Return To Creosa

Home of Izira Nyte and The Forgotten Layers Inn. Resting in an unnamed magical realm, the place is easier to find when lost if one is without the aid of a map drawn by the lady herself.

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Gren Blockman
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Return To Creosa

Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:58 pm

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gren sat on the porch of the Forgotten Layers Inn, at a card table set up between Jeremiah and himself. Beads of sweat had appeared on his upper lip, as he held a handful of cards, and glanced nervously between them and Jeremiah.

Jeremiah gave Gren an odd look in return.

Slowly, with a shaky hand, Gren extended the Ace of Clubs, as if hesitant to release it . . . then gingerly placed it on top of the multi-layered house of cards he was building, completing its roof.

Gren broke out into a relieved smile and looked at Jeremiah happily.

Jeremiah stared at him blankly. “Very impressive”, he replied dryly, “if you ever want to play an actual card game, just let me know.”

Just then, the two heard a commotion from the other side of the inn. The sound of a horse’s hooves, coupled with a familiar voice, met Gren’s ears.

“Watch the bumps there, hoss! You need to work on your passenger safety skills!”

Scooting to a halt in front of the porch, Gren saw the raccoon from Creosa, on top of the horse he had ridden to escape the Pyroalite camp. The pink and white striped raccoon turned his face with the purple mask to Gren and smiled a toothy grin.

“There he is, the Ranger guy! See, I told ya. I know these woods like the back of my furry hand. Hey there, slick, long time no see! Playing cards, huh? Or playing with cards, I guess. Whatever floats your boat.”

Gren was still gaping at the raccoon, while Jeremiah slowly turned his head towards him.

“Friends of yours?” The big man asked.

“What are you kiddin’? We go *way* back!” The raccoon exclaimed to Jeremiah, speaking before Gren could. “Hey, not to change the subject, but would you have anything to eat, pal? It’s been a long ride. And you don’t look like the type to skip meals, you know what I mean? Hehheh.”

“Whoa, whoa . . . look, why don’t we take a walk and you can tell me what this is all about.” Gren stood up and walked over to the raccoon and horse before Jeremiah could interject. He handed the raccoon a chocolate bar from his pants pocket.

“Alriiiiiight! I was dying of starvation there!” The raccoon brightened and started gnawing on the chocolate, while Gren led the horse back towards the gardens and the forest where the portal was. “What’s with the green trees? It’s freakin’ me out. Did you put something in this candy bar or what?” The raccoon continued.

“No, I didn’t put anything in the candy bar. I live in a different world from Creosa. Didn’t you get that when I stepped through the portal?”

“Hey, it’s Creosa, strange things happen all the time. I figured you might be a wizard or something. And speaking of wizards, boy do I have a favor to ask you.”

“Oh, no.”

“Things were just settlin’ down in our neck of the woods when all of a sudden, boom, trouble starts up again. There’s this Pyroalite lord they call“Ghulaise the Blaze” that didn’t take too kindly to their little mishap at Sanctuary. He’s been terrorizing the Great Lilac Forest ever since the siege was broken. Trouble is, no one can find him. He’ll hit a supply convoy, burn somebody’s farm, then – bam – he’s gone, just like that.”

“So what does that have to do with me?”

“Keep your shirt on, I’m gettin’ to that! Alright, they got some egghead wizards together to try to figure out what the answer to their little dilemma is, and after cuttin’ the head off a live rooster, or whatever they do, they came up with this. . . “The Ranger will guide you”.” The raccoon finished by wiggling his fingers mysteriously. “Since you’re the only Ranger we know of, that pretty much narrows it down, you know?”

Gren hung his head and rubbed his eyes.

“Hey, come on, buddy, don’t leave us hangin’!”

“Alright, alright, I’ll come with you.”

“Yeah! See, I knew you were one of the good ones!” The raccoon wagged his finger at Gren.

“Don’t start that again, let’s just go. Maybe I should take that suit of Pyroalite armor with me from last time, I kind of kept it as a souvenir.”

“Nah, I think we ought to go right now before you change your mind. Besides, it would just slow us down. We gotta ride like the wind!”

“*Who’s* gonna ride like the wind?” questioned the horse.

“Sorry pal, it’s just a figure of speech. You know.”

Gren sighed and went to tell Jeremiah where he was going. Then he climbed onto the back of the horse, and they rode into the forest, then through the portal to Creosa.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:11 pm

The white barked, purple leaved trees of Creosa appeared as the trio made their way through the portal.

“We’ll go see the Wizards first. Maybe they’ve heard somethin’ since we’ve been gone”, the raccoon said.

“Why did they send *you* anyway?” Gren wondered aloud.

“That’s kind of a long story, slick. But basically, I dropped our pal here off on a farm, like you asked me too.” The raccoon replied, patting the horse. “Unfortunately for him, a patrol from Sanctuary was sweeping the area, and needed fresh mounts. Which means the poor guy got drafted a second time. So one day he overhears all this grousin’ about Ghulaise, and how a Ranger is supposed to be the answer. He said he knew a Ranger. But the numbskull forgot where the portal was.”

“Hey, I’m a horse, not an elephant.” The horse rebutted.

“Anyway . . . He tells ‘em about *me*, and you know the rest.” After a long pause, the raccoon continued. “So . . . eh, you mind tellin’ me what exactly a Ranger is?”

Gren smiled a bit. “A Ranger is a soldier who protects and serves the forest, its citizens, and its wildlife.”

The raccoon blinked a bit. “Huh. We could some of you guys around here.”

“Of all the things Creosa has that RhyDin doesn’t, I’m surprised that’s one it’s lacking.”

“Eh. The forest here is pretty wild, actually. Most humans live in the big cities and stay out of the woods, unless they’re farmers. And speaking of farmers, there should be one coming up over this hill. The horse could use some water, and I gotta take a ‘squirt’, if you catch my drift.”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Gren said, looking a bit uncomfortable.

“ . . and if we’re quiet enough, there might be a pie in our future, eh, pal?” The raccoon chuckled evilly and gave the horse a pat.

“Leave me out of your little schemes”, the horse replied.

Cresting the hill, the trio saw a distressing sight. The farm that lay in the valley below was ablaze. Its wheat fields were smoldering, and the main house and barn were being consumed by raging flames.

“Oh no! Missus Beeman! Come on, hoss!” The raccoon tapped the horse, who broke into a gallop and raced to the farm’s entrance. Pulling up to a stop at the house’s porch, Gren and the raccoon leapt off to see if they could find any signs of life.

“MISSUSS BEEEEMAAAAN!” The raccoon called, glancing around frantically. “Aw man, I swear I’ll never steal one of her pies again . . . oh, crap.” Glancing behind the burning farmhouse, the raccoon could see shadows moving in the far trees. “Look, Pyroalites! We gotta get out of here!”

Gren peered in the direction the raccoon pointed, and could see dozens of those shadows. “I think you might be right.”

The two jumped onto the horse who bolted back down the forest path. Several curious Pyroalites appeared near the house to see who had been shouting. Gren glanced nervously behind him, hoping they hadn’t been spotted.

“We gotta get to the Wizards. They’re all up in a little village called Malenka. I hope Missus Beeman’s alright”, the raccoon said in a worried tone.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:43 pm

Swiftly, the horse wound its way through the dense woods. Thankfully the Pyroalites were too slow in their pursuit, and they made it away safely. After a few hours, the forest suddenly opened into a clearing that featured a small village. Gren stared curiously at the houses. They had typical inverted v shaped roofs, but it looked as though they were built a foot into the ground and covered with turf. As they rode up the main street, Gren could see a large monastery with a magenta dome in the central square. The building was flanked by several tall towers, which featured magenta colored cupolas.

“This here is the Malenka Monastery. Or “Egghead Central” as I like to call it, hehheh”, the raccoon said. “More Wizards come in and out of here than rabbits in a clover patch.”

“Or raccoons in a garbage can”, the horse replied.

“Hey, don’t get personal.”

Two lavender haired guards in crystalline armor were standing at the gate. Gren recognized one of them as he walked up with the raccoon.

“Gren! It’s so good to see you alive and here!” It was John, the soldier Gren met at Sanctuary. They shook hands in greeting. “Let me take you in to see the Wizards.”

Gren and the raccoon followed John through the massive wooden doors and down the broad hallway towards the monastery’s inner sanctum. Stopping in front of a similar set of doors, John turned to Gren.

“The Wizards are in here. They can be a little . . . eh . . . eccentric”, John said with an apologetic look, before opening the door to usher them inside.

When the door swung open, Gren saw an immense library with an upper and lower level. Directly in front of him were a series of tables with beakers and bubbling pots. Books were everywhere, including shelves and messy piles on the floor. Three old men with flowing white beards were continually running up and down the stairs to the upper level, consulting one of the books, and peering into one of the boiling pots.

“We need more toad’s eye!” “More goat’s hide!” “More minotaur’s spleen!”

Each of the three wizards were shouting, one right after the other. Gren blinked at the sight.

John cleared his throat politely. “Pardon me, honored elders, but we have brought the Ranger.”

“The Ranger?!” “The Ranger?!” “The Ranger?!”

Shuffling over to Gren, the Wizards all peered at him like he was a specimen in the jar.

“By my stars, they *do* exist!” “Of course they do! I never doubted for a moment." “Yes you did!” “Did not!” “Let us not argue, my esteemed colleagues! We have much to do! Yes, much!”

Gren’s gaze bounced from wizard, trying to follow the conversation.

“But to be sure, we should give him “The Test”!” “Yes, “The Test”!” “TEST HIM!”
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Post by Gren Blockman » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:45 am

Gren gulped. “Test?”

“Stand still.” “Clear your mind.” “Look straight forward.” Each wizard commanded in turn.

Gren tried to control his nervousness and complied.

“Now answer these questions . . . how strong is the gravitational pull of an Einstein-Rosen bridge?” The first wizard asked.

“How much magical energy is needed to summon a third level fully formed spirit using Quesan the Black’s method of Evocation?” The second wizard says right after the first.

“What is the mathematical equation for extracting manganese from pyrolusite using a spindly alchemic apparatus?” The third wizard finished.

Gren’s eyes got wide as he rapidly looked between the three wizards, his mouth moving as if to try to form words, but nothing came out. Finally he blurted “ . . . I . . . I . . . I DON’T KNOW!”

The three wizards looked at each other curiously and for several long moments.

“Well . . . I don’t suppose a Ranger *would* know those sorts of things, would he?” The first wizard mused thoughtfully.

Gren sighed and slumped his shoulders.

“Let us get to the gist of the matter.” “The nitty gritty.” “Let’s move things along shall we?”

“Yes. Let’s.” Gren agreed.

The three wizards hurried over to one of the tables. “The stars foretold you’re coming.” “So did the bones.” “That rooster we cut the head off of said so as well.”

“Told ya”, said the raccoon to Gren.

“Despite all our magical skill, we have been unable to find the location of LordGhulaise.” “But . . . we did find out that someone *does* know where he is hiding.” “There is a person in the village of Chornya who knows the location of Ghulaise and his raiders.”

“So you want me to go to Chornya and find him?”

“Yes!” “Exactly!” “Simple enough, right?” The wizards nodded.

“Why can’t *you* talk to him?” Gren asked.

“He’s hiding from us.” “We can’t figure out who it is.” “He’s very tricky.”

“So why will he talk to me?”

“We don’t know.” “It’s a mystery.” “Damned if I know.”

“This whole thing just seems . . . “

“Strange?” “Odd?” “Unbelievable?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Look, the stars are never wrong.” “Neither are the bones.” “Or a rooster with its head cut off.”

Gren rubbed his forehead. “Alright. I’ll go to Chornya and see what I can find.”

“Great!” “Super!” “Wonderful!”

“I’m glad I could help.”

“But be careful. Chornya is a very dark place.” “Very scary.” “Be on your guard!”

“That figures.” Gren rolled his eyes heavenward.

“Do not despair! We will send you a guide.” “Yes, a companion!” “John will show you the way!”

“Thank God they didn’t pick me. Hell if I’m going to Chornya. Good luck, Ranger. You’re gonna need it. I’m out.” The raccoon patted Gren on the leg then hurriedly made his escape.

“Yeah . . . uh . . . “, Gren was going to thank him and say goodbye, but the raccoon disappeared too quickly.

“Never fear! You are the Ranger! This was foretold!” “It’s destined to be!” “It’s supposed to happen this way!”

“Let’s go, Gren. We’ll get started with preparations for the journey”, John said.

“Good luck!” “Take care!” “Come back in one piece!” The wizards called, waving, as John led Gren from the monastery.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:20 pm

“Chornya. Whew. That’s gonna be a tough one”, John said, as he and Gren walked out of the Monastery. “It’s probably a good idea if we dress down as lumberjacks to fit in. Or fit in as well as possible.” John still had a worried look on his face.

“I’m . . . uh . . . kinda lost”, Gren confessed.

John looked at Gren, then smiled sheepishly. “Forgive me, Gren. Perhaps some explanation is in order. I, along with Sanctuary’s army, are using the village of Malenka as a forward base to combat Ghulaise. I’ve been helping to guard the Wizards ever since we’ve arrived, so they could help in our fight. This village they speak of, Chornya, is in a dark part of the forest, one we avoid, mostly. Outlaws, as well as orcs and goblins, make that village their home. It can be a rough place. I definitely don’t want to be seen in my official Sanctuary armor. It’s better if we disguise ourselves.”

“Alright then. But how am I supposed to find this guy, if the Wizards can’t?”

“Perhaps . . . . he’ll find you”, John answered cryptically.

Gren didn’t look as if that answer comforted him. They made their way to John’s camp, and found some old work clothes to put on. They traded their weapons for axes, and filled backpacks with supplies. Saddling a pair of mules, they made their way north from Malenka. They quietly progressed through miles of ivory colored forest. They spent the night in the woods, finding a cluster of large rocks to shelter behind, and building a fire.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

As morning came, they set off early. Before noon, Gren noticed a change in the forest. The sky seemed darker, and the trees more dense. He felt eyes upon him, and John was continuously on his guard, peering into the woods in search of something.

The woods broke into a foggy clearing. A ramshackle collection of huts marked the entrance to the village of Chornya. Shadowy, cloaked shapes moved about in the haze. Gren recognized what must be an orc, but with dark purple skin, glaring at him from the entrance to a tavern.

“Stay close. As long as we move about our business, we should be alright”, John whispered, although his voice wavered a bit in uncertainty.

Side alleys jutted out into the gloom with no discernable pattern. They stayed on the main street until it opened upon what must have been the main square. Stalls with ripped canvas roofs lined its sides, selling food and wares to the murky residents.

“Well, we’re here. Now what?” Gren thought to himself, glancing around, unnerved by his surroundings.

Gren and John stopped at a stand run by an orc with a scarred face who sold them grilled meat on a stick from some indistinguishable animal.Gren sniffed it and took a few hesitant bites.

“We’re looking for information”, John said to the orc.

“There’s a public toilet down the alley to your left”, the orc replied gruffly.

“No, not about that, I mean we’re looking for someone. We heard someone around here knows about Ghulaise.”

“Then you’re lookin’ for a pine box, pal. I suggest you look elsewhere.”

“Are you *sure* you don’t know anything?” John questioned, while he held up a shiny, lavender colored coin.

The orc’s eyes widened and he snatched it from John’s hand, while giving furtive looks to the people shuffling around the stalls. “Look, all I know is The Blaze has set up camp somewhere up north. But there is someone in town who just came from that way. Weird lookin’ guy. Like a fortune teller or something. He’s the only person we’ve seen come from up that way in weeks. Might be who you’re lookin’ for. He’s got a tent up on the north side of the village, next to the Drunken Lion Inn.”

“Thanks”, John said, then he and Gren made their way through the crowd, and up a side street northwards.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Tue Sep 15, 2015 6:22 pm

As Gren and John pushed through the narrow street, they could see the shacks begin to thin out as they reached the northern edge of the village. On the outskirts, they found the Drunken Lion Inn, a grey looking cottage with a wooden sign out front of a lion holding up a tankard of ale. Between the Inn and where the road began to stretch off into the woods, there was a small, black tent. It seemed eerily quiet for a place that should have been a bustling establishment. They came to a stop before the tent flap. John began to tremble slightly and gave Gren an unusual look.

“I . . . can’t go in there. Something . . . fearful . . . and evil is in there. I’m sorry, Gren”, John said in a shaky voice.

“Just wait here for me”, Gren replied. He patted John’s shoulder, then pushed through the tent flap.

Gren believed he would see something horrific when he entered, but his first reaction was surprise when all he saw was a man in his fifties sitting behind a simple card table. He was thin, balding with a little grey hair, and wearing a dark button down shirt. Various tarot cards were laid out before him. Slowly the man lifted his gaze towards Gren, and that’s when he felt fear and trepidation, much as John had. The man’s eyes were grey and empty, and they seemed to bore a hole right through him to his soul. It was nothing more than a feeling, but it was such a strong one that Gren couldn’t help but view the man with undisguised discomfort. The man carefully collected his cards, and began to shuffle them in his hands, while scrutinizing Gren. After a few moments he spoke.

“Tell me, are you a H.P. Lovecraft fan, or do you prefer Stephen King?”

Gren stared at him a few moments as if not understanding the question.

“Pardon me, where are my manners. Please, have a seat.” The man gestured to a rickety wooden chair opposite him.

Gren eyed the chair for just as long as he had hesitated before, then something compelled him to step forward and sit down.

“Good. Now then, shall I repeat my question? Do you prefer H.P. Lovecraft? Or Stephen King?”

Gren found his voice after a few awkward seconds. “I . . . uh . . . I’m not a horror fan, myself.”

“No, I don’t suppose you are.” The man replied with a disappointed look. “You’re the romantic type. Pity. I was about to make a rather insightful point. Unfortunately, no one in this world knows who H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King are.”

“You’re . . . you’re not from Creosa?”

“No. And neither are you. That’s what’s so unfortunate.” The man sighed and leaned back, looking at the ceiling for a moment, before looking back at Gren.

“What’s the difference?” Gren asked.

“Well, since you asked . . .” The man began, with a wry grin. “It has to do with their respective world views. In a Stephen King novel, people, and the world, are basically good. All the evil is concentrated into the monster. He postpones the unveiling of the monster to prolong the sense of fear. When the monster is finally defeated, all is right with the world again, and evil has been extinguished.” Shifting the cards around in his hand, he briefly exposes one with a frowning moon. “Lovecraft, on the other hand, saw the *universe* as evil. Or at the very least, hostile towards humanity. A vast abyss of darkness too complex for the human mind to fully understand. “Good” is merely pinpricks of light, bouncing around this black void, too feeble to be of any real use, just struggling to survive, really. It’s the difference between terror and horror. Do you see?” The man gave Gren a sickly smile, holding up a card of a man sitting up in his bed with his head in his hands.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Sep 16, 2015 3:12 pm

“Who are you?” Gren managed to stammer.

The man slowly lowered the card back into the deck, and adopted a more serious demeanor. “Normally I wouldn’t answer that question. Or I would lie to you, of course. But you intrigue me. Yes, yes, very fascinating. I’ve had many names over my thousands of years of existence. It’s hard for me to pick just one. I’ve been at this game for a long time, obviously.”

“And you know who I am?”

“I know *of* you. Even if you don’t know yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

The sickly smile returned. “Nothing. It may be too much for you just yet. Let’s keep things focused on the here and now. You are the Ranger, correct?”


“Good. You are looking for information from me, correct? One . . . Ghulaise the Blaze. Ugh. Terrible name.” He shook his head disapprovingly. “That name doesn’t inspire me at all.”

“Uh . . . yes.”

“Very good, very good. So what you have to ask yourself is . . . Ranger . . . what do you have to give me, if I give you this precious information?”

Gren couldn’t think of anything, so sat silently.

The man chuckled. “That’s not surprising. You’re probably wondering what you have that I could want. Well. I can think of something. And it’s incredibly simple. You’re well acquainted with a certain . . . “Lady of Babylon”, as you call her?”


“Yes, that’s her. I want you to put in a good word for me.”

Gren looked confused.

“You see, Ranger, the angels in Heaven live by the grace and mercy of God. Creatures such as myself . . . we must survive by other means.”


“Excellent. Ghulaise is constantly moving in order to hide himself from the Creosan army. But every Friday, he stops at a little hamlet named Chervona, seven miles north by northwest of here. It’s one of the few places he can perform his rituals of fire in order to keep his soldiers in line. So that would be . . . tomorrow?”

Gren gulped. “Thank you. I should be going now . . . “, he hurriedly tried to stand.

“So soon?” The man asked smoothly. “I thought perhaps you might like a reading. I’ll make it worth your while. Maybe you’ll find out something about yourself. Hmm?”

“What do you want in return?”

“This will be on the house. Consider it a . . . professional courtesy. Between an agent of dark and an agent of light.”

Gren slowly sank back into his chair, as if placed there by some unseen force. “I’m not sure how this works.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll keep it simple. We’ll do a three card spread. Take the deck and shuffle the cards, concentrating on what question you wish to ask.”

Gren did as he was told. The cards felt like they were buzzing with electricity. He concentrated on the question of who he was.

“Now, take the first three cards and line them up, face down, horizontally on the table.”

Gren complied, setting the deck down besides his three chosen cards.

“From left to right, these cards represent your past, your present and your future. Shall we begin?” The man grinned an impish grin. “Turn over the first card.”
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Post by Gren Blockman » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:03 pm

Gren eyed the man, then the card warily, before turning it over. The card showing a man hanging upside down by one foot from a tree.

“Ah, the Hanged Man. That doesn’t necessarily represent death. After all, you’re still here. It reflects someone suspended, caught in limbo. You were at a crossroads, with a choice to make. You knew you had to do something, but you didn’t know what that something was, or how to go about it. Interesting. Now for the second card.”

The middle card was flipped. The card itself was upside down this time, and displayed a knight holding up a tree branch with leaves.

“Your present . . . hah, another tree. Isn’t that ironic?” The man chuckled darkly. “This is the Knight of Wands, Reversed. It reflects someone that is restricted, unsure, and afraid to reveal his true self. A confusion over self-identity. That card was right on the money, wasn’t it? Now what does anyone standing on his head want? To be turned right side up, of course”. The man gently spins the card so Gren can see it situated properly. “If you can put your life in order, The Knight of Wands is full of new ideas, looking forward bravely, and ready for battle. Some good news for you, no? Now, on to the final card.”

Gren complied. The card featured a man sitting under the tree of knowledge, with three golden cups laid out before him. Behind him, a fourth cup was being offered in their place.

“Your future . . . intriguing. The Four of Cups. The man is contemplating his destiny. The three cups represent what the world has to offer him. The fourth cup represents his spirit, or inner self. Basically, he has a chance for spiritual contentment, if he chooses the fourth cup above the others.”

“I feel more confused than before”, Gren admitted.

The man smiled a bit. “That’s understandable. You don’t remember your past, and your future is yet to be. In time the truth will be revealed, I have no doubt.”

“They all had trees on them. That seems a little too coincidental.”

“Yes, it does, doesn’t it? The symbol of the Ranger, rather prominently displayed. But make no mistake about it, you are a Knight.” The man holds up the Knight of Wands card. “That is all I can tell you.”

“A Knight. I’d rather stick with being a Ranger.”

“For now.” The man smiled again, then his demeanor became more serious. “My explanation from before? About Lovecraft? You are one of those pinpricks of light, dancing in a vast universe you have no comprehension of. You would do well to think on that, and take care that your fleeting light does not become prematurely . . . extinguished.”

“I should be going.”

“Yes, you should. Farewell . . . Ranger.”

Gren simply nodded. His feelings of unease and nervousness vanished, and he was able to find his legs, and carry himself out of the tent.
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Post by Gren Blockman » Mon Oct 26, 2015 4:11 pm

Gren pushed his way from the tent and took a deep breath. John was standing there, and gave him a concerned look.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I found out what we needed. He said Ghulaise goes to a village named Chervona ever Friday to conduct their rituals.”

“Chervona, yes I remember that place. They make pottery and weaponry there. Many large fire pits are set up for the villagers to do their work. Probably the best place for them to assemble.”

“Well, you’ve gotten his location. Are you going to go back and get your army?”

John looked at Gren for a moment, then off towards the north. “By the time I got back to Malenka and gathered the army it would be too late to catch him tomorrow. And that would mean another week of Ghulaise burning our farms and killing our people. No, I need to go now. I should scout the area and see if I can come up with a plan.”

“Are you sure that’s what you want to do? I mean, I’ll follow you and help anyway I can. But it might be better if you’ve got an army at your back.”

“I feel I need to go. This is how it’s meant to be. And besides, Ghulaise would probably know what we were up to if we march the army straight to Chervona. This way we’ll have the benefit of surprise on our side. An opportunity will present itself, I’m sure of it.”

Gren nodded solemnly. “Alright. The man said it was seven miles to the north by northwest. Let’s hope we don’t run into any patrols on the way.”

Gren and John saddled their mules and rode to the northern edge of the village. Suddenly the gloom of Chornya lifted as they entered the forest again. The seven mile ride went quickly, and soon they were entering a small, cluttered village lined with large pits full of burned wood.

“Ghulaise probably ran the villagers off, that’s why it’s so quiet around here.” John commented. They continued riding up the main street until they came to a large wooden platform that looked like it was set up to be the staging ground for the Pyroalite’s ritual. On the north side of the village, there was a dammed up river that served as a reservoir for the workers. John stared at the dam for a few minutes before turning to Gren.

“I think I have a plan.”
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Gren Blockman
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Post by Gren Blockman » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:45 pm

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dawn broke over the tiny village of Chervona, with the faraway sounds of birds in the surrounding trees. Through the morning mist, first a handful, then battalions of red and yellow colored troops began to move stealthily into the town’s center square. Individual soldiers with large torches fanned out, and began to light the fire pits one by one, until their orange light burned in the hazy air. Not a word was spoken until the fires were lit, then there was a commotion at the rear of the assembly. Slowly, the soldiers parted to make way for their lord, Ghulaise. He was a large man with flowing dark hair and piercing blue eyes. His yellow and red armor was dotted with ruby and amber gemstones. He carried a giant polearm with axeheads on both ends. Climbing onto the wooden platform between two boxes, he solemnly turned to address his gathering of soldiers.

“Men . . . I just realized something this morning while I was eating breakfast. Whenever I’ve heard an atheist asked what they would do if there really was a Heaven, I’ve never heard one of them say that they wouldn’t be let in. They always assume that God is loving and forgiving, and will grant them access despite a lifetime of disbelief. I am here to remind you that the God we serve is *not* kind. He is *not* forgiving. He is a God of *anger*. He is a God of *vengeance*. He is a God . . . of FIRE.” Here Ghulaise spread his arms wide, gesturing to the flaming pits surrounding his army. “And he will STRIKE DOWN his enemies and purge them in his holy flames! We are the chosen instruments of his divine retribution! We have been given a sacred trust to bring this holy war to the people of Sanctuary! To remind them that God has judged them, and found them wanting! Let the God of Fire see our humble ceremony, and deem fit to bless us another seven days, so we can continue to smite his foes with unquenchable flames!”

The soldiers began to chant and sway in unison, as their ancient ritual began. Suddenly from the rear, two tremendous explosions could be heard, and the wooden dam system holding the water back gave way, causing a flood to fill the assembly area. The fire pits were drenched, sending plumes of smoke shooting into the air. The soldiers cried out as the water swept them down and drug them from the village. Ghulaise stood on the platform, his mouth agape, as he watched his army washed into the forest.

“Soldiers! Do not flee! This is just like Sanctuary! We’ve been ambushed!” Whirling around, he glared around, looking for the culprits. That’s when John and Gren leapt from inside the wooden boxes on the platform.

“A Sanctuary dog!” Ghulaise growled. “I should have known!”

“We will end your evil this day, Ghulaise!” John shouted back.

“My righteous cause will not end this day or any other until all you ‘purple men’ are destroyed!” Ghulaise said, charging John, and drawing his double headed axe.
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Gren Blockman
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Post by Gren Blockman » Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:05 pm

The axeheads of the polearm whistled as Ghulaise swung them through the air towards his targets. Gren tried to stay low and use his own axe. Not having familiarity with the weapon like he did with the staff, he stayed on the defensive, blocking Ghulaise’s shots as best as he could. John pushed in and hacked at Ghulaise’s face, but the Lord skillfully blocked his efforts.

“Two on one? Not very sporting of you, is it? No matter. This will be over soon.”

For several minutes the battle went back and forth, John continuing to swing high, Gren low, while Ghulaise kept them at bay. Soon the men were panting for air, sweat covered their faces. Gren noticed something during their fighting. Ghulaise’s arms were tiring, and he was straining to keep his weapon raised to fend off John. He was exposing his legs more and more. The next time Gren saw a promising opening, rather than use his axe, he dropped and rolled forward, knocking Ghulaise off his feet with a yelp. Given his own opportunity, John sent his axe crashing down to imbed itself in Ghulaise’s chest. Blood shot from his mouth, and he curled his lip in a sneer at John.

“Go ahead, purple man. Strike me down. A hundred more will take my place. We will tear your crystal city down and the God of Fire will rule this world.”

“Not while I still live.”

“Not while you still live.” Ghulaise chuckled and coughed up blood. “Very well then.” He quickly went for a dagger hidden within his yellow and red armor, but John caught the movement in time, and dropped his axe onto Ghulaise’s skull, splitting it and killing him instantly. Gren turned his head reflexively at the sight. John took a few steps back and steadied himself with deep breaths. Then he clapped his hand on Gren’s shoulder. “It is done.”

Gren nodded and looked around at the water rising around the wooden platform. “How are we going to get out of here?”

“Improvise, my friend.” John smiled, and pushed one of the wooden boxes they were hiding inside into the water. He grabbed Ghulaise’s weapon. “Hop on.”

Gren and John leapt onto their makeshift raft. John used the double bladed pole arm like a kayak’s paddle to navigate them through the water that was rapidly filling the village of Chervona.
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Gren Blockman
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Post by Gren Blockman » Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:10 pm

The chaos created by the flooding allowed Gren and John to quickly escape from the Pyroalite army. Dodging crates and logs, they made their way to where they left their mules on the outskirts of the village. Luckily, they made it before the hill where the mules stood was inundated by the water. Mounting, they drove their mules as quickly as they could through the woods, in case the Pyroalites tried to organize and pursue them. Their foes had been so stunned by what had befallen them, that Gren and John were long gone by that time. They rode around the village of Chornya and directly back to Malenka, making it there before night fell. Walking into the Monastery, the guards smiled and clapped Gren and John on the backs, seeing they had returned alive, and with Ghulaise’s weapon. The two made their way through the large wooden doors, down the hallway, and into the Wizards’ library. It seemed the three Wizards were waiting for them, because they were lined up in a row, and smiling as Gren and John entered.

“Victory!” “Triumph!” “You whupped ‘em good!” The wizards said in turn.

John smiled at the three mages. “You may have robbed me of my chance to deliver the good news, but I can still deliver this.” He held out his hands, offering them Ghulaise’s polearm.

“Thank you, warrior of Sanctuary.” “And thank you, Ranger from beyond.” “And you, Sir Raccoon.”

“Eh, it was nothin’.” The raccoon appeared from behind a shelf of books. “I expect to be well compensated, of course.”

“Well compensated? I don’t recall you making the trek with myself and Gren.” John replied, still smiling though.

“Of course. I stayed here and guarded the camp. And the horses. And the food, can’t forget the food.”

“Of course.” John said, giving Gren a sidelong glance. Gren smiled back.

“Speaking of food, I do believe a feast is in order!” “A celebration!” “LET’S PARTY!” The wizards intoned.

They held a banquet that night in the Monastery, with the purple clad soldiers of Sanctuary, Gren, and the raccoon. There was a huge pink colored beast that was carved up and served, as well as lilac colored beans and turnips. Mugs of milky looking liquid that tasted like beer were handed around. Gren took one drink and got a look on his face like he had just sucked on a sour lemon, and hurriedly passed it to the next soldier. Several toasts were given, as well as thanks, before Gren and his full belly found a tent where he could get a good night’s sleep.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

John, laughing and clapping Gren on the shoulder, walked up with him to the area in the forest where the portal back to the Forgotten Layers Inn was located.

“I shall have to meet this Izira one day, as much as you talk about her. I am eager to try these “pancakes” she is so good at making.”

“Why don’t you come now? I’d like her to meet you too.”

“Ah, would that I could. I have to help clean up the mess Ghulaise made, there are many in need of our assistance. We still have to find out what happened to Missus Beeman, the raccoon won’t leave me alone until I do.”

“Alright then. Until next time.” Gren and John shook hands.

“Until next time, Ranger.” John smiled, then walked back to his mount.

Gren turned and vanished back into the Inn’s realm. He sighed and rolled his shoulders as he moved through the forest and back towards the front porch of the Inn.

Jeremiah was sitting there, in the same position he was when Gren left, absently blowing smoke rings into the air from his pipe. The table with the house of cards Gren built was still standing and untouched. Jeremiah smiled gently as he approached him.

“So, the prodigal Ranger returns.” A rumbling chuckle followed.

Gren smiled and sat down on the porch next to him, then absently rubbed his eyes.

“Tough one, hmm?” Jeremiah asked.

“You could say that. This is kind of . . . odd. I thought this place was set up so that people in need came to us, not us having to go there.”

“Odd, indeed”, Jeremiah replied. “But people in need are people in need. We should give them our help no matter where they, or we, are.”

“I know.” Gren said, leaning back in his seat. He looked out over the gardens that lay in front of the Inn. It was good to be back home. He wondered if Izira was making something in the kitchen, or maybe feeding Pascal a salad.

“Care to put another level on your house there?” Jeremiah said, nodding to the cards on the table with a twinkle in his eye.

Gren chuckled and absently lifted one of the loose cards up. Rather than a regular playing card, it was emblazoned with the Knight of Wands, holding up his tree branch. It was just like the card from the grey eyed man in Chornya. Gren’s eyes went wide.

Jeremiah stopped smoking and looked at him oddly. “Anything the matter?”

Gren gulped and set the card back down. “No. Uh, look, I’m tired, I think I’ll go take a rest.” Hurriedly Gren got up and disappeared inside the Inn.

“Welcome back.” Jeremiah said as he left, watching him with perplexed green eyes.

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