Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Story So Far

Let's see, I still have a job in the wings, sent out two dozen resumes, riding an emotional rollercoaster of financial woe and grief. I have one month left of life. Third week of August, I move back to Yuba City.
I have been so busy I have hardly had time to update my blogsite. I am semi-employed with Hobbytown USA, but at $8/hr, it doesn't pay the bills, though it helps. I didn't go to my 25 year High School reunion because I felt it was just bad timing for me. I don't want to show up at a reunion unemployed. It's embarassing and belittling.
The heat in California has been horrendous. My roommates and I decide to go to Lake Camanche about thirty miles east of Lodi. The temperature there was 117 degrees! The lake was in the 90's. More a sauna than a swim. The humungous 40 foot Weekend Warrior trailer that Csaba recently bought had two AC units installed - Thank God! But on the second day, one of them wasn't working very well. Threats of divorce and arguments galore cascaded off the faux wooden walls. I just tried to make the best of it all. I kept hydrated and went swimming with Csaba's sister. I think we had more fun than Csaba and Szoszi did. Anyway, it was fucking hot. End of story.
I have considered going back to work for Rite-Aid. I went to visit some folks at the RA depot this past Monday to investigate the possibility. It may require me to move to Fresno. We will see.
I have jury duty on August 8th. Fuck me. Can this happen at a worse time? I hope I am not selected, and if I am I will have to plead finanicial distress. And I wouldn't be lying.
I am so depressed I can barely smile. But I just keep plugging away at sending resumes and doing interviews in the hope that someone out there will give me a chance.
So that's the story so far. Wish it was better news.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Animal House

Before I begin this latest synopsis of our D&D adventures, I should start with a caveat. Please realize that what you are reading is a rendition of events as seen by Flaine Gilgahar himself, with some Brian P. added in jokingly here and there. It is not, nor was it meant to be, an even-handed, objective account told from some mythical 'third-person narrator'. So, if you notice that your character doesn't get mentioned much in these chronicles it's only because Flaine didn't notice you either. Speak up. A good way to get mentioned is to have your character walk up and slap him for no good reason. That'll get mentioned. I promise. So, with that caveat, I now begin:
There is a festival in Cauldron. The Flood Festival. You see, the rainy season causes the caldera in which Cauldron is located to overfill and flood the lower streets (i.e. the poor districts). So as humans often do, they celebrate this wonderful occasion with a festival! Sitting in the Tipped Tankard Tavern are the assembled party, to wit: Laurel, Flaine, Gin, Avenal, Ix, Mondavi, Link and Mishka (well, Mishka was outside near the stable), and Aeloc (played by Bob, this was his first game with us. Aeloc is a fighter/wizard (I think...)). No shows: Qurynack Lock who is now version 3.0 but could not play since his player was moving his family into their new house.
The Flood Festival lasts a number of days and is filled with many sporting events and contests. One of them was the Drinking Contest. Laurel, Flaine (with some misgivings), and Gin (I mean, why not Gin?) elected to take on the various dwarves and humans of the city to see who could hold down their liquor. Laurel went on to the second round after five drinks! Dragon blood must aid one's constitution in such matters... Flaine the Wuss was out after two swigs. What a lame-o! Gin also went on to the second round after four drinks. As I understand it, no one from our party won. None of them made it to round three.
Next, the Escape from the Lake Monster! Now, I was practicing with my mandolin in my tavern room during all this so this is what I heard from Laurel who was there. I guess Mondavi came to this swimming contest dressed only in what he called a 'speedo'. I've never heard of a 'speedo' before but Laurel assures me that it's gross. She told me that his horns on top of his head were quite prominent leading her to believe (as I always did) that he might be of demonic or diabolic heritage. Laurel continued to inform me that the race ended so quickly (it broke the Cauldron record!) that the entire population there assembled were totally non-plussed. In fact, they seemed upset and hardly cheered the victor which happened to be...Mondavi! Avenal was also swimming in this contest and he infomed me that Mondavi was 'too quick'. Hmmmm. What was that scoundrel up to? I'm sure some magical hijinks were involved.
During all this madness, Ix recieved a missive from Jenya Urikes, priestess of St. Cuthbert (we've worked for her before). It said that the high priest of St. Cuthbert, Saracem Delasharn, was waylaid at a place outside of Cauldron called The Lucky Monkey, and he needed help immediately. Apparently, he was being held hostage by some primitive ape-men. Well, Ix wasted no time in informing the party and getting us all assembled. We bought horses, outfitted them, and made our way out of the city and down into the jungle on the main road. Through the warm rain we noticed the large wooden building. It had carvings of monkeys getting away with various and sundry antics on the walls in bas-relief. Oh, and the sign outside said, "The Lucky Monkey" in Common. Ix and Laurel peered through the broken windows of this travelers' inn and noticed that there were a group of ruffians tearing the place apart! Link, Avenal, and Mondavi moved around to the back of the building to get them in a pincer attack. Well.... Aeloc sprayed a magic web into the main hall trapping one bandit and slowing down a couple more. Laurel spat her lightning breath into the room taking out a bandit or two. Gin did a somersault through a glass window, landed on a wooden table and moved in with his twin bastard swords for the kill.
Meanwhile, in the rear of the inn... Link, Avenal and Mondavi heard crunching sounds emanating from the jungle behind them. But, it wasn't near enough for them to worry. Mondavi picked the lock on the back door and stood back. Avenal kicked down the door and, lo and behold, they run into some baboons and a mandrill mutant named Tongue-eater. After a couple rounds of combat, they realized that they weren't doing very much to this Tongue-eater dude. So, Mondavi and Avenal scatter around the inn to meet the rest of the party which, of course, is locked in combat. Link hops on Mishka and jets up the wooden wall onto the roof. Bam! The mandrill is up with his baboon buddies in no time. Link lets loose with an obligatory arrow and guides Mishka further up the roof only to discover... an open air atrium! I don't know if warforged have gods, but someone was looking out for him that day because Mishka leaped over that atrium and hopped down to meet the party on the other side. Stymied, Tongue-eater and his minions climb down the side of The Lucky Monkey and run past Mondavi and some bandits. Which is interesting since Mondavi looked just like one of the bandits. In fact, a few bandits actually took orders from him! Hats of Disguise are such handy devices aren't they? Unfortunately, as those same rogues turned their backs on him, Mondavi backstabbed one of them...well, he tried. And the battle was on.

Here's a well-known Cauldron rhyme:
Laurel had a necklace.
It's gems were bright and red.
And when she used the largest one
The fire-inspector was dead.

Flaine is actually going to use that lyric in his next song. But the reason I bring up that quatrain is because Laurel used her necklace of fireballs to unleash Hell on the ruffians, little did she realize that one of those bandits was Mondavi and he was around the corner, but well within the radius of said fireball. Thus did the great Mondavi perish, along with several other malcontents.
Avenal broke right and tried to lure the mandrill toward him. It worked. And from a distance, Laurel, Flaine and Avenal let loose on the creature. He finally died after another electrical jolt from Laurel's mouth.
Now earlier, Flaine had tried to get into the building to help the party. I broke open the locked and barred wooden double doors (wow!) and proclaimed: "We jus' busted up yer bandit zoo! Now yer dealin' wit' da Cauldron Crew!" and sang a song of courage. I dunno if you think that was a very courageous lyric, but... oh well. After I ignited the web with a tindertwig, Ix moved past me to engage the two bandits to the left of the bar. Mishka moved in there as well. Gin and Aeloc (thanks to burning hands) were taking out the right side. Eventually, all enemies were dead. And then there was Mondavi. I moved his crispy remains onto my horse.
We then moved to the rear of the building where there were stairs going down to a kind of cellar. We encountered another four banditos who we summarily dispatched with little effort. But at our feet was the decapitated corpse of Saracem Delasharn, former high priest of St. Cuthbert! We also rescued a half-drow druid/bard/monk named Shensiril from a refrigerated room. I noticed that brown mold was being used to keep everything cool. Nice. So we escorted her back to Cauldron.
In Cauldron, and in particular, the church of St. Cuthbert, we talked to Jenya and tried to get Saracem resurrected, but after speaking to his animated head (yuck!) realized that there may be 'ecclesiastical issues' with that. Okay....whate'er. Jenya informs us that Saracem had eight wands of Control Water that are used every year to control the annual floods. We found none on his corpse. So it is imperative that we find these lost wands or the city will become New Orleans pretty quick. And the rain ain't lettin' up anytime soon.
We are now entering Investigation Mode. Please remain seated until said mode is completed.
Link discovered through his interrogat--sorry, investigations, that three people were unaccounted for in the Lucky Monkey battle. So, they might have taken the wands. Mondavi is raised and healed courtesy of the St. Cuthbert priests and after being heartbroken at learning that his obsessi-- er, his love, baked him with the fireball (which Avenal was just chomping at the bit to tell!) decided to go do some legwork himself. (Btw, since Mondavi died by fire, the consensus is that he is NOT of the lower planes). He learns from a drunk that there is a secret entrance to the sewer system outside in the jungle on the other side of the wall. Now, when he initially informs Ix and Aeloc of this at the Tipped Tankard Tavern, he is met with incredulous stares. "C'mon, what do you take us for - fools?" quoth the Ix, "You got this information from a drunkard? And you expect us to go traipsing about in the jungle on this guy's say-so?" Well, we had nothing else to do, so Laurel, Flaine, Avenal and Link follow Mondavi to this entrance. After moving a few bushes and crap, there it was! After we argued for a while about who was going to go in there and how far, Laurel told us there was a peninsula deep inside probably about 2400 feet with some machine attached to it. And some caves which have something scary in them. It turns out she sent her bat familiar in there while we were carrying on. Good call. We go back to town and inform Ix and Aeloc that they should come with us. And soon, we are all assembled and entering the entranceway.
Investigation mode has completed. Begin search and destroy mode. Thank you. Be well.
We make it down to a cliff overlooking a placid pool of water. To get across to the strange architecture on the other side, we need to use this machine. That is to say, a cage that is ferried across by cable to the other side. We investigate the turnhouse where the muscle-powered winch is located and discover a couple of workers. We press them into service (I would have rather enthralled them with my music, but I failed to communicate this and we ended up pressing them by threat alone). Dumbly, I volunteered with Avenal and Laurel to go into the cage. As Ix and Link forced the workers to push the winch, they stopped it right over the middle and hit the alarm button. A horn sounded throughout the cavern. Ix, Link and Aeloc did in the workers and they ferried us back. Eventually we all got across and entered the strange melting architecture. We took what seemed to be the main entrance. After coming upon a meeting chamber, we had a choice of three doors. The center one led to a series of arrow slits that Laurel's bat triggered. It was unhurt. The left door was a bunch of hanging ropes. After opening the door beyond it, some idiot from within the door hurled a flask of alchemist's fire at us igniting Mondavi (of all people). Mondavi is now a pyrophobe. Which makes sense for a fire-inspector, dontcha think? The right door opened to a room painted in a strange pattern. We made our way in and when someone opened the other door spikes jutted out from every place in that room. Luckily, Pelor saw to it that Flaine was not a victim. We moved in before the trap reset and barged into the chamber were the archers were (the ones that tried to shoot the bat earlier) and we took forever to waste these goblinoids. Flaine began to worry. Another bout like that and we were done for. I moved ahead with Mondavi trying to cover as many rooms as possible, a tactic that Ix thought was rather spurious and foolhardy. And it was. But Flaine felt that time was of the essence, so when I creaked open a door and shone in my sunrod and found a bubbling pool, some training dummies and some women's underwear, I related my find with Mondavi. Mondavi immediately pushed me aside nearly dropping my sunrod and he barged in saying, "The hairs we may find may.....mumble mumble mumble..." Well, truth to tell, I couldn't remember what he said because this tattooed (and I must say, rather voluptuous) woman and her host of miscreants waylaid us and started attacking with a vengeance. I was surprised at the efficiency of this battle. I mean, the adrenaline must have kicked in and we got our shit together, because we took minimal damage and we wasted that bitch! We found three wands in her possession and we totally ripped her off and her cohorts. The party then decided that we were low on spells and resources and that we need to get back to town. I thought this was a bad idea, but I was outvoted and I'm not gonna stay underground by myself, so I went with them back to Cauldron. But we must return quickly if we are to save the city from eventual inundation. We found three, but where are the other five?
Oh, and before I forget, you might have noticed that Gin wasn't mentioned much beyond the Animal House incident. Here's the reason why. See if you can decode this cryptogram:
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz z.
I know it's a toughy. Ranks up there with the Enigma and Da Vinci codes.

Until again....