True Story Bro
We promised a writing update and here it is. We have three loosely connected short thematic pieces, two of which also illustrate what could be actual gameplay experiences. By reworking encounters into a story format, you begin to get a feel for the tone we're aiming toward. Enjoy!
They say we built cities in the sky.
The histories say we made great things, once. White pillars that never tarnished. Great monuments, and greater cities around them. We lived in tranquility. Somehow, everything changed. None can tell what the ancestors did to anger the Gods... to make them poison the water, and curse the skies.
That was lifetimes ago, so far gone that no one remembers how or even where it may have been. Others say that’s only fairy stories. That things have always been such as they are. That our ancestors scraped in the dirt just as we do today, and dreamed of greater things around the nighttime fires... just as we do today.
Myself, I couldn’t guess. I dream of walking the hills without need of a sword, of falling to sleep without setting traps against the night. Beyond that, I suppose I don’t much care.
They say we built cities in the sky... I’ll settle for travelling without looking over my shoulder, or wondering what hides within the evening mist.
The three most ill-advised words in our language are “I’ll do it”.
"I'll do it." I said.
"Only to collect some pewter. Perhaps silver, deeper in. It's quite safe," he'd said.
"Oh, is it? Is it really?"
Of course it wasn’t. The deceit was obvious; it leaked out of him like sweat. Despite his disingenuous manner I was still tempted. No one had ever suggested venturing into the underworld might be safe, damned curiosity always did have the better of me.
Indeed the entrance was not sealed and once within I could already see the glow of those ancient lamps that never expire. As I entered I failed to check my footing and kicked something that rolled away, bouncing against the wall several feet away. Echoes faded slowly while I stood rooted to the floor, waiting. No further sounds, no movement... nervously, I looked to the ground. It was one of the lamps, inert after someone had attempted to take it.
As I traveled further down the dim corridor, the sweet and fetid smell of death reached me. Perhaps an animal sought shelter and died here? The best possible outcome. The stench lead me on nonetheless, and as the corridor opened into a large hall I caught sight of a mangled body. My esteemed employer’s cousin no doubt. Away on business indeed.
Dark corridors led away from the hall to both sides. Ahead I could see a room that looked to be a dining hall. Pewter tableware lay clearly in sight. Certainly if I hoped to find silver I would have to venture further...
* * *
My skin prickled, the hairs on my arms stood on end. I could hear a faint hum coming from behind the wall. Some ancient power? The solid stonework felt impassable, but I did notice one small block protruding unusually. I checked to see if it was loose, and it sunk into the wall as if drawn from the opposite side. A grinding metallic sound startled me, and I took an involuntary step back as a deep rumble began, somewhere beyond the wall. Dust rose from the masonry and soon the entire wall began to shift, sliding into a gap in the passage. Beyond, a purplish light shined from within a shallow hall. The grinding noise stopped, leaving my ears ringing. I stepped carefully into the space, following the smaller passage a short distance.
As I rounded a corner I could see corridor ended in a wall of what seemed to be thick purple smoke and water at the same time. I approached it warily and extended my hand to touch it. It tickled my hand but offered little resistance...
What happened next may never be clear to me, but suddenly I found myself elsewhere. Dimly lit white walls stained with mouldy growths stood on either side of me, and a strange unrelenting noise was just barely audible. A flash like that of lightning illuminated the dark corridor ahead, and I caught a glimpse of a monstrous white shape before the light failed.
Fearfully, I looked behind me. The walls ended into rough hewn rock only a few feet away. The passage I’d come through was gone. I drew my sword and waited for the shape to leap at me from the darkness.... nothing came. I could hear no sound but that strange quiet noise. Fighting down a rising sense of panic, I cautiously advanced down the corridor. My hands sweating, I gripped my sword, poised to strike at an invisible assailant. Ahead, swirling mists caught glimmers of light. Inch by inch, I forced myself to continue. I feared I saw shadows but nothing resolved itself in the faint and shifting mist. A wide open space lay ahead, dim light converging from various directions. As I stepped into the space I moved to my left, hoping to find a wall. My hand touched something wet and warm... a terrible, howling screech sounded in my ear, slimy goblets of liquid hit my face.... a sharp pain and hotness surrounded my neck and enveloped me.
* * *
I awoke in bright sunlight on a smooth circular stone, coughing and spewing a foul white liquid. I could barely lift my head, and my hands shook uncontrollably. I was poisoned. What of the things I’d seen? The poison had apparently induced a terrible nightmare. The man in the marketplace must have done this. My possessions were gone... he must’ve robbed me, that rotten bastard.
I suppose I still do not know what lies within the underworld. The things I saw were surely a product of the poison, but when I look upon those ominous doorways now, memories come unbidden and I cannot stop the shivers of fear.
“Demons! Easily four or five of them!”
Shouts and catcalls drowned out the old man as soon as he began. I looked over my shoulder, hoping the noise would abate... sadly, no joy. The old man rose from his seat by the fire and thumped the table, roaring for his companions to be quiet, and they mostly did so. He stared down the last of the grumbling, eyes drawn into an angry squint made comical by the chaos of his beard and hair. When all was finally calm around him, he began again.
“Demons! Easily four or five of them...”
“Demon’s Brew, I’d say” someone yelled from the back of the room.
“Damn your tongue, Baren!” the old one growled, glaring again at a few souls bold enough to laugh. I turned back to my meal. The fare in this wayside tavern was tolerable, by which I mean it was hot and probably made from a beast whose name I knew. More than that would be too much to ask, this far from the city. I ate slowly, mechanically... bored and tired, worn thin by the long walk through rough country.
Perhaps it was the hour, or the smoke, or perhaps I’m the world’s biggest fool, but by degrees I found myself listening to the old man’s yarn. Clearly told before, it had the cadence of something well rehearsed. The mutilated livestock, the family dog vanished in the night. The shadow at the window. The scratches on the doorpost. The groaning bellows from afar. The night watches kept, blade close to shaking hand. The faint, otherworldly bluish glow as something passed through the trees...
“Wait,” I said, turning around. The word was out of my mouth before I’d forethought enough to bottle it in.
“Who spoke?” the old man demanded. I’d broken the spell he was weaving, and even now many were turning away.
“You cried ‘wait’?” he asked, frowning.
“I did. When did you claim to see these demons?”
“Barely a week since I moved aught I cared for into my sister’s house here in the village. She said-”
“And you said you saw blue? Moonlight, perhaps?” I spoke quietly, listening for the lie in his voice.
“Never moonlight, no. Not a question of being moonlight. It was unnatural!”, he said at once.
I made no reply. This yarn was hardly rehearsed, I thought. It was remembered.
“Are you offering your assistance, young stranger?” the old man asked after a moment. “Will you go out to my farm and show this lot that old Cory’s an honest man?”
Blame the hour, or the smoke from a fire burned down to coals. Call me the world's biggest fool, but I only paused for an instant before answering.
“I’ll do it.”