Tied with a Bow Anthology, Vol. 1
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In fact, a story is never finished being edited or rewritten. And that is what Pathfinder Chronicler is really about, editing and writing. However disenchanting that may sound, there are also other aspects to Pathfinder Chronicler. This book, for instance. In August we threw our first Pathfinder Fiction Contest to see just what the community could do. We put together a panel of five judges, and the winning five stories were sent on to Paizo Editor James Sutter who chose the top three winners.
The top ten stories became featured on our website and each judge chose a single story as deserving of special consideration. The contest ended. Or did it? The idea of Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology came about by the same people that submitted for the contest. They expressed a desire to see all contest entrees side by side and wished to have a downloadable PDF that would be put out as is.
This was a completely implausible idea we would need some fifty plus permissions but did have merit in another sense. Quietly, we circulated around our site the idea of an Anthology and the top ten authors from the contest unanimously supported it. With ten stories under out belt, we proceeded to review other contest entries from authors that had become Pathfinder Chronicler members. These stories hadnt made it to the top ten but through editing and revision had become vastly improved bringing another four stories to the line up. We then asked our original members if they wished to be added.
Four of us threw in our hats to bring the story count in this book to eighteen. These original stories were first published on pathfinderchronicler. As a whole, you hold in your hands the rawest fiction I have ever laid eyes on. In this book you will find a villainous halfling, a love-smitten gnome, a doomed pathfinder, obsessions with immortality, death, undeath, redemption, damnation, maniacal demons, unforgiving peasants and a whole lot more. And though all these stories can be read on pathfinderchronicler. For stylistic reasons and uniformity, we re-edited these stories and accepted revisions from all the authors.
We then edited each story again to the final version you see here. So, with great pride I present to you the combined work from the best minds the Pathfinder Community has to offer. From all of us at Pathfinder Chronicler we hope you enjoy our labor of love and invite you all to drop by our site to read, write and comment.
The barren sky hung still, sullen and gray like a pool of seething lead, low and dark upon the horizon without a ghost of sunlight behind it. Stinging snow, much of it now clumped into hard, cruel shards of ice, sifted and spattered through the black and leafless trees, filling the forest path with a drifting, bony whiteness, which crunched delightfully underfoot. A cry of killing wind cut, crackling, through the ice-coated branches, and a smile crept unto the lips of the Wishtwister. Such good sport, he thought with a quiet laugh,and what a day. It was a day that promised to be delightful and productive, and most of all, simply a well-fulfilling damned enterprise.
After all, he thought,its Wishing Day! Thirty miles south by south-east of Gralton, soiled jewel of the River Kingdoms, the whistling Wishtwister cut through the nameless woods to his destination: a blackened little circle of seven stumps ringing round a jut of bloodstained and rune-carved rock dating back to the time of the old Sarkoris Binding-Witches. The creeping grin which split the Wishgivers face at the thought of thoseold hags and what had become of them was colder than even the ice-choked wind. His smile brightened and his pace quickened.
He was, of course, wearing a potent glamour, painted pleasant, bright and ruddy-cheeked as he always did when amongst humans, but the spring in his step was all real. It had simply been too long, by his delighted accounting, since Wishing Day had last come to Gralton. Has it really been only a year? Gralton had been a lucky find, all things considered during that winter of the year all the wishing started.
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Once the old aristocracy of Galt had fled from the Red Revolution and settled into their rotting river estates just long enough to hate themselves for cowardice, it had been all too easy to put the right words in the right ears; on the 11th of Kuthona, when all the faithful of Cayden Cailean were gathered by a roaring hearth, spinning tall-tales and raising a tongue-tied toast to their heros bold ascension, the bitter and the vengeance-minded were to be found upon a very cold and lonely holiday indeed.
Clinton Boomer A dozen souls attended that first inaugural Wishing Day. This year, for his 42nd anniversary, Shadibriri expected a crowd of near fifty. In truth, it should be said, there were more profitable opportunities than Gralton scattered around the great, wide world with all its mysteries. The early weeks of Gozran were always exciting, coming as they did in the very shadow of Taxfest. And the endless, aching middle of Calistril invariably saw the burning agony of some youths heart in the desperate need of an immediate fulfillment.
Strangest of all, perhaps, the last gasps of Lamashan always seemed to writhe around an artist who had lost his muse or a soldier staggering home, sick to their stomach of war. Yes, all twelve months had very special and wonderful reasons to be in the right place at the right time, with sharp ears tuned to the right desires. And when there were no temptations to sow or bargains to make, no words to massage or dull-tongued desires to bring forth into hideous life, there was always killing to be done. Yes, always killing, and blood and fear and the bursting of hot flesh in ones sharp, slick hands.
And the cries of accusations and sorcerer-burning. And the souls caught up in the shuffle, of course, and carried out into the Abyss. Delightful, all. But for old Wishtwister Shadibriri, nothing was quite as sweet as today, perhaps because it was hisand his alone. No one else yet had a Wishing Day, ripe with those looks of pure, panicked, docile, tragic, terrified, wasted hope wreathed in angry, spiteful, blood-thrumming need. A crowd, squirming, willing to wrestle and claw and kill for the right to sell their soul short. No wonder he loved Wishing Day.
A wandering, tuneless hum began to bounce right along with Shadibriris mirth, and the old demon turned his thoughts, quite idly, to how he might go about conducting this days most unique symphony of wants and promises and weeping betrayals. Would he make his supplicants fight for his favor? Fornicate, perhaps, in ugly couplings? Strip naked and race through the cold woods on frozen feet? Perhaps a wine-drinking competition, full to bursting and puking, or a teeth-pulling challenge, yanking gaping gums bare and bloody, or some other contest of trembling self-mutilation.
Each of those had always been joyous in the past. And then the wish, of course, was the best part of all. The old Wishtwister had never been one for plans. Ever the artist, never the engineer. An improviser instead. For him, a single seconds spark of spontaneity was worth well more than a dull decades dusty design; a moment of madness would always out-pace a century of contemplation. But hedidlike to wonder. And then, with a twinkle in his eye and a slick, savage parting of the strings of conjuration which bind the Astral spaces, the Wishtwister arrived at his destination.
There were four dozen there, all told, huddled against the cloying chill that strikes the River Kingdoms with a vengeful howl each winter and refuses to let go. Ice in their beards, hands fisted into numb clumps at their sides, wet, crimson misery in their eyes; these abandoned and shifting souls were wrapped in finery and peasants rags alike.
Some had surely rode six days out of Daggermark for this occasion, in sumptuous carriages crafted of darkwood and cold iron; others had no doubt begun the bleak march out of South Graltons gray farmland at nightfall wrapped in all they owned. And all were here, balancing dread against obsession. With a ringing laugh, the Wishtwister leapt up upon the tallest stump of the clearing,. Wishing Day and his warm voice carried against the wind. Welcome, welcome, welcome all! And let our Wishing Daycommence!
His sparkling smile washed over the crowd, and his gaze picked at their worried faces shining with unknown needs. He made a thousand, thousand guesses, and discarded all of them just as quickly. Who, today, would leave with their hearts desire? He did not know, and the joy was in the learning of it. There was, for a moment, a heat within him so fierce that it was almost overwhelming; a wild mania, a rage to pick each and every one of the gathered throng apart with his bare hands and drink their piping blood down in gasping gulps. Hello, hello and hello! I am the old Shadibriri, friends, who hearkens close to those in greatest need, and by the ancient pacts of these old woods I come in this hour to hear your wants and whispers.
I am no god, and I seek no prayers; I am no man, and I seek no gold. I am only a spirit of hoping and of wishing and of having, and I come expectinggifts! Who, then, has brought me a treat, a taste, a tickle or a tithe? One woman, all-too-young, barefooted, dressed in rag and pushing forward through the crowd: II bring you fresh milk. A grin. Oh, and indeed I do treasure a drink of sweet milk!
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Is it warm, may I inquire? A look of terrified uncertainty. Im afraidwell, thethe cold Huh. You did not think to clutch it next to your body and keep it warm? II tucked it close as I could, against the wind, but Oh, no. Then, perhaps next year you will remember to hide it beneath your cloak, against your bare and secret skin.
The woman blushed and stammered. I No matter, young lady! Tis but a bit of teasing from an old man, is all. You are bold to speak first, and I do admire boldness. You may stay, for your milk is a fine gift. Pour it, now, on the ground, and abide awhile.
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If I may ask then, little one, what will you wish for if the wishing be made yours this day? A soft gasp against the wind. Thelove of Eh? Whats that, my little lamb, my little lark? The love of a certaincertain person. Oh, but I am afraid that I cannot give you the love of another. Red eyes startled, staring, disappointed. A grin, as the ruined and muddy milk began to freeze upon the ground. But Icangive you this person, rest you assured.
This person, their life, their body, their mind, their very heart, still hot, if you wish. All the things which make them, which is better than love. To thee, young lady, I wish the best of luck! Her eyes turned downward, humiliated and on the verge of tears. Now, who is next with gifts? A man stepped forward. I bring you, master, a brick of solid silver.
And what need has a spirit for silver, lad? Then you guess at my nature, boy! I remember you of years past, my master. Quite well, son! Well indeed, and I see your gift and am pleased, and beg of you to stay. If I may ask, my shivering and cunning friend, what shall you wish for today. Clinton Boomer if the wish is made yours? Oh, delightful! Come close and drop your gift at my feet! Now, of these gathered Lords and Ladies, who else has a thing to offer me? A black-cloaked figure pushed forward. I offer you only death, monster. The crowd drew back in time with the unsheathing of a blade.
A delighted gasp. You offer medeath? So few have ever done so, and in truth I have never had it. And, then, what would your wish be, friend? With a scarred and battle-worn voice. That you face me. Screams roiled through the crowd, as some few saw, for the briefest moment, the Old Wishtwister for what he truly was.
A great and gnarled limb, like the claw of some misshapen crab vomited out of the Lake of Mists and Veils, snapped forward and severed the swordsman in twain. With a gush of steaming blood, his corpse twitched upon the scarlet snows and then lay still. A wish is granted. A mummer of panic roiled through the audience. Oh, fear not, friends! His request was a trifling thing, no great difficulty in granting. In truth, he deserved much more than that for which he asked; I could have given him strength beyond the mortal, or a blade more swift than blackness itself, or the insight to know his enemys heart and the vision to see foes all around him.
A pity, then, that he chose so foolishly. Now, thenwho else has brought me a gift? And there, as the supplication went on, and trophies piled before him, and the crowd began to turn spiteful and desperate, the Old Wishtwister decided upon the final task which would decide the victor of Wishing Day: the supplicant willing to devour, in gasps, the greatest portion of the fallen swordsman would be granted their dearest wish.
Oh yes, that would be fun. And then, andthen, andthenthe very wish itself, and the new horrors dawned from it. Ah, the joys of Wishing Day! A gaping wound on one of his thighs fed blood to the hungry chamber floor. The crimson fluid quenched the proverbial thirst of the dust and broken bits of bone that surrounded the fallen warrior.
Tied with a Bow Anthology, Vol. 2
The blonde man was not alone in the crude, torch-lit chamber. Several paces away, a pair of gnomes stood amidst a thousand broken cogs and gears, the scattered remnants of the caverns clockwork guardian. The gnomes, a man and woman, were a study in contrasts. She was gnomish royalty in a kingdom she hadnt visited in years. Though she had long ago forgotten her proper name, she remembered her title, and asked that she be called Princess.
Her short, pinkish-purple hair was dyed a dark brown, except where it framed the edges of her face. Her painted fingernails were showcased by gloves rendered intentionally fingerless, one of many small modifications perpetrated upon her well-worn travelers outfit. She carried no weapons, leaving such unfashionable matters to her companion. He was a soldier in the service of Her Royal Highness.
He remembered both her proper name and his own, but the princess called him Butler, so he called himself Butler. His blue hair of modest length and his stylish beard of the same color were each untouched by dye. His modest but well-tailored courtiers outfit was kept in pristine, unmodified condition, complimented by a gleaming mithril shirt and a long travelers cloak. He was armed with a ceremonial but deadly halberd. Inspecting the broken clockworks, Butler announced, It appears that our foe is vanquished, Your Highness.
He sniffed the air. And I detect no trace of malevolence on the wind. Svens hurt. Butler nodded. Ill tend his wounds. As the blue-haired gnome approached the fallen warrior, Sven raised a sword. The action required great effort on his part. The handsome Ulfen man was weak from loss of blood, to the point that his face was as pale as death and likely twice as clammy. Not a step closer. Despite his wounds, his voice was strong and clear.
His words were precise, with no hint of the accent one would expect, given the Ulfens tribal heritage. Butler set aside his halberd, placing the weapon gently down upon the cavern floor. His wary stance revealed that he remained cautious of the sword-wielding Ulfen, despite his intentional disarmament. He had not divested himself of his weapon as a show of confidence. He had done so in an effort to demonstrate his own good intentions. Butler spread his empty hands. I merely offer my talents as a healer.
I may be able to mend your wounded leg. Ill mend myself, thank you very much. The blonde man drew a flask from his belt and pulled the stopper with his teeth. Upending the container, he poured a clear, oily substance onto his injured thigh. The oil washed away blood and wound alike, leaving uninjured flesh in its wake. Color returned to the Ulfen warriors face. He regained his feet and tossed aside his empty flask.
The whole time, he kept his sword pointed at the blue-haired gnome. Just who might you be? Its okay, announced Princess, hes with me. Then Ill address my question to you. Who might you be? Princess stepped closer to the towering warrior, where she could be more easily seen in the light of the nearest wall-mounted torch. Its me, silly. Sven inspected the gnomish princess. Youre that pink-haired gal from the tavern in Daggermark. You were selling flowers, no? I wasnt selling them. I was giving them as a meaningful gift to celebrate our having found one another.
Those were some of the last blossoms from the garden I kept back in the First World.
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Sven nodded. I remember you said something about a garden before blushing and wandering off. Didnt I see you more recently at a tavern in Sevenarches? You were the gal sitting in the corner, muttering and fidgeting like a nervous ferret. See, Princess said to Butler, I told you he noticed me. She returned her attention to Sven. But Im betting you were too tipsy to remember that one night we shared in Gralton. What night in Gralton? Princess shook her head. No, you obviously dont remember the night Im talking about.
Otherwise, you wouldnt have asked that question. Enough of these riddles, said Sven. What are you doing here? Princess nodded towards the broken bits of clockwork on the floor behind her. Saving you from big, metal monsters. I dont need to be saved by a pair of wee folk. I can handle myself. Fair enough, said Princess. Im here because the time weve been spending together in taverns isnt nearly enough, so I thought Id take an equal interest in your daytime activities. In other words, said Sven, you found out about my treasure map and followed. Unrequited me here to steal the artifact.
He said nothing to indicate the nature of the artifact in question. Thats what this is really about, isnt it? Dont be silly, said Princess, not catching the hint of disdain in Svens latest question. Why would I want to steal anything from you? Im here to share in your moment of triumph.
Theres only one artifact, so theres nothing to share. The treasure is mine. Yes, said Princess, sounding bored, I get it. Im thoroughly impressed by your treasure-seeking endeavors. But you dont need to impress me further. You already have me. Sven narrowed his eyes. Have you for what? For a soul mate. A boon companion. Princess smiled. Youve finished the errand thats been occupying so much of your time, so now we can finally be together.
The Ulfen warrior frowned. What are you talking about? About being in love, of course. In love? Were not The warriors face went pale and his eyes went wide. That time you were sitting in the corner of the tavern, muttering and fidgeting. You were casting a spell on me! Trying to get into my head! You noticed! The towering Ulfen warrior backed up a step, obviously frightened.
You tried to steal my wits and wrap me around your finger. Tried to turn me into a lovesick, treasure-fetching lackey. It was nothing as unsavory as all that, explained Princess. Just a simple faerie charm to remind you of all the fond memories weve shared. What fond memories? We hadnt met before that time you handed me those flowers. Well, not met, exactly. But I saw you a few weeks earlier, when some bouncers kicked you out of a tavern up in Numeria.
They said youd had one too many drinks, but they clearly didnt know what they were talking about. And they wouldnt listen when you explained that youd already paid to stay in one of the rooms they kept above their bar. I could tell by your expression that you were raging inside against the injustice of it all, and I knew that I had to help you. So I followed you, that I might offer you a place in my room at the inn down the street. Somewhere you could pass the night, and maybe find a way to sooth your savage, animal anger.
But when I caught up to you at the tavern down the street, youd already found a place on the common room floor and dozed off. I didnt want to disturb you after the rough night youd been having, so I left after watching you sleep for a while and returned the next morning. But by the time I got there, youd already left. It took a few weeks before I found you again down in Daggermark. Sven looked incredulous. Youve been following me for months! And watching over you, said Princess, pointedly. You know how all the barmaids are always coming up and bothering you on account of your looks?
Well, Ive been stopping them from pestering you whenever I can. Convincing tavern owners to keep those shameless girls washing dishes in the back, since I know you dont want those desperate trollops hanging all over you. No need to thank me, by the way. And I saved your life from a hedge viper last week, when I was following you though the woods north of here. I plucked the colors from a nearby flower and. Eric Norton sprayed them in the wicked serpents eyes. By the time it recovered its wits, it was too terrified to continue its pursuit.
Sven made a gesture meant to ward against black magic. More witchcraft! It gets better, said Princess, mistaking Svens healthy fear of her magical talents for enthusiastic approval. Remember that rotten hussy that took advantage of you when you were out tavern-crawling a few nights ago? That blonde that lured you to her residence when you were too tipsy to object and then walked off with your coin purse? Hester from the brothel? Yeah, mused Princess, she was a bit of a whore, wasnt she?
But I got back at her for what she did, abducting and robbing you like that. I put her to sleep with a mighty spell, locked her in a trunk, and kicked her into the river. Sven was aghast. You drowned her? Maybe, Princess shrugged, I dont know. It didnt seem worth my time to head downriver and see if any drenched corpses washed up on shore. At this point, Butler felt obliged to interject.
Actually, Your Highness, I hired a porter to fish that woman out of the river before she drowned. Interesting, said Princess. Why would you go to such lengths to save such a villainous tramp? Remember, Your Highness, humans have laws against such things as murder, said Butler. Besides, I wouldnt want to see your soul sullied by the lingering stench of petty vengeance.
How thoughtful, Butler. Always the faithful servant. Princess ignored him, turning her attention back to Sven. So what was I saying? You were recounting a list of torments that youve inflicted upon me and those who would comfort me, answered Sven, blending the poetic traditions of his people with an impressive mastery of the local dialect. Blacklists and dread magic and attempts at murder most foul. Princess laughed and clapped her hands. And they say Ulfen warriors have no way with words. Sven, you brilliant, beautiful man.
With theatrical turns of phrase like that, youre more than just a warrioryoure a warrior-poet. The Ulfen man was unimpressed. Save your honeyed words, you foul witch. I dont care if you have been following me for months, isolating and manipulating me. Youre not going to beguile me out of my rightful claim.
Sven, said Princess. She tried approach, but was dissuaded by a wild swipe of the blonde mans blade. Sven, dearest. You need to stop dwelling on this treasure of yours. As I said, I get it. Your ability to find and claim riches more than affirms your worth as a great and mighty hero. But you dont need to impress me. Youve already won my heart. I have no interest in the affairs of your black, magic-tainted heart. Sven shifted into a stance that suggested impending violence. Nearby, Butler tensed and prepared to reclaim his halberd, which still sat on the cavern floor.
Princess looked troubled. Sven, lets talk about this. Theres nothing to talk about. Be gone from here and be gone from my life! Dearest, said Princess, sounding hurt, you dont know what youre saying. You mustnt throw away what we have with such casual words. What we have? We have nothing! I dont even know you! Unrequited Princess started to cry. She's innocent and loves to play games, but is also determined to do right by her friends by becoming a worthy shinobi.
She uses a bucket and frying pan as her main weapons, pulling off maneuvers that are so esoteric they almost look like magic. Minori is a fair-skinned girl with long light brown hair tied in two pigtails and big blue eyes, with small yellow pupils. She wears a green choker around her neck, with a small, round bell attached to it. She wears an orange top, which reveals her cleavage. The top has short, wide white sleeves, with pink trimmings, as well does the front part of her shirt.
She has a large pink bow tied around her waist, and has a small hamster clip on her shirt, as well. She wears white and orange striped stockings, and matching undergarments. She wears large green bracelets and anklets, and pink boots with little red bows on them.
She often carries around a blue pail with a hamster design on it. On her back is a large plush hamster backpack.
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She has a blue thermos on her right hip, and has a white headband. She is one of the shortest girls, shorter than even Mirai by inches. Despite her smaller frame, she is very much well-endowed like most of the other girls. Despite her age, Minori has a very energetic and childish personality that makes even Hibari looks mature in comparison. She has a major sweet-tooth and loves to eat snacks all the time.
Minori is extremely playful and even considers her work as a shinobi as "playing. However, there is a reason behind her childish demeanor. Minori doesn't like fighting as it is the reason why her parents are dead, having been killed on one of their missions. She believes that everyone in the world should spend more time playing than fighting because it would make everything better. Minori was taken in by Kurokage after her parents died in the line of their shinobi work. Ever since then he raised her alongside Yumi, Murakumo, Yozakura, and Shiki, training her to become a shinobi just like them.
The two of them trained by playing games like tag and hide-and-seek, though Minori could never really catch Kurokage because he was far too skilled. When Kurokage fell ill, Minori would still request to play games with him despite him refusing every time. She knew it was selfish of her to ask, because it was apparent he was far too weak to do anything at all given his terminal sickness.
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