Some more writing – pt.2

So I managed to dig up the second instalment of the earlier piece I wrote. This is an extremely lazy way to get copy up here, but oh well.

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Tales of Brother Friedrich Rechtung – pt.2

Further tales of the actions of Brother Friedrich Rechtung, Witchfinder of the Third Order, Brotherhood of the Twin Tailed Comet

As she lowered her mouth to his, her skin caught the moonlight that was flooding through the open window of the villa’s master bedroom. As he was every time he looked upon her, Friedrich was struck by her alabaster smooth skin and elegant features. Rather than press her crimson lips to his mouth, she instead moved passed his face, resting her head beside his, so close he could feel her breath in his ear. She whispered something that he couldn’t make out and tried to turn his head to look at her – but he couldn’t move. He felt cold hands now holding his head in place, turned as it was to his right, exposing his jugular. His pulse quickened and his breathing became faster and he suddenly felt a piercing pain in his neck ..

.. Friedrich jolted awake, sweat beading on his forehead and his hands whipped up to his steel gorget, reassuring himself that it was still intact. He breathed in slowly and exhaled slower. A dream. The same dream he’d been having for months, but a dream nonetheless. He had not shared these recurring memories of her with anyone and certainly never contemplated doing so with anyone within the Order. To do so would be to invite questions, hearings and a summons from the Chamber Master of the Inquisition. Friedrich was a devout son of Sigmar with no fear of man-made structures or systems, but even he did not relish that last thought.

He shook his head and wiped his face in begloved hands, seeking to return the memories of her back to the deep recesses of his mind. He pulled his dark overcoat about him tighter, shuddered against the cold air of the dungeon and made to stand to his feet. Without sunlight, he had no accurate way of telling for how long he was resting, but in his estimate it was likely to be at least a few hours. He stood and adjusted his rapier and bandolier. His curved dagger, a trusted personal weapon despite not being properly approved by the Order, was where it always sat – within easy reach at his belt.

By his reckoning, and judging from his remaining rations, it had been at least three days since he recovered the amulet that now sat, weighty, in his overcoat pocket. He fingered the design emblazoned there – that of his Order, the Twin Tailed Comet and started off again along the corridor – all thoughts now focussed on the task at hand.

Many of his brethren utilised flaming torches during explorations such as these, but being raised in the extreme north of the Empire, Friedrich was not only accustomed to the cold but also to the dark. His vision by night was exceptional – for a man.

Walking softly but assuredly along the corridor, he began to notice that the passage was sloping downwards beneath him and he could see a soft orange glow ahead of him. Presently he came across a large oaken door, cut across at every conceivable angle with steel coverings. A heavy barrier to be sure.

‘To keep something in, or out’, Friedrich wondered to himself as he knelt before the door. Hat in hand he pressed his ear against the warm wood of the door. He could hear nothing beyond the barrier except the occasional flicker of a torch or lamp. He stood again, returned his hat to whence he removed it moments ago and considered the door before him. He had no keys and while he owned a set of picks he possessed no skill with them.

Pistol in hand he reached out with his left to grasp the handle. To his utter surprise the handle turned smoothly and without any hint of age in the mechanism. Evidently this door had been well cared for and greased, regularly.

Pushing the door open with a flourish he burst into the next room, leading with his pistol. Friedrich cast about the small room, checking all the obvious, and less obvious, hiding places.

jasonhorley-365x461It was a small room with an old, rusty metal grate located in the centre of the floor. As a room it had very little to recommend it aside from a large number of urns and jars assembled around and about. Of differing size and quality, they held no interest for Friedrich other than what he knew they contained. Particular so called religious sects sought to preserve the body parts of the deceased by extracting them and storing them, with varying degrees of success, in these canopic jars. A cursory examination of the jars suggested that this particular sect were either highly sought after for their skill or were overly keen on mummification.

Kneeling before the grate he peered through the gaps in the metal. He could see a stone floor of some notable quality some distance below him. He locked his fingers inthe grate and pulled. The grate shifted slightly. Friedrich pushed up from his knees and began to lean back on his heels and the grate moved more – slowly lifting out of the recess into which it was set. Squatting to its side he dragged it clear of the hole and examined any simple way if getting to the room below.

No obvious handholds presented themselves and there was no ladder no rope. He picked up a small pebble from the floor and dropped it down the hole, counting as it fell. Friedrich nodded to himself and stood, wrapping his cloak tightly about himself as he did so. Standing on the lip of the hole he executed a small hop and fell, stick-like straight through the room below.

Landing with a thud, and bending his knees to lessen the impact, he immediately unfurled his cloak, pistol and rapier at the ready.

He turned in a slow circle, pistol arm outstretched, rapier held aloft. As he turned he began to recite Holy Prayer quietly under his breath.

“My Lord Sigmar keep your humble servant strong and safe, give me the strength to serve you and vanquish your foes and any who challenge you. Let your power work through me as I complete this, your most reverent of tasks.”

Friedrich continued to turn in a slow circle taking in every part of the room – and registering each of its inhabitants in turn.

A short piece of writing

Every now and again I occasionally get the urge to write something. This is something that I actually put together for the website of a good friend quite a while ago. If you want to check out a gorgeously illustrated version, then head on over to the brilliant Beyond the Grey Mountains website.

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Tales of Brother Friedrich Rechtung – pt.1

An extract from the remembered exploits of Brother Friedrich Rechtung, Witchfinder of the Third Order, Brotherhood of the Twin Tailed Comet

He could feel his blood pulsing against the steel gorget – the mark of his membership of the ancient order of Witchfinders.

Leaning his head back against the cold stone wall of the dungeon’s corridor, he felt his pulse gradually begin to slow, still pulsing, but slower now, against his steel collar. He got his breathing under control and concentrated on the noises moving along the corridor.

It was almost like a shuffle, as if the creature was injured or was carrying some heavy weight. Slow and deliberate footsteps, but definitely with something weighty being dragged along.

friedrich

The fingers of his right hand, warm and somewhat protected in his black, cow’s leather gloves, found the butt of his flintlock pistol in it’s usual place in the bandolier across his chest. His left hand reached across to his right hip and slowly unsheathed his rapier, blackened with boot polish the day before to prevent any telltale glints from the poor light in the cold, dank dungeon.

He had outrun the creature and defeated others in this hell-ridden dungeon but whatever it was that was following him had a resilience and persistence he had not experienced. But now this angular corner in the passageway provided an excellent opportunity to pounce. The noises moved further along the corridor, but slowing now as if the creature could sense his presence.

His grip tightened on the butt and trigger of his pistol and rapier and under his breath he muttered a hastily recalled prayer to Sigmar, then launched himself off the wall into the path of the creature, pistol held at arm’s length and sabre drawn.

Shock, for a split second as his night adjusted eyesight allowed him to see the horrifying visage before him, if only for a moment.

Rags of greying skin clung to the remains of a face, dark red muscles visible through holes in the skin. Strips of what Friedrich realised after must be a funeral shroud hung to the emaciated form of the creature, giving it some shape but doing little to hide the impossibly thin arms and skeletal legs. Notwithstanding it’s physical appearance, Friedrich knew the creature possessed strength not of this world.

In an instant he reacted, squeezed the trigger of his flintlock and there was a terrific flash as the black powder ignited and the shot left the barrel, penetrating the creature’s eye socket with predictably impressive results. Ungodly howls erupted from the creature’s mouth as it’s clawed fingers shot up to it’s damaged face, but it staggered onwards towards Friedrich – desperately searching for its quarry.

Friedrich swung his sword in a short arc, bringing the blackened blade down, slicing across the creature’s chest and raised arms. The creature’s forearms and chest were bloody, the grey, tattered remains of it’s skin, hanging off from where the blade had struck – but yet it lurched towards Friedrich.

He had faced zombies, minions of Chaos before and yet for the first time in a long while, he felt fear prickle the nape of his neck. This one continued to move towards despite the horrific injuries the Witchfinders’ weapons had effected. Retreating a few steps as the zombie approached, he swung again and again with his holy blade, emblazoned with words of scripture, each time finding his mark with a sickening squelch . The zombie howled again and staggered a step. Sensing his opportunity, Friedrich threw caution to the wind and lunged at the creature sabre first, blade pointing up towards the zombie’s chest. Throwing all of his weight behind the attack Friedrich caught the zombie off balance and thrust his blade up through what remained of the ribcage until the tip of his blade exited from the back of the creature’s neck.

They fell down together, the zombie immobile and the Witchfinder panting heavily. Hauling himself upright, he withdrew his blade, wiped it against his boots and returned it to it’s sheath. He drew a long, wickedly curved dagger from his belt and knealt by the zombie’s neck. Knowing from previous experience that it was unwise to leave the head attached to the neck and continue on his journey, Friedrich set about slicing the the tendons and muscles and eventually with a crack, the bone, of the neck, in order to separate the head from the body. Task complete he sat back on his haunches and exhaled slowly.

Making the mark of Sigmar he stood, the head of the zombie in his hand. With a grunt and an overarm throw, he dispatched the head back down the corridor from whence it’s previous owner came. Then turning to the remains of the creature he could see for the first time, in the sepulchral half light of the corridor, what the zombie had been dragging. A large sack woven, in year’s gone by, with a thick hemp. Friedrich pulled open the string and examined the contents.

Not having any use for golden trinkets, he searched the sack thoroughly. At the bottom his fingers wrapped around what felt like the shape of an amulet, complete with chain. The amulet itself carried the mark that was familiar, very familiar to Friedrich, that of the Twin Tailed Comet. Grasping the amulet in his fist, Friedrich stuffed it into the pocket of his overcoat. He looked again at the decapitated remains of the zombie and vowed to Sigmar a personal oath that he would avenge his fallen brother and bring an end to whatever power saw fit to defile the body of a long dead Witchfinder for it’s own, unknown, ends.

the question of greatness

in a departure from some of the things i have written on here previously i wanted to think about gaming for a while.

now i’ve always been a bit of a gamer, right back to the SEGA master system and duck hunt, through to the SNES and super mario brothers, to the N64, goldeneye and zelda: ocarina of time, to the PS2 and metal gear solid and currently an xbox 360 and fallout3, mass effect 2 etc. and when i recently saw the television advert for the re-release of zelda: ocarina of time on the DS, i was genuinely excited and was trying to work out a way of playing that great game again (managed to borrow a game cube copy and go at it on the wii – brilliant), and it got me thinking about great games – what makes a great computer game?

clearly there are lots of possible answers to this, but i was moved out think of a few:

  1. i dont think its the graphics. clearly that helps and playing games now on the xbox 360, some of the cinematics and gameplays are stunning – some of the detailing is beautiful and it can help you to enjoy the game, but having played a fair share of games that have not been as visually stunning (usually as i have been hampered by technology), i can say that graphics are not essential, but they do help. look at the fantastic example of fallout 2 (no not the one on the xbox 360), but the one on the PC which came out in 1998 developed by black isle. by 2011 standards the graphics are relatively shocking, but the game play and PLAYABILITY is unbelievable.
  2. a gripping story helps as well. it has to be compelling, not neccesarily believable but it has to grab you – just as any good novel / fiction / fantasy story would in traditional book form. but furthermore the characters you are playing must be able to fit into that story and you must be able as those characters to effect changes to the story as you go along – again the fallout series is fantastic here as is the mass effect story. and i would humbly suggest that the final fantasy series has set the bar in terms of story line and complex character dramas – although i do think that the linear nature of some of the games has limited their greatness.
  3. the shape of the game is another contributing factor – is it strictly linear – do you have to go there, do that, kill that character or interact and then do the next thing? or can you wander the Capitol Wastelands and go wherever you want, moving the storyline on as you see fit? however, again, this is not a strict science. take for example the best game ever released for N64 and never equalled despite the names on other platforms – goldeneye. even watching a short video of this game is exciting. now this is a different kind of game – straight forward shoot-em-up, FPS, with a limited story line and is incredibly linear – you literally just go through the levels (although the different difficulties do add complexity) and the graphics (due to the technology – early release on N64 etc) are not great – but the game as a whole is brilliant – playability, replayability, quick to pick up, challenging, excellent multiplayer – everything that you could want.

now i’m still catching up on my modern games – mass effect 2 and fallout 3 i think will eventually rate up there as great games, but in the mean time i think it is fair to say that as with other parts of life, greatness really does come down to an x factor.