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Thursday, 21 April 2011

The sleep of the sword

Joseph Lynch was brawny and big-boned. At wrestling he always won, and there was no door he couldn’t heave from its hinges, or failing that break it down with his head. His beard was as red as fox fur and broad as a shovel. Upon his nose he had a wart with a tuft of hairs red as the bristles in a sow’s ears. His nostrils were black and wide, his mouth as big as a furnace door, and by his side he wore a sword few men could lift even with both hands.

Joseph was one of the Iron Men, a small mercenary band out of Ellesland who lived in the latter time as the millennium wound down towards Judgment Day. I stood alongside him in a mountain hall facing goblins in the darkness, and once in a wood we fought a slithering thing that stuck to the misty hollows and might have been a dragon. At least, we called it that.

After our ship put in at a cove among the Stranded Isles, we had gone out to forage for supplies, and when our horses were stopped by robbers on the road our first thoughts might have been to pity them. My thoughts, anyway; Joseph was less given to pity. But by ill luck one of their swords found a space under his arm, and the blade slid in and punctured his lung, and Joseph fell like an oak.

With us traveled a man from Krarth called Kal ki-Lan Tor, who claimed to be a magus. I made him use his magic to call back blood into Joseph’s limbs and air into his lungs. But if any man has the art to defy Death, he will find that new life can only be borrowed for a short time. The flame had gone, and although Joseph continued on for a few days, he grew in pallor and we noticed that when he forgot to draw breath he sat as still as a figure of clay.

Finally he had to be put in the ground. I laid my sword of faerie steel beside him and covered the grave with rocks, for the soil of that shore was too hard and cold to dig. And that was the second and final death of Joe Lynch.

In the world of Legend there’s no way the story could follow what happened to Joseph’s soul after that – not least because Legend is based on medieval Christian belief, and for all I or anyone else knows there is no afterlife until the physical resurrection of all the faithful dead on the Day of Judgment. Beyond that, like Lovecraft, I prefer to keep the truth unutterable.

But there are games in which death is another dungeon level, and the old gods are as mysteriously solicitous of mortal morality as today’s monotheistic deities. And if you play in a campaign like that, James Wallis has come up with a brilliantly funny one-off roleplaying game called Afterlives that will provide you with a framework for legally weighing the soul of a deceased player character. Find out more about it – and where to get it – here on the Mirabilis blog.

Alternatively, instead of trying to plug Afterlives into your existing RPG campaign, you could run it with everybody playing themselves. That could be a lot of fun, though when you hold up the merciless mirror to your players’ real lives you might find them unfriending you pretty quick.


  1. Hello! I have decided to give you the Stylish Blogger Award. Head over to my site and take the image to display proudly on your awesome site and check out the fun rules that go along with it.


  2. would be a rather nasty shock to suddenly find your character being judged. I like it.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  3. Well, thank you, Stuart. I'm sure if you'd met me you'd know I could never win the stylish anything :-) However, Geoffrey Chaucer surely does deserve the appellation, as does the suave Mr Tim Savin, who created and played Joe Lynch, so I accept on their behalf.

    Lazarus - as I say, I'd rather run it with everyone playing themselves in real life. That could provide some delicious shocks.