Release Date: 7/29/2021
Welcome to Hazelhearth: our picturesque city is nestled in a tranquil corner of the empire. Fitness lovers enjoy vigorous nature walks in the surrounding forest (don’t forget your sword!) Foodies savor rich, robust walnut-based cuisine. Or visit the gnome quarter for a walk on the wild side! Local mines and orchards beckon with plentiful employment opportunities, while workers sleep safe knowing that stout city walls keep mythic monsters at bay. A select few may even be chosen for exciting quest opportunities.
The onslaught of subterranean hordes? Oh, that’s happening miles away. And the elves have it completely under control.
Inquire today at the Hazelhearth board of tourism, employment, and heroics!
How could Sam and Lee say no? Lee is bored to tears as a telegrapher. His only excitement in life is the revolutionary new board game he’s creating. And of course constant disruptions at work by Sam, whose high voltage experiments wreak havoc with nearby electric systems. These two best buddies… colleagues… acquaintances are ready to escape from 19th century America into a more exciting world!
World of Arvia
Elven city of Halamar
The palace shook from another near miss. Charlotte, housekeeper to Lord Raloren, leapt to a massive golden oak pantry, barely catching a porcelain teapot tumbling off the top shelf.
The head butler pushed through the double doors from the meeting hall into the kitchen bearing a serving platter stacked with enough silverware to ward off an army of werewolves. If there were such things as werewolves. Nobody believed such silly superstitions these days. “Lady Virris sent her tea back again. Hawthorn tea is apparently supposed to be—”
A pounding on the outside door interrupted them.
Charlotte twisted a brass key, drawing open the carved mahogany door.
“Terrible news,” gasped Erland, a haggard sixteen-year-old human, personal servant to Lady Virris.
Charlotte glared at the young man a moment long. “You do realize you’re on fire.”
Erland whipped his head around, tore off his smoldering cloak, threw it to the floor, and stomped on it. “Right.”
“You’ve finished with our master’s mounts now, I assume? We’re short handed and could use your help in the kitchen.”
“Yes. Umm…” Erland bore the expression of a zoo patron upon realizing that the door labeled ‘Lion’s Den’ did not, in fact, lead to a clever theme restaurant. “There’s good news and bad news.”
Charlotte winced. “Let’s get the bad news out of the way.”
“The northeast stables were hit by an ogre trebuchet. A huge firebomb set the place ablaze. A half-dozen men dead, along with most of the mounts.”
“That’s dreadful. Lord Raloren’s favorite mount was there. So what’s the good news?”
“My mistress, Lady Virris’ mount was in the south stables when it happened.”
Charlotte clapped both hands over her face, unable to cover up her grimace or stifle a groan.
“That felt closer,” said a scullery maid. “Are we safe?”
“The elven counsel is meeting in the next room. They wouldn’t be here if it weren’t safe.” Charlotte turned back to Erland and shoved a serving tray at him. “Here. You can serve your mistress her tea.”
“Keep your ears open for any news about Irondale,” whispered the head butler. “My sister was supposed to move there.”
“You overheard anything interesting so far?” said Erland.
“Ogre rōnin are looting and pillaging the surrounding countryside. We’re all probably going to be devoured by monsters. Lady Virris is fussy about her tea. I believe those were the highlights.”
Erland ran a hand through his hair, straightened his jacket, and pushed through the set of double doors to Sunset Hall, where a dozen elf and half-elf nobles and landed gentry were seated at an oblong mahogany table.
None of the assembled nobles paid him the slightest heed. In fact, they showed so little emotion one might assume they were discussing an ordinance regulating the height of topiary in public parks. Yet Erland had served long enough to pick up the subtle clues.
Lord Raloren smoothed a linen napkin in front of him, the elf equivalent of slamming his fist on the table. “Do you understand? Because if Halamar falls, your city will be next. Our settlements are all lined up like little dominoes from here all the way to Arania. This–” he gestured theatrically at the destruction in the distance. “…is the handiwork of ogre rōnin. Former allies under the empire. And even against them we barely hold on. The Melandrach army is still fighting the bulk of the subterranean hordes. But if the Melendrach elves were to be defeated, there’s no telling how far the hordes would push.”
On the bright side, they’re far too short staffed to spare anyone for flogging servants with slovenly uniforms, thought Erland.
“Damn greedy Melandrachs, they’re the reason for this mess in the first place.” An elf whose cheerful mint-green robes contrasted starkly with a morose facial expression made a defiant show of setting a silver teaspoon on bare tablecloth. “Everything so organized. Puppet masters of dozens of species. Until their puppets revolted.”
A flash of orange caught Erland’s eye. Incendiary liquid showered over a tiled roof a few hundred paces away. Too close for comfort, he thought.
“Recriminations are pointless,” said Lord Raloren. “But the fact remains, we need more men. And with an additional three mines shut down, we can no longer afford to pay what the official brokers charge for skilled soldiers.”
Erland barely stifled a snork. What kind of rube, skilled or otherwise, would be foolish enough to come to Arvia at a time like this? He set a saucer, teacup, silk napkin, and two tiny silver spoons in front of Lady Virris.
“I really don’t much care to deal with those two.” Lady Virris enunciated each syllable with a practiced mix of precision and disdain.
“Efficacy must take precedence.”
Erland poured the tea, added exactly six drops of distilled ambrosia, nodded, and stepped back.
“Very well.” Lady Virris lifted the teacup to her lips, crinkled her nose, and set it back on the saucer. “Lord Raloren, I support your proposal. I do not like it, but I shall support it.”
“Meat for the grinder,” mumbled the mint-green-robed elf.
Must be the well water in this city, thought Erland. Next time I’ll have to bring our own water. If we live that long.
About the Author
DH Willison is a reader, writer, game enthusiast and developer, engineer, and history buff. He has lived around the world, absorbing history, culture, and food. Actually, he has eaten the food. It has been verified that he is a complex, multicellular life form. Fascinated by nature, technology, and history, and especially anything that can put all three of these together, he has an annoying habit of dragging his wife to the most unromantic destinations imaginable, including outdoor museums, authentic castle dungeons, the holds of tall ships, and even the tunnels of the Maginot Line.