I first met Chris Maher more then twenty five years ago, when some local lads decided to organize the local gamers of Limerick into a community. I'd already set up an RPG group in school (we played every Wednesday in Mrs. Collins' English Room), but this was something more. A conference room was rented out, some plans were laid and a wee figure painting competition was held (I won, but my Orge Captain was filched by some sticky fingered creep). There I met some of the people who are still with me today. The primordial soup from which Conclave and KnaveCon would arise came to a boil that day. Chris was a bit more of a grown up and clearly had his act together; married to the lovely Sue and running a B&B on the Ennis Road. Best of all, despite his upstanding status, he was up for the craic, so when I suggested getting together for a run of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition it was all go.
That year we met pretty regularly, at least once a week, sometimes more in the summer. The back room was small and cramped and we didn't even have a decent table, but we made it work. Ragnar Blackhand, homocide for hire (Chris), Tayto the ogre slaying mage (Vic) and Mersen the elvish lothario bard (Jim) were a shower of ner' do wells trapped in the city of Waterdeep over a particularly bitter winter. It was perfect: a closed location with plenty to do, a whole city of characters to interact with and even a local Inn. The Golden Lion, to hang out at. We got into a lot of trouble, slew a lot of monsters and divvied up a lot of loot. When the lads got more confident, they even took DM duties over now and again, allowing Grady McBrady the master thief and interminable horticultural bore to pop out of the shadows. It was a real golden time, making stories with my friends, eating like crap and throwing dice.
Then, just as we reached 5th level, school intervened, with exams and college and the usual real world stuff. I brought my books up to Dublin, but it was years before I found a group again. I kinda kept in touch with the guys to varying degrees, but Chris almost completely dropped off my radar- big events like the birth of kids trickled up, but on the whole we were all getting on with our lives. Then I heard about the heart attack that nearly killed him and the subsequent upheaval that led him to pull up sticks and leave his life. I was baffled but again, distance softened the whole thing to a flat rumor. I wasn't even on the outside looking in, I was receiving dispatches by pigeon and couldn't make any judgments. Life suddenly seemed less certain, more fraught. The next I heard he was in Texas and was apparently happy in his new life. I told the guys to give him my regards and idly thought that if we could get everyone in the same country at the same time we'd have a memorial game- I still have all the Character Sheets after all.
Then I got the message from Vic that Chris had died suddenly from another heart attack.
So Ragnar walks no more, except in the memory of a golden summer before we had to grow up and take things seriously. His brows won't be knitting in earnest concentration at every puzzle and he won't be throwing Grady McBrady down any corridors to see what traps get set off. There's talk of running a game with Tayto and Mersen, one where they must return Ragnar's remains to the Halls of his Tribe.
It's a good idea and one I think we can do, though it's a poor second to having him sit across the table from me.