O Sinner

You find yourself sitting in a chair, around you the interior of a cozy shepherd’s house. A gentle fire sits snaps and pops in the stove, bouncing small sounds around the small space. A small kettle sits atop the black metal case. High-hung shelves hold an array of mugs, jars, and a pair of shears. In front of you is a chess board mid-game, a thinning web of black and white pieces, captured pieces lining the perimeter of the board in eerie lock-step. You note that while black has far fewer pieces remaining, there remains no path for white to take the crown. A perfect draw. 

You hear a quiet rustling, followed by a masked figure walking into the room and sitting down across from you. They sit down, seeming to examine you briefly, before speaking.

“O Sinner, branded exile. Your presence here marks the end of your short, pitiful existence. If you have words to part with before the embrace of oblivion, let them come now.” Their voice is wry grief, tired and mocking. 

You find it impossible to open your mouth. As though something in your throat were holding it shut from the inside. You feel the figure grin behind their mask. 

“Or perhaps you wish for some petty struggle against your fate? As have many before you.” A wicked laughter emits from behind their mask, echoing around a seemingly-expanding room. 

Except the laughter is yours, coming from your throat. Your eyes widen, tears welling, running down your face. Your body trembles under the weight of your voice, all the while the choking laughter ringing around your hollow chest. 

“Yes, yes. I understand. You were meant for so much more. Very well, then.” The figure gets up, sticking an iron poker into the stove fire burning a brilliant blue.

The fire coats the end of the poker, and you watch, helpless, as it’s thrust deep into your chest. The hot iron pierces your broken body, sending flames flashing throughout your body like lightning. You look down at your hands, holding your blood from falling out. Your hands covered in blood. Blood that ceases to cease its flow. Everything outside your body blood. It’s warm. A fire burns in your eyes like memories of fading moonlight. 

 

Your eyes burn as you open them, forcing stuck eyelids apart. All around you, the bodies of the dead, dimly lit by a flickering lantern. Your body refuses to move, at first, broken bones and heavy blood pinning you to the ground. You see others like you as sensation returns to your body, slowly but surely. A towering creature of stringed together flesh given unholy movement lumbers at the edge of your blurring vision, rending bodies to graft onto its own.

Agonizingly, you unstick yourself from the ground, feeling your body lag behind your soul a full second. Your hand reaches for the nearest weapon as you hear the menacing growl of the approaching darkness. 

 

This piece is dedicated to Bluejay, who was gracious enough to support me on Patreon!

Shattering Moon

When the Sun vanished, we ceased to die. 

When the Moon shattered, we lost our names. 

Perhaps you remember

O sinner, branded exile,

when we lost the war

when the darkness gripped our very hearts

and threatened to snuff our our flames

over and over and over and over and over again

each time succeeding, each time repeating.

For the first time in centuries

the rattling chains of death’s door

ringing in our ears

and our hearts.

O child, misguided soul

how could you know our fear

how could you lose when you never had

the sweet ichor

of self-importance. 

You did not choose to be born into this world

You did not choose the circumstances of your birth

Yet here you stand, marked for death

a thousand deaths

for a thousand lives.

O sinner, link your hands

and embrace your fate. 

Lead us to the promised land.

 

This piece is dedicated to Bluejay, who was gracious enough to support me on Patreon!

Falling Sun

You were too young to remember when the Sun lorded over the highest point of the sky. They say we were born from it, they called us the Children of the High Star. Separated by cruel fate and stranded in the cold dirt, we longed to return to the skies, to the star we called our Mother. We built our shelters and honed our blades, stoking the Eternal Flame, the only proof of our connection to the High Star. We struggled with the darkness every night, holding off the terrors that would douse our flame and leave us defenseless while our Mother slept. 

We played music, sang songs, and danced to keep the flow of life from stagnating. We followed the ebb and flow and let the Eternal Flame link us in reverie. Our Kingdom grew, and we prepared ourselves for the day we would reunite with the High Star. We built and built and built. Tirelessly we built, brick by brick, a tower to reach heaven. And just as we began to climb, the sun vanished. 

You were too young to remember when the sun disappeared from the sky, leaving us alone with the lucid silver of a rising Moon. We did not fear the darkness, for the Eternal Flames kept destruction and decay at the final edges of our vision. While others withered away, our cities prospered, warm and magnificent under the brilliant moonlight. They say without the Sun, the Moon climbed ever higher, clinging to newly granted self-importance. 

In those days, we sang more, danced more, celebrated more; we did anything to keep the darkness at bay. It seemed, even without our Mother, we flourished and bloomed in those cold days. You were still too young to remember when we realized we had stopped dying, stopped aging. A hundred Moons rose and fell before we could grasp it. It shocked us into frantic purpose. All the time we had was not enough.

We took up the blades we had since forgotten, sharpened them to razor’s edge, poised against that which would take our birthright from us. We could feel it, in those days, the creeping sense of dread that preceded it. In those times, we spun barrels and put our trust in hot steel, waiting for the day we would have to fight. 

When the Adversary came, we were prepared. 

And when the Moon shattered, we fell. 

February Magic Items

Debonair Hat (Relic)

“Twas the night before Christmas and we see through the village

Not even the bandits were set out to pillage

The adventurers were snoring their heads on the tables

all of the horses and mules in their stables”

A harmless-looking silk hat that serves as the phylactery of an incredibly powerful lich named Phrosz’Chi. He has sworn an eternal vow of vengeance against the wizard who forced him into this form, San’Tah Krauss. 

    • When placed on liquid water or ice, the hat rapidly forms a body made of snow to inhabit. The body has the statistics of the Lich (Monster Manual), except with the following changes:
      • Cold Absorption: Whenever this creature is subjected to cold damage, it takes no damage and instead regains a number of Hit Points equal to the cold damage dealt.
      • Damage Vulnerabilities: Fire
  • Absolute Zero. Ranged Spell Attack: +12 to hit, range 120 ft, one creature. Hit: 6d6 cold damage. The target must succeed on a DC 18 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
    • Ice Wall: This creature can cast the Water Wall spell at will without needing material components or spell slots. The conjured wall is always made of solid ice as outlined in the spell. 
  • A willing creature may make a pact with Phrosz’chi for greater power, so long as both are willing. When pact-bonded to Phrosz’chi in this way, a creature gains access to all the above features, and may use Phrosz’Chi’s +12 spell attack bonus/18 spell save DC instead of its own when casting a spell. 
  • So long as a creature is wearing the hat or bonded to Phrosz’Chi, it can hear Phrosz’Chi’s voice. His personality is sharp, abrasive, and high-spirited. He laughs a lot, even when things aren’t funny. Has a surprising softness towards children, but will dismiss this if it is ever brought up. 

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Ramen Tatsunoya

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Over the winter holidays, I was dragged on a trip to visit my cousins with whom we got along surprisingly well with. You know those obscure cousins you definitely have but have never met before in your life. I was dragged on another trip to see them only a couple weeks later, and overall it was a fun trip. LA is a really weird place for me for a myriad of reasons. It’s also one of the original bastions of ramen in the United States, so of course I was excited to be able to go. If it had been up to me, I definitely would have eaten at least one bowl a day, but alas, I only really had the opportunity to go to one.

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January Magic Items

Dedicated to Paul (who didn’t sign up for this but I appreciate him nonetheless)

Worm on a String (Rare, wondrous item)

“What will he do?”

A vaguely worm-shaped object created by gathering fuzzy material around a piece of string. It’s connected by an almost invisible wire to a small, wooden handle used to manipulate it. 

  • You can use an action to move the Worm on a String, moving it to a space within 10 ft of you. Any creature attempting to attack you must first make a Wisdom (Perception) check against your Charisma (Performance) check or be forced to instead target the worm. You can, however, be included in Area of Effect attacks. 
  • The Worm on a String has no hit points, but if it receives damage, it will deactivate at the start of your next turn. If the worm is deactivated this way, roll 1d4 days to determine when it will be available to use again

Worm off a String (Very Rare, wondrous item)

“Who will he kill?”

A variant of the Worm on a String item created by ripping the thread that connects the Worm on the String to the handle. The worm turns a vibrant pink color when detached from the string.

  • When you use an action to rip the string, the worm becomes unleashed, becoming a sentient creature that will attack the nearest creature to it. 
  • The Worm off a String rolls its own initiative and acts on its turn. The Worm Off a String has the statistics of a Purple Worm.
  • It lasts 30 seconds before all the magic eventually leaks out and the Worm off a String disintegrates into nothing

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Marufuku

Dedicated to Sean Dow

Here’s a very special ramen review (it’s the big one) dedicated to the person who has been with me there the most. And also to the same person who happens to donate $5 a month to me on Patreon. Cheers!

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Very possibly my first bowl of Hakata DX from Marufuku. You can see my chopstick holder folding style has changed since then.

What can I say about Marufuku; it’s hands down my favorite ramen place in the city of San Francisco (currently), and the one I take people to when they ask me where to eat ramen. It’s a ramen place I’ve been to so many times, I stopped taking pictures every time (I still have plenty). Nestled in the corner of the Japantown mall, Marufuku is clearly visible from the bridge thanks in part to the ever-present line that hangs off the doorway. 

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Chasing Whales

They used to appear everywhere, breaching through the busy streets. In those days, we expected the chaos at the start of every summer. It was never before the sun touched the edge of the horizon, but as soon as dusk approached, we waited for the whales. The small mounds in the earth would grow larger and larger until they sprouted supermassive, torpedo-shaped mammals leaving chunks of pavement falling everywhere. They would take off into the sky, streaming trails of clouds behind them. But most of all I remembered the ships, vast wooden vessels propped up by propellers, sails, and improbable precision. They raced off, chasing the whales into the fading light of the horizon, knowing they would only return months later, after the creatures burrowed back into the earth. 

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December 2019 Magic Items

Dedicated to Sean Dow

Physic’s Handbell – (Legendary, Attunement)

“Ring-a-ding ding, Ring-a-ding dong”

A simple-looking golden bell with a well-worn, wooden handle. If you listen closely, you can hear it hum with powerful magic. 

  • Every Tool A Purpose
    • This is an arcane focus that grants +3 to Spell Attack Rolls and +3 to Spell Save DC
  • A Certain Physic’s Theoretical Box
    • When you cast the Wall of Force spell and completely seal a creature inside with no holes, it must make a Constitution saving throw against your Spell Save DC. It takes 6d6 Force damage or half on a successful save. 
    • When your Wall of Force ends, the creature must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC. It takes 6d6 Force damage or half on a successful save.
  • A Certain Physic’s Physiological Training
    • When you cast a spell targeting another creature and they fail their saving throw, they have disadvantage on their next saving throw against the same spell. 
    • If the target you are casting a spell on fails three saves against your casting of the spell, they permanently have disadvantage on saves against that spell.

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Ramen Ryoma

Dedicated to my first patron and my most ardent supporter, Gwen 

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Spicy Miso Ramen – Ramen Ryoma, Beaverton, Oregon

I’ve been to ramen places up the west coast. You’re not missing a “and down” in that sentence; I haven’t actually eaten ramen in Southern California. Despite that, my friends who live in the Pacific North-West have been gracious enough to take me to places they like. This is one such place, which I was taken to by, funnily enough, Gwen. 

But let’s get into it! Ramen Ryoma was great! Even if the experience was somewhat amusingly tempered by the lack of parking and the long-ish wait, both of which were caused by a local anime-fan-focused event directing all the weebs to the local designated weeb spot (here). Like a typhoon sent by god to smite us for our hubris, the absolute storm of weebs walking around almost gave me whiplash. Luckily, we managed to find parking, and, luckily again, it seemed a handful of parties ahead of us abandoned ship to try their fortunes elsewhere. This was not the titanic wait I was braced for.

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