Last night was a busy night at Math Haus. My housemates had friends over to play Pathfinder in the living room, and while they did that, I had a few friends over to play The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow at the dining room table. The designer is running a session of the card-driven version (in development) at Gamex this coming Memorial Day weekend, but I found the original dice-based version on their website and it sounded like fun.
I now present to you….
The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow
A tale of mischief and bullying
Benny, 6 1/2 years old, played by Ron
Laurie, undeterminate age, played by Casey
Jack, 8 years old, played by Chris
Sally, 7 years old, played by Me
In Raven’s Hollow, the sun never shines.
Today was a day like any other. The adults of the town shuffled around, doing whatever boring things adults did. The sun did not shine, and the children entertained themselves as best as they could in the brown and gray world of ancient trees, mud puddles, tangled thickets, and decaying buildings.
Benny was in a foul mood, and was taking it out on a snake he’d found by the side of the creek. He wore a baseball cap (turned backwards, of course, like all the cool kids he saw on TV), and he was wearing a pair of dirty sneakers. They weren’t the cool sneakers he’d asked for, so instead he had drawn lightning bolts onto the sides with crayons. The shoes were stained strange colors from where he’d emptied the contents of a glow-stick onto them, trying to make the lightning bolts glow. (It hadn’t worked, hence the foul mood.) In his grubby hands Benny held a stick, which he was trying to poke in the snake’s mouth. The snake was having none of this, and kept snapping at the stick with sinister-looking fangs.
“Come on, snake. Just open a little wider, like that… no, hey! Not like that… Now, just stay still for a second…”
Just as Benny lunged forward with a decisive jab, a rustling in the brush surprised him, and he missed, stumbling forward. The snake made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snicker.
“Hey Benny, what are you doing?” asked Laurie with a sneer as she emerged from the bushes.
“Oh, it’s just you.” Benny rolled his eyes. “Go away Laurie, I’m busy.”
Laurie was a tall, gangly girl with ratty ginger hair. She was wearing shiny patent leather shoes (still shiny because she’d been careful to avoid any mud puddles) and in one hand she was carrying a bright red balloon.
“I’m not doing anything,” she answered snottily. “What are YOU doing?”
“Trying to get this snake good,” Benny answered, scowling. “But it won’t stay still long enough.”
Laurie scoffed. “Only little kids poke at snakes with sticks. I dare you to poke the snake in the mouth with just your finger! You’re not scared, are you?”
Benny eyed the snake, which eyed him back. He looked at his finger, then looked back at the snake’s evil-looking fangs. He gulped, started to move toward the snake with one pointer finger extended, then thought better of it and shrugged.
“Nah,” he said. “That’s dumb. Who cares about a dumb old snake, anyway?”
Laurie snickered. “Oh yeah?” She took a few quick steps forward, grabbed the snake by its tail, and before Benny could do anything about it, she spun it in the air and flung it downstream into the creek. “I guess you won’t care if I do that, then.”
“HEY!” Benny shouted in protest. He scampered into the stream, but the snake was no where to be found. He turned back to Laurie, who was lost in laughter. “You’re just a dumb girl. Stupidface.”
“Whatever, Benny. You’re the stupidface.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of a stupidface carries a balloon, anyway? Balloons are more dumb than snakes.” He walked over to where Laurie was standing and narrowed his eyes at her, then reached forward and grabbed the balloon out of her hands before she had time to react. He released the string, thoroughly enjoying her shrieks of dismay as the balloon climbed up, up, up before getting tangled high in the limbs of an ancient, decaying tree.
“There. If you climb that tree and get your balloon, I might believe that you’re not just a stupid girl. And I won’t tell all the other kids how stupid you are. Stupidface.”
“Okay, I’ll do it,” said Laurie without a second thought. She carefully took her shoes off and placed them on a pile of dry leaves at the base of the tree. “I’m not going to get my shoes dirty, though.” She looked up at the tree, which was swaying in the breeze and making loud creaking noises. A large raven settled itself down on a branch not too far from her balloon. The branch seemed far too thin to support the weight of the massive bird, but Laurie thought that maybe it meant the tree was sturdier than it looked.
After another moment to gather her courage, ignoring the irritating taunts of Benny behind her, she squared her shoulders and started to make her way up the tree, carefully placing her hands and feet on the sturdiest-looking of the decaying branches. After a much shorter time than either child had expected, she was almost within reach of the balloon. The raven, still eyeing her, flew down a few branches and almost as though it was helping her, plucked at the balloon string with its beak, conveniently untangling it from the branches and dropping the end down to where Laurie could grab it. She tied it around her wrist and descended back to the ground.
“See?” she said, brushing the dust off her dress. “Easy.” She smiled smugly, reaching for her shoes. They were gone. She frowned.
“Are you looking for these?” Benny dangled them in front of her eyes, then snatched them away cruelly. “Finders keepers!” he said, and ran off into the forest, ignoring Laurie’s shouts behind him.
Jack was the largest of the children of Raven’s Hollow. Maybe not the oldest – it was possible that title went to Laurie, but none of them were entirely sure how old she was. No, Jack was simply the largest. Tall and wide. He would be intimidating except that he was a good, quiet child who preferred to spend his free time surrounded by books. Today he was working his shift at the library, pushing a rickety cart around and shelving books. In his back pocket was a copy of his favorite book, which he occasionally snuck out to read a few pages, tucking it away again quickly before the librarian, Mr. Smithers, caught him. Today, Mr. Smithers was no where to be found, so Jack was taking a longer than usual reading break. This is where Benny found him. Benny snatched the book out of the older boy’s hands.
“Hey, what the…?” Jack said, startled. He looked up, and sighed. “Benny! Give that back!”
But Benny was too quick for Jack, and tossed the book high onto the top of one of the bookshelves, laughing with glee.
“Who reads books, anyway? Why don’t you ever play outside, Jack boy? Books are for sissy girls.”
Jack decided to not point out the sissy girl shoes that Benny was wearing at the moment (Laurie’s shoes, in fact). Then he looked sadly at the top of the bookshelf. There was no way he could reach that high, despite being the tallest boy in his grade.
“Aw, Jacky boy lost his book! Hey Jack, I dare you to climb the rickety old ladder to get your book back.”
Jack hesitated. “But Mr. Smithers will be angry. I’m not supposed to use that ladder….”
“Are you… scared?”
“No!” Jack responded a little too quickly to be convincing. “But Mr. Smithers is my friend. I don’t want to make him mad.”
“Sounds like you’re scared to me. I’m gonna tell everyone else what a scaredy butt you were, can’t even climb a ladder without an adult…”
“Okay fine! I’ll do it!” Jack cried. He stormed off, and when he returned he was wheeling the old library ladder around from where the librarian kept it in a dusty corner. He placed it at the base of the shelves where he thought the book had landed. He grabbed the sides of the ladder, and climbed one rung, then another. The rungs creaked in protest, but they seemed to hold his weight safely. He successfully climbed to the top, retrieved his book, and on the way down, “accidentally” dropped a heavy hardcover book on Benny’s head.
“OW!” Benny shouted. He wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tounge. “You’re just a dumb butt face. Butt eyes! You have butts for eyes!” He ran off, rubbing his head and shouting insults behind him at poor Jack.
You can read Part 2 here!