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Beneath the apple tree

I.

There are farms next to the wood on the border, and even the farmers do not go into the wood.

Some evil lives in the dark places in the wood. A great network of caves lies beneath. It might be that there are ley lines which converge in that great silent darkness.

II.

Karpov, the Vampire Lord, held court here in the days of his power. The lands were wild after the Empire fell, and none could challenge him, though many tried.

It came to pass that one attempt cut through Karpov’s arrogance and let him see that his own strength and power remained finite. He realised the folly of keeping his coffin beneath Karpov Castle. Should an adversary overpower him, finding his coffin and destroying his body would be trivial.

III.

Karpov laid his coffin deep within the caverns below Apple Grove. No story I have heard has adequately explained how a grove of apple trees came to grow in the depths of the wood. Sorcery is suspected.

Kingdoms rose and fell. Karpov was defeated and rose again. He became cautious, wielding his power in shadow and traveling to distant lands for years at a time to let his presence in the region be forgotten or mistaken for mere superstition.

It was held in some circles that the adventurer and hero Ralagar was able to divine the location of Karpov’s sanctum. Reputedly he even made a map. Unfortunately, Ralagar met a premature end as the result of an escalating series of dares during a drinking contest.

IV.

Some hundreds of years passed. A great Lich arose and brought terror to the villages. His followers grew in number. Folk flocked to his death cult in the deluded belief that he would extend their lives or ease their suffering.

Twelve warriors, as different as could be imagined, saw the plight of the common folk. Although they had little in common, they chose to swear an Oath of Vengeance, becoming paladins and comrades.

Before their might, the Lich and his cult fled. The paladins pursued him to the caverns below the Apple Grove and wrought his ruin. But his inner circle, his most trusted followers, remained hidden.

V.

In the months and years that followed, the followers of the Lich bided their time in the shadows, and grew cunning and cruel. One by one, the paladins fell – not in glorious battle against evil, but in ignoble deception. Nameless poisons, unspeakable curses, heart-rending betrayals – until the order was destroyed.

This was only the beginning. After each paladin fell, they were laid to rest with great honour by the people they had saved. But in secret, the followers of the Lich stole the bodies away. Though they lacked the unholy arts mastered by the Lich, it was prophesied that the strength of his enemies would return him from the grave. The followers built the Tomb of the Enemies and sealed the paladins inside, preparing for the day when another great necromancer would arise.

VI.

Hundreds more years passed and knowledge of the Lich faded from memory.

Karpov attracted the attention of the Keepers of the Chain when he brought the Orb of Form out of hiding and began to experiment with it. Using their extensive network and deep historical archive, the Keepers were able to locate Ralagar’s map of the caverns, long assumed to be a fake. With this in their possession they could move against Karpov with confidence that he could not escape.

Karpov, however, was alert to the possibility of attack, and butchered the party that came for him, though they succeeded in defeating his servant.

His coffin still lies in the caverns beneath the apple tree, and none have yet succeeded in locating it.

Day of the Beards

I heard a rustling sound from the corridor and glanced knowingly at Joe. “They’re back.” Together we flung open the door and fired our revolvers at the horde of beards gathering outside. We shot dead perhaps five of the beards and the rest scattered, but they would return before long, and the fact of the matter was there were more beards in the night than there were bullets in the drawer. I poured another glass of whiskey to steady my nerves. Joe flicked open his revolver and calmly slid another round into each chamber. Outside we could hear a dragging sound as the beards carried their fallen comrades away. They’d be back. They’d be back soon.

I knew that this day was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier now that it’s here

Ze Frank finished The Show today.

It is very difficult to explain how this feels to someone who didn’t watch it.

One person on the forums said it was like all of us had been dating him. For 3 – 5 minutes a day we would listen and he would talk. He’d tell us his thoughts, his hopes, his fears. Things that inspired him and things that annoyed him. How he felt about people in Starbucks knowing it was his birthday. How he felt when random crap got him down.

The other amazing part of it was the community. Being a sports racer, being a fabuloso. Knowing that there are people out there who have been touched the same way you have. Knowing that the community would do things for its members, like when a guy went across continental USA using only sports racers for transport. Playing collaborative chess with all sorts of people and learning more about chess than I could digest. Playing in the ORG, ‘you are not alone’. Avoiding being a hard charger. Remembering the initial drive to show Ze to as many people as possible.

Wanting to find other sports racers in the future, just to share that feeling again.

Not wanting to let it go.

Thankyou, Ze.