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My Name is Max

A Sword and Sorcery Tale Set in the World of Castles and Caverns Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Game.

By Tom BakerPublished 4 months ago 13 min read
AI-Generated artwork

Note: Castles and Caverns is a homebrew solo tabletop roleplaying game I created. The following story is based on an adventure I completed, which in turn was based on a story idea I had years ago. I plan on setting many stories in this world.

To learn to PLAY Castles and Caverns, click the links below:

1. Castles and Caverns: Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Game : Parts 1 and 2 - Getting Started and Process of Play

2. Castles and Caverns: Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Game : Parts 3 and 4 - Combat and Tables

1. The Woman in the Stars

I buried the burro with dignity. In my belly.

I set out across the burning alkali plains, thirsty, and hungry, but pressing ever-onward due to a vision, a burning image in my mind of a flickering expanse of stars against the dark firmament of the night sky.

Mashoc, the village elder, crept up to me on his spindly, naked legs, and, with his old man's withered hands encased my head, and said, "You are chasing a dragon I fear. The signs in the stars are often true, but never good. Here, we are poor and starving and cannot offer you much on your journey. But take this--"

And with that, he gave me three days of food, a skin of water, and a burro to ride. I thanked him kindly, poor wanderer that I was, and set my poor beast moving from the sad, straggling wastes of the poor huddled huts, sinking into the loose earth, to the open road, and finally, to the wide, dusty, sandy plains where brown, brittle grass gave way to rocky sand and finally rolling dunes. Above, the sunburned my open throat, as I tried in vain to protect myself from its rays, wrapping my accursed, threadbare cloak around me.

Onward, onward, a vision of her face in my mind. The Woman in the Stars. I had seen her image flicker across their jeweled splendor in the velvet black, and she seemed, in my mind's eye, to call to me. "Come to me," she said. "Come and wrench me free from the clutches of the ones who have imprisoned me. Come and be my champion, sweet singer of tales." But I knew these words were daydreams and fancies. But I knew the face in the stars had been real enough.

Onward, onward, I traveled for many days. Finally, the animal keeled over from exhaustion, from heat. It had been days since we had found an oasis of water, a trickling creek, and thirst parched my throat, hunger gnawed my belly, and the animal keeled over and died.

And I ate it down to the bone. I had no way to start a fire.

I took some of the meat and wrapped it in the rags of my tattered cloak, but I knew it would not keep long. I pushed onward until I was a man on the edge of death, but onward I went, finally spying what I at first took to be a mirage. Ahead, in the flyblown wind, baking under the hot sun, was a shack that looked as if it had been hammered together a hundred years prior. I did not know who could have ever lived out here, and, at this point, I did not care. I knew that there might very well be food or rations of some kind, perhaps even, should I expect a miracle, something to slake my thirst. I raced forward, but then, coming back to my senses, as exhausted and senses, as exhausted as they were, I proceeded with caution as I went through the door. A web, with a large repulsive spider crawling in it, was strung across the upper half of the door. I pulled my knife, and went in slowly, creeping in the gloom, which was only broken by the sunshine glare through the glassless windows.

The place seemed empty, deserted. Settlers come and gone, finding it inhospitable. Ahead, there was only one piece of furnishing, a curious cabinet. I crept forward in the gloom, slowly put out my hand, and touched the weathered, warped wood. I grasped the rusted knob and pulled it. The door of the thing creaked on its hinges, and then fell off, sending up a cloud of dust. it choked me, and I waved it away. Inside, I saw a bundle of what I took to be cured meat.

Famished, and desperate, I took it and crammed it into my mouth. Immediately I choked. it was rotten, writhing. I turned to dry retch, and then, a sound outside the door caught my attention. I crept forward across the rotting floorboards, cautiously, oh so cautiously, drawing my dagger and peering from the darkness to the rectangle of light ahead. I'll advisedly, I passed out of the door to see what that sound had been. it sounded like bare feet padding against the earth.

it was then the creature fell upon me. I felt searing claws tear my flesh, long ragged nails rake down my back, and I whirled around to see the hideous visage of what I took to be a living corpse standing behind me. There was a long, ragged, unhealed cut across his face, as if he had been slashed by a long sword, and rusted manacles dangled from his wrists. He seemed frenzied from hunger and fear, and I moved as if to push him back.

He tried to grasp me around the neck and bent forward to sink his teeth into my jugular, but with an effort borne of fear, I sent him sprawling to the ground. Below me, he writhed in the dirt, his weak, skeletal frame trying to get back up, but I kicked him back easily, and then I brought forth my dagger, and I slashed his face the other way, this time.

Red blood welled across his hollow cheek, and he said, "You must beware. Now I die, tomorrow it is you. The Crystal Tower...waits for you...beyond." And with that, he succumbed and died.

I searched his ragged clothing, finding only a silly scrap of parchment with three arcane symbols on it. One was a sort of line forming a triangle, but crossing itself at the base, creating a little arc and two arrows, and still, the second one seemed to be two triangles, one facing up, the other down, both ending in little hooks. The third symbol seemed to be an eye in the center of a circle.

I quickly stuffed the silly scrap of parchment into the breast of my tunic. Then, my eyes caught a flash of light upon the body of the corpse. I bent low, lifted the tattered rags, and looked down, Ah! this strange character, this living corpse it seemed, had been carrying a weapon; one thankfully, I thought, it never had the opportunity to use. I pulled the dagger, for that's what it was, out of the waistband of the threadbare pants, and standing, considered it in the sunlight.

It was a thing of unsurpassed, rare, beauty, and I wondered at the workmanship, and where such a character as this came across such a blade. I took that

I bent low, lifted the tattered rags, and looked down, Ah! this strange character, this living corpse it seemed, had been carrying a weapon; one thankfully, I thought, it never had the opportunity to use. I pulled the dagger, for that's what it was, out of the waistband of the threadbare pants and standing considered it in the sunlight.

It was a thing of unsurpassed, rare, beauty, and I wondered at the workmanship, and where such a character as this came across such a blade. I took that blade from his body, and, standing, looked out across the dry, choked open plain. it was crawling with scaly predators, tumbleweed, alkali brush, cactus, desert beetles, damnation, and the very real possibility that I too, would soon face death. The breeze whispered to my ear, the grit of dust in my jaws as I shifted my tongue. I felt the vibrations coming from the blade in my waistband. It was enchanted, then? It was goading me forward. I turned, my back to the setting sun, and pressed on.

2: The Tower on the Rock

I pressed onward, hungry, thirsty; I could feel the parched, sandpaper rasp of my swollen throat, as I trudged on, the sun baking my beetling brow, as the desert dreams danced before my scorching gaze. Ahead, as a miraculous finger thrust toward the sky, I could see what seemed a twinkling, crystalline shine, the end of some structure poised upon the edge of an outcropping of stone. Onward, I moved toward it, hoping, praying that within, I might find such aid, such mercy as I sought, as I knew it was all that could sustain life.

I went up the rocky, stone-bestrewn pathway, moving toward the doorway of the tower-like stone citadel, which seemed to have been carved from the sand-blasted rock and set whole upon the crusty surface of the earth. Atop it, as a glittering wonder in the sunlight, was a crystal dome, sectioned, as if molded together from triangular panes of glass. It was a burning image, one that blended in darkness, in my reeling brain, with the image of a star-strewn desert sky, with the image of the Woman in the Stars, and her face resting amid, and even formed by, those glittering astral jewels.

Up the dusty pathway. And then--

"Halt! Who goes there?"

I heard a rough voice cry out, and, beside the door, on each side, I could see the small, helmeted forms of sentries posted, at the door. Then--

"Halt! In the name of the Jeddak of Creelak!"

I began to stumble forward, my arms outstretched, my hands groping in plaintive misery in the empty air. "Please, I said, some water! Some food, anything! Please help me."

An arrow pierced the ground at my feet, a warning shot. Suddenly, a massive helmeted figure loomed above me, as darkness enclosed me and the net was cast around my form, and I found myself falling through a vast chasm of unlimitable space.

3. The Man in the Hood.

When I finally came to, after what seemed an impenetrable night of black, I was being ministered to by a man of ugly, skinny, but undeniably somehow lumpy countenance, a man clothed entirely in green, as if he were a ranger.

"It's alright," he said, hefting a saucer of porridge to my lips. "Take your time, drink. Slowly! Slowly! I am...who I am is not important. What is important is that I am a prisoner, just like you. I am a doctor, though."

I felt my head as big as a boulder.

"Where am I?"

"The tower prison of Kir, in the Jeddak of Creelak. The Jeddak is away, but his representative administrator is here."

Prisoners? I thought to myself. Just then, the door to the room swung open, and a man in a hooded robe appeared. The top half of his face was hidden by the hood, the bottom half revealed a firm-set mouth and a pointed chin. He was tall, and his hands were long, bony, and quite unusually old-looking, based on what I could see of his face in the gloom.

"I am the Administrator," he said. "You have been brought here, it seems, to aid us in our purpose. You--"

And here he held out the dagger that I had found on the living corpse. He said, "You are the one we feel was prophesied of long ago, the one who would be chosen. This dagger--"

And he held it out so that it glistened in the dim torchlight.

"This is a very powerful magical tool, a ceremonial dagger of great age, forged, long ago, by the mysterious race from the East. It is written in the ancient prophecies that one is coming, a messiah, that would vanquish for us the Woman, the Dread Woman, in the Stars..." And his voice trailed off in awe.

"Come," he said. "Follow me."

4. The Woman in the Tower

And he turned on one heel, leading out the door. I did not have to be told twice, and he limped to his feet with the help of the doctor. Together, we both went outside the door, where a long and winding staircase led up to the pinnacle of the tower, the topmost room, the one whose ceiling was a dome of beautiful crystalline glass blazing in the sun.

Up, up. I was handed the dagger. I could feel the weight of it pulse in my palm, the energy and power irradiating off of it as I ascended to a vast wooden double door, intricately carven with the heads of serpents and monsters, leering ghouls, and impish, devilish fiends.

"She is in there," said the hooded figure, whose face was still obscured by the cowl of his robe. He pressed one long, bony hand against the door, and pushed lightly. It swung open with a horrible creak, as of the rattling of bones, and I felt my eyes strain as I walked from the gloom of the stairwell to the bright chamber with the crystalline roof, beyond.

There was a couch on a riser and, lying on it, the most beautiful body I had ever seen in all his days. Chained, sure enough, to two stone pillars beyond the head of the couch, with a collar around her neck. The figure of the woman sat upright, and, by all the Gods! She bore the face of the Woman. My Woman. The "Woman of the Stars," indeed.

"I have seen her. In a dream. In a vision..."

Yes, agree with the Hooded One. "You certainly have! But come, quickly! You must free the Creelak of the burden of this monster. Slay her! Only you have the power to do so, with your blessed blade!"

At this thought, I recoiled in disgust.

"Slay her! Are you mad, man? I will not slay her! What has she done?"

The hooded figure recoiled in outrage, saying, "She is a hideous thing, from beyond the gulfs of space and time, and has brought nothing but terror and sorrow to our land. But if you will not slay her, you cannot be the One we seek to come and free us from our bonds. And so YOU MUST DIE."

And then the figure began to change. It hunched over, its robe covering it in a pool of soft brown, and seeming to slip off of it. I felt my gorge rise as I heard the rending of flesh, the churning of bowls, the ripping of skin. Suddenly, a dry rasping scraped the floor.

My mind reeled. Before me, the Hooded One had transformed into a giant spider.

It was crawling toward me. I took the dagger then, and held it aloft. I could feel the energy burst forth from it, and go ricocheting off the ceiling of glass.

The Woman started forward. "So are you the One, then?" she asked. "Are you the one they foretold would come?"

She seemed as frantic as she was beautiful. I had no way of knowing if I was "the One" or not, but, before me, a giant, eight-legged horror was creeping closer and closer. The blade continued to shoot forth the searching, ricocheting beams of power, like electrical bolts. Behind me, the double door flew open, nearly knocking myself and the spider-thing out of the way, as three guards rushed in, weapons drawn, alerted by the sound.

That's the last mistake you'll ever make, I thought to them, as the electrical bolts shooting their power from the dagger nearly brought me to the floor.

Meanwhile, the woman had looped her chain around the poor doctor's neck and was strangling the life from him. The head of the guard leaped forward, perhaps to strike the Woman, but instead, he impaled the doctor on the edge of his sword.

The doctor screamed but you could not hear it as a gale wind suddenly swept through the chamber, and the giant spider screeched with a piercing, monstrous wail, as a bolt struck it.

It fell to the floor, dripping a yellowish ichor, before disintegrating into a heap of what looked like smoking metal parts: wheels, cogs, screws. I had seen such clockwork before, and that is what it looked like to me. The bolts of energy then struck, live a living thing with a mind, the guards, killing each of them instantly.

They fell to the floor with smoking holes in their chests, and now the floor was awash in blood. The wind blew more and more powerful. The Woman approached me.

"Come!" she said. "Your magic dagger has freed me! We must be off at once! I fear this place will fall in ruins!"

And so grabbing my hand, she pulled me through the door, with an immense strength I could not have credited her with, and down, down, down we plunged, until we were running out the great front entrance, into the light cast from the setting suns.

Behind us, the Jeddak's Prison Tower began to rumble, casting off rock and dust and debris, and seeming to be crushed by a giant fist, as it crumbled into rubble in its footprint.

I suddenly grabbed the Woman. I kissed her savagely, hungrily. I said, "I have journeyed many miles to find you! Come, let us fly from this place of evil so that we can be together forever, until the end of time..."

But she pulled away from me, laughing, to a little crescent of amusement.

"Together," she asked. "Forever?'

And sliding out of her mouth a giant centipede crawled forth. Looking down, I realized the dagger that had just saved my life was hanging from my side. Blood covered my hands, my fingers awash in it.

She opened her mouth. Tentacled squirmed from between her lips and began to wave in front of her open jaws as her eyes grew black. She put up one clawed hand, ready to pounce.

With the last of my strength, I pulled the dagger from my side and heaving it with all my might, aimed squarely for the center of her head.

It landed there with the sucking plop, as she shrieked in agony, falling over in a miasma of greenish-yellowish grue, and hissing like smoke as her body dissolved. In the smoke, I could see the faces of the twisted, charnel demons of despair, from the hideous gulfs beyond the stairs, wailing in temporal agony as they, too, dissolved into the mist, and all that was left were two setting suns.

And so I journeyed back across the desert. How I made it back alive, wounded as I was, with no supplies, even I don't know. But live I did.

But that is a tale for another time, children. Time for bed. All these stories are true, by the way. You may not know me.

My name is Max.


table toprpgadventure gamesaction adventure

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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Comments (2)

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  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    WowI I just watched several movies in writing. Your lines are so gripping, I feel the tentacles, blood gushing, teeth tearing. Wow! Still, rereads are needed.

  • Marvelous story. Wonderful game scenario. A bit of errata I'm sure you're planning on fixing (a passage that was duplicated, switching occasionally between first & third person for Max). One question: If there were cacti in the desert, why didn't Max use those for hydration & sustenance for both him & the donkey?

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