A little over a year ago, I embarked on a journey with maps, but without a map. I learned a few things about my ability to keep a schedule (or lack thereof) and what doesn’t work. Now I’m refocusing and rebooting, trying some new things to see if I can move the needle.
Sergeant Arcturus shut off the proximity sensors. Since they’d entered this narrow canyon, alarms had been screaming non-stop. A quick glance at the status display confirmed that the land speeders slaved to his own craft had followed suit. No sense filling their ears with extraneous noise; they knew how close they were flying to certain doom. One twitch in the wrong direction and all three vehicles would smash apart on the canyon wall.
%[FSV1102.uidA001]» commlink open -local=FSV1102.’Chump Change’ -uplink=su7653.deepnet.ufc -recv=systemcontrol
. . . . %uplink.open[su7653.deepnet.ufc]% . . . .
~[Chump Change.001]» SALVAGE REPORT AA-0023.Z2443. DEEP SPACE RESEARCH STATION DESIGNATE [SIGMA0023] FOUND ABANDONDED AND WITHOUT POWER. NO SIGNS OF LIFE. REQUEST CLEARANCE TO ENTER AND POWER UP MAIN CORE TO STAKE CLAIM PURSUANT TO STATUTE UFC-S235 SECTION 12 ARTICLE 07.
Smuggler’s Cave at Oldport Keep
Countless sea caves perforate the length of the Shattered Coast. Some are underneath Hookspire and Oldport Keep itself, and have been used for generations as meeting places and hideouts for smugglers, thieves, pirates, and others that wish to remain hidden from view.
The history of Oldport Keep is long, and predates the founding of Hookspire itself by hundreds (some say thousands) of years. The current tower isn’t the first structure to occupy that site, and it continues to hold secrets unknown to the general public.
The Sinking Tower of Ssissk’ss’s Sump
The low moor near the center of the Cerulean Wood never seemed to be a danger to the nearby villages. Called merely “the Sump” by locals, it was home to a small tribe of bullywugs that were mostly harmless. Lately, however, a lizardfolk chieftan named Ssissk’ss has taken control and started making the rangers and druids of the area nervous.
Why do you bother?
“Honestly, Haspar, why do you bother? Most of these people you help aren’t going to thank you or remember you. And hauling all this junk around—” she gestured at the huge pile of junk in the wagon behind her “—is a pain in the ass. It’s a distraction. We’re agents of the Crown, not ministers of the Temple.” Haspar insisted they carry extra goods they don’t need just so he can feel good about helping people. Alumnet didn’t see the point, or the value.
The Obsidian Fortress
The heat of the Ashen Plains will drain the life out of you, if the salamanders and formians don’t get to you first. You may find some shelter, but nine out of ten times it will just be a mirage, false hope conjured out of the furnace of the volcanic wasteland. One out of ten times, however, it could be your salvation…or your certain doom.
What is it about Harramantown?
“What is it about Harramantown?”
“It’s a haven for swindlers, liars, and thieves.”
“It’s a frontier town, so I expect that. We can’t fix it ourselves. Civilization, stability, law, and order will come in time. What I mean is, what is it about Alumnet and Harramantown?”
Hidden Temple to the Unknown God
Who worships the Unknown God? What celestial portfolio does the Unknown God hold as its realm of influence? The high priests who declare themselves to be prophets claim to have all the answers one seeks, but most of them are in the dark, themselves. Only a select few know the truth.
The Question of Harramantown
“PENDLETON ARBORGRANE! LOOK. AT. ME.” With a sigh, he did. When she got worked up, it was hard to talk to Alumnet. It made it worse that she was often—if not usually—right. Alumnet’s posture relaxed. She had his attention; now it was time to make her case.
If you have a mad wizard, they’re gonna make a crazy tomb dungeon death trap maze. It’s what they do.
You should na’ be in th’ Badlands t’ begin wit’, me boy. But if’n ye find y’self there an’ needin’ some shelter—an’ yer real, reall des’prit—the Clicker’s Canyon may be yer only port in th’ storm.
Digging into the Past
Shrey was tired, but he wouldn’t let it show. He was pleased that Gerrod was the one digging, not he. He was too old for digging in the dirt. Instead he busied himself digging into the past, into his memory of this place, this secret place of his own design.
War Throne of Clan Bitterbones
Clan Bitterbones comes from deep underground, their ancestral halls well hidden and separated from the surface world. Most of them have lived in the surface world for generations, and know only legends of their homeland. But when the need arises, they converge on their war throne for council and conquest.
Hurberlieu’s Summer House
Dilettante Hurberlieu Corvolentis likes to collect things. Much of his collection lies in plain view scattered about the halls of his many homes, but his favorite items are secreted away in vaults like the one under the cliff behind his summer house.
Eggledorn and the Ersatz Bridge
He steeled himself, ready for what fate would bring his way. In the last second he chose to fix his face into a visage of what he considered a look of resolute determination, a signal to whatever was chasing him that it had bitten off more than it was expecting. He didn’t really think it would make a difference, but Eggledorn felt better having done it.
Temple in the Lake on Top of the Mountain
Deep in the mountains, an isolated temple contains a shrine to a forgotten god. If you find it, will you know the right prayers?
Burial Mound of Khalan-Rah
Anyone can be buried like a king or queen…for a price. The Burial Cult of Khalan-Rah has done their best to corner the market on custom burials in the region, and will tailor their services to whatever the client desires.
Even for dwarves, the Shellcracker clan is eccentric. They make their homes on the shores of a subterranean sea. They make a strong trade harvesting seafood they pull from the black depths. Once every hundred years or so, the gather in a massive convocation on an island in the middle of the ocean to celebrate their harvest and test their mettle.
When you’re deep in the forest, perhaps when all of your resources have reached their limits and exhaustion threatens to overcome your entire band of explorers, adventurers, or soldiers, Harrigan’s Home may present itself as your unexpected yet welcome sanctuary.
Eggledorn and the Noisemaker
The steps ended, but the corridor did not. It continued just ahead, after only a short gap. Short for most average-sized beings, that is. Eggledorn, alas, was a gnome, and he didn’t see how he could make the leap with any degree of success. Looking back, he decided he should attempt to figure out a course of action. Whatever was making those noises didn’t seem like it was going to let him back out the way he came in. Not in one piece, anyway.
Sorry for the Intrusion
I apologize—sincerely apologize—for my friend shattering your body with his hammer. No one should be accosted in such a manner in their own home, especially at so late an hour. It was extremely rude of us to come knocking on your door just as you were sitting down to your evening tea…
Legend of the Crab Wizard
From the Storm Coast to Hookspire to the shining spires of Sahn-Sah-Ree in the south, fishermen deep in their cups spin stories of the the legendary crab wizard. Are they casting fish tales, or is there truth to be found in their ramblings? (Inspired by the new season of Deadliest Catch.)
Thank You, Nonna
If there had been more time to contemplate the leap, no doubt she would have taken it. But there wasn’t. Pointy steel in angry hands followed down the tunnel and if she didn’t want to have them thrust into her, she had to jump now and contemplate later.
Tower Ruins by a Stream
Somewhere in the forest, not so deep that it won’t be found nor so close to the edge that it gets a lot of traffic, you may come across this burbling stream. On a small rise to the north lie the ruins of an old tower, its stone walls crumbling under the weight of time.
The Dwarven Skald
They were all looking at him now. Hardened men and women. Battle-tested warriors. He could see the fear in their eyes, in their blank expressions Silent tears glistened on a few of the younger faces. He would mourn them all later.
Hookspire: The Birth of a City
All ideas come from somewhere. Like many other story ideas I’ve had, the origins of Hookspire go back to one of my D&D characters and his backstory. Instead of just scribbling down a few details, I invented a city.
Sir Gavershelm’s descent
They’d all heard the stories before. Longtime adventuring companions, seasoned explorers, torn apart by the lust for fortune and glory. They would prevail where others had succumbed.
Goblins not goblins.
Goblins? Orcs? No, not goblins. The crudeness of the arrows could indicate either, and while their size might indicate goblin manufacture, their true maker was definitively not goblin. Only an expert would notice…
Shattergut Fortress Brewery
All dwarven clans make beer. It’s just a fact. But not all clans make good beer. Of those clans that make good beer, even fewer make beer worthy of going to war over its recipe. Even so, the small, insular Shattergut clan thinks they’re one of them.
Sometimes it’s just a feeling.
He wasn’t certain what first caused him to notice the boy. Sometimes that’s how it worked. Divine inspiration wasn’t always about shining visions from the heavens or talking squirrels and crap like that. Sometimes…sometimes it was just a feeling.
Meeting House of the Sun Dragon
When the nomadic tribes of the western reach come together at their field moots, they choose to conduct business on neutral ground marked by great meeting-houses. One such site is the House of the Sun Dragon, first established by the wise Halkassan the Peacemaker hundreds of years ago.
Its means of construction was never revealed, but many years ago the mystic sage and scholar Alstor established the mountain observatory on the remote peak that bears his name. At first he was alone, but over time he assembled a small group of acolytes that shared his thirst for knowledge and quite contemplation.
A rock is a rock, right?
Gerrod wasn’t even sure it was the right kind of rock. He’d seen the swordsmen sharpen their blades with a stone, but he’d never held one himself, much less an actual blade. Never felt the texture or hefted the weight. So he just found a rock that looked about the same size. A rock is a rock, right?
The Family Tomb of Borchoran-Torash
The Borchoran-Torash family crypt has become, by the standards of Hookspire’s elite circles, positively pedestrian. Within the catacombs beneath, however, its final patriarch still holds family court.
A Note on Patronage
Concurrent with the launch of Maps & Tales, I launched a page on Patreon to help readers an become partners in my journey. What’s Patreon? In short, Patreon is a site that allows you, as patrons of my art, to contribute as directly as possible to my ability to keep making that art. It’s also a tool for communication and community-building around my creative endeavors in addition to a means of support. Continue reading for more about why I’m using it.
The Story of X
X grew up on Rerun as a member of Network KRS-1. He apprenticed with the network’s doco-channels that pipe in news from across the cluster. He spent some time with his bundle traveling through several systems gathering news in a feed-ship, but never set foot on another planet himself; nearly everything he experienced came through a vid feed. He became obsessed with current events that he pulled in through electronic filters.
Nothing like a bear
Callum never wanted this life. He’s a farmer’s son, but the fifth son. Might as well be a mule, for all the respect he ever received. Another mouth to feed, and not much help around the family plot. So when the baron’s men came ‘round, looking for militiamen… Callum was expendable. Let the baron feed him Callum’s da’ said.
He didn’t build it, but Old Wyrmsbane himself once found this small fortress ideal for keeping an eye on the empire’s borders with his outriders. Now it appears to be unoccupied, but looks can be deceiving…
Let Sleeping Guards Lie
“You’ll get caught.”
“No I won’t.”
“Yes, you will.”
“No. I won’t.”
Mharko sighed in exasperation. His pint-sized companion stared back at him from behind a tall mug of ale, much larger than one would expect a halfling could imbibe.
Introducing the MT-10
Part of getting better at anything is doing more of it more often. Repetition reinforces existing skills and helps drive new ideas. Introducing my own daily challenge, the Maps & Tales 10 (MT-10).
Launching a new project can be fraught with anxiety and fear. I’m doing it anyway.
Temple of the Sky-Dreamers
Very little is known today of the ancient cult known as the Sky-Dreamers. And most of what is known is based on rumors and bard’s tales passed around over thousands of years. Occasionally, however, explorers come across one of their hidden vaults or temples.
The goblins are here!
The bolt of magical force that Alumnet expected to emanate from the wand never came. As a result all the goblin received was a spray of spittle that mingled with its own fetid sweat of rage. The wizard could have spent time thinking about whether she got the command word correct, but the rusty sword coming down at her head shortened her available window for thought. She thrust the wand forward, through the goblin’s eye, and into its brain.
There’s a certain merchant in Harramantown that owes me an explanation.
“Pendleton! The goblins are here!”
“Damn. She sure looks pretty from up here.”
Vim finished shutting down the burn, having pointed the Souxsie Queue at the knot. In a couple of days, they should be ready for the pop to Project.
“Yeah, she does. Mostly because she’s behind us.”
The Golden Apple
The Golden Apple is a small public house and inn noted for its in-house cider and the belligerent family that makes it. People keep coming back, but don’t try to steal their apples or you might find yourself cursed.
Maps & Tales is supported by patrons just like you.
I have been and will continue to release content here—free for personal use—on a regular basis for as long as I possibly can. When you become a patron through Patreon, you'll be helping me sustain this effort. You'll be helping me upgrade my tools and devote more of my personal time to creating high-quality content for your enjoyment. As thanks, I've got a few extra goodies for you, including exclusive content for patrons and custom maps—just for you!.