Within a distant universe, at the furthest reaches of the tabletop gaming community, a loose confederation of rogue entities have come together to hold sway over a mysterious universal cluster. At the roll of a die, they decide the fates of sword-masters and sorcerers, of princes and prostitutes.
These are the Chronicles of the Dice-Lords, and the world they most favor: Etheria.
The first entry in the chronicles concerns a flamboyantly-dressed woman with a big sword.
Amidst the spray of the sea, the crash of the waves and the idle curses of sailors, a merchantman makes its way across glimmering bay-waters to a sprawling city. Its crew busy themselves taking in the sails and adjusting the rigging and making all the final, incidental checks forever demanded of a ship with goods to deliver. At its prow stands a taller woman–just shy of six feet–watching the docks loom up.
It appears to be a busy day in Gran Xandria, which would be no immediate concern for anyone else. Any observer with a little people-watching practice would note that this strange swordswoman seems uncomfortable about something. A keener eye might be able to follow her gaze to the teeming crowds on the docks.
At length the merchantman wallows into an open berth. “Well, ‘Renzo,” the strange woman barks at the captain in a thick Danastaren accent, “be seeing you!” She doffs her hat, capped by a ridiculously large white plume.
“Aye, and you, Mistress Norza!” the captain calls. The woman from Danaster loses the rest of his response, staring out across the docks and the throngs hauling cargo, hawking goods, cutting purses.
“A drink first,” she mutters to herself, and eyes the crowds again. “Drinks.” At length, she stiffens, draws her brows down and makes for a modest tavern. The barkeep–and, as it turns out, the owner–informs her that it’s none other than the Hook, Line, and Chaser. Though the woman from Danaster does not know it, it’s quite the venerated establishment within the city: so much so that it’s spawned dozens of lazily-renamed imitators.
Over a meal and a drink, the woman from Danaster explains that she’s crossed the ocean for the Springsage Festival, which is in full swing at the moment. She is, she explains, an instructor of the Montante–a turn of phrase which will later turn out to be a criminal understatement. In due time she pays for her meal and departs the Hook, Line and Chaser.
She passes through the ports for some time before reaching the part of Gran Xandria known as the Offwall Bazaar: a chaotic mishmash of merchants, buyers and travelers running right up to one of the city’s main internal walls. Despite the crowds, a guard is able to wave her through in short order. The woman from Danaster wanders through into South Administrations and then the South Crafting district, where her pace slows as she passes through a metal-working district. She scribbles in a notebook for some time while watching swordsmiths at their work.
At length the woman from Danaster comes upon a human merchant and his dwarven partner trading iron to a smith. She waits for some time hoping to be noticed, but at length the deal is concluded and the merchant only looks at her briefly without saying anything.
(Author’s note: this merchant was another PC, so there was some prospect of interaction here. But alas, it never happened!)
The woman from Danaster ultimately proceeds to the Market Square, a sprawling area of Gran Xandria dedicated to exactly what one would expect: buying and selling, selling and buying, merchants’ stalls and trader’s stores and craftspeoples’ shops. She promptly decides to look for new doublets to wear.
The woman from Danaster will continue doing this for the entire duration of the assassination attempt on the foreign prince visiting the city, and completely miss a decisive opportunity for fame and glory. When she emerges from a Market Square tavern, the city is abuzz with news of the attack; she herself is immediately plunged into melancholy.
She promptly takes a seat at an outdoor ale-bar set up for Festival-goers. “I missed EVERYTHING,” she says dully. “How did I manage to miss EVERYTHING?” The woman from Danaster turns to the nearest sympathetic listener. She gestures with her tankard, sloshing ale. From her flushed features, it’s a very distant cousin to the first. “I sail all the way to Xandria looking for a chance to represent my school at the festival, gain renown and students. An event out of song happens while I wander this very square, and where am I? Puttering around looking at new doublets!”
The other drunk snaps that his cousin, a guardsman, was just killed in the assassination attempt–blown to smithereens. The woman from Danaster duly apologizes, the other drunk tacitly accepts the apology, and he promptly passes out cold. The woman from Danaster offers to pay off his tab except that, as it transpires, she has no more money. The bartender informs her in no uncertain terms that if she’s out of coin, she’s out of drink.
She nods at the bartender and stands up. “Well then… I don’t suppose you know anyone in need of a sword instructor?”
The barkeep shrugs. “Not a drunk one. If you sober up maybe Lord Chenester or the guard could use you. If you’re good enough.”
“I see. Thank you for the advice,” the woman from Danaster answers. She eyes the bartender, mutters a phrase in Draconic, and stalks out into the Square. More accurately, she totters with intent. She decides to go look at doublets again until her head clears enough not to make a (further) fool of herself. She shortly notices a young man in an earthy brown tunic and, fueled by liquid courage mixed with an uncharacteristic sense of social determination, makes a spontaneous decision to approach him.
She pointedly ignores the part of her mind screaming that this is about to be the opposite of not making a fool of herself.
The woman from Danaster realizes she has no idea where to go from here, and defaults to the classic. “I’m Salle. Salle Norza. I instruct people in the use of the Montante. Which is this thing.” She fondly pats the five-foot sword at her waist. “When I am not drunk. Which I presently am.” She appears keenly aware how stupid she sounds and yet unable to stop.
The young man introduces himself as Faldio Banun. And all too soon, he’ll be made a reminder that some things are just as corrupt on both sides of the ocean…