Friends in this world

As we creep nearer the December release, I’m paying tribute to old friends included in the dedication of the first book, ‘Rise of the Loremaster.’ There, I mention Stuart, Patrick, Nick, Howard and Max; classmates with whom I first delved into role-playing games at the start of our summer holidays in 1984. We met at Patrick’s cottage in Perry Wood for a D&D adventure extravaganza. This included two short outdoor breaks from the tabletop, running around in the trees and attempting to catch Patrick concealed in a cape. All the while, we followed a trail of clues assembled and hidden by his mother within a mile of their home. LARP’ing wasn’t a hobby back then, although its seeds had been planted by groups like ‘Treasure Trap.’ We amused several local walkers, dashing around and fighting with our cheap plastic swords, before returning to the comfort of paper and dice. Heck, we were twelve…

A few more friends got into the hobby along the way. Not least of these was a lovely guy from our class called Ben Harrap. In later years, Ben and I took long, quiet country walks, enjoying simple, ad hoc D&D adventures. I acted as DM and NPCs, while he played his favourite character: a thief called Swifthand. People weren’t always as kind to Ben as they could’ve been. Whether this was on account of physical challenges he’d battled all his life or other personality issues, I couldn’t say. All I know is he appreciated those games. As an introvert preferring calmer and less boisterous activities myself, so did I. We soon became an inseparable duo, including an evening out on our last day at school. Ben understood the concept of playing a character according to their personality quirks rather than acting to ‘win.’ If Swifthand wouldn’t behave a certain way in a situation, he’d play him to the hilt as he was — consequences be damned. One day, I rewarded his character with a massive fantasy city inn called ‘The Traveller’s Rest.’ I knew he’d love running morally ambiguous escapades from it, as he sought to lighten the purses of wealthy merchants and embroil himself in spy craft. He did.

We stayed in touch for several years after school. Eventually, different life directions put an end to our regular contact.

Ben in our final class photo from 1989

Shortly before Christmas 2019, my old friend died from a sudden attack of sepsis. A father and gentle giant in his late forties, Ben went ahead of us – as I state in the book’s dedication – on the greatest adventure of all. At the time, I was writing a lot of British Horror Fiction, and dedicated one of those titles to him. In 2021, when I started building my fantasy world, I wanted to do a little more. As I plotted them, the stories worked well with incorporating shadowy thief/spy characters. I included a rambling old city inn filled with secret doors, passages and chambers, run by a former adventuring comrade of the main protagonist. The inn is, of course, ‘The Traveller’s Rest,’ and its owner (in the first book at least) a thief who goes by the nickname, ‘Swifthand.’ In Arisendia, thieves’ guild members use both ordinary names and nicknames. Swifthand’s ordinary name is Neb Parrah. Switch the first and last letters of each word around, and you’ll discover an ‘Easter Egg’ I wanted to reveal for any who read this blog.

I’m pretty sure Ben (or should that be Neb?) would appreciate both the tribute and me letting slip what would otherwise remain hidden to most. Seek and ye shall find. Read my website and ye shall find enlightenment.

Other ‘Easter Eggs’ exist within the books, but that has to be my personal favourite.

So here’s a toast, Ben. As the initial three Arisendia Chronicles go live, you’ll have been gone three years. Out of sight, but never out of mind. I love and miss you, old friend. To the good old days.

Apollo and Denzien send their love,

Jack.

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