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  • Zenia Platten

Prologue

Updated: Feb 17, 2019


This is a journal I wrote back in 2015, when I first decided I wanted to write professionally. As a novice, I found plot-building incredibly difficult and decided to borrow one from the best D&D campaign I have had the pleasure of playing in.


In re-reading these in 2019, I find myself cringing at every rookie mistake and ham-handed description, so I'm including some author's notes for anyone reading out there in internet land. Just little things about the non-dramatized, real-life campaign, or notes on how very badly I used to write.


I can't wait to look back on these notes in four more years and roll my eyes. Enjoy!

The flames ate at the limestone streets and buildings of Brewer’s district, leaving trails of sickly green smoke reaching into the sky like searching fingers. Peirce stumbled, his hooves unable to find purchase on the uneven ground as he wound his way through the destruction. Charred limbs and faces reached for him from the rubble that lined the streets, unmoving and petrified in their death throes. As he stumbled again, catching his knee on a fallen stone slab, he let out a wordless shout of frustration, regretting it immediately as his throat erupted into stinging pain. Peirce cursed himself silently and began to move on, hesitating only when he heard the weak sounds of movement from the husk of the old scrivener’s shop.


“Help!” The voice was weak, barely audible. Peirce was tempted to ignore the cry, the inferno had taken a harsh toll on him and he didn’t think he would be of use to anyone. The voice called again before breaking into a fit of racking coughs and Peirce sighed, scratching the base of his horns, before making his halting way toward the sound. He had been heading north, hoping to find help at city hall, and slow progress had frustrated the usually graceful Peirce. Perhaps a rest was what he needed.


As he neared, he could see the balding head and snow white hair of the master scrivener, whose name he recalled was Thomas. Thomas’ head and shoulders were poking from under a stone block that was almost untouched by the earlier unearthly inferno. Pierce approached at a creep, picking his way carefully to the struggling figure, and tapped the man on the shoulder, unsure his voice could take the strain of speech. As Pierce expected, Thomas cried out in surprise and turned as much as he could, shocked by the touch, unable to move completely around with the stone block pressing his chest into the floor.

“Help!” The scrivener rasped out again and Pierce patted his shoulder in assurance, evoking a quiet "Thank the gods.” from the trapped man. Pierce rummaged around in the ruined building until he found a long piece of metal as thick as his arm, its original purpose lost to damage. He dragged it to Thomas, pausing regularly to gasp for air and wait for spells of dizziness to clear. When he brought the pole to bear under the edge of the stone, Peirce slumped down in front of the scrivener to pantomime his intentions. Thomas looked through red rimmed eyes and immediately began to cringe away at his first real look at the teifling; backlit by the starry sky, violet eyes glinting, horns sweeping back behind him, and framed by the smoking destruction of the day.


I know! Edgy right? In my meager defense, the player built a teifling rogue with a tragic backstory. How else was I supposed to write him?



Pierce held his hands out before him and patted the air as if trying to calm a panicked horse, but the old man flinched and cowered. Thomas looked as if he were trying to work his way farther from Pierce by burrowing deeper under his two-ton prison. Pierce sat back on his haunches and ran a hand through his long black hair, regarding the frail figure before him and sighing as he recognized the mumbled prayers to ward off evil. Prayers Pierce was all too familiar with.


Needing time to rest anyway, Pierce sat before of the quivering figure until the scrivener grew still. To pass the time he sifted through the scattered memories of the last hour or so, scouring each one for clues as to what might have caused the stone eating flames.



The world came slowly into focus for Pierce as he pushed his way through the haze of unconsciousness, waking to find himself half-buried in the smouldering rubble. He raised his head, catching his long horns on some unseen debris and causing an avalanche of ash to tumble onto his soot-stained chest. Dazed, he watched patches of yellow embers lazily work their way across the fallen blocks of solid limestone that made up the streets and buildings of Tameeka-Tor.


Hold on, Pierce’s thoughts came sluggishly, like someone else was saying them from a great distance. How’d I get on the street? Blinking, his gaze drifted a winding path up the sprawling and shattered remains of the distillery that had been his home for the last four months. The shell of the building, charred black along wood and stone, showed only a hint of the second story, and Pierce’s small rented room was open to the night air.


Turning his head caused a shooting pain to jolt his neck and shoulders, stiff from lying on the uneven and rocky surface. He could only see half-way down the once busy street before his view was blocked by a tumbled building, and he came to the slow realization that the distillery had fared well. In the darkness of the night his keen violet eyes could make out tendrils smoke drifting skyward from the piles of burnt rubble lining the street, headstones of buildings that had been standing hours before. He was a teifling, and had found few times in his life that he was grateful for his demonic heritage. Waking up amid a sea of grey ash in what had once been his home, and staring past the burnt remnants of those who had not been so lucky, he found himself thanking the gods for the more fire-resistant genes he carried.


Pierce stumbled to a stand, wavered on his hooves, and looked down at himself. He was dismayed by his ruined blue breeches, stained black around burnt holes and ripped in places. It was all he wore but as he took stock of his surroundings with a slowly clearing head he noticed a backpack with one torn strap lying nearby. Taking one unsteady step at a time he worked his way to the bag, and landed heavily on his knees beside it.


A racking cough tore its way from his chest. His breath came in short gasps. A burning sensation traced a path from his chest, through his throat. The ordeal finished with a final searing discomfort in his mouth and nose. The pain of the fit took Pierce by surprise, dizzying him, and he suddenly jerked forward, heaving out his lunch of bread and bacon, eaten what felt like a lifetime ago. With watering eyes Peirce forced himself back to his feet, pausing for a moment to gain his balance. He lifted the bag by the unbroken strap, gingerly moving it onto his shoulder before picking a slow and halting path through the streets of Brewer’s District.



The scrivener’s shop was silent, and Pierce felt the edge of sleep overtaking him. He started out of his doze when Thomas finally broke the silence with words so quiet Pierce wondered if the old man would have the strength to escape even with help.


“Demon, why are you still here? Why torment me? I would rather die than live knowing my soul belonged to the likes of you.” The hush of the words did nothing to soften the effect and Pierce’s shoulders drooped under them. He let out a long breath before trying to reply, but was immediately cut short as the prone figure yelled louder. Barely the volume of a normal tone it rang out into the cool quiet of the evening and Pierce wondered how his throat could take the abuse.


“Leave! I shan’t be tempted and Rasmara will welcome me.”


Pierce stood. He hovered with one hand on the metal-bar, wedged under the edge of the stone. Turning back onto the street to continue his trek, his heart sank as the sound of weeping followed him into the darkness.

I wish I could go back in time and head-slap myself for not just using normal language. Some authors can pull off a good 'shan't' but I don't think I'm one of them.


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©2019 by Zenia Platten.