Lake Geneva Days
by Robert J. Kuntz
Chapter 2 Excerpt
Subtext: The Magic of Lake Geneva
Gary said, “Come on, Rob, let’s take a walk.” And off we went.
Gary and I would walk everywhere: To the Stop & Shop Liquor store owned by the Jedda family, to the dime stores and elsewhere. If I was awake early enough I would accompany him on his walks to the train depot whereat he would embark for his ride to work in Chicago.
Today we were walking with no destination in mind, just absorbing another summer day in accord with the town’s beauty.
We soon arrived in Maple Park and sat on a bench there. The lake was before us, here a bay dotted with boats and framed by a gradually rising and forested shore line. The Riviera Beach and docks to our left were busy as was usual for the season.
Gary finally spoke while pointing, “Hey Rob! See the Stone Manor?”
I lightly laughed as if to say, “Of course. How could you miss it?”
The Stone Manor was then an enigma to me. I had seen it up close while walking the lake shore path opposite us but knew nothing of its history. It was like a gigantic castle on the hill that commoners stared at in awe but never dared approach.
Gary had seen it up close as well, for an oil painting of it he’d rendered was framed and mounted on the living room wall to the right of his house’s entry door.
Gary lowered his arm and declared in an even tone,”I’m going to live there some day.”
I continued looking at the manor in reaction to this. Wow! What would that be like? Thirteen years later I would find out when Gary took up residence there. ...
© 2006-2021. Robert J. Kuntz. All Rights Reserved.
Strong Characters Lead to Strong Stories
“Good story' means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Finding this is your lonely task...But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be a good story well told.” ― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
No matter the story-telling medium, whether verbal or written, for film, theater, fiction, documentaries, comics, digital mediums or for RPGs, itʼs all about a well told story.
Since my involvement in fictive mediums I have striven to get the story first and fill in the rest later. The best case scenario is having the climax first! An example of this is my 4-part character-driven series “Maze of Zayene” (pronounced: “Zay-Een”). This oft-published series (1987, 2001, and with a future printing forthcoming from Legends of Role Playing) speaks to its strong story line, unique characters and enduring, compelling plot.
The mad wizard Zayene has an illustrious career that begins during the playtest of the D&D game. He occurs as a landed “lord” in the Original Lake Geneva Campaign created and administered by myself and my counterpart E. Gary Gygax.
His history was distinct at this point -- I imagined him as an on-the-run wizard from my own World of Kalibruhn. He was evil, possessed story arcs rooted in both the past and future, and had an increasing insanity that drove him to acquire ultimate power even as his past and future missteps dogged his quest.
After developing him in full for RPG story purposes I went back to fully humanize him through my unpublished short story, The Jungle Temple. The story reveals how his fall into insanity occurred and hinted at what was pursuing him. More importantly it revealed a tragic figure with traces of tortured humanity buried beneath a now hardened and intractable demeanor.
The following passages from The Jungle Temple relate his interactions with three illusions that are capable of reading his mind: his former master the wizard Kohoorc; his unnamed father; and his beloved mother. These shades implore him to abandon his quest into the ancient and long-abandoned temple.
...Zayene casually approached the table so that he could better view the illusion. Kohoorc regarded him with a sincere look, but then took to twiddling his thumbs while staring at the table, which had been an odd pastime of his. How effective, thought Zayene. Even the minutest details had been secured from his memories. What power, he thought.
“You were always concerned with power, Zayene, not in its proper and informed use, only in its acquisition. Nonsense! You must depart here or die.”
Zayene said in a clipped, but still somewhat sharp, tone, “You are dead. You are a shade of the past and cannot lend counsel. I beg you depart and leave me to my wiles as I did for you before your headstone.”
Upon these spoken words Kohoorc’s face clouded over in shadow, his form became inert and the second phantasm animated. Zayene walked to the table’s mid point and turned to face the new image. It was that of his long dead father.
“Welp! How often did I instruct you? Heedless you were then, and so too now!”
Zayene felt a rising anger, which he soon checked. He would not be baited after all these years of afterthoughts about his family and particularly of his father, who had been its most worthless part. Zayene regarded the image’s face as it spoke. The scars were there and as he remembered these, all of them received over many years of acting out his life as a petty thief, cutpurse and back-stab.
“You must listen to me, my son. Remember my lesson at the well? You always sought its bottom, dropping stones into it, listening. You would have forever done that had I not dropped you into it for you to discover that it was only a well and nothing more. You will sink and drown here, just as you would have done at the well without my help for you to reclaim the surface.”
Zayene’s memories stirred, bringing on an uncontrollable anger; and before he could think, he burst forth with a declamation and doing so while looking past his father’s image as if it had never existed:
“Stealer of souls and torturer of lives and dreams, mine as well as others. No sanctity ever came from you, and to your unmarked grave you went, oblivious to the wreckage that was yours, long dead to me before your final breath. Depart now, for your words have no tryst with my ears and no paths, as ever, to my heart.”
The image before him faltered and grew dim and listless like Kohoorc’s had; and at the same time the third phantasm animated.
Zayene looked upon it, and his body spasmed slightly amidst his withheld groan. Drawing himself up he walked to confront it, placing one hand on the table upon nearing. He leaned towards the image, breathing unevenly, and then closed his eyes as his departed mother, Eleia, spoke. ...
“These tears were once for us, my son. For all that was lost to us and not lost between us. Now they are for you. Please, I beg you, Zayene. Do not follow your path.” ...
It was with all of his fortitude that he finally raised himself up and cried aloud, “Mother! I buried you! Myself! And wept! Days I wept before you while the likes of him,” he said, looking back at his father’s illusion, “betrayed no presence.”
Zayene whispered his next thought, “You are gone,” and then angrily reacted to it by shouting, “May the gods suffer for it! But we shall suffer no more. Please. For our love, which has not been vanquished even in death, begone, mother.” He looked away from her and whispered, “In love... Begone.” ...
Zayene is my most developed fictional persona except for Drystaff the Wizard. There are many others such as Wolfar (Black Festival) and Eli Tomorast (Maure Castle); but Zayene holds the record, at least time-wise, for development. His history indeed starts in 1973, but his persona is fleshed out over time much like one steadily adds pieces to a jigsaw puzzle.
Be looking for more development of him as he moves to forever secure his spot as one of the most dangerous of recurring villains, this as adapted from my many published and unpublished materials.
Left: Zayene from Maze of Zayene.
Image © Necromancer Games.