NaNoWriMo 2013 and the 'Opal of Light and Shadow'

Michael O. Varhola

Somewhat more than two years ago I was introduced to the National Novel Writing Month program, a literary challenge to write a 50,000-word work of fiction during the month of November. I undertook it for the first time in 2011 and produced what was subsequently published by Skirmisher Publishing LLC as the swords-and-sorcery fantasy novella Swords of Kos: Necropolis. Then, in 2012 I took the challenge again and wrote a sequel to my first NaNoWriMo book titled Return to the Necropolis, which we will be running in serialized form here at d-Infinity Online starting some time in the next month or so. 

This year I have been doing something a little different since NaNoWriMo 2013 started a couple of weeks ago. I am still writing fantasy but, rather than doing another story for Skirmisher's Kos milieu, I am working on a story for game company Gygax-Poiret Adventures that has the working title "Opal of Light and Shadow" and will be the first of four books I write for the Crossroads to Adventure line of choose-your-own-adventure books. This ambitious publishing venture ties in with the company's popular Hobby Shop Dungeon project and will feature the protagonists from the books as NPCs in the traditional role-playing game adventure. 

Following is the opening section for "Opal of Light and Shadow #1: The Search."  

Section 1: Introduction​
Your name is Opal Nersha Doakvale and, at 124 years old, you are a relatively young female Gnome who is as adept at using magic to manipulate light and darkness as you are at opening locks and skulking in the shadows.

You and a few hundred other little folk of your clan live in the village of Oakvale, located in a small wooded valley hidden deep in the rugged and ancient Sandy Hills. That places your home well out of view of Humans, as well as other beings your people wish to have even less to do with, but within several days journey from the city of Villenor. You have never been to that fabled place yourself, but some of your community's more experienced members do sometimes go there to trade the minerals and gemstones they gather in the mines dug throughout the surrounding hills.

Much of your time is spent studying the musty tomes of the master illusionist to whom you are apprenticed, practicing your arcane and mundane arts, and repairing locks and other devices for the people of your village. Anytime you have free time on your hands, however, you spend it wandering the forested hills and ravines that surround Oakvale, chatting with the local burrowing animals, searching for herbs and minerals that you can use in inks and other arcane paraphernalia, and gathering foodstuffs for your family's dinner table. As much as you like spending time with the members of your family, you also enjoy your solitary adventures, and have learned to move quickly, silently, and unseen on your own.

+ If you have not already selected which spell from your spellbook that you have prepared for today, please do so now. You can only cast one a day, so be sure to choose wisely! Your favorite illusion is Color Spray, because of the opalescent fan of magical colors you are able to create with it, there are many things it cannot do and every spell has its uses in the right situation.

You have just spent an enjoyable afternoon along the rocky banks of a little streambed and are headed home laden with the crayfish, mushrooms, and herbs that you will contribute to the evening meal. As you head up the rough forest path toward Oakvale, however, you can smell not cooking food but burning buildings instead, and hear the agitated chattering of frightened animals and the shouts of angry Gnomes.

When you enter the village you learn of the disaster that has struck. Earlier that day, while the strongest men and women of the village worked in one of the mines cut into a nearby hill, a band of the vicious little dog men known as Kobolds appeared from a hidden tunnel and attacked them. The Gnomes had eventually managed to drive off the evil subterranean humanoids but suffered many serious injuries and were trapped underground with them for some time. When the miners emerged, they discovered that a horde of heavily-armed Goblins, having apparently forged an alliance with the Kobolds, had attacked the almost defenseless village at the same time, killing or wounding many, stealing as many possessions and as much livestock as they could, and setting fires everywhere. You are also horrified to learn that the Goblins — wiry, four-foot-tall humanoids with dull, brick-red skin — abducted two Gnomish children, your little niece and nephew, possibly to eat them or perhaps for some purpose even more foul.

Having already posted guards at the mine and collapsed the tunnel the Kobolds had come through, a dozen of the toughest Gnomes in your community have armed and armored themselves and formed a warband for purposes of pursuing the Goblins. They have also sent runners to alert the Boar Riders, an elite unit of Gnome soldiers, and to ask them to send reinforcements. Your uncle Nersh, Oakvale's master illusionist and the one whose children it was that were stolen, was badly injured during the raid and is unable to accompany the war party himself. You are thus wondering whether or not you should try to, and realize if you do that it will likely be the greatest test you have ever experienced of your skills, magical ability, and boldness. Seeing you watching the preparations for the expedition, the leader of the war party steps over to you with concern in his eyes.

"Don't worry Opal, we will bring back the children," he tells you reassuringly. "Stay here and help the other women clean things up and we will be back before you know it." He then rejoins his companions and they march out in the direction toward which the Goblins departed. 

* To follow along behind the Gnome war party, go to Section 2.
* To take a shortcut through the hills that will allow you to get ahead of the war party and possibly get intelligence on the Goblins, go to Section 10.
* To investigate the mine where the Kobolds attacked, go to Section 20.
* To follow your uncle's orders and wait to see what happens, go to Section 30.