When I proposed a collaboration to @betterlegends on a One Page Dungeon, he responded by surprising me with the first image here, a drawing to serve as a writing prompt. It was so evocative, the idea for our eventual entry came to me in a flash and I started furiously scribbling. After lots of back and forth (and lots of cutting and editing on my part), we eventually came up with the final version of “Druid’s Rest at the Giant’s Rift” that you see in the second image. I love working with that dude…

The Lunar Lich

The lich sat on the moon’s surface and caressed the ground with a skeletal hand. It stirred up a small vortex of lunar dust, a brilliant and glimmering display illuminated by unfiltered sunlight.

The undead monster recited a cantrip, a simple spell, and smiled in rare wonder as the magic roared to life. So close to the moon’s eldritch power source, the spell’s effects were magnified countless times.

In the cold, empty landscape, the lich would build a new laboratory. As it began, the earth rose along the horizon.

The Smokesmith of Peyroux

The smokesmith laid in bed a luxurious extra few minutes, awaiting the tell-tale rustling of the forest’s couriers to quiet. “Damn,” she muttered, as the morning grew still and calm. Time to get to work.

After a bit of prep, the young woman who served the haunted village of Peyroux and surrounding areas as the “maker of smoke, be your needs mystical or mundane,” opened the back door and appraised what the forest had brought her. Every week, fallen branches and various chunks were delivered and stacked neatly.

“Hickory. That’ll be good for Creepy Crepes,” she said to herself, naming the village’s diner. “Oh! Hemlock! The ol’ lich will be happy at long last. Asking for that for ages.” She grinned at the thought before adding, “Well… not happy, but quiet at least.”

She was young, possibly the youngest smokesmith the village had ever seen – but as capable as the old woman who taught her. She had been listless, broke, and in need of a job. The previous smokesmith was old, getting ready to pass, and in need of an apprentice. They fought terribly during their time together, but an affection grew out of their harmless grumbles, and the old witch had passed with the comfort her charge would learn from her mistakes. Such as forgetting the lich in question demanded Eastern hemlock, not Western.

The job is very hard and very rewarding. A smokemsith has to mill branches into manageable boards, then dress them in enchanted dirts and oils, or carefully dry them raw. It can take weeks, sometimes months, to prepare a specific board. A few select specimens were started by the previous smokesmith when she was an apprentice many years ago, and according to their order forms, would not be ready for many years yet.

Once the wood is ready, fires are made. The duration of each, size, assorted starters and additive ingredients, all stem from each customer’s specific needs and preferences.

This week’s wood hauled and milled, the young smokesmith took her lunch into the small, damp cavern at the edge of her property. She loved watching the harvested smoke coalesce and dance, sometimes glow or fizzle, as it condensed into the library of oddly shaped bottles. She told the smoke the mundane details of her day, specifically the gossip she heard from customers.