he created for it would become known as the World of Greyhawk.

In 2005, Mike Bridges started making the W.O.G. comic strip out of his love for both comics and the World of Greyhawk. You can see his work here.

In 2006, Scott Casper started writing a fanfiction novella called "Castle Greyhawk" out of his love for the World of Greyhawk, even though his art skills sucked too bad to make it a comic strip. You can see his work here.

It was only a matter of time before these two lovers of both comics and Greyhawk would join forces. And so the "Castle Greyhawk" comic strip was born. The strip will follow, but also expand on, the novella, which fictionalizes those earliest adventures in the World of Greyhawk. So come with us back in time to when Tenser, Robilar, and all their friends were just fledgling adventurers and the world was young...