Knickpoint is a story written and illustrated by Iron Eater. It ran in Issue 76 at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/knickpoint.
An unexpected missive means it's time for the leadership of the Naar Rhoan stronghold to look for answers, and along the way handle some long-unfinished business.
"You figured out why the fuck that thing's here yet?"
"Not yet," said Sarouth with a sigh. "I'm still trying to puzzle it out. He Who Sleeps has yet to give me anything to go on aside from asking it questions directly."
It and that thing both referred to a huge, smooth orb of clear and flawless glass bundled in the blankets. Glass in and of itself was a rarity in the valley, save for little trinkets or bits of jewelry, and even the most cunningly-colored material was prone to the occasional bubble or whorl marring its surface; the craftsmanship that went into the ball must have been incredible. They had found it right outside their tent flap that morning. Save for their own, there were no tracks around it; for all intents and purposes it had simply appeared out of the sky to alight at their threshold. Sarouth had chosen to hold it close and ask for advice for lack of any better options.
Aside from its enigmatic arrival, what was troubling about the ball was how the last time either of them had seen it was in the hands of someone who should have been far away from the stronghold by then.
Sarouth gently held the glass ball in both hands, his eyes staring into its unseen depths. "I don't really understand what it's trying to tell me," he said, "but I think it misses its master."
This story's main characters are not human.
This story is the seventh in the Rhoanish Works series. While the author recommends reading the stories in order of publication (in no small part due to increased writing ability and familiarity with the characters), it has been intentionally written so new readers can jump right in if they so desire.
The setting itself is very loosely based on the freeware game Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup.
This story has no related links.
I set myself a word limit this time after last year's 62K+ adventure, and while I technically went over it was definitely a good idea.
My plot took a while to find itself, as while I had ideas I wanted to use this year I wasn't really sure how they'd all tie themselves together. I waffled over whether I wanted to actually include the Feast of Stars at all until it gave me a good excuse to get so many god-speakers together in one place; while previous stories have hinted that it really sucks to be an Agritakh-ruhd, I feel like this one makes that abundantly clear. A Feast of Stars is usually more on the scale of four or five participants.
The unlucky engineer staring down Riaag is not necessarily Oihane from Ghosts of Harvest, but I'm not about to say she isn't, either. Naar Rhoan is going to have River People in it more or less forever.
Grain explosions are very real. Don't use flour to smother a flame, folks.
The Leopard's Breath Company first showed up in Aventurescence. While this is not exactly a world with traditional RPG adventuring parties in it, they're pretty close to being one, and I couldn't ignore the opportunity to set up the brave daring-doers getting rescued by a pair of tired orcs. The note about a leopard having sweet breath is, as mentioned in last year's notes, actual period heraldic/bestiary weirdness, though it's usually assigned to the pard (the panther) instead of the leopard (a hateful hybrid of the "unfaithful lioness," or leo, and a pard). I am maybe also a bit too fond of having fantasy settings where certain magical things aren't real.
The fruit Sarouth harvests in one flashback is from a Strychnos nux-vomica, or strychnine tree. As might be inferred he didn't know this was the case at the time.
It's the first story with color illustrations! Astounding! In case you ever wondered about their respective skin tones, now you know. While I keep switching up the designs for the plate elements of Riaag's armor I am enormously happy with how his shield turned out. One of these days I'll actually draw the front of it.
If it feels like this story is mostly setting up another one, that's because it is. I still wanted to end things in such a way that would feel final enough (if not leaving everything tied up in a bow) just in case; I really don't want to Robert Jordan myself.