Villains are people too

A letter from the archives of the Realm Leapers, following up on a post years ago about villainous complaints.

To whom it may concern,

Thank you kindly for your willingness to speak up on the wrongs done to villains everywhere. All the stuff against wearing black, hiring incompetent minions, resorting to brooding as a pastime, and indiscriminate killing holds as true today as it does then.

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Fantasy tips: mysterious pasts, dragons, and swords

Say you’re a Legend Seeker. Say again you’ve strayed too near a portal and have been sucked into one of the far realms you’ve only viewed though ink and parchment. Firstly, to be honest, you’ve only a 1 in 10 chance of surviving the first five minutes because, despite the supposed randomness of the portals’ times and positions, many of them have developed a nasty habit of landing first-time leapers into the middle of a battle or into a peaceful looking situation which is about to explode into an assassination or ambush.

Still, if you survive long enough to exchange introductions, you might have a chance at living out the natural extent of your life. To improve your odds, here are a collection of handy tips I’ve gathered from my own first realm leaper, Kirin the Quillblade.

Read carefully. They could very well save your life or at least lessen embarrassing incidences in your hosting realm.

Mysterious pasts:

  • Learning your past isn’t what you thought it was or may not be a good thing; if your past has been hidden, it’s normally for a good reason. Something along the lines of ‘you’ll die if you don’t keep this information secret’ or ‘you really don’t want to know’.
  • Of course, you really do what to know once you’ve discovered the mystery. Sometimes the mystery is to protect you. Sometimes to protect those around you. Don’t get too excited.
  • Especially because there are a very small number of princes and prophesied deliverers, and a much great list of waifs and pitied orphans. Make sure you’re ready for the truth before demanding it of your elders.
  • And, since you’re sure to demand information no matter what warnings are given you, do it subtlety. Because, on the off chance that your past is important, it’s probably been hidden due to surrounding enemies. It will do you no good if they discover your identity and kill you thanks to your inquires before you learn the danger you are in.
  • Finally, whatever you learn or don’t learn about your past, don’t let it define you. It’s up to you to make your own life; your actions are not dependent on your past…well, unless there is a prophecy, but even then you’d better make your actions count. Rarely do prophecies mean what one thinks they mean…but that’s a topic for another day.




  • Beware coming between a dragon and his horde. And never, ever, take even the smallest fragment from it. Whether the beast collects gold, gems, stones, or even broken weapons, they know each piece and whatever you take will be missed!
  • Though only few dragons still talk, several understand human speech and the majority of dragons are very smart. They also tend to be sensitive about names so call them by their full titles and don’t, I repeat, do not, call them monsters or beasts if you value your limbs. As for the category of lizard; say that word and it will probably be the last thing you ever utter.
  • Never assume anything. Color, sight, size, and intelligence shift drastically from dragon to dragon. Some are mounts. Some pull carts. In other realms, they are their own lords. Treat them with distant respect until you know where they stand in the social powers of the realm and land you are in.
  • If you’re offered a special position on your first dragon hunt, refuse immediately. Some cultures enjoy breaking in the unwary by placing them as bait for the dragon before moving into ambush.
  • If you see a dragon in the wild, keep your weapons concealed and remain still. Most dragons will ignore you. If they approach, hold out your hands to show you are peaceful. If they don’t kill you instantly, then you’re safe unless you offend them. If they are after your blood…well, I bid you a fond goodbye. You’ll need plenty of training, a magical weapon, or a good deal of luck and the element of surprise to take down a dragon on your own.


Magical Blades:

  • Not all magic is equal: determine what power has gone into giving your blade its qualities, how long it will last, and what terms and conditions apply to its use.
  • Confirm the quality of your blade. A sword which can pierce dragon scales is all very well, but if it breaks when in combat with a mere human enemy, you may want to buy elsewhere.
  • Weigh the usefulness of the blade’s power with the dangers it may present. A sword which glows in an enemy’s presence could be useful. It could also be a signpost, revealing you when you’d prefer to stay hidden.
  • Beware old men carrying marvelous blades and offering cryptic futures. If they try to sell you the blade, they’re after your gold. If they try to give you the blade, it means it’s probably stolen and you’ll end up with an arrow in the chest or a sword in the gut before the day is out.
  • Finally, don’t ever, ever lay all your plans on a magical blade. They are notoriously unreliable and have a great tendency to be stolen, mislaid, or stuck in stones.


Any fantasy tips of your own? And any categories you’d like me to question Kirin about next time if we do this again?

Save the Chocolate

Off World Reports

A newly discovered excerpt from Kirin’s report book documenting when Elena brought him to this world for the first time. You can read the story of Elena and Kirin’s meeting here.

Day 1:

I hope I don’t die. I’m seriously beginning to wonder about agreeing to meet Elena’s employer. I mean, bringing that battle standard back to Shangar without claiming a reward would normally be all the concession I’d permit even under the most extreme circumstances. Then again, one doesn’t normally get offers of a job involving realm leaping.

Except this world Elena has brought me to in the Terra Realm is so crowded we can’t risk netherjumping from place to place. Meaning I’ve been forced into a metal box. On wheels. Which is now hurtling over some sort of pavement at breakneck speeds with other vehicles of the same kind. Yes, I know what they’re called, but they don’t really deserve the name of ‘car’.

save the chocolate short story

As a realm leaper, I love speed. I’ve ridden horses and dragons. I’ve flown in sleek skyhawks that dart and dive through the sky. Now those are fun. But these…these Terra cars have less speed and no network connecting them to keep them at safe distances from each other. Instead, they are manually handled by normal humans, some who pay attention and some who don’t. Meaning there must be a terrible amount of crashes.

Crashing aside, Elena’s driving is not the smoothest I’ve ever witness. And the fact she currently has a grin on her face as she passes huge trucks is not helping matters in the least.


I’m out of the car. Thankfully. I’m torn between not stepping in one again, and not stepping in one unless I can drive it. They can’t be that hard to maneuver.

The only good thing which has come out of this trip to Terra is chocolate. Seriously, that stuff is wonderful. Creamy, sweet, dark, a hint of bitterness. I’m contemplating bringing seeds to other realms. This food deserves to be spread about.

Oh, yes. And about that meeting with my employer; apparently she’s out today. Somewhere. So Elena and I have been passing time setting up a campsite outside. And eating chocolate, of course. There were some stray books lying around the house (yes, I went inside. The locks in this realm are pathetic. Fine; I netherjumped. Into a wall. But never mind the details). But she had these books on the history of chocolate and so I’m going to go read those for a bit. Maybe figure out where I can jump to get this stuff in bulk…

Day 2:

Elena helpfully told me that the month is July and the date is the 12th. As if that means anything to someone who is constantly leaping between realms. So, Day 2 on Terra it is.

I met my employer today. She’s not much to look at. On the small side with wispy red hair twisting out from under her newsboy cap. Don’t ask me why they call it a newsboy cap. All I know is that it’s flat and kinda cute. Anyhow, that doesn’t matter. What I really liked was her daggers. She’d several of them. And throwing knives. And even a recurve bow. She wasn’t wearing that…I tested it when I was in her house yesterday. Yes, Elena, I put everything back where I left it.

Anyway, my employer goes by a number of names. She calls herself Scarlett while talking with us. And she seemed quite taken with me, if I say so myself. She demanded story after story while jotting down all kinds of notes. By the time the evening was advanced, she officially offered me a position, working with Elena to research projects and write articles.

After several minutes of careful consideration (and chocolate) I officially accepted.

Of course, that meant payment details and meeting details and drop-boxes…nothing interesting to write about. At least not until that night.

I was lying awake, the fire snapping away. And I’ll give you one guess about what I was thinking about.

Yep, that’s right.

Apparently, chocolate, before being made into bars, was a drink. I was already on Terra, what harm could a time jump do? No one could see it from here.

I closed my eyes, focusing back nearly five hundred years.

I hadn’t counted on the landing. Great fires blazed in all directions – thankfully I didn’t land in one – and figures moved in all directions. Great ships lay off the cost and a warm wind hovered in the air. I managed to stumble into the shadows before being spotted.

A celebration of some sort seemed to be taking place. Men in silver armor… the Spanish, I thought. And the Maya, at least that’s what I assumed from the book I’d read. There were gifts too, which I’d heard about, jewels and feathers… and gourds filled with chocolate.

In the half-light, no one noticed as I slipped up, claimed a gourd for myself, and took a deep drink.

Then staggered, choking and spitting out the liquid. Who ever thought that bitter chocolate was a good idea?

I straightened, wiping my eyes. So much for secrecy. The Mayas were glaring at me. The Spaniards’ hands were on their sword’s hilts. One tall man advanced, his hand closing about the front of my shirt as he lifted me off my feet and growled something in Spanish which I didn’t understand but which also didn’t sound like a nice ‘how are you this fine evening?’

I did the only thing I could think of.

I netherjumped back to my camp.

Day 3:

I woke up to a disaster.

Elena was gone, but besides dreams filled with warriors and seas of bitter drinks which washed over the land, the time excursion hadn’t had any lasting effects. Or so I thought until I rose with the comforting intention of drinking a cup of real, sweet hot chocolate before realm leaping off to begin my duties.

“Chocolate?” Scarlett’s brow furrowed when I stumbled into the house, rubbing my eyes. “You’ve your realms mixed up. There’s nothing by that name here.”

“But…” I stared at her.

A hand closed over my arm as Elena appeared from shadows know where. Her lips pressed tight. “With me.”

“What… where is…?”

Elena glared at me. “How about you tell me what’s happened?” She lifted a book.

“I don’t—”

“The Mayans offered Cortes gourds filled with a bittersweet drink,” she read out loud. “But even as he lifted it to his lips, a wild lad appeared, sputtering and showing it for the poison it really was. He vanished moments later. The Spanish were convinced an angel had appeared to warn them about the evil of the drink –” She paused, raising her eyebrows. “Shall I go on?”

“An angel?” I looked down at myself. “In this outfit?”

“Kirin!” Elena snapped. “You’ve changed history within two days of coming here, and no one even knows what they are missing. Chocolate vanished several hundred years ago.”

I sobered instantly. “I’ll get it back.”

Elena scowled. “Well, hurry. Or I’ll be sorry I ever recommended you to Scarlett.”

“You recommended me?”

“Just get moving.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m a time traveler. Since when has hurrying made any difference?” I netherjumped before Elena could reply, landing back in the shadows of the feast I’d left the night before. Or five hundred years ago. Whatever.

All was confusion. The Spaniards had their guns to their shoulders. The Mayans were leveling their spears. Insulting myself for even starting on this mad venture in the first place, I netherleapt between the two peoples.

Both sides stared at me. I suspect they were debating between bowing or running me through. I didn’t give them a chance for either option.

With firm steps, I march back to the Mayan side. A few men still held the gourds of chocolate. At least I hoped it was chocolate. I held out a hand and he gave it to me, still staring.

Slowly I lifted it to my lips and drank. It really wasn’t half bad, once I knew it was bitter. After draining half the gourd, I turned and strode to the Spaniards’ side.

“It needs sugar,” I announced dramatically, waving my hand over the gourd and sincerely hoping no one spoke English.

The Spanish leader slowly took the gourd and I turned, striding into the darkness. Once I was out of sight, netherjumped back to Elena without looking back.

She was waiting with a cup of hot chocolate.

“Don’t ever do something like that again.” She warned me.

I scowled, but nodded. If Scarlett ever finds out what I almost did, I’d be sure to lose my position. Besides, this world is hard enough to get used to as it is. It can’t afford to lose the small number of treats which endear it to strangers such as myself.

Like my second favorite treat after chocolate, the smooth drink frintellino.


Is Royalty Really Fashionable?

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with Kirin’s attitude toward royalty. He didn’t get it from me.

Stability is all about order in leadership, of course. Never mind finances or fleets or armies. All you really need is a leader with a crown and scepter. His word is law, no questions asked. One can serve him, or one can rebel. In either case, there will be uncles ready to spring from the woodwork and depose of untested nephews, or queens to seize the crown for their young infants.

But hey, it’s still all in one family. A family who can fight it out among themselves, while wielding great armies and unlimited power. What could ever go wrong?

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Think Furnace With Wings

An account of one of Kirin’s recent adventures in dealing dragons and trying to influence historical events. Fortunately, the official record has managed to clear most of his interference from sight, but here is his own account of what really happened when Bilbo met Smaug.

“Well, thief, come along into the light.” The dragon’s deep rumbling voice echoed through the great cavern as I crouched in the shadows of a far arch. “I smell you, feel your movement, hear your breath—”

I clapped one hand over my mouth.

“…help yourself again, there’s plenty to spare.”


I relaxed slightly even as a quick voice piped up from the opposite end of the cavern. “I’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you, Smaug the Tremendous. I’ve seen how you give your gifts and besides, I only wanted to see if the tales of your greatness were founded in reality.”

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