The Casual Vacancy Review- A Town At Poltical War

 

Hey readers, It’s another book review this post, but don’t worry I am working on the second DD chapter and should hopefully have it up soon. So, for the last few days I’ve been reading J.K Rowling’s latest book The Casual Vacancy. I’ve read about 150 pages now and have decided to stop reading it and maybe pick it up some time after Christmas. It’s not often that I put a book down after that many pages- especially when this novel is 503 pages long. But I’ve a number of problems with this book and that’s way I’ve stopped reading it for now. So in light of me not actually finishing the it, I’m not really going to talk about the plot much and I might have to do a follow up post on this later on. But here are my thoughts so far.

J .K. Rowling is known around the world as the creator and writer of Harry Potter and his series of seven novels. HP became a phenomenon across the different age groups and has a massive fan base. So, whilst everyone begged for there to be another HP book or even one that connected with it though background characters, Rowling decided to write a novel for the adult readership. That in itself is fair enough, writers like to experiment with different genres, age groups and themes. It helps give a freshness to their writing and allows them to be more creative. I’ve heard though-once again not read any reviews, that most of the HP fans are not so taken with The Casual Vacancy and I can understand why.

When I picked it up I told myself not to think about HP and not to compare it, for it was going to be completely different and yes it is. The front cover of the book is very bold with it’s red and yellow colours and the white lettering. The black x cross in the centre does draw the eye and it does look very attractive. The book itself-the hardback cover version-is large and heavy. Rowling wrote this book for adults, but it doesn’t look very adulty to me. The adult version covers they did for HP looked a lot better then this! I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but there’s just something about this ones that seems out of place. Yes, it is eye catching enough, but it seems to be aimed at a teenager/young adult readership.

The synopsis of the book begins with ‘A big novel about a small town…’ and that in itself sounds very interesting. We then learn that the novel is about the sudden death of Barry, who was on the Parish Council and that his now empty seat is about to start a big war in the town. Mixed into this are the sub-wars of rich/poor, teenager/parents, wives/husbands, teachers/pupils and neighbours/friends. So it does sound very exciting. But within the first 50 or so pages of this I still couldn’t get into it and was finding it hard to follow. Maybe that’s just me and believing that this book would be an ‘easy, light read.’ Also the main theme is politics and that really doesn’t interest me. The other themes are family, friendship, relationships, death and bullying. (Maybe there some more later on in the book.) There are also lots of characters, but I’ll get on to them in a minute.

So, first the plot, well there’s not really a plot, it’s more a story. The narrative is written in third person and switches points of view so many times; it makes you feel dizzy and lost. There’s just too many characters appearing in a short space and some of the switching does seem pointless. There’s also a number of different settings in and around the village. The first is the house of Barry and his family, followed by the golf club where he suddenly drops dead. There’s no time for the reader to connect with Barry and we are left in the hands of the other characters to view his life style. This does create some mystery, but also bias stories and I was left with a lot of different views about Barry. (Maybe this will become clearer later on.) The setting then moves through different characters’ houses, a shop, a school and other places. There’s really no centre setting to this novel, unless you count Barry’s house, but we don’t spend enough time there. So for pages that follow his death, we get all the other characters telling each other about what’s happen and spreading gossip. We get to see a whole range of reactions to this news, but also to the now vacant seat on the council. For me there’s just too much happening at once and too much repetitive. The plot really doesn’t feel like an adult novel, but more like a collision of different ideas and characters. I guess it would be better if there was less characters and more concentration of creating an actual plot line at the very start.

I had a problem with the chapter layout. It’s not really divided into normal chapters, but instead uses roman numerals to show the switching to a different character, the days of the week show the passing of time and there are pages with titles on them showing more movement of characters and time. I get the idea of having a fresher look to chapters, but this just doesn’t work. Well, at least not for me. It causes there to be too many breaks in the story, which means that it does flow and the pace is mixed from fast to slow. I guess that the passing of time is important, but as of yet I’ve not discovered why. Maybe it has political connections which I’m not aware of.

As for the characters, which I’ve been touching upon, I’m not taken by any of them. There are some interesting ones almost them like; Parminder, Krystal, Colin and Simon. Most of the others just seem to fall into the stereotypes of the people you’d find in a village; the gossipy shop keeper, the nosy women, the abusive father, the trapped teenagers, the stressed head teacher. The range is really covered by the characters as if Rowling wanted to allow everyone to have a character they could connect with. But I don’t think it’s possible, because there’s far too many. I struggled with the relationships between them too and often found myself wonder who’s wife, child, dog this was. Maybe it’s just me, but I found being stuck in the middle of all these families at once was hard to handle.

The writing style is meant to be for an adult readership. It hardly comes across as this though and a long/difficult word will often pop up as if Rowling suddenly realized she needed one. This just throws the flow off the narrative though and is really not needed. For the most part the writing is simple and seems very teenage/young adult like. There is also a lot of swearing and sex references, but these do work because the age and nature of the characters. For me and I knew I wasn’t going to compare them, but this writing is far from HP. and I know some people said that was badly written, but this just doesn’t have the style and I wasn’t very taken with it.

So, is this going to be the next biggest seller? I don’t think so…it’s riding on the back of HP in some ways, because nearly all the readership for this book will have read HP and seeing Rowling’s name on the cover will get them to buy it. For me this book is too big, confusing and the theme of politics just doesn’t interest me and does seem to be the focus of the novel. I’ve problems with the chapter layout, the language used and also the characters. I’ve read books with lots of characters before, which does switch pov and there’s no problem with this, but Rowling just doesn’t pull it off and I was left feeling lost in a sea of characters. I’d like to say that in the near future I’ll pick this book up and finish it, but I doubt it. I’ve so many other interesting novels to get through, that it’ll take me awhile, before I decided to give it another go and see if it does improve.

Images from: ratedreads.com

Lords of the Underworld: The Darkest Passion Review – ‘Can Aeron -Immortal Keeper of Wrath- sacrifice himself for love?’

 

Hey everyone, the next chapter of DD is taken sometime to get written mostly because of my writer’s block and my struggles to get motivated to write it. So, I thought I’d keep myself, the blog and the readership going by putting up a book review. (I was going to do this anyway, but the second DD chapter was meant to come first, but anyways.) So I’ve literal just finished reading and thought I’d get start straight away whilst its’ still all in my head. So here we go!

 

The Darkest Passion is book five in Gena Showalter’s supernatural romance series Lords of the Underworld. Now, like my last book review, I’ll have to do some backtracking but that shouldn’t take long and anyway there’s a lot of similarities between the LOTU and BDB books. I got into both series through my best friend and though I do prefer the BDB books, I get the same level of enjoyment out of the LOTU. They say book covers play a massive part in getting people to buy the book and LOTU have some very attractive covers! Topless men-very hot looking men-posing around showing off their butterfly tattoos with a range of colourful backgrounds. It makes it hard to pick a favourite….No, I’m not going to say!

 

The first book is The Darkest Night in which we are introduced to the Lords and learn some of their history. Now like with BDB- and no I’m not going to stop comparing them!- the books can be read as stand alone because Showalter has this great habit of filling the reader in with what has happened before. This can get annoying in series books, especially when the writer knows that the reader will have read the first one, but these supernatural romance books are designed so that they can easily be read by anyone. Of course like BDB the second plot is very liner and you do need to read the books to full understand this, but if you are only interested in love and sex, then I guess that’s not important.

 

Okay, so love and sex do interest me, but that’s not 100% why I read this genre. I like the second plot and I get very drawn to the characters. I also get caught up in the whole mystery of how the main characters will get together, how they’ll get over the first bumps in their relationship and how it all turns out. I also like the writing style of this genre and I’m finding that it mostly stays the same, no matter the writer-granted some are better written-I like the fast pace, the tension created between the lovers and their current situation relating to the second plot. I love the action scenes of fights and arguments and plans going well or wrong. I like the slowing down of the love scenes too, though these can be just as fast, but most times the books do get the balance right and its not all fast tense action.

 

The structure of the books is just the same as BDB. Each book tells the story of one Lord and how he finds his soul mate. The second plot story tells of the Lords’ war against their enemies the Hunters. Unlike the Lessers in BDB though, the Hunters are all human and they are against the Lords because they believe that the demons are to blame for all the worlds’ problems. This we learn is only true in parts though. The third plot is the Lords’ search for Pandora’s box and four artefacts that will led them to it. This ties in with the war because the Hunters are also searching for the items to lock the demons back up again. The fourth plot is very in the background because it has to do with the focus switching to other characters and the current events in their lives. Mostly these plot lines are not important and are just led in to other books or hints at information that will be made clearer later. The books are told in the 3rd person point of view. The focus does stay on the main Lord and his lover, but it switches to other Lords, important Hunter characters and other characters who pop up. However, this switching doesn’t affect the main plot and most of the information we learn from the other characters is important and gives the reader some time away from the lovers. We also have the thoughts of the demons and conversations between them and the Lords. This works well and gives more depth to the novels, it also shows how much the demons effect the Lords and that they play a major part in their lives.

 

The Lords then? I’ll try and not give spoils to the books, but here’s the basic background. The story takes the Greek tale of Pandora and the box. Everyone knows this tale and its’ been retold in so many different ways and mediums. Showalter has a few twists to her retelling and we learn these across the series. The Greek Gods created a band of warriors-called Lords-to defend them. They created the box and put all the world’s evils inside it. Pandora was chosen to look after it. When the box was opened and all the evils escaped, the other Lords were responsible for opening the box and killing Pandora-because they were jealous she had been chosen over all of them- were punished by having a evil- which is called a demon in the series-placed inside of them. They were then cast out of Heaven on to Earth, where they’re demons took over and for years they destroyed anything. They do manage to find a level of control and can now balance their demon sides. Now the demons are really interesting and there’s so many of them! Here’s a few of them; Death, Violence, Wrath, Defeat, Lies, Doubt, Pain, Misery and Disease. They do as their name says and feed off it too, they become really unhappy if that can’t happen and are effected by the opposite talking place. Like Lies can’t tell the truth and for him to do so would equal in a lot pain happening to his body. Lots going on there then. A group of the Lords live in Budapest in a massive hidden house. However, they do go outside and when they are seen people believe them to be angels etc and are in awe of them.

 

That’s understandable from Showalter’s descriptions of her Lords. They all have this perfect man image to them, but because they are immortal that’s like times by ten. Of course this plays up to woman readers male fantasies, but that’s completely expected in this genre. To be honest if this was a group of ugly men it just wouldn’t work! So, Showalter creates these dream hunks and then gives them all a dark background, which they have to deal with and of course they all come to terms with their pasts in some way. All of these pasts link to the actions of their demons and the opening of the box. They regret the problems they have caused for humans, but there’s nothing they can do. They now try to behave though and only punish those who deserve it.

 

The women characters in this series work on the same level as they did in BDB. The women are strong-sometimes even stronger then the men!-fast thinking, know what they want and how to get it. There’s no damsels in distress here! We get to see their soft sides from the males’ pov though and this does work, because it reminds the readers of the difference between the sexes and also because Showalter still needs to show these characters as being women. They are really strong heroines though and this is reflected in their thoughts and actions away from the males. Most of these women are not normal humans, (in BDB we had a mix of human, vampire, half-vampire and ghost), whilst some of them are humans they have supernatural powers that they only become full aware of and can name when they meet their lovers. Others though are minor goddess, harpies, angels, female Lords and possible others -I’ve not read the rest of the books, only up the 6th now-. Having them all different works to a good story telling advantage as more back stories, settings, tension and mystery can be created.

 

The hunter characters are made out to be the opposite of the Lords. Which is a strange thing to realise, because you’d think that having a demon inside of you would make you evil and so the Hunters should be the good guys because they want to stop the evil, but no. The demons are portrayed in a different light, okay this doesn’t make them good as such, but it shows that they are different now and being controlled. The demons can’t be blamed for all the worlds’ evils as was once believed. Thus the Hunters are shown to be the evil ones because they want to unleash the demons back on the world-granted they understand that they need to put them into the box because that’s the only way humans can be safe again-but sometimes they are so determined to kill they forget. The hunters basically want someone else to blame for their problems and they pick on the Lords. The other characters in this are either Gods, angels, demons from hell and background humans. I really like the way that Showalter has done the Gods and Goddess. Her research into the Greeks come out here and there’s a realistic sense with these characters. These characters do play important parts across the books….but that would be spoilers! The other characters do work well and we get to see development across the board with everyone. Which works, because you can’t have a mix of 3D and 2/1D characters.

 

So what is book five, The Darkest Passion about? The main story is about Aeron, the keeper of the demon of Wrath and his relationship with Olivia a fallen angel Wrath likes to punish and kill people who’ve committed sins and Olivia being an angel is completely pure and so he is attracted to her. However, Olivia recently became a warrior angel was meant to kill Aeron as punishment for taking a small demon, Legion, out of hell. (Back story to this was that Aeron was asked to kill four woman, one of whom turned out to be something very special. He refused and ended up going crazy with killing lust. His friends decided to lock him up close to Hell to keep him safe- you know because that’s what you have to do when this kind of stuff happens! Trapped there, a demon hears him and comes to keep him company. When the killing lust fades, Aeron returns with the demon). But Olivia is in love with Aeron and can’t do it, so she is kicked out of Heaven and becomes fallen.

 

Aeron takes care of her though he is determined to get rid of her, because though he has feelings for her, he knows it can never be. Olivia wants him desperately and tried a number of things to get him to let her stay. Her angel mentor comes to them both at different times. He tells Aeron not to soil Olivia but to show her his world, so that she’d want to come back to Heaven. He then gives Olivia a few days to have her fun and then she must return to Heaven and kill Aeron. Of course they fall in love, though it is a very rocky road. Legion becomes really jealous because she wants Aeron too, but he sees her as a daughter, so she sets out to change that. Also she can’t be around when the angel is and that bugs her. When Legion returns, Aeron finds himself stuck in a dilemma and has to choice between her and Olivia to save his friends and his life. Of course, things don’t go to plan and in the end Aeron comes to see his only way out which is in the hands of Olivia’s mentor. And of course whilst this is going on the Lords are fighting the Hunters, looking for the third artefact and living their own lives.

 

About halfway through the book, when I knew I was going to be writing about it, I got my critical brain thinking about a number of things. Most of it was the literature stuff, but one side of it was actually about how readers could relate to the themes and plot. I thought it’d be interesting to write about the other side of this genre because it can sometimes be over looked. The themes of the novel are; romance, relationships, friendships, sacrifice, good vs evil, war, mythology and supernatural. I’m going to just look at the romance because otherwise we could be here forever! So, of course readers can connect with romance. There’ll prop ally only be a handful of people reading this books who’ve not experienced it all, but properly have done on some level, but everyone should be aware of the basics of it. Readers can understand the struggle to find love and also the rejection feelings of not finding it. Aeron has given up completely on it, yeah he’s had girlfriends but things haven’t worked out and he’d rather just be with his friends not have to face all those relationship issues. Something everyone can relate to there. Olivia on the other hand has only been able to witness love and now she’s fallen is very interested to experience it. The start of their relationship isn’t filled with going on dates and getting to know each other. It seems that none of the other relationships have this start to them either. I can understand why Showalter did this though. For the cogs to work in the plot, the lovers must have instant attraction and feelings for each other. So, the building blocks of their relationship, comes from some small talk and some sex. But imagine if the Lords did take their girlfriends on dates…..wonder what that would be like…..Trying to avoid the normality of dates here!

 

Readers can relate to this because the lovers have that whole does s/he actually like me? etc stuff and everyone has experience of that. Also something else I forgot to say before and I noticed in my BDB review too, I forgot the sex. Granted, I still have Fifty Shades of Grey lingering in my head…God is that ever going to leave? I think my soul is tinted now… and that’s why I’ve been half avoiding/forgetting to write about that. Let’s just say that the sex scenes are much better and yeah they might take place between supernatural beings, but they do it a hell of a lot better and feels a lot more realistic too! Maybe it works because its not porn? Anyways, the readers can also relate to that. Now it was actually the part about sacrificing (I don’t mean killing something to a God here! I mean giving something up for someone else.) that got me wanting to write all of this, because it plays a key part in the novel and in a way it plays key parts in all relationships. Both Aeron and Olivia want to sacrifice things to allow the other one to be happy even if this means that their relationship ends and they never see each other again. It really does seem throughout the book that this is what they both want. But then we learn that Aeron is like that anyways and always puts his friends before himself and he’s very happy to sacrifice things for them. Olivia only ever witnessing from Heaven, knows this and that’s part of the reason why she fell in love with him and we see her given up things to allow Aeron to carry on living and be happy. In relation to real relationships, sometimes this sacrificing of things can be forgotten or left out. Other times, it becomes so strong it can break a relationship or else make it last longer. I guess we do this in friendships too sometimes.

 

In my new relationship, I’ve not had to sacrifice anything as of yet, but in my last I had to sacrifice a part of myself. Sometimes reading romance novels and deep thinking can make these thoughts appear. But yeah, I just wanted to bring that up and show that it does cover all aspects of relationships and there is some depth to the novels. Now, there are nine books in the series and then some more that link in to it which are about other characters. Dark Beginnings is like this and contains three short stories about the begins of relationships of characters which are already set up in the series. You don’t need to really read these though to understand the series as a whole…reading them in the right order helps that!

 

So do Aeron and Olivia get together at the end? Well…you’ll just have to read and find out!

 

 

Imges from;

 

 

D&D War of Everlasting Darkness Part 1; Sticking Your Hand in The Fire

As the long winter nights close in there’s nothing like huddling around a fire in a shelter or the local tavern to hear glorious adventure tales of the past. The War of Everlasting Darkness though currently taking place, promises to go down in history as one of those tales, recited by ancient warriors claiming to have been there. Whilst some will scoff at the tales and disbelieve them as old men’s ramblings, others will be in awe to hear how a band of brave adventurers fared against the coming Darkness and if they survived….

So, throw another log on to the fire, grab your third or fourth tankard of ale, get comfy and let me tell you the first part of my exciting adventure to save the Forgotten Realms from Darkness.

War of Everlasting Darkness

Chapter 1

The village of Quaervarr on the southwest edge of Glimmerwood lay in silence. The early evening settled across the sky, whilst spring played mildly in the air. The sign of the Whistling Stag Inn creaked. Through the frosted glass windows a fire burned strongly, spiting onto the heath. The villagers and travellers mumbled wearily over their drinks. In one dark corner hidden from view sit two very odd figures.

Kay, an Eladrin cleric from the Feywild, stared across the table at the massive revenant druid dragonborn, Feron. He was scratching at a shinny blue scale with a long claw. Suddenly the scale dropped off. Feron flicked it to the floor. Kay rolled her eyes.

‘Are you going to explain to me how you came back?’ she asked in a low voice.

There was hardly any risk of being overheard, but the quiet atmosphere of the tavern was setting her on edge.

Feron shrugged his large shoulders. ‘It’s complicated.’

She sighed and rubbed her forehead. It had only been this morning that the two old friends had stumbled across each other on the road to Quaervarr. It had been a moment of sheer delight, which had quickly faded when Kay realised her friend was undead. At least once again they were on similar quests.

Feron gulped down the rest of his beer.

‘How about…’ he started, staring into his empty tankard, ‘I buy everyone a drink and we find out what’s going on around here?’

‘You have that feeling again don’t you?’ Kay asked.

He nodded and she crossed her arms over her chest.

‘All right. Do it.’

Feron stood up, knocking his chair over and banging his tankard on the table. ‘Inn keeper, drinks for everyone on me!’

Eyes flickered across to them. Most people recoiled at the sight of Feron and only a handful shuffled to the bar. He turned back to Kay. ‘See? Something is very off here.’

‘Point taken. Now I’ll have another.’

She tapped her goblet and with a gruff growl Feron strode to the bar. She watched him push his way between a dwarf and an elf before looking over to the far corner. There was an old man sat there, smoking a pipe.

She got up and walked over to him. Feron’s instinct was never wrong and she bet that if anyone knew what was going on around here it would be these locals. The old man watched her approach and didn’t say anything as she sat down in the chair opposite.

‘A drink for a tale?’

The old man nodded. ‘Aye and I’ll tell ya about the ghostie that walks this very night.’

‘What ghost?’ Feron said, putting the drinks on the table.

The old man stuttered and looked open mouthed at him.

‘He’s with me and its fine,’ Kay said, dismissively. ‘Now the ghost?’

‘N-no one knows where it came from. Only for the past week it’s walked the streets and disappeared into the woods.’

‘That’s it? Some tale!’ Feron cut in.

‘No!’ a voice cried from behind them. ‘I’ve seen it!’

They turned and a young man stepped over to them. He was dressed in patched up clothes and looked fresh from the fields.

‘It takes the form of a man in amour,’ he added.

‘Oh?’ Kay replied. She eyed the man suspiciously wondering how much he’d had to drink.

‘Bah! I’ve had enough of this!’ another voice, this time gruffer and a lot heavier came from the bar. A stool scraped across the floor and Kay saw the dwarf grabbing his axe and heading to the door. He was burly with ropes of muscles across his arms. He had long bright red hair and a beard, which was partly plaited. He wore simple dwarf leather armour and there was another axe strapped to his back.

‘You must believe me!’ the man cried.

‘Believe you? Nothing scares me, boy.’

The inn door opened and the dwarf stepped out into the night. The fire hissed loudly as the door slammed shut. The drinkers’ gazed down at the tables, suddenly finding a fascination in the warped, wet wood.

‘I believe you,’ a quiet voice broke the silence.

At Kay’s elbow was the elf. Her long blond hair was loose down her back and she wore green and dark brown leather clothes. Her features declared her noble born, but there was a hard look in her eyes.

‘And you do too, right?’ the man asked turning to them.

Feron scratched at another scale and Kay frowned.

‘Tell us more about the ghost.’

‘Well…..I was with Drana and we were standing outside here when we both saw it. It came out of the ground and walked straight through everything and into the woods.’

‘And no one has tried to follow it?’ Kay cut in.

‘Follow it? Are you mad?’

Kay shot him a look and he stepped back. ‘What else do you know?’

‘That’s all.’

‘What about you?’ Kay nodded to the old man.

‘I know nothing else, but I do know someone who might be able to help you….If you decide to stop the ghost that is.’

‘Sure. Sounds like it could be fun,’ Feron said.

He drained the rest of his beer and then went back to their table together their things.

‘Then you need to visit Forestarm, the druid. She lives on the edge of the village.’

‘Thanks.’

Kay took a final drink of the wine and placed the goblet down. The elf had done the same.

‘Are you coming with us?’ she asked.

‘Yes, if that is all right? My name is Adrie. I am a ranger and know all the land around here.’

‘Then yes, we could use someone like you.’

‘Then I shall meet you outside in a few minutes.’ Adrie turned and headed to the staircase beside the bar.

The door swung open once again and a blast of cold air swept through the inn. Feron grinned into the night and stepped out. Saying goodbye, Kay followed him outside. The door shut behind them and Feron handed over her things. Kay slipped the blue and gold helmet over her head, fixed her long sword at her hip and put her pack on.

‘So which way do we go?’

‘Down there. To the house at the end,’ she answered.

‘I need to call my bear….I know I left her around here…somewhere…’

Kay rolled her eyes. She’d forgotten about the bear once again.

A cry of voices echoed in their ears and they turned to see two figures outside the village hall. Sensing trouble, they hurried over. They stopped just before the arguing figures and Kay saw that it was the dwarf and a scared, but stubborn looking guard.

‘I do not care about appointments! Let me see the mayor at once!’ the dwarf growled.

‘No. That’s not possible. Your message is not urgent enough.’

‘What an incoming army of ugly Drow isn’t urgent enough?’

‘I’ve heard no such thing before! Where does your message come from?’

‘We’ve been through this already….how about a feel of my axe?’

‘Hold on there!’ Kay cut in. ‘I know of this coming threat.’

‘Oh, you do, now do you?’ the dwarf sneered.

‘Yes, I do and I also know that I could use a dwarf on my side to find this ghost.’

‘Are you drunk?’

‘No, but I believe that this could be very important.’

‘What? Chasing ghosts around when war is coming?’ The dwarf laughed.

‘Yes. We must help try and stop this war. My friend and I,’ she nodded to Feron, ‘that’s our plan. We were there when this threat first started.’

The dwarf raised his eyebrows. ‘And so was my father. He died at the hands of those Drow. I am Falgrim the fourth.’

‘Kay and Feron, nice to meet you. And that’s Adrie,’ she added as the elf joined them carrying a longbow and a quaff of arrows over her shoulder.

Falgrim nodded and lowered his axe.

‘We need to visit the druid and see what she knows about the ghost.’

‘Lead the way.’

Kay turned and led them down the street. She paused in front of the druid’s door, a green tangled circle of plants and flowers hung from the wood. She knocked loudly and they waited.

‘Who is it?’ a voice called from within.

‘We are seeking answers about the ghost and were told you’d be able to help us.’

The door opened and they beheld the druid. She wore a plain white dress with a golden threading running through it. Her silver hair was down to her knees and there was a large metal amulet with a white stone set in the centre around her neck.

‘I am Forestarm. What do you….’ she trailed off and paled at the sight of Feron.

‘He’s undead, but its fine, he’s with me,’ Kay said quickly.

‘What is it you seek?’

‘The ghost. Do you know its path?’

‘Ah yes. It walks to the old ruins and what they once were has long been lost. Why it walks I can only say that its bones must have been disturbed. You must go to the ruins and put it to rest once more.’

Kay nodded. ‘Where do the ruins lay?’

‘In the middle of the woods, all paths lead to it.’

‘Thank you.’

The druid nodded and shut the door.

Kay turned to face everyone. ‘Shall we wait for the ghost to appear or go straight to the ruins?’

‘I think we should wait and if it doesn’t show then go into the woods,’ Adrie spoke.

‘We should go there right now,’ Falgrim cut in.

Kay looked at Feron.

‘I agree with Adrie. We should try and follow the ghost.’

‘Then we should walk back and try and find the place it’s appearing from.’

Slowly, they walked back to the Inn. The village stayed silent and they saw very little light coming from the windows of the houses. If she’d not already know, Kay would have believed the village to be abandoned. A snorting sound came from her right and her hand flew to her sword. A large dark shadow lingered beside a house.

‘Bear? Is that you? Feron called.

A grunting sound replied and the large, brown cave bear walked over to him. Feron patted the damp muzzle and spoke softly. He looked at the others and saw they had all stepped away, worried expressions on their faces.

‘She’s friendly enough. See? And only does as I command.’

‘You’re a wild animal tamer?’ Adrie asked.

Feron shrugged his shoulders, ‘It’s complicated and doesn’t matter.’

‘Its fine,’ Kay spoke. ‘We travelled here and the bear give me no problems.’

‘All right,’ Falgrim growled, ‘but if it tries anything it’ll feel my axe.’

‘And my arrows,’ Adrie added.

‘Well, she won’t. Will you Bo? You’re a good bear, aren’t you?’

Feron scratched her behind the ears and the bear made a number of happy growling sounds.

‘Come on. The faster we get rid of this ghost, the faster we can get back to drinking,’ Falgrim bristled.

They started walking again, keeping to the main pathway running through the centre of the village. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Kay saw something coming out of a wall. She stopped and Feron almost banged into her.

‘Look! There it is!’

The white outline of a tall man, wearing amour could be seen against the evening sky backdrop. He walked slowly between the gaps of the houses and went through another wall. He reappeared on the other side and continued walking.

‘He’ll lead us straight to the ruins,’ Feron whispered.

The others nodded and keeping their distance begin to follow the ghost through the village. At the last house, the ghost carried on and headed into the woods. Quickly, it disappeared behind the trees.

‘Adrie, you know these woods, take the lead,’ Kay said.

The elf nodded and stepped up, loaded bow in hand. Her feet made no sound on the leave and branch covered floor. Slowly, she tracked the ghost through the trees. The others followed behind, trying to keep quiet. Adrie turned and tried to get Falgrim to soften his loud steps. The dwarf puffed himself out and waved his axe at her.

She turned back and saw a flash shape of red and white drop from a tree. The strige hit her hard in the chest. It’s long beak burrowing through her leather jerkin and into her body. Its claws found a tight grab and its wings wrapped around her, infolding her in a mesh of pulsing see-through webbed skin. She swayed and fired her bow. The arrow soared through the strige’s wing. It yanked its head back, its beck covered with blood, giving a startled cry. ‘Hang on elf!’ Falgrim yelled.

He swung his axe at the strige, but the creature saw the danger and spun itself around, pulling Adrie with it. Its wings flapped violently, hitting her head. She gasped as once again the strige buried itself in her chest, feasting on her blood. She tried to reach for another arrow, but its wings blocked her hand.

‘No, stop! That was too close!’ Kay called.

Falgrim stilled his axe. There was a glint of madness in his eyes and a loud war cry on his cracked lips.

‘I’ll get it with my quarterstaff,’ Feron spoke.

As he reached out to hit the strige, it once again sensed the danger and twisted away. Adrie lost her balance and they tumbled to the floor. Quickly, she grabbed the strige and ripped it off her. She loaded an arrow and shot it into the strige’s heart in the blink of an eye. The strige hissed and sprawled bleeding and dead across the grass.

Adrie pressed her hand to her chest. Blood flowed over her fingers as she struggled for breath. She clutched her bow tightly and tried to escape the dizziness covering her mind. She felt warm hands on her shoulders, pulling her up.

‘I’ll heal you,’ Kay said and started whispering magic words.

Adrie felt the pain begin to fade, the blood stopped and she felt less dizzy. Seconds later, Kay was pulling her to her feet.

‘Thank you.’

‘You welcome.’

A snapping sound drew their attention and they looked to see Feron’s bear tearing up the strige’s body and gulping it down. The bear licked at the grass and then sat down. Her large eyes stared off into the distant trees.

‘I think she’s hungry,’ Feron declared.

‘Well she better not eat me, I standby what I said before about feeling my axe!’

‘Don’t worry. She doesn’t like dwarfs. They are far too chewy.’

Falgrim huffed and Kay looked through the trees. The ghost had disappeared.

‘We lost him.’

‘We just need to keep walking straight,’ Adrie cut in. ‘He can’t be that far ahead. He was walking slowly.’

Kay nodded and they set off once again. The woods echoed with animal cries and the wind rustled through the leaves. They got a glimmer of the ghost soon enough and carried on following the long lost pathway that he seemed to be walking.

The sound of Feron’s and Falgrim’s footsteps stopped. Kay turned and saw them peering through a row of bushes. She tapped Adrie on the shoulder and indicted to them. They doubled back and saw that in a clearing a tall, dark shrouded figure was talking to two orcs. One of the orcs had bright red fangs painted on his amour and the other had wrapped what looked like intestines around his body.

‘Enough of this!’ the dark figure snapped. ‘Just make sure you take Winter Edge village before the darkening!’

The figure looked up as if sensing them. Quickly, he turned and walked away, vanishing into a cloud of darkness. The orcs stared after him and then looked over their shoulders.

Feron stepped into the clearing.

‘Who are you? And what you want?’ asking the first orc.

Both of them had grabbed their pikes, preparing to fight.

‘I am no one….and I’m just out for a walk,’ Feron said. ‘Was that a Drow I just saw?’

‘None of your business,’ growled the second orc.

‘Fine….what are you two doing here? And…..you are from different tribes? Why is that?’

‘You ask too many questions. Go away.’

‘Or we’ll have to take you away!’

The orcs chuckled.

Feron held his hands up, ‘I did not mean anything by it, I was just wondering.’

From the bushes Adrie whispered. ‘What’s he doing?’

‘Being him,’ Kay answered back and she stepped into the cleaning.

‘You wonder too much,’ the first orc put in.

‘Actually, I was wondering myself,’ Kay called, ‘What are two orcs from two different tribes who are known enemies doing together?’

The orcs stiffened and became even more on edge to attack.

Adrie loaded an arrow into her bow and aimed it the first orc. Falgrim tightened his grip on his axe and fixed hungry eyes on the second.

‘Actually, you know what I’d really like to know? Which tribe is the strongest?’

‘Oh yes,’ Feron picked up, ‘I’d like to know that too. You can never tell with orcs sometimes…I bet you two have wondered as well.’

‘I think the Red Fang tribe is the strongest,’ Kay challenged.

‘Yes it is!’ the first orc shouted.

‘No, it’s not, the Ripped Guts are better!’ the second one jumped in.

‘I’ll prove it!’

‘You shall not! I am the best!’

The orcs turned on each other and begin to strike out with their pikes. Kay and Feron quickly left the scene and came back from the clearing.

‘That should sort them out,’ Feron said. There was a large smile on his face.

‘We didn’t learn anything though…Other than some planned attack on a village.’ Kay countered.

Feron shrugged. ‘I’m sure we will soon. I’ve a bad feeling again.’

‘Let’s sort out the ghost now. Adrie?’

The elf nodded and pointed up through the tree line the path the ghost had taken. They hurried back onto the trail, leaving the sounds of two orcs fighting to the death behind them.

The trail wounded its way upwards and they followed it for awhile, pushing through large spiky bushes and low tree branches. Just as the woods appeared to be closing in around them, they came to an actual pathway. Ahead an old woman who was huddled over in a cloak and leaning against a white staff was standing at a forked path. They approached her carefully and heard her mumbling about which way to go.

‘Can you help an old woman?’ she called to them.

‘Of course,’ Kay replied.

‘Which path should I take? The first is easily going, with lots of food and water. The second is hard and dangerous with no resources.’

‘Where are you going too?’ Adrie asked. ‘They both led in different directions.’

‘The journey is more important than the destination,’ croaked the woman.

Adrie frowned and Kay looked down both pathways. The old woman was telling the truth.

‘Which way did the ghost go?’

‘That is not important either. Which path should we take?’

‘You are right about the journey,’ Feron joined in. ‘I think we should take the second because it reflects the hardships of life.’

‘The second?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then that is the path we should take.’

Adrie took the led once more and they followed her across roughly made path. The trees closed in around them, scratching out with bare branches. They walked in silence, listening to the sounds of a stream close by. The old woman, who had been behind them stopped.

‘Thank you, but now I must leave you,’ she said.

‘Was this the right path then?’ Feron asked.

The old woman nodded and handed her staff to him. ‘This will show you the way in the coming darkness.’

Feron took the staff and as he did so the old woman turned into a white bird and flew away. He tapped the staff on the ground and a bright light shone out of the top. The light pierced though the now settling night, showing the trees and the path clearly.

‘This is going to be very useful,’ he said.

‘I just hope the ghost came this way and that old hag did not lead us astray,’ Falgrim growled.

‘She has not,’ Adrie’s voice came from up ahead, ‘We’ve caught up to him. Look between those trees.’

A foot or so in front of them, they could make out the shimmering outline of the ghost.

‘Good.’

They carried on walking and pushing through the trees and following the path upwards. Soon the trees became less and less. Adrie stopped on the edge of another clearing. At the centre was a mess of fallen stones and rubble. The ruins had possible been a small keep or a temple. The ground had been disturbed a lot and recently too.

From around a large stone appeared a male dwarf wearing chainmail, a female elf and two male humans carrying clubs. Adrie pulled her bow up, but Kay lowered it and stepped forward. The ghost appeared from behind a tree and drifted over to the ruins. The dwarf cried out and pointed as the ghost sank into a stone.

‘What are you doing here?’ Kay called out.

The dwarf rounded on her. ‘What? I think the question should be what are you doing here?’

‘We are following the ghost,’ Kay said and indicted for everyone to step out.

‘You brought the ghost? Are you mad?’

‘We didn’t bring it, we followed it here and no I’m not mad.’

‘What…is that?’ the dwarf asked pointing a stubby finger to Feron.

‘He’s undead and with me.’

‘And the bear is with me,’ Feron added.

‘Now what are you looking for?’

His bear was sniffing around the trees and taking no noticed of what was going on.

‘Nothing at all,’ the dwarf replied. ‘It’s all been taken now.’

Falgrim raised his eyebrows and cut in, ‘I don’t believe you. But luckily we’re not here for treasure.’

‘You’re not?’ the dwarf spoke and then seemed stunned that the words had come from another dwarf.

‘We want to lay the ghost to rest.’

‘I see…well…’ The dwarf turned and pointed to the pile of rubble. ‘Help us shift that lot then.’

‘All right,’ Kay replied.

She and Feron started to remove the stones, whilst Adrie kept look out and Falgrim inspected the ground. It appeared that something had been recently disturbed in a patch of earth close to the outer wall of the ruin. Placing his axe down, Falgrim dug into the soft earth and pulled up a yellow skull. The hollow eye sockets gazed into his eyes and the broken, half open jaw appeared to be laughing at him. There was a headband wrapped across the top of the skull.

Falgrim pulled it off and reburied the skull. He cleaned off the headband and placed it inside a pocket. He turned to Kay. She and Feron were all most done cleaning the rubble away and underneath they had revealed a trap door.

‘You’re a cleric,’ Falgrim said.

Kay turned and nodded.

‘I just reburied a skull. Could have belonged to our ghost. Why don’t you say a pray and see if that’ll put it to rest?’

‘I shall try.’

She stepped forward, knelt down and touched the replaced soil. Kay said a few whispered words, most of which the others didn’t understand. Then she stood up, made a sign in the air and turned back to them.

‘Do you think it’ll work?’ the dwarf asked.

‘It should,’ Kay replied.

‘Good…now let’s see what’s under here!’

They gathered around the door and the dwarf pulled it open. There was nothing but darkness. Feron tapped the old woman’s staff on the ground and the light burst out. He placed it inside and they could see the remains of an underground room with a staircase leading downwards.

‘Shall we all go?’ Kay asked.

They all looked at each other nervously.

‘No,’ the dwarf said, ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near that ghost.’

‘Then we’ll go down.’

The dwarf caught Kay’s arm. ‘We spilt the spoils. Thirty to seventy.’

‘No, forty to sixty,’ she replied snatching her arm away.

‘All right. Deal.’

‘Deal. Feron go first.’

He nodded and led the way into the underground room. The staff of light chased away the darkness into the corners. It had been a long time since anyone had stepped foot down here. There was dust and soil covering the floor and cobwebs hung across the ceiling. There was a door to their right.

Feron stepped carefully across and went to the door. It creaked loudly, the sound echoing through the chamber. He stuck the staff of light in and looked around. There were holes in the floor and the walls. He turned to Adrie.

‘Looks like traps to me.’

He moved and let her see into the room. She nodded and bent down to inspect the first of the trap mechanisms.

‘Think you can disarm it?’

‘Yes. It’s very old…but still holding up well.’

A few seconds later, she had broken the trap and was moving on to the next. Feron followed her across, allowing Kay and Falgrim to enter. The room was small and there were two other doors. One on the same wall they had come in from and the other in front. Adrie made short work of the other two traps.

‘Should be safe now,’ she said.

‘Good. Let’s see what’s down here then.’

Feron opened the first door. Shone the light in and then stepped inside. The room was large and dominated by a massive crumbling statue. Adrie checked the room for traps and when she gave the all clear, Kay stepped up and inspected the statue. She cleared up the areas she could reach, revealing the statue to be wearing full metal style amour.

‘This is Helm. God of Guardians,’ she breathed. ‘We should offer something.’

Their voices mumbled together as they search for an offering.

‘Wait…Falgrim found something on the skull. We could try that?’ Adrie said.

Falgrim pulled out the headband and gave it to Kay. She laid it down at the statue’s feet, bowed her head and started muttering a pray. Feron and Adrie joined her, though they were they did not recognize the God. Falgrim stayed in the doorway, grunting to himself. As the words faded from their lips, they felt a blow of hot air. Adrie’s lingering wound from the strige attack faded and she felt fully healed and refreshed.

‘Let’s see what’s in the other rooms,’ Feron suggested.

They turned and left. Falgrim stepped up and snatched the headband back. He stuffed it into his pocket and left. Adrie looked up at the statue. ‘Thanks,’ she said. She turned to leave as well, but then something caught her eye.

Kay had swept some of the dust away and Adrie could see that the stone on which the statue sat on was loose. She looked more closely and brushed her fingers over the surface. Digging her nails in, she pulled open the panel and found some hidden treasure. There was a fine pewter goblet with red stones, two large moon stones and a bag of money. She gathered them, put the panel back and thanked the God once more. She walked out, crossed the room full of traps, went down a corridor and found the others gathered around a stone font full of liquid.

‘Look what I found,’ she said.

‘Nice one elf,’ Falgrim said and looked closer at the treasure.

‘Whatever we find we’ll have to share with them remember?’ Kay spoke out.

‘Perhaps.’

Falgrim took the items and hide them away in his pack.

‘What do you make of this, Adrie?’ Kay nodded towards the font.

She looked in closely, ‘It’s just water….’

An image drifted into across the surface. In flash she saw herself standing outside her family’s home pleading with her younger brother. They resembled each other closely, only she was dressed in a long green gown and he was in dark leather. Guilt and sadness hit her stomach as she recalled the argument from so long ago.

‘Adrie?’

Kay’s voice brought her back.

‘Did you…?’ she asked.

‘I don’t think I saw what you did….’ Kay replied. ‘This water is magic and plays on the mind. What did you see?’

‘I was arguing with…someone….What about you?’

‘The same. Feron? Falgrim?’

‘I saw…something I witnessed during my childhood, but at that time I could do nothing. I still regret it.’

‘Fighting with my kin.’

‘Then yes, though I’m still unsure about what this actually is….’

‘There’s something in there,’ Adrie pointed out.

She dipped her hand into the cold water and pulled out a small silver ring. There was an amethyst mounted on it. She showed it to the others and Falgrim took it to add to the other items.

‘You have an eye elf. There’s another door. Let’s move on,’ he said.

They turned and followed Falgrim through a stone door. Two braziers were stood in opposite ends of the room. The fire from them was casting shadows across the floor. Feron put the staff out and they slowly entered. There were strange red markings just off from the centre of the floor.

‘It looks like a symbol to call forth devils. Stay away from it,’ Kay stated.

A chuckling sound caught their ears and they all looked around.

‘At last sssome entertainment!’ a voice cried. ‘What have we got? Four pretty sssoulsss…A band of adventurersss by the looksss….Yesss. We think ssso.’

‘Come out and face us!’ Falgrim shouted.

‘No…We thinksss not. What are you doing here?’

‘We’ve come to put the ghost to rest,’ Kay answered.

‘Not unless you can sssolve my riddlesss,’ the voice responded.

‘Riddles?’

‘Yesss…first one; we dance in hellfires and delight in tortures. Our sting will break your minds. My face cannot be seen, but can you identify me?’

‘We’ve not got time for this,’ Falgrim growled and raised his axe.

‘No wait…I think I know what this is….’

The voice burst into laughed.

‘Yes…You are an imp.’

The laugh faded. ‘Very good, but do you know this one? Now my name and I’ll return whence I came. First, a number whose letters count true to its name’s amount. Then subtract a letter, but add six, to get the second part. Then comes the sound of the start of start, and finally, with a blast, sound out the last of last.’

‘Can you repeat that?’

The imp’s voice chuckled and he began to repeat the riddle.

Adrie had been looking around the chamber, checking for hidden traps and objects. As the last line of the riddle faded and Kay started mumbling answers, Adrie’s eye caught something. In one of the braziers was a golden coin.

Without thinking, she reached out and put her hand into the fire. She screamed and the imp cried out and suddenly appeared before her.

‘My treasure!’ he howled.

Adrie snatched her hand back, clutching a fist full of coins. She ran from the room, flames licking at her hand and went to the font. She shoved her hand into the cold water and the flames died out.

‘It’s stolen!’ the imp screamed.

Falgrim flicked his axe up and sliced the imp into. The body flopped down and blood splattered across the floor.

‘Adrie? Are you all right!’ Kay called and raced after her.

‘Foolish elf. What was she thinking?’ Falgrim muttered.

He took out his water container and poured it over the fire. The flames died out and he looked down on to a small pile of coins.

The ghost appeared from the far corner and drifted across the room. He nodded to them and then vanished.

‘I think he’s gone now,’ Feron said.

‘Aye.’

‘Adrie is fine,’ Kay spoke from the doorway.

‘What was she thinking?’

‘She said her mind was suddenly overcome and she could hear the imp laughing at her. I found another font of water, though I believe this one to be different.’

‘How?’ Feron asked.

Kay smiled and led them back into the other room. Adrie was sit on the floor, her hand wrapped up, resting against the second font. Stepping up, Kay picked up a vial that was beside the font.

‘I think,’ she begin. ‘That this is the Tears of Helm. It is water that has been blessed by him and can be used as a light source and to heal. A powerful old relic.’

She dipped the vial in and gathered some of the water.

‘How is your hand?’

‘Better now. Thanks. I still have no idea what came over me.’

The floor shuddered and they heard a deafening cracking sound. Feron darted back into the imp’s room and then returned.

‘That symbol is opening!’

Kay rushed over and looked inside. The floor had ripped open, swallowing the symbol. A large crack had also formed in the ceiling and as Kay watched a beam of dark light instantly appeared between the two holes. An icy blast shot through the chamber.

‘We need to get out of here now!’ she yelled.

Quickly, they ran through the other rooms and towards the staircase. At the top, the dwarf and his party were waiting for them. They rushed up the stairs and as Falgrim who had been last came to the top, the ground gave a violent shudder and split open. The beam of darkness shot into the air and as they watched it appeared to take on the shape of a huge spider spinning a web.

‘What did you do?’ the dwarf shouted.

‘Nothing!’ Kay replied, ‘But we need to run now!’

The ground rumbled and the darkness began to spill around them.

‘You’re running? But what about our deal?’

‘What deal?’ Falgrim cut in. ‘I made no such deal.’

‘She did though!’

‘So? I’m not with them!’

Falgrim swing his axe and the dwarf dodged it and returned with his own axe blow.

Kay and Adrie broke into a run and dived into the cover of the trees. Feron turned to the elf, whom was shaking beside a stone. With a low whistle he called his bear and as the massive bulk came into view, the elf fainted.

‘Hey, you two! Get after them!’ the dwarf yelled at the humans.

Adrie heard the footsteps behind her, but before she could draw her bow, a heavy weight slammed into the top of her head. She went down, blackness and white spots dancing before her. Kay sent a blast of light through the trees, knocking both men down. She grabbed Adrie, pulling her up and dragging her to the trunk of a tree. From there, she peered out and watched as the dwarfs fought and Feron commanded his bear to attack.

The bear jumped on the dwarf, her teeth sinking deep into his body. The dwarf screamed and uselessly tried to hit the bear with his axe. But she crunched down on him and the dwarf’s next scream died on his lips.

Falgrim hurried away and joined Kay and Adrie in the cover of the trees. Feron tried to get his bear back under control, but she was having none of it and continued to eat the dwarf. Coming over to join them, Feron followed their eyes to the sky.

Waves of pitch blackness, darker then the night sky were quickly gathering around them. The waves joined together, turning darker still. They blocked out the moon and the stars, swallowing everything up as the web of darkness grew tighter and stronger.

*

Reflections

 I thought about writing another post and just linking it to this one, but then I didn’t want to confuse people, so I thought I’d just add it on to the end of here and try to stay as brief as possible. Like I said in my update post, I wanted to write about the next season of encounters but instead of focusing on how to play the game, want things meant and my reactions/thoughts, I wanted to focus a lot more on the actual story telling and events of my game. I also wanted to try and write it as a novel or as ‘novel styled’ as much as possible, because I believed that this would be the best format and also the most suited.

I know I’m a week behind already and that’s mostly due to being ill, being busy and not being able to write. I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t have writer’s block, but I know the signs and it seems I might have a mild case of it. So, in writing this post I know it’s not what I really set out to do nor has it actually turned out how I wanted it, but stuff like this happens during writing. Most writing is down to trial and error; you learn what you can and can’t write, you discover you know a lot or hardly anything, you realise the hidden truth behind your words or can’t see them at all.

Maybe in the near future I will be able to look back on this novel idea and work it into something better, but for now I just want to share my DD experience with people. I think including this Reflections section at the end might be a good idea for some of the parts, but we’ll see how we go. DD was very different this week as they are trialing DD Next as they are upgrading or switching over from the 4th edition of DD which is the main current game. However, any edition of the game can be played really, the basic rules stay the same. We’d been told a bit in advance about things that were rumoured, so it was very exciting, interesting and shocking at the character builder meeting to hear what was to take place!

Firstly, the game has become more role playing, allowing players to get into the mind sets of their characters. There’s a chance to question anyone and everything, which wasn’t really present before, and chances to have longer/deeper conversations in with the group. The DMs play there part too, acting out a whole range of characters and getting involved in longer discussions. We are also having a different way of tables too. This involved us getting into groups of 5/6 during the character builder session and we have a different DM every week. (Instead of being in a different random generated group each week). So far the two DMs I’ve had have been really good; role playing the different characters/monsters and supporting us as we get to grips with the new style of play.

Secondly, there’s a lot more story-telling involved and a lot more listening to be done. I don’t mind that because it’s interesting to learn about what’s going on and pick up important /useful information. The players have a lot more say in this and whilst before the story was very linear with ‘a you have to do this and then you do this and have to fight these monster before moving on to this,’ style of play, we get to actually decided on what to do and who to fight nearly all the time. And I do like that! I’ve never been big on the fighting and now I can choose in most cases if to attack or not. Also I like that the players have more control over how the story goes and every game is now becoming unique.

Thirdly, the changes to healing surges and levelling up. I was shocked and unhappy to hear about the changes to healing. In the last session I just had this habit of getting wounded all the time, mostly due to the fact I was still learning to play and some bad dice rolls. Granted I never died, but I do rely heavily on my healing surges to see me through. Now you can only use a healing surge when granted by another player during the game. Using them in between game plays at what would be seen as rest stages isn’t allowed. However, because of how this game works and being spanned across two years, every week the characters level up and gain all their health, plus the added hit points from levelling up, so no heal surges are actually needed outside of game play really.  By the end of the season all characters will be level 8s, which I think is pretty good because we only got to like levels 2 and 3 last time.

And that’s all they’ve really done to the game. I do actually like this and in away prefer it because you get to do a lot more and it’s not just a case of turning up, fighting some monsters, taking the treasure and going home again. Though that’s still at the heart of D&D and always will be. There’s so much more to it now and being an active member allows you to put much more in and receive a lot more out of it. You feel like you are doing more and actually being a serious a part of something, which I do think that last season didn’t do as well, by the time the ending arrived. And I’m still disappointed by that, but granted this is a trilogy campaign and it was my first real experience of D&D. I hope that D&D Next does become more popular and players start to see the benefits of it.

Until the next chapter. x     

Image from:

http://dungeonsmaster.com/dd-encounters/

The Black Dagger Brotherhood- Lover Reborn Review: ‘Can his heart let go?’

I waited ages for this book to come out and then another age to actually read it! It’s the 10th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series by J R Ward. At the time I also believed it to be the last one, but then I found out at the end and also on line that there’ll shall be another one! I’ll admit though that the size of the novel and the 572 pages did seem a bit daunting at first. However, I then became lost in Ward’s Caldwell, NY with her vampire warriors and I forgot all about it.

 

The first book in the series is Dark Lover and this sets out the main plot in all the other books. There is a vampire member (or soon to be) of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Which is an elite band of warriors who serve the vampire king and fight to defend vampire civilians against their enemies the Lessers. The vampire meets his true love and that’s either another vampire, or a half vampire or a human. They’ll try to get together but things/others get in the way or/and they start believing that the other one doesn’t actual want them. Often there’s some kind of falling out and then a resolving at the end where they do get together. There are also a number of subplots such as the war with the Lessers, the war with another band of warriors, random events that happen to members of the BDB. So it falls very nicely into the supernatural romance genre.

 

All the books have a third person narrative and can be split into two different points of view (POV); that of the BDB members and that of the Lessers/rouge vampires. The main narrative comes from the points of view of the hero and heroine. The sub narratives switch often. The first sub followers individual members of the BDB and creates something of a snap shot of what’s happening in their lives as a back drop to the main plot. The second sub is individual members of their enemies and gives a good look into plans/happenings within this area. In writing from so many characters’ view points readers will worry that they’ll become lost and forget who’s who, but Ward has actually pulled it off very nicely. She’s done this in a number of ways; firstly by giving each vampire his own book. Which means that we get the full story of each vampire in depth without having to get him mixed up with anyone else. Though the vampires basically go through the same romantic events, Ward has made them so different from each other that they all stand out. After I read the first three I was able to recognise each vampire by only a few words.

 

Secondly, Ward uses the second sub narrtive of the enemies to balance the novel out. Yes, it can get a bit triedsome having to read what a lesser character is secretly ploting when all you want to do is see if the lovers are going to make up. However, its nice to be taken out of that story sometimes and allowed to see what else is happening in the world. Thirdly, somehow the subplots and different POV don’t distract from the actual action. The narrative is written in such a style that the main plot doesn’t become drowned out by subplots and readers aren’t easily lost amongst plots and characters.

 

With this being the tenth book I’m finding it hard to talk about it individually, but I’ll properly go into more depth about it later. It’s easy to talk about the books as a whole series because they have so much in common and follow a linear larger plot. I really love this series and yes it does have something to with the whole vampire thing and the fact that it’s horror/supernatural/romance genre. But it’s also because of how Ward writes. Her use of narrative language, description and dialogue appeals to me greatly. But before I launch into that, let’s look at Ward’s vampires!

 

These vampires stand out because they are not your stereotypical vamps, though they do have some connects to typical vamps. Firstly, these vamps like to live in family groups and they can have children, though at a massive threat to the lives of the females and the young. Secondly, they can’t go out in the sunlight and I can’t actually remember if the reasoning behind this is stated (I read the first book three years ago and have read so much since then!) They are fine with religious symbols, garlic and stakes. They don’t sleep in coffins and they can’t turn into animals. They can only feed on a vampire who’s the opposite sex to them. The blood gives them nutrition, strength and allow them to heal faster. They can also eat and drink real food though. They have supernatural healing abilities which means that they can come back from near death injuries. They can also create a mist in which to hide from enemies, hide their homes or hide fighting scenes from the public. They also embrace technology; they have phones and computers, defensive tech, TVs, music, a range of cars and the latest med tech. They have a large range of weapon choice, but they all use guns and daggers. They also have their own language with the common words often appearing in the novels. Ward has a glossary at the back/front of the books which appears to get longer every time! But also you get use to these words and have to look up the translations less. They mate for life and have marriages, though a female can sometimes take on two males if she wants, but males get very over-protective of their females! They also have a Goddess who they pray too. The BDB vamps are warriors and take the description as such. They are often described as being very tall, muscular guys, seeming to fit the Greek warrior image more than that of stereotypical vamps. The other vampires do take on a more typical vamp image though.

 

The characters in the novels are all well written. My favourite happens to be Rhage the star of the second book which I read first and so got me into the BDB. Ward brings each character to life through their background stories- which can often be very sad-their descriptions and dialogue. All the main characters have a lot of depth to them and the reader gets to see them develop throughout their individual books. Afterwards or before their books they take something of a background check and though some things are touched upon the main develop is left in their own stories. This works well because you get interested in each character, you want to find out more about them and how their current behaviour has come about. Plus they don’t just disappear once their stories have been told.

 

I really like the heroines. All the women in these novels are strong, independent and capable of controlling their males. They have interesting back stories too and seem very realistic. Ward has also made such that they are matched up to their perfect lovers. And this comes across well as the characters easily compliment and complete each other. The development of the heroines mostly centres on their discovering and coming to understand love. Whilst the males often have to overcome their past or issues they currently have.

 

The other characters in the novels and yeah there’s a lot of them all feel realistic and well developed even if they are only background characters like the servants. This just brings the story more to life though and gives it added depth. It does work having characters like this because the reader is aware of them all the time without really knowing it. Plus also we don’t have to question what a character is doing there because we understand it from the narrative.

 

Ward uses a language relating to the New York setting of the novels. At times this slips into something of gangster style. Which I’ve to admit I’m not so keen on as I don’t think it adds anything to the novels. Swear words are common place and the vocabulary is adult, though it is a simple language that she uses throughout. The pace and flow of the language is great and it allows fast reading whilst soaking everything up. There’s no sudden jumping to different scenes as everything just flows nicely on. The dialogue she gives her characters is also very good. It feels real and you can image the characters actually saying those words. Ward gets a lot of emotions across in her dialogue, whilst still staying to the point. Some of the characters have accents, which does work fine because it’s only a handful of them and not everyone single one!

 

So finally, Lover Reborn is the story of Tohrment and No’One. Tohr’s character has long been established and readers have followed his recent tragic events. Now though he’s about to find love again with the most unlikeliest vampire! However, it does turn out that they are well suited for each other and they are able to rediscover love once more. Once they’ve gone through all the trials though! The subplot to this is one that started in the previous book that of the other band of warrior vampires. These guys are old fashioned, shunning technology and preferring to have very basic lives. They want to take over the BDB and plan to use the recent Lesser attacks to swing the civilian vampires into choosing them. The other subplot is that of an angel- Lassiter- trying to get back into Heaven by getting Tohr and No’One together. This novel’s main theme is all about letting go of the dead and learning to live and love again. I’m pleased to say like the other books it does have a happy ending!

 

Overall, I love this series and I’m so happy that there’s another book coming out! The novels are so well written, the characters good and entertaining, the plots work well and also sometimes they can keep you wondering about how it’s going to work out happy in the end, which is what I like. They work well as modern vampires too and Ward has made them unique enough. The language and dialogue is great and flows nicely. Ward has written some other singular books and also another series which is about angels. I’ve those books, but haven’t read them yet.

 

Next time I’m going to look at another series; The Lords Of The Underworld by Gena Showalter.

Images from;

 

www.weltbild.de

www.ebay.com

It’s HALLOWEEN!

 

Hey readers,
Time is so against me today and I already know that this blog post isn’t going to be going up until very late night tonight. I’ve to leave in like 20 mins to go to play DD. It’s the first game of the new season tonight -how very fitting!- and I as I don’t know how long the new style of play and the new rules are going to take I don’t know when I’ll be home. But we’ll see!
Above is my pumpkin for this year! He’s an awesome fire dragon. And yeah some inspiration did come from DD! but I like my pumpkins to be different. He took awhile to make, I started at 7pm and finished about 11.15pm. The design was pretty easy, though the tips of the flames were a bit tricky. I also accident put a hole in the pumpkin when scooping it out. Luckily, it was in an area I needed to cut out, but once I started that I found that the hole had created a crack right across the pumpkin! That was really upsetting and give me some difficulties in carving out the wings. But he does look pretty cool.
Back from a very good DD night. And there’s been no tricker or treaters so all the chocolate and left over biscuits for me! Though I’ve got blueberry muffins for tomorrow as well. I saw a few people dressed up and having nights out. Manchester was it’s normal busy self and the weather is so awful all rainny, windy and cold. It feel like winter already!
Back to Halloween anyways. I still think that it’s not as big in Europe as it is in the States. In Britian we do have all the shops selling tons of Halloween releated stuff a month in advance, a few people throw parties, schools and clubs get creative. But when you go out on Halloween nights, the streets that should be full of tricker or treaters and the houses that should have pumpkins and garden displays,just are not. There’ll only be a handful of kids for every few streets and even less houses displaying pumpkins. I’m still not sure why this is so, maybe the stigma of Halloween is still clinging? Maybe unlike Christmas this is holiday that people just can’t get into? For whatever the reason, I still think it’s a shame.

My Favourite Halloween recipes

Pumpkin Pie

I follow a traditional family recipe for this and it’s not a normal ‘pie’ it’s more like a cheese cake. But it’s still amazing!
500gm Pumpkin – cooked (Steam it for about 30-40 mins)
2 packets of ginger snaps
100gms melted butter
1 digestives
Tablespoon of Mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
3 eggs
200gm caster sugar
100gm brown sugar
500ml double cream
Break up biscuits with rolling pin and then spreed into glass baking dish and mix with the butter. Set to cool.
Then mix all the other ingredients together beside from the cream. Add in cool pumpkin, mix and then add cream. Mix some more and pour over biscuit base. Then in preheated oven at 180 degrees, put it in for 15-20 mins and then turn down oven to 160 degrees and cook for 40 mins. Set aside for an hour or so. Then serve warm or cold with cream.
So awesome.

Halloweenie ginger cookies

Basic gingerbread men mixture, but add in mixed spice, Cinnamon and nutmeg. Then use Halloween shape cookie cutters and a range of icing pens to decorate. I got sprinkles and ghost/bat sugar shapes.
Crumble gravestone cookies

So simple to make just basic butter cookies and then cut into ‘headstone’ like shapes. Using icing pens to decorate. I love making mine all individual and write fake epitaphs on them.
There’s tons of other Halloween recipes out there like the chocolate moose graveyard and the chocolate fudge spider cake I made last year. I think that’s why I really like this time of year, because there’s so much good cooking to be done!
Also the traddtional scary movie night. I’m having mine with my boyfriend tomorrow, as I’ve been playing DD tonight and baking for all the afternoon. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic must watch! I’ve also got Interview With a Vampire and Queen of the Damned. Should be fun. As for me, I wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Update for up and coming stuff

This is a bit of a random post and comes mostly from some deep thinking I’ve been having lately. My job situation hasn’t changed, I’m still looking for work and still not wanting to go back into eduction. I’m not actual stuck in deciding what I want to do any more, but I’m just having a hard time in finding suitable jobs which I’d get interviews for. It can be a problem finding stuff with my educational level and skills. There’s so many jobs out there and the market has become flooded in the run up to Xmas in the last month. Making now a good time to find something! Luck doesn’t seem to be on my side right now though and I can only hope that there is something out there I’m destined to do.
I’m still on a break from writing as well, though I’ve been doing bits and pieces, but I’m finding it hard to draw inspiration and motivation to get back into things. I guess the last few months of uni and the intense writing has taken its toll. I do have the wanting to look through some older novels and work on them instead of writing something completely new. The project I was working on with my boyfriend has stopped for the minute. I can’t get into the genre of it, for whatever reason. I’m hoping this will change soon though and I can start looking for publishers and stuff. Having some money coming in would be a good thing before hand though! I’ll still keep writing my blog, it’s becoming a good place to reflect about things on.
Halloween arrives on Wednesday! I’m not having a party, or doing anything special this year, but its’ still my favourite celebration. The rest of my week will be spent carving the pumpkin and baking. I seem to do a lot of cooking in Autumn, but there’s just something about coming home to the smell of meaty stews and all spice sweets that appeals to me. Also its great prep for Xmas! I’ll properly write a blog post about Halloween on the day before or the actual night and share some of my favourite recipes.
Actually there are two main things I wanted to put up. The first is that I’ve noticed people are taking an interest in my book/movie reviews and I’d like to carry on doing this. It is something that I’ve done before in the past, but didn’t get into it. Now without uni to worry about, it seems a good time to expand out and start doing more reviews. I’ve got a few books in mind, but mostly my reviews will be on my most current book, whatever that might be and I’ve a lot of on my bookcase to get through!
Secondly, I want to write about the next season of Dungeons and Dragons. Only instead of it being an account of the game I played and a rough guide to playing, I want to turn it into a novel. I already know that this might be a long and hard task, but at the heart of D&D is storytelling and so many novels have been written already. So, what will be the difference with this one? Well, because it will reflect the actual game I played and also the new D&D rules they’ve brought out make it much more easier to do this. I still lack knowledge in certain areas, but I know people who’ll help and the idea seems like a good one. The next few months will tell on that for sure!