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Story cube story: Chapter 3


Sorry for the delay, the Christmas rush didn’t leave much time for blogging. Here’s chapter 3:

Chapter 3

A long time had passed since Tunc’s exploits in the hills north of Ubertas, Sto’s device had certainly done its job and a treaty had been signed in which the people of Dultha came off very well. Balance was restored as all territories which had been taken by Ubertas were returned and the king of Dultha promised that the Hydra would not be used against the Ubertans unless they performed an act of aggression against Dultha. With the treaty signed life went back to normal for the majority of Dulthans. However the king was growing increasingly concerned about Tunc’s fate. No one had heard from Tunc for weeks and to make matters worse Tunc’s wife Fulya was frequently visiting the palace, in an increasingly harrowed state, asking for any information there might be about her husband. This didn’t sit well with the king: Fulya was very familiar with the palace and well acquainted with the king, having accompanied Tunc to many of the palace’s sumptuous banquets.

The king had always enjoyed Fulya’s company and it pained him to see a woman, who was ordinarily so composed and impeccably turned-out, in such a state. The only hint of her old self was a gem encrusted broach in the shape of a scarab beetle which Tunc had given her for their twentieth anniversary. The king had promised her numerous times that at the first sign of any new information, from the multiple search parties which he had sent out, he would personally visit her home to deliver the news. However this didn’t seem to calm her down and the king had taken to asking Mrs Yahni, the palace cook, to have a pot of tea at the ready at all times. Fulya was steadily getting clued up on palace gossip courtesy of Mrs Yahni, and though she didn’t seem to be relaxing very much she at least cracked the occasional smile at the tales of romance and intrigue offered up by the matronly commander of the kitchen.

Meanwhile, high in the mountainous lands of the northmen, Tunc was being slowly tortured by the northmen (well that’s how he felt about it anyway) as he sat through yet another rehearsal of the ‘show’ being put on by the group that had found him. The northmen seemed to think they were bestowing some great honour on him by allowing him to witness the show which was to be performed for the ‘Northcheif’ (their equivalent of a king) at the midwinter festival in the northman capital Stormforge but if he had to sit through another tuneless rendition of whatever folk song they were trying to belt out he would lose his mind. When the ‘show’ was over he politely clapped his hands and was met with a group of beaming smiles as the northmen relished his praise. Tunc quickly jumped in with the umpteenth appeal that the group let him contact his people, he understood a little of their language now but there was still a massive barrier in how to phrase his request. You see the northmen weren’t particularly big on long distance communication, they would leave on a hunt, be gone for a month or two and then return to their homes with the goods they had traded for meat and furs. As a result they had no words for ‘message’ or ‘letter’.

By the light of the waning moon Tunc once again tried to make himself understood by drawing with a stick onto the forest floor. He had all but given up when he heard a crow call from high above in the trees. It was a Dulthan crow and the only reason for one to be in the mountains was if it was accompanying a Dulthan guard. He was right and in moments the unarmed northmen found themselves held at sword-point by a squad of Dulthan soldiers. ‘Stand down men.’ yelled Tunc, jumping right back into his role of leader of the king’s guard ‘The northmen have done me no harm (apart from perhaps to my eardrums).’

Once the misunderstanding was cleared up and Tunc was clued-in on the success of his mission, the Dulthans were welcomed into the northmen camp and treated to a feast of roast game and strong mead. Fairly soon Tunc was subjected to more auditory torture and this time it came in both northman and Dulthan forms. He took his leave and went away to finally write his message to the king and (since there were a number of carrier crows) he also took the time to craft a letter to his wife begging her forgiveness for what must have put her through over the past few weeks.

When Tunc returned, aside from a few chosen for guard duty, the men were in full revelry and he wasn’t particularly inclined to try and catch up with their drunkenness so he decided to take a walk in the moonlight and take a look around. The northmen had been slowly edging through the hills for weeks and had often spoke fondly of the ‘checkpoint’, apparently they were less than a day’s walk from it and Tunc wanted to know what was in store at the checkpoint. If it was a chance to stock up on supplies it may be useful to take the Dulthan guard along that way to replenish supplies for the trek home but if there was any sign of more northmen ‘shows’ he might just take his chances and disembark as soon as possible.

As he continued on his way he came upon what would once have been a small clearing in the dense forest, a land-slide has since chopped away half of the clearing and taken a host of trees hundreds of feet below. Looking out over the crevasse Tunc couldn’t mistake the signs of settlement in the valley below and thankfully their appeared to be women down at the checkpoint: perhaps they might reel-in their menfolk’s behaviour and save Tunc from more infernal northmen ‘music’. However, Tunk’s attention was quickly grabbed by something else, the light was low but, as far as Tunc could see, a number of giant birds appeared to be sitting motionless with wings outstretched at the edge of the town wall as if preparing to strike.

Tunc moved quickly, darting back to the camp, sounding a call to arms as he went. When he arrived back in the camp the Dulthan guard were standing to attention swords in hand with only a hint of inebriation left on them. The northmen were similarly turned out, despite their more disorganised nature they were similarly armed and ready for the proclaimed threat. Tunc quickly described the fearful scene to his men and then attempted to make himself understood to the northmen. He had to resort to waiving his arms like a giant bird and pointing in the direction of the checkpoint before understanding started to glimmer in the northmen’s eyes but it became clear that they must not have understood the threat as every one of them fell to the ground laughing.

Tunc was at a loss as to what to do, they had to get down to the town and help those people as soon as possible but without the northmen to guide them they didn’t stand a chance of making it there in time. Finally the leader of the northmen calmed down enough to talk and patiently explained something which to Tunc sounded simply absurd: the giant birds were northmen constructions called ‘pleens’ which they used to fly from checkpoint to checkpoint. The idea that a human being could fly was clearly absurd but Tunc was somewhat accustomed to the more superstitious beliefs of some of the tribes around Dultha so assumed that these ‘pleens’ must be some sort of charm or ‘lucky’ statue used to give travellers a sense of hope as they ventured to the next checkpoint.

With the ’emergency’ cleared up the group tried to settle down for the night amidst the occasional tittering laughter of a northman. Tunc took the opportunity to digest the fact that he was at last going to be making his way home.


After a quick cold breakfast they embarked at dawn the following morning and were making good time in their descent into the valley when Tunc’s preconceptions were shattered. Far off in the distance a ‘pleen’ began to slowly edge along the grass, producing an increasingly audible hum as it did, it pace accelerated and, just as it looked as though it might be heading straight into a small wood further down the valley, it performed the miraculous, and gently lifted off into the sky. The Dulthans were dumbstruck but the northmen simply continued down the trail as though nothing had happened. Frustrated that he lacked the words to ask the northmen about what had just happened Tunc was forced to simply shake himself back together and get the Dulthan guard moving.

They witnessed three more pleens ascend to the skies before stopping to take a break and eat, at which point Tunc attempted to gain some more information about these strange creations. The northmen shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders, the only sense Tunc could make from what they were saying was that it was a ‘pleener’ secret but that it had something to do with the use of ‘fire-water’. Though he wasn’t an enginician like Sto, Tunc could tell this was important, the more information he could get about this creation the better. He quickly penned a letter to the King explaining what he had seen and hoped that he would get a response quickly. He wasn’t sure what the right questions to ask might be and was concerned that he might miss something important regarding the workings of these magnificent creations.

They were met with a surprising display at the gates of the town as they were requested to remove all metal items and deposit them in individual locked cabinets beside the gates, only a few steps past the gates they found the reason behind this strange stripping down as a Dulthan guard found his pocket torn asunder as the coins leapt from his pocket and stuck to a giant horseshoe shaped piece of metal beyond the gates. The northmen had another laugh at the Dulthans’ expense as they explained that the ‘magnet’ was there to pull the weaponry from anyone entering the city, though it would happily take metal money too.

As it turned out the northmen with whom Tunc had become familiar were planning on getting in a pleen to take them to the next checkpoint but they were going to have to wait for the next couple of days, as there were a number of hunting parties ahead of them. The group found lodgings in the town and settled down for the evening.

The following morning Tunc went out to acquire supplies for their return home. When he returned to the lodging house later in the afternoon he was greeted with a Dulthan messenger hawk. Messenger hawks were bigger and faster than the standard messenger crows and this one had brought a package. It turned out that by order of the king Tunc would not be returning home just yet as he was now to act as ‘Ambassador Tunc’ and attempt to make a moderate alliance with the northmen by way of presenting the Northcheif with the key to the city of Dultha and, under Sto’s suggestion, he was to do everything he could to acquire both a pleen and to recruit a ‘pleener’ to bring back to Dultha. Tunc felt utterly downtrodden but he had been a military man for too long to let orders upset him, the king had spoken and so it must be done. He penned a long letter to Fulya apologising for his continued absence and expressed his longing to be with her again soon. That done he gathered his men to him and explained the situation: ‘Tomorrow we leave for Stormforge to befriend a king and to acquire a flying machine, for the good of Dultha!’ This was followed by a loud chorus of cheers ‘For Dultha! For Dultha! For Dultha!’

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Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Story cube story


Story cube story: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Despite the success of the demonstration of Sto’s ‘hydra’ a large portion of the people gathered began to weep at the news of Ubertas’s act of aggression. Many in the crowd had family and friends that lived out in the western villages which had been taken by the Ubertan army and they were fearful as to their loved ones’ fate. It was decided that they would have to act quickly if they wished to save the villagers from the clutches of the Ubertans, and the king, his court and the head of the kings guard quickly came to the decision that a large group of well armed men must be sent immediately to intercept the Ubertan forces. However, Sto quietly found his way to the centre of the discussion and uttered his dry little cough in order to catch the attention of the court over the yelling of General Tunc, leader of the kings guard, who was currently red in the face as he shouted abuse about the Ubertan army.

Sto’s simple suggestion of utilising their new weapon to bribe the people of Ubertas was shocking and General Tunc was dead against it: “It’s pure insanity to take such a powerful weapon right behind enemy lines where it could easily be taken and used against us! How many men do you intend to send to keep the hydra safe?” Sto considered this, seemed to contemplate for a moment or so, and then replied: “I should think one should be enough, it’s not that heavy.” At this the general went into meltdown and berated Sto on his lack of military know-how.

When Tunc finally started to run out of energy Sto quietly responded: “All valid points dear general but the key issue is that I can have ten more of them by tomorrow morning and if the Ubertan weapons master tries to figure out how to make more he risks damaging the vial of liquid contained within and we all know what can happen if the liquid is mishandled.” The notion of the Ubertan weapons master going up in a mountain-high pile of smoke seemed to cheer Tunc up considerably. So much so in fact that Tunc quickly volunteered for the one man mission.

The decision was made to use the hydra to dry up the flow of the river Crescite (Ubertas’s main river system): this would involve Tunc trekking into the hills to the north of Ubertas and firing the weapon on any tributary streams he could get to. There was no time to lose so Tunc quickly kitted up with weaponry and armour (in case he had to defend himself once he entered Ubertan territory) and carefully packed the hydra into it’s case and put it into his backpack. He mounted his horse and was away. With the first hydra away and the potential risk of the enemy getting hold of it Sto headed back up to his workshop and tirelessly worked far into the night creating more. His work went well and before he fell asleep at his desk he had completed five more hydras.

Sto woke early in a grizzly state, his back twisted and sore from sleeping on his desk and papers stuck to the side of his face. Outside his window he could hear a cacophony of shouts and the sound of bricks being laid. It seemed that the people of Dultha didn’t entirely trust Sto’s weapon to do the job and had taken it upon themselves to start reinforcing the city walls in preparation for the siege which they were sure was to follow. Despite the noise and disruption Sto could see the sense in this, the people were nervous: their king had just sent a man with a box to do the work of an army and no one could be entirely sure that it would work. More importantly it kept them busy and Sto was well aware that people in distress with nothing to do could be a very dangerous force indeed. He therefore chose not to let this lack of faith upset him but instead decided to see it as simple human nature.

The king, on the other hand, was beginning to worry about many of the happenings in the city and the lack of faith shown by the populace was starting to become contagious: in particular he was starting to fixate on the fact that he had received no communication from Tunc since his departure. A number of carrier crows had been dispatched with cryptic messages requesting an update on Tunc’s progress but every one had returned empty-clawed. The king sat in his study listening to the sounds of panic outside and trying to battle with his own sense of panic as it churned round inside. If this continued he would assemble the guard himself and prepare them to meet with the Ubertan forces if it came to it.

Meanwhile a sodden but very satisfied Tunc was making his was through a lush hillside forest which was now missing a stream. This was the fourth stream which he had hit with the hydra. Afterwards he had found his way to an outcrop which gave him a view of the Crescite river and the change was already becoming obvious, he figured the forth might just be enough to have slowed the flow and give the Ubertans a real scare but one more couldn’t hurt.

As he was attempting to find his way up the next hill (and the possible site of the last stream) he heard a crow call from above, as he looked up something dropped on the path behind him, it was a message in the king’s handwriting though it was hard to understand what it meant: “Tunc, hope your kick around is going well, let us know if you need some company or if you are ready to head home”. The carrier crow settled down on a branch beside him expectantly. He wrote his own cryptic reply: “Will enjoy the dancing in the street, heading home, now would be a good time to send that other message.”

Tunc spent hours looking in vain for another stream and by the time he had found one and given it a good burst from the hydra it was growing dark and Tunc was most certainly lost in the unfamiliar Ubertan terrain. He decided to walk with the setting sun to his back so as to be sure that he was heading westwards towards home. Unfortunately for Tunc he had made the wrong decision as his route was leading right towards the northern woods of the northmen and they had very strict rules against carrying any weapon which was not clearly a hunting tool. The northmen were silent in their movements and by the time Tunc was even aware that something was wrong he found himself surrounded. The leader of the group who had captured him stepped forward and demanded that he drop his weapons. Tunc didn’t argue, he had no quarrel with the northmen and besides he stood no chance against the twelve shot staffs which were currently aimed right at him.

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Posted by on 6 October, 2012 in Story cube story



Story cube story: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

In the topmost floor, in a gleaming white tower, right in the centre of the arid city of Dultha, a strange and frightful weapon was being crafted. Sto’led, the court enginician and advisor to the king, was hard at work forging components in the blistering heat; his small forge radiating a gentle glow as he hand-forged mysterious little components, peering over his tiny little glasses, carefully working his craft. The image of a forge might conjure up the idea that Sto’led (or simply ‘Sto’) might be a strapping great lump of a man, as we seem to expect of a blacksmith, but Sto was a quiet, unremarkable man whose pallid complexion and stooped stature left the impression of someone of anything from forty to seventy years old (no one wanted to ask him his age though). Despite his diminished stature he had a quick and clever way of moving that often took people off their guard and there was no doubt that his wits were as razor sharp as the weapons he so often devised for the king’s guard. He had learned his metal-craft at a young age but his many years venturing in foreign lands had changed his outlook and upon his return to Dultha it was clear that he was something very different to the other smiths. This fact didn’t escape the king’s notice as Sto’s reputation quickly grew within the king’s court with each new curious creation.

Sto’s latest creation was in a whole other league than anything he had ever attempted before and if he was successful (and in his quiet way he was certain he would be) then the entire continent might see a shift in power as the king’s men found themselves equipped with what Sto had called ‘the hydrostatic equilibrium manipulator’ or as the king had suggested ‘the hydra’ (as the men would be unlikely to adopt a name that no one but Sto would understand). When Sto had originally pitched his idea to the court he had been met with a room full of completely blank stares as no one could fathom what the darned thing was supposed to do. Because Sto had talked about steam at one point, and because steam was easy to understand, they had all adopted the idea that he was making something that would make cups of tea for the guards. However, Sto persisted in trying to explain the significance of his idea and finally boiled it down to a fairly simple explanation “The hydra will make water (any water) appear or disappear, all by the press of a button”. With this he had the entire court’s attention and eventually received a good portion of its money also. According to the king, they would do anything to make this contraption a reality.

The finishing touches were in place and the device’s most vital components installed including a peculiar liquid which Sto kept under lock and key in his private chest at all times and which, according to Sto, could be “the end of us all” if it were ever to enter into the wrong hands. He had acquired the peculiar liquid on his travels and wouldn’t let anyone know more than that (even the king). Many years before he had allowed a sample of its power to be demonstrated by taking a tiny drop many miles from Dultha city, beyond the Kabir mountains and far into the desert, the cloud which the explosion produced could be seen over the mountain tops. This alone was enough to persuade anyone that Sto was not exaggerating about the power of this strange liquid. However the truly shocking effect of the explosion became clear a few months later as the aloe farmers who lived between Dultha and the mountains started to complain that their entire crop of little cactus-like plants had mysteriously swelled to alarming proportions and died.

In further months it became clear that every well in the area around Dultha was full of fresh clean water and more surprising still was the change in the catacombs below the palace, an area unexplored and unused for centuries was now flooded, and as the water rose so to did the catacombs’ ancient secrets, as Sto developed a hobby for venturing deep within in his strange underwater boat. Sto’s treasure hunting had already brought a moderate increase in the wealth of the king and the court and the extra water in the area was gradually changing the landscape from the familiar reds, yellows and browns to include dramatic bursts of green. Sto’s demonstration had made him more than simply a court favourite, now all the people of the Dulthan kingdom were in awe of this strange little man.

He ceremoniously took the new device (he was not comfortable calling it a weapon) and placed it into a customised case with a heavy lock and proceeded down the spiralling staircase and into the courtyard of the palace where the demonstration was to take place. He had requested a few weeks before that a large dip be dug into the ground in the shape of a rectangle of 30 feet by fifty feet wide and around five feet deep graduating on to about eight. Bricks had been used to line the hole and decorative tiles had been set onto the brickwork in the pattern of waves (something never seen in Dultha) to form a tight seal over the brickwork.

The palace court was in attendance, as were many of the city’s inhabitants, as Sto came into view the rabble of chatter died down and a hushed pause followed the king as he came to meet Sto at the agreed site of the demonstration. the king was to be the first to use a hydra and no one (apart from Sto himself) was entirely sure what to expect. The king lifted the device from the case, sampled the weight of it and inspected the very first hydra ever built. It was surprisingly small made up of a fat cylinder with a leather padded handle. As with the great majority of Sto’s creations it was a thing of intricate beauty hiding within it frightful power. The overall effect looked similar to the shot staffs which the men in the lands to the north used for hunting (the northmen rarely used them on people which the people of Dultha were particularly thankful for). The king assumed that Sto must have taken inspiration from these northern weapons and if that was the case he was sure to find what the northmen called a ‘trigger’. Sure enough there it was and just as the king was about to press his finger on it Sto stopped him: “Your majesty please be careful of where you aim the hydra, the receptacle i designed should be adequate to accommodate the effects of one short blast.”

The king aimed the hydra at the centre of the tiled hole and gently squeezed the trigger very briefly, there was an alarming crack in the air and a peculiar sensation came over every one present. At first nothing seemed to be happening but within minutes condensation began to form around the edges of the pit, condensation turned to drops and the drops turned to trickles and within five minutes what lay before them was a huge deep pool of crystal clear water. In the shocked silence that followed Sto coughed to clear his throat and turned to address both his king and his countrymen: “Your majesty, people of Dultha, may I present to you all Dultha’s first swimming pool, thanks to the nature of the hydra’s effect this pool will never go dry.” At this there was an uproar in the crowd as the people rejoiced in the miracle that had been bought to them by this peculiar little man.

The next demonstration proved to be more dramatic: as Sto took the device from the king and made his way to a huge metal drum filled with water, the tank had been painstakingly filled from town wells in the weeks leading up to the demonstration and in a matter of seconds with the press of a trigger Sto emptied it of of all of its contents. Just as the true implications of this feat dawned on the watching audience a carrier crow landed beside the king. Ubertas, Dultha’s more fruitful and fortunate neighbour had once again attempted to cease control of some of Dultha’s outlying villages, if this news had come to them on the previous day there would have been little which the people of Dultha could have done but now they were prepared. Thanks to Sto Dultha’s time of plenty had come and, with this move of aggression, Ubertas had just ushered in the end of theirs.


Posted by on 6 October, 2012 in Story cube story



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