Sunday, January 31, 2010

Farmhands of Fertile Pastures II

Those who tend to Chauntea’s Flora

Fantasy equal: Chauntea

The calendar suggests the few upcoming days are to be fun and joyous, yet the mood and atmosphere of your sleepy village of Charwood imply otherwise. This year’s Harvest Festival will most likely be a failure, for there is little to harvest and thus little to produce from it. There is no point in celebrating a poor harvest, the first in years.

Every year travellers from across the realms of Neverwinter visit Charwood to share in tales, wonderful food, glorious tournaments and the Great Offering to the Earth Mother, Chauntea. She is one of the few Gods of Faerun who still hear the pleas of mortals and bless her followers with her presence once in a while. The Festival is one such occurrence when she appears in one form or another during the Great Offering. This rare and wondrous sight is the reason why so many visitors come to visit Charwood; to see how Chauntea blesses the earth for the next season’s harvest. Her last blessing has been in vain it seems and people fear for the future.

All seemed well up until a few weeks ago when a great swarm of locusts invaded the surrounding areas and feasted on most of the crops. The local magi and all who could help did everything they could to stop the evil swarm. Unfortunately the size and hunger of the swarm was so immense, that most of the crops were ruined by the time the last segment of the swarm was burnt, drowned or shocked into oblivion.

One farm on the outskirts of the region, however, was left unscathed. Villagers who dwell near this farm tell of the healthy fields of grain and orchards with trees bearing an abundance of fruit. They say the harvest from this farm alone could save the festival! There is one problem however; the owner and sole inhabitant of this farm, the Foreigner, as he is known, is said to be a dangerous and shifty character, who should be avoided at all costs. Little is known about the Foreigner and why he is so dangerous. No one even really knows what he looks like, for his face is covered in a great mane of hair and a full beard. The few who have crossed paths with him fled at the sight of him or from hearing his booming voice.

You, a follower of Chauntea and a great devotee of the festival, decide to embark on the perilous journey to the farm of the Foreigner to seek his help and maybe save the festival and reputation of Charwood. You gather your favourite green cloak and walking stick and the little that is left from your pantry and venture forth down the narrow path towards the foreigner’s farm.

It was morning when you left and you reach the ominous, dark path up to his homestead just before nightfall. “Maybe this was not such a good idea.” You ponder what you should do for a moment.

Your trail of thought is rudely interrupted by a tap on your shoulder and a booming voice asking, “Are you lost?”

You turn around and gaze onto the face of the person trying to get your attention. A towering figure stands before you. He is barefoot, dressed in weathered shorts and a shirt and has a straw hat covering his crown. You peer into his haunting eyes and then notice his dark hair, great beard and then it finally hits you; it is the Foreigner! You stagger back and tumble to the ground. The Foreigner takes a step forward and offers you his large hand. He doesn’t seem that dangerous you think to yourself, as his eyes are friendly, just about the only part of him that is not frightening. Reluctantly you take his hand. He pulls you up from the dirt with a forceful tug.

“Are you lost, friend?” he asks again.

“Well, not really, you reply. I’m looking for the owner of this farm. I assume it must be you,” you reply.

“I am he whom you seek then. What can I do for you?” the Foreigner asks.

“I have come on behalf of the people of Charwood. I’m not sure if you have heard of the great plague that swooped across the lands and have eaten everything in their path,” you say.

“I have seen the swarm, as well as their demise by the hands of magi. They have left my fields alone, for they knew better than to feast on the fields and orchards which the Great Mother Chauntea and the Great Father Silvanus have blessed,” says the foreigner.

“Why are your fields unscathed, yet those of the other farmers have been destroyed? Chauntea blesses these lands during the Great Offering, all of Charwood,” you ask, staring at him perplexed.

“Ah the Harvest Festival; the time I find all kinds of folk lurking in my fields and stealing from me. To answer your question, I have a strong affinity with the Earth Mother and Father of the Trees. I am their follower, a Druid of the Second Circle who has answered the call of my gods to cultivate vegetable and fruit bearing plants to aid humanity in the hard times to come. It is not so much Chauntea revoking her blessings, than it is malevolent gods cursing those who have abandoned their faith and the ancient ways of the deities. I do not know which god summoned the locust swarm, nor do I know the exact reason why or how to rectify it. Summoned by a malicious they were, for it certainly was not a natural occurrence,” says the foreigner.

You look at him with great admiration. He certainly is not what his appearance suggests. A Druid of the Second Circle is greatly revered, Druids of the First Circle, the Elder Druids, even more so. They are sought after by kings for their council and great wisdom. The Druids are a strong ally and have helped with many a wars and difficult times. They however do not help readily, only when the ‘Balance’ has been disturbed or when some evil defiles Nature. The ‘Balance’ is what they refer to as the natural order in Nature. It is usually something unnatural that upsets the Balance and it is the duty of the Druids to eliminate this threat and restore order.

“I know why it is you come, for I have foreseen this. You will have what you seek. The village folk however should know that circumstances are far direr than they perceive it to be. The locust swarm was only the start. Who knows what the gods will throw at us next. The festival should be held still, Chauntea demands it, yet none of the produce should go to waste and most of the grain must be contained in your granaries and locked up for when it is needed more,” says the foreigner. “But come, enough of my words of doom and sorrow, there is much I want to show you and other things we need to discuss. My name is Cernd, by the way. Not ‘Foreigner.’”

This is all weird and surreal you think to yourself. Where people thought Cernd was a dangerous fellow, he claims to be a great Druid. You believe what he says and feel strangely pulled towards him. It doesn’t feel like mere attraction, you feel like you’re supposed to be here with him at this moment in time. This should be interesting.

The sky veils itself in darkness as you are led to his home. Cernd tells you tomorrow he shall show you his farm and how Druidic magic and influence can aid plant growth and shelter flora from the elements, unwanted pests, parasites and other dangers. You are led to a great oak tree that stands majestically on the tallest of the hills on his farm. The tree grows taller and taller with every step you take towards it. Before long it stands in front of you, as tall as a wizard’s tower. You turn around to lay your eyes on the view from the hilltop. The moon and stars alters the outstretched fields to almost glow in faint shades of blue and grey on a black canvas. You can’t wait to see this in the morning, that’s if he offers you food and lodging. You are starving!

Cernd utters a few words in a tongue unknown to you. Suddenly parts of the oak’s far-reaching roots start to radiate initially a faint green glow. A path is revealed by the glowing lights. You approach one of these lights and notice that it is actually some kind of fern and at its centre is a bulb, which emits the enchanting light. Cernd tells you about these wonderful ferns as the two of you walk up an illuminated path which leads into a nook formed by two of the great oak’s roots. Is that a door you see?

“Do you live inside the oak?” you ask Cernd.

“Yes. There’s a cavity between the tree’s flesh and bark on this side of its trunk. A snug cavity that was large enough to allow me to build a loft inside. Please come in...” replies Cernd.

Cernd draws the door open. The same ferns that grow against the oak’s bark outside grow inside the cavity as well. He says, however, he still has need for a stronger source of light to do his reading and more finicky work. He lights a candle which reveals his unique dwelling. You see books, many books mounted on a great bookshelf that spans the entire length of one of the four inner walls. On the far left side corner is what seems to be an alchemist lab and next to it a small kitchen. Is it wise to keep potion and poison reagents so close to the place you prepare dinner? In the far right corner there is a water spring in the floor! To your right is a round, wooden table and several stools placed around it, all of which are intricately engraved with designs of leaves, vines and feathers. These designs seem to be the overall theme of his very well done decorating attempt, as the carpet, fabrics and paintings all share the same nature themed splendour. You notice a flight of stairs carved from the inner bark of the cavity, which probably leads to where you guess he retires at night.

“How does some dinner sound like?” asks Cernd.

“I’m starving, thanks! What’s on the menu?” you ask.

“I have quite a bit of fruit here; a variety of berries, pomegranate, banana... kiwi fruit. We shall start with a fruit salad. And I have some fresh bread and salted pork I traded from a merchant this morning,” says Cernd as he makes his way to the remarkable indoor spring. There he removes his straw hat, which causes his long, flowing dark hair to cascade down over his shoulder. He climbs into the spring where he stands for a moment with eyes closed and smiling softly, obviously enjoying the soothing effect the cold water has on his weary feet. He scrubs his feet and shins as you speak before splashing his face with the water from the spring.

“Traded... with the village folk? I thought all of them were afraid of you,” you say.

“I gathered as much,” Cernd responded. No one from Charwood ever comes to visit. I can’t fathom why not. I do enjoy the peace and quiet, I have to admit, yet I do get lonely sometimes, I suppose. So no, I trade with travellers and merchants and fellow Druids. Most of my produce however goes to the Great Grove where the Druids distribute it to the needy. Working on this farm was my calling and feeding the needy is now my duty, until the Earth Mother and Father tell me otherwise.”

For several hours the two of you speak and devour Cernd’s scrumptious feast. His fruit truly tastes like they are grown in the Charwood area. Finally the two of you decide to retire. He offers you his bed, though you refuse to accept the offer. Instead he offers you cotton linen and a great bear pelt which you use to make a bed with. Quite comfortable you fall asleep almost immediately.

The following morning you wake up after a sound night’s rest. You rub the sleep from your eyes and your lazy gaze fall onto Cernd, who was again busy in his kitchen. As your eyes regain its proper focus you notice he is clad in a loin cloth only and decide you can just as well check out the goods whilst he is unknowing of your gaze.

He is a young Druid still. You find it remarkable that he’s a Second Circle Druid already, for those Druids honoured by the title of belonging to the Second Circle are usually already quite old. It takes loads of time to muster the required knowledge of the wilds and not to mention the time it takes to master healing and druidic spell! He has legs like tree trunks; hard and bulky and covered in fine hair. His back is broad and majestic, like a mighty mountain.

Your blueberry pancakes are ready when you are,” says Cernd. Uh-oh, he knows you’re awake! Oh well, now you can eat least steal a few glimpses of his front side. You pick yourself up and walk over to Cernd. The glorious shape of his back side is reflected on his front side, for he has trunks for arms and a mountain of a chest as well. Your attention is caught by the hair covering his torso, however. A mat of green hair extends from his pubic area. These hairs change from green to a brown colour as you move your glance up his navel and across his stomach where it forms a column... no a tree trunk! As you reach his chest the trunk branches into a green crown of hair; the foliage of a tree!

“Oh, you’ve noticed my mark,” says Cernd. Druids who follow the ways of Chauntea and Silvanus bear the mark of the Great Oak. Lads grow a tree from their body hair and the ladies have a similar mark that originates from colouration of skin pigments, very much like a tattoo.

“That’s fascinating!” you exclaim.

“You didn’t know of this?” asks Cernd. A druid apprentice is like a blank canvas. He is taught and trained in the ways of the wilds. As he learns and gains knowledge and experience, he is introduced to the ancient ways of each of the nature deities; Chauntea, Silvanus, Grumbar, Etugen, Mielikki, Rillifane Rallathil and even Umberlee, the Ocean Goddess. Once you advance to a Druid of the Fifth Circle, your spirit and being is transformed to reflect the ancient ways of the deity you have an affinity with. I have the Great Oak of Silvanus garlanded on my chest and the pastures of Chauntea... sort of growing from my groin area,” Cernd mentions grinning. “I’m one of a few who have a combined mark, which sometimes causes interesting physical changes. Anyways, here are your pancakes and I have some herbal tea seeping in that teapot there yonder.”

“Hmmm, thanks. I love pancakes, especially cinnamon ones like these. And the berries look divine,” you thank him.

“Talking about apprentices, there’s something we need to discuss,” says Cernd. “How would you like to become my apprentice? I am in need of some help here on the farm, Nature always needs more followers to keep the wilds safe from things unnatural and I can do with some company. This is probably like dumping a back of potatoes on your head, but I was shown by the Mother that I was to cross paths with a man with a great affinity for Nature, a strong will and great passion. That must be you! We hardly know each other, but it has been foreseen by the gods, my friend! What say you?”

“Oh wow,” you mumble with a mouth full of pancake. “I would like to say yes straight away, but I’ll have to think about it first. Thanks for the offer!”

“A wise answer,” says Cernd. “I can give you a little taste of the power of the druids later today, to help you decide, of course. We first need to make our way to your village and ask for some help moving the produce I have available. With some luck I can barter some pelts, wood for staffs or other items our fellow druids might find useful in their training.”

“Well you cannot go as you are now. The village will be evacuated at the sight of you. You, the mountain man with feral looks of which no one knows anything about. We’ll have to clean you up a bit if you don’t want the village folk to rise up with torches and pitch forks,” you say.

Cernd roars with laughter and responds, “Very well. What do you propose we should do about my ‘feral appearance’?”

You urge Cernd to take a bath, which he does, still in his loin cloth, unfortunately. After the bath you offer to untangle and trim his hair and beard. You draw his hair back to unveil his brow and kind eyes and tie the top half of his hair with a piece of string. The lower half cascades down his shoulders like a waterfall of dark waters.

“Now for some clothes, what do you have that speaks out ‘I am diplomatic and not a scary mountain man’?” you ask.

“I have my robes, but that is way too formal. My leather tunic would suffice,” Cernd responds.

He sprints up the stairs and soon returns bearing a leather tunic, studded and of intricate designs of leaves and feathers. Underneath the armour he wears a simple shirt and shorts of green cotton and as he reaches the last step on his way down he slips on a trusty old pair of leather boots.

“This will do. Lets grab a basket and toss in a few fruits and veggies and let us be off,” says Cernd.

So follows the journey back to the village. The townsfolk stared at the stranger still as he walked down the street towards the village elder’s home, yet no one avoided him as they used to do. The elder had an open mind as he learned the stranger is in fact the Foreigner. His mind soon calmed as the stranger proved he was actually a Druid of the Second Order and that he has come to help the village. The elder tasted the fruit and was relieved that the druid had enough quantities of fresh produce to save the festival. One would think the elder would be sceptical about receiving free produce, yet you may not realize how trusted Druids are in fantasy realms. The elder immediately ordered several of the townsfolk to send carts to the Druid’s farm to load the produce and return it to the village for there is little time left to prepare for the festival.

On return to the farm after helping carrying, loading and unloading the produce, you and Cernd retire to his home after a hard day’s work. As soon as he swung the door open he strips right down to his loin cloth again. He smiles at you and yells, “Last one to the pond has to cook and clean tonight!”

You respond, “I don’t even know where the pond is!”

“What’s for dinner then?!” Cernd yells again.

You strip down to your undies as well as quick as possible and chase after Cernd. For a big fellow he sprints rather fast. You see the pond he is referring to in the distance. It’s not so much a pond than it is a lake. You’re gaining on him. Cernd charges down the hill without slowing down. He’s going to jump into the lake. You reach him just as both of you leap into the glistening water with a great splash. The both of you pant as you float on the water surface.

“Phew, let me just regain my breath... so who’s cooking tonight?” Cernd asks.

“I’d say it was a draw, so I suppose both of us will be cooking,” you reply.

“Good. We have some free time now, maybe I can cast a spell or two to help you make up your mind about becoming my apprentice. Of course there’s much more to becoming a druid, but certain spells are rather flashy and always hooks a potential candidate. Let’s give it a try, shall we?” asks Cernd without expecting an aswer.

“Most druidic spells are summoning spells, accompanied by healing and a few evocation and enchantment spells. All these different kinds of spells have something in common, and that is the energy to cast these spells is absorbed from Nature. Let’s start off with a basic summoning spell,” says Cernd.

Cernd firmly grounds his feet in the squishy bed of the lake. He utters several words in a foreign tongue. His eyes intensify as he starts to focus on a particular spot on the ground. With swirling hands he executes a series of hand gestures required to perform the spell. His voice becomes increasingly louder right until he utters the last word of the spell. Suddenly a wolf appears out of thin air at the edge of the water. The wolf stands his ground, awaiting the command of his master.

“Return to your pack, my friend,” Cernd tells the wolf. The wolf bows his head slightly and sprints off into the woods.

“So that was a basic wolf summoning spell. What else can I show you? Hmmm, a little whirlwind on the water’s surface would look rather impressive,” Cernd says.

He goes through a similar routine with this spell as well, yet this time he faces the masses of water in the opposite direction. On completion of the spell a whirlwind forms on the water’s surface several meters away from the two of you.

“That may be too close for comfort,” Cernd mutters to himself.

The whirlwind does not stay stationary and moves straight towards the two of you! You both shift yourself through the water to escape the wrath of the erratic whirlwind. The whirlwind does not make it easy as it is forming a whirlpool, which tries to keep you in its grasp. Neither of you notice the whirlwind ripping the loincloths from both your waists. You manage to escape the whirlwind, which has changed direction again, and lay down on some thick grass to rest a bit after the excitement.

“Phew, so that didn’t quite go as planned. I apologize. I didn’t expect the whirlwind to turn on us. Not so quickly anyways. Uh-oh, seems like we have been stripped down to our bare necessities,” says Cernd.

You realize your balls are being tickled by the scratchy embrace of the grass. As the common nature and curiosity of males dictate, you cannot resist the urge to steal a glimpse of the rod Cernd wields between his legs. Remember I mentioned his green pubic hair? Yes well, his thick rod and the two orbs at its base are all covered in fine green hairs, very much like moss covers stones. It is magnificent!

The site of his rod enchants your own. Resistance is futile and within seconds your rod reaches its full potency.

“Erm,” you mutter, speechless from embarrassment. Cernd leans forward and locks his lips with yours. You become enthralled as you taste his sweet mouth and place your hand on the rough surface of his hairy thigh. There is no denying you’ll be his apprentice now!

That’s the end of our little story. Let your imagination take control and you decide what is to happen next. Cernd is a Druid who follows the ways of two of the deities of the Forgotten Realms; Chauntea, the Goddess of Agriculture and Silvanus, the God of the Woods, Forests and Nature. The fantasy connection of this collection is solely Chauntea, however. The images below depict how I would imagine her followers would find themselves at their happiest; au natural in the heart of one of Chauntea’s grasslands or pastures.

“Chauntea, The Grain Goddess, The Great Mother or Earthmother, is a fictional deity of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, for the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Chauntea is a parallel deity to Silvanus, who is considered the god of wild nature, whilst Chauntea herself is seen as being the embodiment of all things agrarian or agricultural. She is goddess of agriculture, plants cultivated by humans, farmers, gardeners, and summer.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scouts of Forbidden Lands II

Those in Search of Unseen Treasure

Fantasy equal: Rogue

A Rogue is a class in all Dungeons and Dragons games. He is a skilful and necessary addition to any adventuring party. He certainly isn’t the best warrior, yet he performs various crucial roles, which includes the following:

- Stealth and Scouting:

The Rogue is a master of sneaking and moving silently. He knows how to manipulate the shadows to veil himself from the sight of others. Thanks to this skill, the rogue is often sent out in dungeons and other dark places to examine possible dangers ahead.
- Trap Sense:

He has a thorough understanding of the mechanics of traps and therefore is able to disarm or set deadly traps. Dungeons (especially those with considerable loot) are often laid out with traps of various mechanisms. It is the rogue’s task to disarm these traps for his party.

- Lock Picking:

The best loot comes from the slain corpses of bosses and from locked treasure chests. How does one open a locked chest without damaging the goods inside? Put your rogue and his lock pick to the test.

- Flight of Foot and evasiveness:

Instead of being heavily armoured (which reduces speed and agility), a rogue relies on his ability to dodge and general evasiveness to avoid attacking blows from his foes.

- Backstabbing ability

The rogue knows where to aim and where to hit when considering the human anatomy and weak points in the different kinds of armour. In general the rogue doesn’t do vast amounts of damage due to the small weapons he carries (daggers and short swords), but using those weapons appropriately, he can perform devastating backstabs to unsuspecting enemies.

Now you ask how does a rogue relate to stripping and strapping hunksters? The relation is from the rogue’s first mentioned skill. Since the day when Adam and Eve were mislead and betrayed by the slithering devil, the primary function of clothes is to conceal bits and pieces considered shameful. Were the female sex not so nosy, blogs and sites like this one would not have really been necessary, for we’d be prancing around sky clad! It does have some advantageous though, since who wants to see your parents naked!

Just as these lords hide certain body parts, so is a rogue unseen. Just as a rogue seek out hidden treasure, so do we seek out the jewels of fellow lords. Let us hope mister camera man caught them when the good parts are unveiled...

"Rogues have little in common with each other. While some - maybe even the majority - are stealthy thieves, many serve as scouts, spies, investigators, diplomats, and simple thugs. Rogues are versatile, adaptable, and skilled at getting what others don't want them to get. While not equal to a fighter in combat, a rogue knows how to hit where it hurts, and a sneak attack can dish out a lot of damage. Rogues also seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to avoiding danger. Experienced rogues develop nearly magical powers and skills as they master the arts of stealth, evasion, and sneak attacks. In addition, while not capable of casting spells on their own, a rogue can sometimes "fake it" well enough to cast spells from scrolls, activate wands, and use just about any other magic item."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mythic Beings from Hell and the Heavens

Those Blessed/Tainted with the Blood of the Celestial/Demonic

Fantasy equal: Angels and Demons

Most fantasy tales, stories and themes revolve around the ever battle of good versus evil. There’s usually a dark figure or evil army that threatens the peaceful existence of those they oppose. One might think I would grow tired of such themes, yet I do not. The details of these tales are different and even though the main themes may be similar, there are always secondary themes that make a book, movie or game interesting and different to its rivals and predecessors.

There is a PC game, called Heroes of Might and Magic V, where old rivals are once again matched against each other. You can choose one of eight factions, which includes the following;

~ Academy
The Academy is a civilization of Eastern Magi and magical creatures. Their heroes focus on enchantments and powerful spells to obliterate their foes.

~ Stronghold
The Stronghold comprises of barbaric warriors who rely on their prowess in melee combat, sheer force and bloodlust to overthrow their enemies. They have little magic to their disposal.

~ Dungeon
The dungeon is home to the Dark Elves, assassins and witches. Where these Elves used to live in treetops, they now reside underground where they build up power and majesty in secret.

~ Dwarves
The Dwarven civilization gain power from technology and ancient runes. They have impeccable defense and an excellent offense, which makes them a force to be reckoned with.

~ Necropolis
The Necropolis is home to the necromancers and undead who torment the living and feed on their energy.

~ Sylvan
The Sylvans are naturally my personal favourite faction. They are Nature’s servants and their forces comprises of Druids, Nymphs, Treants and Unicorns. They draw power from the earth and strike down those who oppose Mother Nature.

~ Haven
The Haven is home to the righteous and the holy. With angels at their helm, their quest is to drive evil from the face of the earth.

~ Inferno
Inferno is home to those who like it hot. Their forces comprises of demons under the leadership of terrifying devils.

Each of these factions is more or less the arch enemy of another. The Wizards of the Academy claim their magic is greater than the barbaric ways of the warriors of the Stronghold. Is a magic counter always affective against brute force? I think not.

On the other hand the Sylvan’s despise the Necromancers of the Necropolis due to their dealings with the underworld and that which is unnatural. The heroes of the Dungeon are fallen Sylvans. They would do all in their power to overthrow their former treehugging brothers. The Dwarves also have their axes in for the Sylvans.

The main focus of the game, however, is the conflict between the celestial and the demonic. This too is the theme of this collection. Most of the images are of angels, which is good I suppose, since the people out there lean towards the good rather than the bad it seems. Still, I would have liked this collection to be a bit more balanced, by having more demons at my disposal. No matter, here follows imagery of beings from the heavens and beings from hell.


A land populated by humans and ruled by religious warlords, the Holy Griffin Empire propagates "Law and Order" as their supreme goal. Arising from their military tradition, they have the ability to train their soldiers, promoting them from one level to another. They are the primary protagonists of the game's campaign missions. Their main Heroes are Queen Isabel, and Godric, the king's uncle and the top general for the Griffin Empire.”


A dark kingdom of demons from the underworld, the Inferno is a faction which uses "Gating", a method used to summon additional, though temporary, reinforcements onto the battlefield. Making their infernal abode on blasted lava terrain, the demons are the primary antagonists in the game, led by their evil overlord, the Demon Sovereign Kha-Beleth. They are the protagonists of the second act of the campaign, where they are led by Agrael.”