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Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 4/23/2020 8:40 pm

Hackhamster
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The exhilaration of our latest triumph seems to be confined to me and perhaps Snowdog, who was stoic as ever, so who knows?  The rest of the party are lugubrious and sluggish, moving about aimlessly.  For some reason, none wanted to examine the remains of the annihilated settlement at the end of the dim passage, and none converse with Birgir, who moves aimlessly clutching his blood-caked axe.  This episode has been an educational one for him, no doubt.

The wide hallway to our left has arrow slits on both sides, and we haven’t explored the area behind the wall on the south side, but a hallway behind another column beckons.  Snowdog takes the lead, and shortly we assemble before another door.  Quickly we burst in, and find it deserted.  The rank odor of a ball of overheated serpents greets us. There are two empty pallets in the room but a quick search finds nothing else.  Out in the hall, another door is found.  Again, we burst in, and are met with a rush of yet more of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of cannibals.  Snowdog spears the first, and then the second, and eventually all of them as they fight past each other in transports of ill-advised ferocity.  Snowdog skewers them one by one, looking almost bored as they throw themselves on his weapon.  Again, a quick survey finds little of worth, save a collection of bent and notched shortswords.

There are no other exits off the hall, and the halls are dead ends, so we return to the vaulted chamber.  The stairs upward, as I have said, were choked with old dried vines massed around a lone skeleton.  Using a rope with a hook on the end, we pulled the vines loose and found the body unresponsive with not a glimmer of unlife. It wore a tarnished suit of mail of archaic design, a sword spotted with rust, a quiver with some remarkably well-preserved and straight arrows, and a ring.  Ruark took the arrows for his collection, and as we bent over the other finds, suddenly a shadow blocked the ruby rays shinin

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 4/21/2020 5:57 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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Down the silent hall we crept, to find a village of sorts in a large square room. Haggard women and their squalling brats all dressed in rags slurped noisome stew from wooden bowls, and of course several brutes of the type with which we had become familiar lounged about the smoking fires.  They took no notice of us in the dim light, and we withdrew without incident.

After a short consultation, where we made and discarded several plans, I had a stroke of inspiration.  Maybe we could intimidate them and drive them out, scattering the thralls and their spawn, leaving their warriors confused and disorganized.  I sent Snowdog back to the kitchen where he retrieved the robe of the ophidian priests we had slain. Our largest warriors donned them and we returned, intending to cow them with our mastery of their prior masters.  Or so we thought.

The moment Birgir came forward, bellowing, cursing, and waving his axe belligerently over his head, the savages sprang to their feet and raised blowguns to their lips.  A quick shower of darts pelted Birgir, most bouncing from his armor, but one lodged in his arm. We withdrew yet again pursued by the howling maniacs who showed no sign of intimidation.  We quickly took up positions back in the domed chamber and met a sudden rush of foemen. Crammed together in the narrow hall, they could not come at our broad front but singly, and were quickly dispatched.

The lull after the melee was broken by Birgir’s frantic panting.  He had entered his berserk frenzy, overcoming the numbing agent from the dart that had pierced his shield arm, but the fight had ended too soon for it to abate. Consumed with unsatiated bloodlust, he let out a bellow that shook the ruined marble halls and, with the clashing of his hobnails on the gore spattered pavers, he sprinted back into the darkness waving his axe on high, ululating a wordless howl of doom.

As screams of terror and pain erupted, those of us that remained behind exchanged almost sheepish g

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 4/21/2020 5:45 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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[size=100]Beyond the door lay an abandoned stable, rotted and stinking.  Whatever fine mounts of the Overlord’s cavalry were long gone. Moldering mounds of fodder spilled out of ramshackle stalls. In one lay the disarticulated skeleton of a camel splayed out in forlorn repose.  The rest were deserted. Snowdog went into the noisome stalls, probing with his spear after the glorious treasure that surely lurked under the piles of ordure. Maybe a couple coppers lost in a drunken carousal, or a lost horseshoe, if that.  This incessant scrambling after lucre was not to my taste, but at least the stable wasn’t filled with file-toothed savages cramming their maws with the barely roasted haunch of some potboy abducted from town, which had been our previous experience.  Frankly I was surprised there wasn’t at least one shaggy idiot loitering about with a basting brush or carving knife to be seen anywhere. Snowdog was welcome to whatever pittance he found. The rest of us carefully moved to the doorway to the north, a high arched opening blocked by a double door just ajar.  A soft indirect glow of light appeared, as if from a room partially lit beyond.

​Carefully peeking around the door revealed an immense circular chamber surrounded by thick pillars and surmounted by a dome high above riven by some ancient catastrophe.  Lambent rays of Helios shone through the rough oculus high above, illuminating a ruined scene of pagan pageantry. Tattered banners hung from the walls, which when not covered were indited with strange hieroglyphs and scenes of carnage.  Over all of it, a giant comet streaked across the dome, its tail cracked and sundered by the great gap in the stonework that had fallen to the floor. To our right, a wide vine-choked stairway ascended to some platform above. Tangled in the vines was the skeleton of some hapless explorer, still clutching a tarnished sword. To the left a wide passageway exited the chamber, presumably to the entry gates we bypassed.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 4/11/2020 9:29 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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[size=100]With a mighty blow of Birgir’s shoulder, the door splintered and gave way as the hinges ripped free, and our warriors were through with battle cries and bared weapons.  From the rear, all I could apprehend of the melee was a great clash of arms, shrill screams, and potent oaths. A potent aroma of roasting meat perfumed the air, and to my horror, I salivated.   Snowdog charged past me and buried his spear in the breast of a dagger-wielding figure in priestly garb, whose mouth gaped wider in agony than it seemed possible for a normal man, revealing fangs and hooked teeth in a silent shout as it died.  Another started to make an arcane gesture but fell to a flurry of wicked axe strokes that rent gaping holes in its robes. An ophidian stench arose to compete with the savory scent of a dead man trussed to a spit over a hot bed of coals. The four anthropophagi rose from their cooking implements a beat late and were summarily dispatched before they knew their doom was upon them.  Spatulas and roasting forks were no match for the plunging thrusts of sword and spear.

Three bound and gagged captives writhed against the far wall, their eyes rolling in their heads in their transports of emotion.  We freed them, hauled them to their feet, and without a backward glance at their roasted compatriot, they fled out the door in a headlong gibbering rush.

[color=#000000]“So much for gratitude,” grunted Roark in a huff. A quick search of the room discovered naught but crude weapons, broken crockery, and roasted haunches of presumable human origin. Snowdog knelt by the snake-men who had been flung into the corner, curiously fingering their now ruined finery.  Nothing was to be found on them, and nothing explaining their presence here. All of us save the dimmest had heard of the evil legend of the snake-men and their hatred for all the walked the lands of Hyperborea. To abruptly find a myth made real was at the least di

Maps » Zenopus' Doom: » 12/20/2019 10:34 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 7

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Some years back, I did a few conversions of the original myself, but they were just updates. They pale in comparison to this.  Nice work!

Rules Discussion » Madness » 12/10/2019 11:46 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 11

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Shincan wrote:

I like to think of this stuff...so, thanks for adding to discussion.

You have found a board of like-minded individuals, you will fit right in.
 

Rules Discussion » Madness » 12/10/2019 11:17 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 11

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Maybe you have found a part of the game needing expansion: as far I can tell. there is no madness/insanity mechanic like in CoC (see horror, lose grip on reality, etc...) but as far as a setting goes that would be REALLY amenable to one, it would be this one. 

Then again, horror induced insanity might be a rare thing in the game setting, considering a Shoggoth popping out of your fireplace and eating your nanny is way more plausible in Hyperborea as opposed to 1930's Chicago. People can get used to anything.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/21/2019 11:11 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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Returning to the sands, we returned along the path to the village, now to all observation deserted, and past it, to where the track around the pond led into the higher dunes.  Soon we approached the shallow dell where we left the bodies heaped around the central fire. All that remained were bones gnawed clean. A curious pyramid of stacked ribs was topped with a polished skull. A circular hole showed where the brain had been.. sucked out?  Writhing tracks were tumbled all around in the sand. Snowdog peered about, his stoicism unpierced. “I think we should move on,” was all he said.

The tracks of the man-eating cultists led further to the East, and thence we followed warily, backtracking them to their lair.  Several dusty but uneventful miles later, we came across the fabled Warlord’s Palace. It was a dump. High walls of plastered mud-brick extended between tumbled-down towers on the corners.  A broad dome, cracked across the middle surmounted the whole thing, which was being consumed by a towering dune from the rear. The plaster was cracked and the bricks crumbling. In the center of the wall, the tracks we followed entered a massive pair of splintered wooden doors strapped with greening copper bands.  The doors were just open enough to permit a single man to pass.

Well, of course, you never enter the first door opened to you, and even though we had destroyed several of the cannibals, there was no sign we had reached the end of them.  And despite the ramshackle condition of their lair, it was huge and it could conceal a great number more foemen. We resolved, therefore, to work our way around the perimeter and search for a less obtrusive entrance.With Snowdog in the lead, we passed around the site to the south.  We saw no movement on the battlements, but the walls held enough cracks and gaps that innumerable eyes could have observed our progress with ease.  We passed around the south-western corner, and the looming wall blocked the sun, wrapping us in p

Campaign » A Crow's Nest Upon Bleak Shores » 11/21/2019 11:09 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 62

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I'm really enjoying your write-up!  I am even more impressed with your dedication to keeping it up and reasonably current. Trying to write a recap in an evocative prose style like you are doing is WAY more work than the "Entered the room, killed 4 orcs and a giant rat" style.  Keep it up!

Bestiary » Fiend Folio » 11/20/2019 1:33 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 7

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The FF has some GREAT new monsters for 1981, and is 99% awesome.  Then it has the Flumph,  which is definitely not awesome, but serves as a reminder to not take the game too seriously.

Literary Inspirations » Call outs » 11/19/2019 11:51 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 1

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The PoA elements were pretty awesome, I agree.  Can't wait to encounter a Phoong/Phung.

Of all the monsters in the Bestiary, the most Vancian IMHO is the Thew Waggon, which is just plain weird, but I can't place it.  I HAS to be Vance-inspired: the guy had a great way of inventing bizarre modes of travel, and this is nearly an archetype.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/17/2019 11:58 am

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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Thanks! Been cooped up at home this week fighting a cold so my productivity has been up. Finally, our intrepid adventurers are poised at the cusp of the dungeon crawl. Huzzah! Of course, after many trials and tribulations, we completed the adventure two weeks ago, and I'm racing to catch up before we start something else, in the employ of the Witch Queen perhaps?

Stay tuned for their further Astonishing adventures.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/16/2019 10:48 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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South we went, cutting along the marge of the desert between the sparse sandy fields around Xambaala and the encroaching dunes.  We made good time for a change, and shortly we came upon a large hut perched on a rise overlooking the sea and town both. The roughly thatched dwelling was made of driftwood and old planks scavenged from the strand.  The door was a tattered hide scraped thin. Our inquiring hails were met by a muttering old man who, with hesitant but welcoming gestures, invited us inside.

The interior of the hut was gloomy and cluttered with the detritus of the ages: worn clothing and shoes, broken tools and discarded bones. Ancient furniture loomed just beyond the fitful light of a single fish-oil lamp. Scraps of ragged netting and tattered cloth hung from lines strung between the driftwood poles supporting the roof. With a grand sweep of his spindly arm, our host offered us a light repast consisting of a portion of the glutinous stew that was burping ominously in a battered kettle. We exchanged dubious glances. He proclaimed himself “The Theosophist”, and the stew contained fish.  Both utterances inspired little confidence, but Lycos accepted his offer with enthusiasm.
As a place to rest, the hut was ideal.  It was remote from Xambaala, but I thought it would be improved immeasurably by the removal of both its current desiccated inhabitant and his noisome stew.  Portentous looks passed between us. Snowdog sat in the doorway and honed his already razor-sharp knife. However, oblivious to our silent plotting, Lycos squatted next to the pot, ladled a hefty portion into a dusty earthenware bowl, and with his lips smacking set to with gusto.  The doom-laden moment passed.

[color=#000000]To the accompaniment of Lycos’ contented grunts and slurps, the old man regaled us with tales of Xambaala’s storied past.  I had never been so bored. It was as if a mouldering tome achieved som

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/12/2019 3:49 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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The Musings of Atanaq:

I owe a debt of blood.  I would have been sacrificed to the bored decadence of the grey men in their arena if not for the strange one and his handful of gold. And again, he saved me from the toothy ones, cutting my bindings and freeing me in yet another way.  I owe the mewling coward my blood and bones, but my spirit rebels within my breast against this new bondage unseen. Patience I have in abundance, and someday I will have my vengeance, but first this onerous debt must be paid. Then, oh then, will I have sweet recompense for dishonors heaped upon me.  

Someday, his companions will die one by one, by my hand or not, until he is left alone, and I will take him at last.  Or perhaps I should intimate that his grim fate lay in my homeland, and have him walk to his own doom. Then, on the high plateau, the unhallowed plain of Leng, where the air is like wine, and the spirits of the upper skies fly keening their sorrow to our worshipful ears, I would stretch him on the black slab and my ears would have his cries and my eyes would see into his as he learns the final knowledge I bring.  Slowly will I draw his soul forth from the fragile wreck of his body, savoring each quiver, each shudder and groan until with the slightest final cut I give him to my dark God.

He thinks he knows evil, but he has never seen the dreaming spirit of Kthulhu rise in a shaman's eyes as we reap souls for his dread glory.  When I give my master to Him, the midnight tide of my God’s awful presence will rise in mine and I will see as He does: our world dead and cold in the spaces between the stars, the sun a frozen cinder, the souls of Man enmeshed in the dark lord’s vast mentality, screaming without end.

But for that handful of gold, he would be mine.  But I can wait.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/12/2019 3:06 pm

Hackhamster
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After we recovered from the horrific aftermath of our primitive Bacchanalia, we took stock of our situation.  I argued that we couldn’t go back to town without coming to the attention of Aramis and his henchmen, the slaves complicit in his design to feed the unholy lusts of the anthropophagi.  Arriving with our rescued henchmen in tow would of course set him on his guard. What arrangements did he have with the man-eaters? What promises did he make in exchange for their quivering flesh?  Were there other factions in town in cahoots with him? I thought that since we would have to go back into Xambaala at some point, we could avoid all these machinations by simply seizing Aramis in an ambuscade, questioning him in a vigorous way, and then putting him down.  

[color=#000000]Oh no, my companions cried, we do not know Aramis was truly in league with the cannibals, we can’t be sure! Tenderhearted fools they are, I was outvoted.  Snowdog however wasn’t mollified. It wasn’t their soft flesh on the spit as his was. I could see his frustration and disdain in his eyes, as he turned about walked off into the palm grove, no doubt to mutter imprecations and incant curses to his black idol. Still we had a need for supplies, and without the option of going directly to the bazaar ourselves, we decided to enlist our newfound allies, the villagers, as our purchasing agents.

This shameful episode I shall relate in brief: we trusted the villagers with our gold and a shopping list, not once but twice, each time receiving nothing in return but blank looks and empty hands.  Appeals to their gratitude for their salvation were greeted with stares. Threats and intimidation were likewise ineffective. Short of executing the entire village, we were at a loss. We decided to leave, cutting our losses.  As we trudged away, I heard a snicker and looked back to see if Snowdog was making mock of his betters, but his mien indicated supreme boredom and detachment.

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 11/08/2019 8:51 pm

Hackhamster
Replies: 48

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Even though the crocodile had not proven a formidable enemy to us, it proved to be an unlooked for bounty for the starving villagers, who descended upon it in a whirl of knives, cleavers, bone saws and other implements of the butcher’s trade.  The rest of the day was a frenzy of food preparation the likes I have never seen. Into the pot went the hapless amphibian. The hours of the afternoon passed in a smoky haze as the beast was boiled, fried, broiled, barbecued, stewed, braised, fricasseed, basted, and finally stuffed into pies.  Snowdog claimed some of the teeth and Birgir the claws. The carcass’s scaly hide was stretched between two palms and scraped clean by a milky eyed crone.

Towards dusk the feast began, the villagers showing some animation as they consumed what must have been the largest meal of their lives.  The diversely prepared animal fed the whole village and more. Towards the end, some of the older denizens of the village dug some sealed pottery crocks out of the ground, which turned out to be filled with some vile fermented substance. I declined the horrible smelling brew that was poured forth, and asked, ”Do you have any milk?”  

A cackling oldster nodded and passed me a chipped earthenware cup filled to the brim with a milky fluid.  Birgir looked over and observed sagely, “There might be milk in it.“ In any event, there seemed to be fruit, bread and other vegetable matter and even scraps of meat bobbing about below the surface.[color=#000000]“Is good, is good! Drink, drink!” the toothless old man gabbled, pushing the cup at me. The contents of the cup looked like milk, and it was cool, but its provenance was suspect. Still, since the desert air left my throat parched and I was never one to pass up a lacteal libation, I drank it down at a gulp. 

Suddenly my mouth and throat seized and I was left gasping. I flailed about choking and grasping my throat. Sudd

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 10/06/2019 1:18 pm

Hackhamster
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A lambent beam of crimson searing my eyelids woke me from uneasy dreams. I was chased by red demons belaboring me over the head with giant spiky fruit, whilst gibbering in abominably accented street Ixian amateurly composed Hyperborean love poetry. Waking was not an improvement.  I groaned and tried to roll over, but my clothing was tangled about my clammy limbs, and I fell back. My limbs were stiff, my muscles ached, and my skull pounded like the drums we had heard throbbing across the night. Considering the vast quantity of liquor I had bibbed the past evening, the condition of my mouth does not bear relating. 

I squinted against the glare, and saw I was abed on some rotting rushes strewn on the floor of a dilapidated hut.  
 I was surrounded by the detritus of the feasting and quaffing that had gone far into the night.  Birgir, our hero, was laying on his back up against a palm tree, snoring loudly while a piebald jackal broke his fast lapping up the pool of vomit spreading across his beard and jerkin.  The fruits of his victory were indeed grand. The edda boasting of his triumph he kept murmuring about would likely elide this coda to his evening. 

Emaciated children with distended bellies poked at the fire and ran screaming about the village waving burning sticks and palm fronds.  Aged crones moved about with slow purpose, presumably to prepare nutriment from whatever squalid ingredients they could scavenge. My stomach rebelled at the thought of food, but groaning with the effort I hoisted my abused body from the floor and straightened my robes.  I could not project the aura of gravitas appropriate to my station looking like some rumpled street fakir. 

[color=#000000]We had entered the village in less a victory parade than a halting trudge.  The deep sand dragged at our feet, and the fatigue of yet another night awake numbed our minds.  Birgir slouched forward, blood splashed lib

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 8/11/2019 9:06 pm

Hackhamster
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Birgir’s Edda

Wolves arise, call moon-rise,
Scent of blood, rushing flood,
Howl arose, charging close,
Spark of fire, chaos gyre,
Axe crash, teeth gnash,
Claw rends, byrnie fends,
Limbs entangle, crushing strangle,
Red blood gout, battle shout,
Foemen tumble, slack mouths mumble, 
Sand grind, entrails unwind,
Death stare, end aware,
Glorious fight, thews of might,
Brand swinging, death-bringing,
Steel song, sing strong,
Lungs fill, iron will,
Ware fate, Doom awaits. 

General Discussion » JRPG's and Sword & Sorcery Fiction » 7/19/2019 2:14 pm

Hackhamster
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I came across an interesting article yesterday at Gizmodo and I've been thinking about it since.  My upbringing in fiction and gaming was Tolkien and Gygax respectively. The books I read now and the games I play now are sprung from those antecedents, and are what I'm most comfortable with.  Of course, I've varied my tastes in the decades since, going from the narrow and deep to broad and well, not as maniacally deep as when I was a teen.  I've gained some perspective and shall I say discernment, and maybe even some taste.  But I still know what I like.  And what I like is Sword & Sorcery fiction and the games inspired by it.

For the tl;dr crowd, the article describes how modern fantasy fiction by younger authors has been inspired by the jrpg's (electronic Japanese RPG's like Zelda etc...) of the 90's and later.  I know there is a synergistic effect between the gaming community and people who read books, since there is a good bit of overlap in a community that tends to like the same things at the same time (i.e. Nerds).  For me, I started firmly in the analog camp, pen & paper rpg and the books that inspired them, but fantasy fiction had a firm head start of many decades before tabletop rpg's showed up in the 70's. The role playing gamers of that period were steeped in Conan, Fafhrd,& the GM, Elric, Hobbits and such, and their games looked like it.  Fast-forward, and now the games are influencing the fiction and the kids growing up with those games are now writing the books we read. 

It's this reversal in direction of influence that for me marks a generational difference between how I see gaming and what I feel is the get-off-mah-lawn proper way to do it, vs new school gaming that, go figure, is more closely based on cooperative tactics and a narrative structure that is less sand-boxy than old-school gaming. The jrpg's basically chucked the Euro-centric mode

Campaign » Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday" » 7/19/2019 12:08 pm

Hackhamster
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From our perch on the dune, we watched as the rite below became even more frenzied, if that were possible.  The gutting of the next victim began apace and the screams and howls of the victims blended with those of their butchers in a grisly harmony as still quivering gobbets of their flesh were consumed greedily before their eyes.  There were at least ten of the cultists, maybe more if the flames and darkness had not confused our count.  There were yet three of us, and only one a true warrior.  Our time to ponder our options was scant.  We conferred quickly and readied ourselves for our likely demise.

My stomach roiled within me and my hands shook.  I had heard once the phrase of girding one’s loins.  Standing there in the night, before a crisis where such girding would no doubt be advantageous, I was at a loss to know where to begin.  I sufficed with reaching under my robe and tightening my loin cloth.  As it drew my parts up snug, I saw the wisdom of not flopping about while running and fighting and guessed it might be the likely origin of the saying.  All I knew was I felt more girded than I had been and it was a comfort.  Then I realized the inanity of my thoughts and saw I was distracting myself from what might shortly be my death.  Given my profession and expertise, I knew that ultimate state like few others, but it was always that of another. In this case, I knew with certainty where my soul would go after my vital spark was extinguished, and I found myself without eagerness to experience that final journey just yet.  Then, behind me, I heard a splashing.

Birgir had backed off a pace or two, and was pissing off the side of the dune in a long splattering arc.  He finished with a flourish and a shake, buttoned up and saw me gaping at him.  He grinned, “Always have a good piss before a fight, my sire always said.”

“Does it help?”

“Well, he actually said to take a nice long s*** first, but I don’t think our friends down there will

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