Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Walk Home

*A quick note*
I wrote this story set in the world of Malifaux, a tabletop miniatures game I enjoy. While I don't believe being familiar with the world of Malifaux is necessary to enjoy the story you may miss out on a few of the references and hints about the end of the tale. To give you the basics, Malifaux is a mixing of Victorian, western, Wuxia, Lovecraftian, steampunk, fantasy, horror. It takes place on a parallel world in the late 1890's.

This story takes place between the fourth rule book and the fifth in the Malifaux timeline. In other words between Avatars and the Ten Thunders. for those of you wondering where this happens at.

And thus we begin...

She loved her fancy new pink dress. It cascaded down to the floor in layers separated by glossy white lace and when she twirled in front of the mirror it billowed like a balloon. She wobbled for a moment, unsteady on the new heels she just gotten, knee-high boots of white leather that laced all the way up the front. Heels just like all the other girls; no, the other ladies wore. She looked in the mirror one last time and again spotted the speck of red on the hem, from when the nice dressmaker had been poked. It was small though and she just knew it would come out eventually. She smiled to her mirror self and they giggled together.

She smiled down at the dressmaker, he had been a wonderful craftsman, and his love of the work really showed in the small details. She smoothed down her dress one last time and gathered the long thin handbag, called a clutch, made for holding things she might need like a fan, bits of hard candy, or possibly makeup like the lip covering the pretty women in the saloons wore. She turned and walked from the shop and into the dark Malifaux night.

The street lamps had been lit in an ever failing attempt to keep the darkness and its inhabitants at bay. She looked past the street lamps and watched the starts shimmer against the darkened sky. She walked off alongside the cobblestone street listening to the clop, clop, clop of her new boots on the sidewalk. Even though it was late there were still a few people walking about at night. A young couple walked along holding hands, gruff union members wandered from saloon to saloon, a few walked alone, and for a brief moment she thought she saw a little boy in a night dress skipping up an alleyway.

She heard the bells from a nearby clock tower ring out the hour and she counted each hit. “Nine. Ten. Eleven. I am running late.” She started to walk away with a little more purpose in her strides; she had somewhere to be. She waited a moment for a coach to pass and then moved quickly across the street. Her hurry and her new heels got the better of her and as she stepped up on the walk she misjudged the height and caught her toes. With a quick cry of surprise she fell forward and into the arms of a passing young man.

“I got you.”

She smiled up at him, “Thank you for catching me.” She allowed him to help her right herself. She leaned against him for a moment, “I got these fine new shoes and I’m just absolutely clumsy in them.”

“Are you all right Miss?”

“I’m fine, thank you for asking.” She placed her hand on his forearm and thought she could be a few minutes late. “I’m so embarrassed.”

“Don’t you be embarrassed Miss, some of those shoes are right impossible to walk in.” His smile it reached his blue eyes and curled his mouth just enough to show off his teeth. He was young too, maybe a hair past twenty. He detached himself slightly to reach down and pick up a new looking Stetson, that was quite out of place with his fine suit and tie. He dusted it off taking care to get it back into a good shape.

“My, what a fine looking hat.”

“Thank you miss, it was a gift from a marshal friend of mine.”

“A marshal,” she caught her breath and fanned herself with her hand, “not a Death Marshal? Are you with the Guild?”

“Yes miss. I am.”

“Are you a Death Marshal as well?”

“No. Nothing quite that exciting. I’m a doctor and a dentist, occasionally a veterinarian. I don’t even know how to use a gun.” he looked around them for a moment and then looked back to her, “I don’t mean to be forward miss, but are you by yourself?”

“Yes, I had some business at a shop up the road, and it took a bit longer than anticipated.”

“I’m afraid I can’t allow this. It’s just not safe for a young lady to be out at night by herself in this city.”

“I don’t have very far to go. Just a few blocks.”

“I would feel better if you allowed me to escort you.”

“I don’t even know your name.”

“I apologize, you are quite correct.” He reached up and removed his hat, “my name is Malcolm, and you are?”

She began to speak and suddenly jumped, pressing up against him, “what was that?” She looked off down the street, her eyes scanning the now empty darkness.

Malcolm followed her gaze, stepping forward to be in front of her just slightly. “I don’t see anything.”

“Maybe I should let you walk me.”

“Where to?”

“Mrs. Downey’s Orphanage, over on fifth street.”

“I know the way, I live near Mrs. Downey‘s. We should be there in two shakes.” He began walking with her, moving to place himself between her and the street. After a few blocks he began speaking again, “Do you live there?”

“No, I’m meeting my…someone.”

“I see.”

“Oh, nothing like that. It’s my, well, she wants me to call her mother, but I haven’t felt particularly maternal towards her in a while.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. My mothers Earthside back in Boston. I miss her terribly, but we write. I may go home for a visit next month for the holidays.”

“I’ve never been to Boston. Is it nice?”

“It’s amazing. I love it. Malifaux reminds me of it a bit. The streets and architecture are similar, none of the monsters though, and seafood. Amazing seafood, other than my family, I miss it the most.” He stared off into the night ahead for a long moment.

“It sounds wonderful. Maybe I’ll go someday.”

“You should come up to Boston. I mean go. I mean…I’m sorry, that sounded just…”

She placed her arm through his, “It’s okay, I know what you meant.”

Malcolm smiled at her and patted her hand where it rested in the crook of his elbow. They walked along like that for a few more minutes until she started to turn down an alley. Malcolm pulled up short and tugged her back towards him. “We should keep walking.”

“But the orphanage is right on the other side of this alley.”

“This time of night, those aren’t safe. If we head up two more blocks and cross over we’ll be back this way in no time.”

“That’ll take too long and I’m already late. I go this way all the time.”

“Maybe during the day, but right now there could be anything down that alley. I get a lot of people on my table that walk down alleys at night; it isn’t safe.”

“You’re being silly.” She tugged on his arm, slightly more forcefully than was necessary.

“No. We need to walk around.”

She let go of his hand and half stepped into the alley.

A new voice, gruff and dirty, hissed from the darkness, “You should have listened to the fine young man.” The loud click of a hammer being set on a gun echoed off the walls.

She turned too quickly to face the alley and stumbled on her heels. Malcolm moved forward, stopping her fall and stepping in front of her before she had completely gotten her self righted. “Stay behind me,” he whispered to her.

“That’s lovely. It’s nice to see a good solid lad. I took up a young couple just the other day and he pushed her into me and run off. Gives me hope to see a man put himself between me and his fine young lady.”

“What do you want?” Malcolm’s voice was steady and measured.

The voice let out a dust chocked cough. “Any script you got on you, maybe some jewelry.”

Malcolm reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. The shadowy figure moved forward enough to present a vague shadow, the glint of metal coming from his hand. Malcolm tossed the bills underhand and the shadow caught them. “That’s a fine watch you got there.”

Malcolm took a moment to undo his pocket watch and toss it into the alley as well. “And now ma’am, I’ll be having your purse.”

“I don’t have anything in it; it’s new.”

“Please ma’am. Every young girl keeps a little something in her purse.”

Malcolm whispered over his shoulder, “Don’t anger him.”

She opened the purse and began to reach her hand inside. “I’m telling you there’s nothing in here you want.”

The voice stepped fully into the light revealing a grubby unwashed moth eaten suit, mismatched shoes, and a greasy black bowler resting on a nest of oily black hair. “Give me that.” He snatched forward and grabbed at the purse his fingers closing on her hand. Malcolm moved forward quickly, and punched the man knocking him backwards into the alley. His hand still gripping hers he pulled her with him into the darkness. There was a sharp bang from the gun, and the muzzle flash illuminated the alley for a brief second.

Candy lunged forward and a flash of silver broke the shadows as she pulled the long silver scissors from her purse and stabbed into the voice’s stomach. He staggered backwards, and raised the gun to defend him. She moved forward and took the weapon from him tossing it down the alley.

She stood there for a long moment being sure to hold the hem of her dress up to keep any more blood from getting on it; she would not make that mistake again. The gunman slowly fell to his knees, the crimson trickle pooling around him his life slowly ebbed away. She smiled and cleaned her scissors on the man’s jacket.

Candy walked to the mouth of the alley and looked at Malcolm lying on the cobblestones. His blue eyes were devoid of the twinkle they had held just a few minutes before. He now stared blankly at the stars above them. The pool of blood spread from his chest where the bullet had struck him.

Candy stared at his face for a long time unsure what to do. Finally she said, “thank you,” without really knowing why.


The Character of Candy is a creation of Wyrd Miniatures.

I hope you enjoyed the story. If you're interested in more on Malifaux you can read my review of the second edition rules here. Or if you'd like to see more about the world and you can check out Wyrd Miniatures website here. Let me know what you thought of the story, by leaving a comment or heading over to facebook and mentioning it there. You can also find me on Twitter @stevemayne2.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Table Top Day

April fifth and the second International Tabletop Day approaches like an appropriately chosen board game pun on endings. Last year to all accounts went well, certainly good enough to have a second go. For myself, I participated last year; I invited folks to my house and played some games and had a great day. I’m also getting ready for this year and I thought I should jot down some thoughts on exactly what I think Tabletop Day is.

I think I should give some history on the event before I get too far in. On April 12th back in 2012 Wil Wheaton gathered some of his friends together, went on to a brand new Youtube channel created by Felicia Day (Geek & Sundry), and created a show called Table Top. Actually, he created the show before that; the date given above is just when the first episode aired. The show was an unlikely success. I remember starting the first episode thinking it was going to be a train wreck, it was only a half hour long and I completely expected to shut it down no more than ten minutes in. When I finished the episode because of how enjoyable and engaging it was, I was as shocked as anyone.

The show went on to become a huge hit; the first episode is sitting at nearly 1.5 million views. With the shows success there was a decision made at some level I’m not aware of to dedicate an entire day to gathering with friends and gaming. Tabletop Day is about being social and having a good time with friends. To put it in their words…

“International TableTop Day is a celebration for all the fans of tabletop gaming. A single day where the whole world is brought together in a common purpose of spending time together and having fun.”

We could leave it right there, it perfectly defines the day and what it’s for. However, I think their description is wrong about one point. They say it’s for fans of tabletop gaming and to be fair it is however I think it’s bigger than that. While it’s certainly a day that fans of tabletop gaming whether board games, miniature games, or card games are going to have an immediate appreciation for. I think we need to expand this to people who don’t really know this applies to them.

To me, the reason Tabletop Day is important is that it more than any other holiday has only one reason for being; to get together with friends and family and be social. We have holidays year round that bring people together around a table and be with one another. However, every one of the other holidays has a built in reason for why it exists, be it religious, patriotic, or emotional; you have an expectation of what you need to do on those days. Whether its open presents, have a cookout, find colored eggs, or buy your significant other something romantic; you have a built in responsibility for every other holiday.

Tabletop Day has one requirement, get together with people and do something fun. If you think about that it’s kind of amazing. I think it’s also especially important in this day and age when people are so very busy. When was the last time most us had were able to just be with people we liked without forging a block of time. We always think we’ll have time later but then we never really do; that later never actually shows up.

Tabletop Day is later. It’s that point where we now have a day that we can all point to and say this is the day I’m going to spend time with my family and friends. This is later; this is when I’m going to make the time. Yes, it’s an arbitrary day, there’s no special significance with April 5th, at least none that I’m aware of, your mileage may vary. Why not April 5th, why can’t that be the day you sit down with your kids, your parents, your friends, your co-workers, or dorm mates and play poker, Candyland, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, or Last Night on Earth. Do a puzzle, make a scrapbook, or build a model airplane. Just so long as you can sit at a table, have fun, and hold a conversation.

That’s why this day is important. That’s why it has to be around a table. As weird a statement as this is to make, you can’t be doing something active, because it’s fairly impossible to have a conversation during a game of hockey. I want people to have a good time anyway they want, I also feel people should go outside and be active, lord knows I need to do it more often, but it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation under those circumstances. To me the conversation is the important part of Tabletop Day.

People should have conversations. We need to talk more. Maybe I’m wrong, it’s possible, and won’t be the first or last time. I want to reconnect, I want to talk to people, and I want to have fun doing it. That’s why I think Tabletop Day is important, because when was the last time we really talked to each other.

This April 5th, get together with people you love, sit down, and pull out that dusty copy of Scrabble. Have a good day; a fun day. Just have a conversation with people you like. Hell, even if you have to play basketball so you can sit down afterwards for beer and wings to do it.

Let me know what you think. Are you planning on doing anything this TableTop Day? If it's passed, did you do anything? What did you play? Post below or head over to my Facebook page and leave a message there. You can also follow me on Twitter @stevemayne2. Also feel free to look my on Youtube.