A Rise of the Runelords campaign journal that became two books

Draft of Part II of Vengeance: Road to Damnation is finished and more is on the way..

Hi everyone, exciting news,

In June I finished the second part of the continuation novel to Journal of a Ranger, and I’m deep into the third part. In concrete terms this means I’ve written about two-thirds of the novel and I’m aiming to complete the book by end of this year.

If you’re interested in reading the drafts of the first and second parts, comment here, send me an email (ofromholtz(at)gmail.com) or follow the blog (click the Follow button to the right if you’re on a laptop or tablet). I’d be happy to let you in on the story as it is written, and hear your feedback!

To give you an inkling of what I’ve been working on, here’s a bit of the background of paladin Nyra Sunn, one of the story’s three protagonists, from Part II…

A skinny girl, with dark eyes and hair like the last moments of sunset, scrambled through the dock streets of Augustana. A grey satchel of thin fabric, torn and fixed from a dozen places, hammered against her back with each running step. She disregarded the inconvenience it gave her.

She didn’t belong there. She ignored the people around her, the doubting looks of barmaids and whores, the hungry gazes of drunken sailors, the curious eyes of other children, dirty and rugged. She was expected and she was in a hurry. It was a bad part of the coastal city, one where not a single reasonable parent would have let her children go on their own. But the girl’s parents didn’t know she was there. And it was better that way.

She knew the way well, as she had traversed the dark underbelly of Augustana for a year or so. Every three days she had come, in secrecy, with the satchel at her back, when day had fallen. She hardly noticed the all-present, rotten stench of fish anymore.

She ran past inns, bordellos, taverns, shops, fortunetellers’ shacks, keeping to main roads that were nevertheless narrow and made narrower by the throng of people using them. Finally she darted left and aimed to a door at the back of an alley. Faint light shone from the crack of an open door, and she could see two eyes peeking out.

“Nyra!” The owner of the two wild eyes, a boy of ten, called out and the door opened, letting more light out into the gloom. The girl checked she wasn’t being followed and passed the boy. The door – bits of wood bolted together – creaked as it closed behind her. The boy of ten, a feebly burning torch in his dirty hand, pointed Nyra to go first. She went, holding her satchel close, carefully stepping down old stone steps that steeply led underground.

“Every time I’m afraid you’ll get caught and you won’t come”, the boy chirped behind her as they ascended. Nyra didn’t reply but let herself smile. “How come you never get caught?”

“My parents don’t suspect me, nor do any of the other shopkeepers at the market”, Nyra told her friend. “And I only take food that’s bound to be thrown or given away, or sold at tenth of the price.”

She changed the subject. “How are the children, Jak?” She was referring to people of her age and only a few years younger, but she tried to sound older than her years. “We’re all right. There are fewer guards in Fishtown giving us a hard time, but the other gangs’ve been making noise.”

“I see.”

They reached the end of the curving stairwell and entered a low, almost completely dark cellar. It was damp and cold, unforgiving and uncaring, but for the little people there it was home. They were poorest of the poor, the street orphans of Augustana who hadn’t joined a gang, or been taken away to wherever fate chose to throw them – slavery, brothel, monastery, barracks, graveyard. Ten or so pairs of eyes welcomed her, and gathered close as she pulled her satchel over her shoulder and opened its cover.

“Jam! She brought jam!”

“Strawberry jam!”

“And rye bread!”

Nyra handed out the three loafs of bread, two days off the baker’s oven, and the big glass jar full of red sweetness. Earlier that day she had heard old Magda curse the jam would rot before she could have it sold, so an idea had brewed. She had almost lost her nerve picking that from old Magda’s shack when she wasn’t looking, but a thought of Jak and his poor friends had fired her courage. And hearing the excitement of the hungry orphans confirmed she had done the right thing.

A low pained growl, somewhere in a dark corner of the cellar, made Nyra jump.

“What was that?”

Jak was quick to answer. “That’s a friend. A catfolk girl.. We ran into Red Crow today and him and his gang tried to kick our teeth in. They caught us, and were about to attack when this walking cat showed out of nowhere and rescued us. She tore them apart and sent them running, but she got beat up bad too.. So we brought her here, to rest. Can you help her?”

Nyra shuffled to the corner where the odd sound had come from, and there a furred creature was lying on the cold stone floor, only a rag beneath providing any comfort. Although adolescent, she was still almost as big as a man, and muscles were visible under her white, orange and black fur. Nyra could see how this one creature was able to fend off a band of young criminals. But she looked awful. Cuts with clotted blood, angry bruises of red and blue and swollen skin covered her form where fur had been ripped off. She was breathing with some difficulty.

“She doesn’t say anything, she only growls”, Jak explained in a whisper. “We’ve given her water.”

Nyra went to one knee next to the tiger girl. What could she do, she asked herself. She was no healer, no doctor, no cleric. She was a shopkeeper’s daughter who brought clothes and food she had liberated to orphans, that’s all.

“Jak, I don’t know how I can help-” she started, but then remembered.

She had something. Something for the worst situations, something she had thought she’d use for Jak, if the situation required it. Her hand reached out to a small secret pouch under her cloak and found the tiny bottle, the size of his father’s middle finger.

“What’s that, Nyra?” Jak asked as his torch light reflected from the glass of the bottle.

“This is a healing potion.”

Jak gasped. “That’s worth a fortune! How did you get that?”

“It’s not important”, Nyra explained quickly and gently screwed open the cork. The tigress on the floor shuddered and sighed in pain.

Wasting no time, Nyra brought the open bottle above the tigress’s fanged mouth and told her to drink the liquid. Only then she realized she felt no fear. There she was, helping a dangerous, strange catfolk girl, in a forgotten cellar, in the worst district of the city. The feeling was dubious. But she had helped Jak and the orphans. Nyra had to return the favor.

The tigress understood her and opened her swollen mouth. Nyra let the clear liquid flow and the tiger girl drank it all eagerly. When the last drop had fallen, every muscle of the tigress relaxed. The cuts and bruises vanished. The swelling went away. She could almost hear broken bones creak as they righted themselves and rejoined, moving by magic.

Jak laughed, and the children behind them murmured in astonishment.

All Nyra could hear was the tigress. “Ssssshhhvaarrr….” the strange creature uttered, trying hard to voice words that didn’t come naturally to her.

“Shhvar, that’s your name?” Nyra asked.

“Sshhhevarr…” It tried anew, and the girl with the sunset in her hair smiled and nodded.

“Shevar, I am Nyra Sunn.”


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