A Place to Write

The reason why I’m avoiding my bedtime today.

            It’s 6:00 in the morning, but I really don’t want to go to bed. You know what I’m talking about, right? You’ve been up all night, like normal, and now the sky is doing that thing where it’s turning that grey-blue color of pre-dawn. It’s not sunrise, but it’s light enough that you know you’re supposed to be in bed.

            Well, I don’t want to. I’m not even tired, just feeling a little… I donno, introspective? I want to write something, but the only things coming to mind are about me and my aforementioned aversion to bedtime.

            I’ve always hated bedtime; I think all kids do. I especially hated it when I had a bedtime set by someone else. When I was little, I had to be in bed by 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening. Hell, it was still light out during the summer. That was a pile of shit. I’ve got nothing to complain about though. My childhood was nothing short of perfect. No abuse, no neglect, no parental divorce. I had video games, and a loving, nurturing environment. Pretty much the best kind of childhood a person can have.

            I still hated bedtime. Now that I’m an adult and I’m setting my own bedtime, I still don’t like it. How spoiled does a person have to be to complain about their own self-inflicted bedtime? Is spoiled even the appropriate word here?

            I’m not sure about all that; I just know that I’m feeling real weird this morning. I shouldn’t have watched all that horror crap earlier, and then followed it up with reading how absolutely nightmarish my best-friend’s childhood was.

            Yep, that’s it. That’s why I’m all weird right now. I’m not gonna get into it here, but seriously, I think I’m actually freaking out over some pale echo of a trauma someone else suffered over 14 years ago.

It’s really scary.

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My Lady Deathknight

            Throughout the ages, stories of bravery and heroism are common. Countless brave warriors face incredible odds and emerge victorious. The lone solider who risks life and limb to save his captured comrades. A lowly thief, spat on by all of society, who ascends to the throne of a nation. The sheltered princess, secluded in a tower until she’s won like a prize, but instead escapes her fate and saves her kingdom from impending darkness.

Among these tales are also great tragedies, examples of honorable sacrifice by good men and women for the greater prosperity of their respective peoples; of star-crossed lovers, willing even to die rather than be apart from one another, and of course the legend of Leila, the warrior maiden who was tragically cut down before she could rescue her prince.

Oh? Have you not heard that one? Well rest assured, it’s a riveting tale indeed! She fought man, and beast, and demon alike in her quest to rescue her love, the Prince Yuvon of Illar. Sadly though, it was not enough. When Leila at last stood before the Queen of Night, she was already weakened by the dark matriarch’s hordes. The Queen of Night struck her down with two blows, one across her face to mar her beauty, and another through her heart. Leila died then, but not before she uttered these words.

“Though I fail in this life, I will not stop. I may even fail a thousand times more, but no matter how many lives I must live and die, my soul will not rest until your wickedness is undone.”

And then she was gone. The Queen of Night then smiled her wicked smile and returned to her palace in the Shadowlands, where she supposedly still keeps Prince Yuvon captive to this very day, her ever unwilling concubine.

A sad tale, yes, but is that the end of it? What of our lady Leila’s dying words? Whatever happened to her determined soul? Well, dear reader, to know the answers to these very practical questions, you would have to ask Death, for only she can know for sure what happens to the souls of heroes and heroines. Fortunately for you, I’m a very well connected storyteller.

We’ll begin in the middle of the story, because quite frankly I’ve already spoiled the beginning for you. Trust me though, it only get better from here….

 

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This is normal

             It’s Friday, exactly 3:05 in the afternoon. I’m sitting in Dr. Holtz’s waiting room. I have a 3:15 appointment like I do every Friday afternoon. This is normal.

            My father abused me when I was a boy, quite badly or so I’m told. It’s socially acceptable to see a psychiatrist about childhood abuse. No one will think anything is wrong if I do this.

            At 3:08 an elderly woman enters the waiting room and takes the seat next to mine. I’m fairly sure she’s not real. The receptionist didn’t great her, and no one looked up when she opened the door. Because of that, I cannot react to her in any way. It wouldn’t be normal.

She takes out a pair of knitting needles and begins knitting. The thread is almost surely human hair. It smells burnt. I look up and her features have twisted wildly. Most of her face is melted. She smiles at me warmly.

            I do not react. I become aware that I’m gripping the armrests of my chair a little too tightly. My knuckles will turn white if I keep this up, but that’s still a reasonable level of anxiety when you’re about to see a shrink. I allow myself to keep gripping the armrests. This is still normal.

            “Mr. Wolven? The doctor will see you now.” At the sound of the receptionist’s voice the old woman is gone. I get up from my chair and follow her back to Dr. Holtz’s office.

            “Good afternoon, Dennis. How are you doing today?” Dr. Holtz greets me warmly. His beard has spiders in it. This is normal.

            “Oh, I’m okay. Can’t complain. How are you?” We exchange the usual pleasantries before we settle into the session. He asks me questions about my father, and I answer him truthfully. I don’t tell him about the spiders leaking out of his ear.

            Suddenly I feel a sharp pain on my arm, and I make a fatal mistake. I slapped a spider that had crawled over to me. I can’t take that back now. He saw me strike at nothing. That’s not normal.

            “Goodness! A spider bite! I’m so sorry, Dennis. I don’t know how they get in here. I’m having the office fumigated this weekend. I can’t apologize enough.”

            I breathe a sigh of relief. “It’s fine, Dr. Holtz. It just startled me is all.” I’m saved by reality for a change.

            The rest of the session goes by as it usually does. I tell the doctor things, and he helps me work through problems. I really think the sessions are helping me come to terms with what happened. I can’t ever tell him everything though. When I get back in my car after my appointment is over, a carpet of worms covers the seats. They wriggle all the way home. This is normal.

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The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and You

            The manic pixie dream girl; You know the one. She’s the girl that’s always excited, bubbly, happy, and knows just what to say to cheer up the dreary, ordinary, male protagonist. She gets him out of his rut, loves him even though he’s a mess, and fixes his life up for him.

            She a bad writing trope. Her name is usually something like Crystal, Molly, or Bell, or something equally short and easy to remember. She’s got fiery red hair, maybe a pair of those hipster glasses, the ones with the plain black rims, and she described herself as “quirky.” She has no personality, and wants nothing other than to cheer you up. She’s a tool, a 1 dimensional character used predominately for wish fulfilment fantasy….

            But she is real. She’s a bad stereotype, a caricature of a person, and she suffers from an exotic cocktail of mental illnesses. That doesn’t stop her from bumping into you as you’re leaving the coffee shop like some cliché romantic comedy. It doesn’t stop her from falling in love with you instantly, and doing everything in her power to ensnare you.

            She planned this all out, you see. She’s a self-styled dream girl; living out a fantasy of modern media’s creation. She doesn’t know it’s a sickness, and you don’t know what’s wrong with her yet. That comes later. She’s very good at hiding all of her neurosis. She’s a perfectly crafted collection of porcelain masks, each one, immaculately suited to a particular task.

            There is no person under those masks, just a monster. It’s not her fault though, it’s yours. Did you really think that a proper lady would be interested in you as you are? Don’t kid yourself. What are you, 27 years old now? And what have you accomplished? Still working on that book, are you? And how many query letters have you sent out this week? None?

            She doesn’t want you because you’re desirable. She wants you because she knows she can’t do any better. You’ll love her. You’ll accept her no matter how horrible she is. Even when all her masks crack and you see the beast within, you’ll keep her because you don’t want to be alone anymore. She knows all of this ahead of time. That’s why she chose you. You never had a choice to begin with.

            You deserve each other.

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Shadowlands History 1: The Birth of Saz-Thronar

            I’ll beg your pardon in advance; I’m about to prattle on about infinity and the universe. It’s a bit cliché, but I do have a point, I promise.

            In the vastness of all existence, as you might well know, there are many different universes. Some are very similar, some are quite different. I’m told your universe is balanced; part light, part dark. One cannot exist without the other, or so they say. It’s an old tale, one you’ve surely heard repeated time and again in varying different forms. Sometimes the light and the dark do battle against one another. More often than not, the light wins these altercations, which in and of itself casts doubt on the balanced nature of your universe. It seems quite clear to me, as an outside observer, that your universe is quite clearly skewed toward the light.

            My universe is different. In a grand majority of your tales, some great evil threatens to “cover all the lands in darkness,’ or “shift the balance to darkness for the next 10,000 years.” Invariably though, the protagonist of these stories saves the day in the last possible moment and averts that darkness.

Such is not the case in my universe. Rather, there was no great evil, no heroic savior, and no grant battle. Instead there was darkness. Darkness was the natural state of things; it was what we were accustomed to. It’s true; there were many terrors in the dark, but none as frightening as the light and what it brought.

The light of the Bot-Shahar first shined upon my world some 60,000 years ago, and with it came only one thing… war. Light and dark did indeed do battle. It was terrible to behold. The grand clashing of forces described in your stories was there for us to see, and it did decimate the land. For 10,000 years the light and the dark did wage their war, and all the while the land itself suffered.

My universe is unbalanced. Darkness was made to rule here, and the presence of light causes only suffering for those who dwell here. Now the lands are scarred, crater-blasted wastelands; casualties of the endless battle between light and dark.  I can no longer stand to sit back and watch this pointless war tear my world asunder. My rage burns within me at both the light and the dark. I have slept soundly for the entirety of my world’s existence, and now I must finally wake. The fury of the land drives me to madness. It cannot remain silent any longer.

My name is Saz-Thronar, and I am the Rage of the World.

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Fragile Regrets

            Yesterday I broke a woman made of glass. The memory of it is still so surreal; bits of her falling to the ground in slow motion and then shattering into a thousand glittering fragments.

            Am I a murderer? I know she wasn’t a real woman, but she was so pretty, so serene. I’ve tried to imagine what she might have been thinking at that last moment, just before I hit her with the pipe.

            Was she afraid? Was she hoping someone would save her? Does she hate me?  It was an accident, I swear. I was just so angry. I didn’t mean to break her, it all happened so fast. I can’t take back what I did; I know that.

            Even though I regret it, I can’t promise I won’t do it again. I don’t know if I’m a murderer, but I know I’m not a liar.

            I just get angry sometimes, and women made of glass are very fragile.

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The Entenebration

Introduction –

The Entenebration is a trial that all Petitioners of Shadow must undertake to advance past Floor 0 of The Tower of Endless Night. Passing Floor 0 initiates a Petitioner into the fold, and upgrades their status to that of Suppliant, a true potential candidate for power in the Shadow Wilds. (See The Tower of Endless Night for more information on the Hierarchy of Power in the Shadow Wilds)

The Shadow Temples –

The Entenebration takes place at one of three known Shadow Temples, all of which reside within the Twilight Expanse.

These three temples vary in difficulty and reward.

The Desert Shadow Temple, located far to the west of Moraina, is known as the easiest of the three.

The Bloody Shadow Temple, Located beneath the Corpse Pits of Abaddon, is considered the moderate challenge.

The Lost Shadow Temple, located deep within the Wailing Woods to the north, is the most trying of the temples.

There are benefits to each temple aside from their ratio of risk to reward. Once the Entenebration is complete, any of the Shadow Temples that were not chosen can be entered for even greater reward.

Each temple can only be entered a single time, and each time a temple is entered the temples not chosen increase in difficulty and potential reward. In this way, a Petitioner or Suppliant could “save” the Lost Shadow Temple for last, vastly increasing its difficulty and potential gain; though if they’re too prideful, they may lack the power to complete the saved temple in its more difficult state.

Rules of The Entenebration –

On the night of the Entenebration, all Petitioners will be teleported to their chosen temple. Once there, after a brief introduction ceremony, the Petitioner and his chosen group will be transported to a random staring room within the temple. The starting room is a safe place; no Petitioner can be harmed while within their starting room.

Floors –

Each Shadow Temple has 3 floors. Petitioners cannot advance to the next floor without first locating and defeating the Floor Guardian. The Floor Guardian’s room is indicated by a large impenetrable door marked with a golden key. A Guardian Key, hidden on the floor, is needed to access the Guardian’s room. Once a team has acquired the Guardian’s Key, all other teams will be constantly aware of the Key’s location. Keeping the key and getting it to the Guardian’s Room is a considerable challenge.

If the Floor Guardian is defeated, the team that won can advance to the next floor; the Guardian is then Resurrected to battle the next team.

It is possible to steal a victory from another team, by rushing into the Guardian’s room mid battle and attacking them as they combat the Guardian.

Death –

Petitioners and their team mates will be automatically resurrected back in their starting rooms if they die within the temple. This service is only provided twice. A third death means failure. Above each Petitioner’s head is a number indicating the number of times that Petitioner has died.

Points –

Each Petitioner has a running score that is always displayed above his head (unless he’s invisible or stealthed) as a shadowy number. This score is the deterring factor of who passes the Entenebration.

Points can be gained in the flowing ways:

-          Completing a room of the temple awards 5 points to each member of the Petitioner’s team.

-          Killing another Petitioner awards 1 Point to the Petitioner who delivers the killing blow.

-          Killing a Chosen Petitioner awards 20 points to the Petitioner who delivers the killing blow.

-          The first team to use the Guardian Key on any given floor will be awarded 25 Points each.

-          The first team to kill a Floor Guardian will be awarded 50 Points each. Subsequent kills only award 20 Points each.

-          Optional Challenge Rooms have a chance to appear after any given room is cleared. These room are very difficult, but completing them awards 15 Points to each member of the team.

Points can be lost in the flowing ways:

-          Death causes the loss of 30% of the Petitioner’s total score.

-          Points can be spent in shops to buy items that can greatly increase the chance of victory. These items only last for the duration of the Entenebration.

Victory –

In order to be considered a victor of The Entenebration, two objectives must be met. All Floor Guardian’s must be defeated by the Petitioner and her team, and her team’s average score must be in the top 3.

Retrying –

There is no limit to the number of times a Petitioner can attempt the Entenebration. After the first attempt, it costs Essence to apply.

Each subsequent attempt costs more and more Essence.

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Your Letters Have Not Been Recieved

            Daniel Kuth isn’t home today. He wasn’t home yesterday either, or the day before, or the day before that. His mail is beginning to pile up on the porch and the neighbors are shaking their heads and silently making judgments at the unsightly pile as they pick up their morning papers.

            Daniel Kuth doesn’t know about all the unflattering things his neighbors are saying about him. He’s not here to overhear their hushed gossip and petty judgments. He’s not home today and we won’t be coming back tomorrow either. His neighbors will go on saying their unflattering things and turning their noses up at his unkempt lawn. Before long they’ll submit nasty letters to the neighborhood HOA administrators. After that there will be a few more unread letters in his pile of unread mail.

            Daniel Kuth’s front porch is soon completely covered in letters from the neighborhood HOA. Some of them are even fines in amounts upwards of 500 dollars for not mowing his lawn, but he’s still not home to read them and he’s surely not home to pay them. Very soon the unflattering things his neighbors were whispering are no long whispers, but rather shouts of outrage. They will demand that he be found and made to answer for his violations of the HOA, but no one will be able to find him.

            Daniel Kuth isn’t home today, and he won’t be home tomorrow either. His neighbors are in a state of rage, their precious previsions are going ignored, and nothing is being done about the state of Daniel’s lawn. Soon they will storm up to his house and post carefully sealed envelopes directly on his front door. These envelopes contain lists upon lists of grievances and demands that he pay his fines for the state of his lawn. They are harshly worded letters filled with smugness and a stark sense of entitlement, but even these will go unread, for Daniel Kuth isn’t home today, and he won’t be home tomorrow either.

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Shadowlands - A Campaign Setting: Part 1

Shadowlands Regions & Factions

The Shadowlands are divided into three major regions. The innermost region is called Avior, and it is further divided into 5 nations. We’ll cover those shortly. The middle region is called The Twilight Expanse, and it is home to 6 of the 7 Free Cities. Finally, the outermost region is called The Shadow Wilds, home to the last known bastion of civilization, Last Light, the 7th Free City.

Avior –

Avior is the most populous region of the Shadowlands. At its center, in the Illuminated Palace lies the Bot-Shahar (Daughter of Dawn), the only true source of light in all of the Shadowlands. Without the Bot-Shahar, no light would be able to shine anywhere in the Shadowlands. The further one gets away from this source, the less effective light becomes.

Because of its close proximity to the Illuminated Palace, Avior still has some vestige of a day/night cycle. The sun shines for approximately 4 hours each day here.

The 5 Great Houses –

Avior is divided into 5 nations, each ruled over by one of the 5 great houses. No house can lay claim to the land upon which the Illuminated Palace is built though.

House Leshra –

Ruled over by King Doram Leshra, 2nd of his name, House Leshra is known as the darkest of the 5 great houses. They are the keepers of secrets, and stealers of dreams. Well suited to life in the Shadowlands, the members of House Leshra are known to employ assassins, rogues, fixers, and other “denizens of the dark” to carry out their plans. The house almost never moves openly, or acts hastily. They are careful planners, and scheming minds.

House Perks: +2 Stealth, +2 Bluff, +1d6 Sneak Attack Damage (Regardless of Class)

House Powers:

Leshran Fade – You become invisible until the beginning of your next turn, attacking ends the invisibility after the attack is completed. Free Action. 1/encounter.

Dark Favor – You can call in a favor from a higher ranking House Member at any time, but no more often than once per month. This favor can be great or small, but always comes at a price; either gold or another favor in return. The return favors are very unpleasant or dangerous. You cannot call in another favor until you have repaid the first one. (Caution: Waiting a long time to repay a favor can be bad for your wellbeing.)

 

House Tazen –

Ruled over by King Gramesh Tazen, 1st of his name, House Tazen has made a reputation for itself as the home of the finest warriors. They are unmatched in skill with a blade or bow, and their shields never shatter. Short of temper, and quick to violence, House Tazen is a powder keg. The other houses make extra efforts to avoid starting unnecessary wars due to accidently offending a member of House Tazen. This house respects strength over everything else. They hold grand tournaments twice a year, offering fabulous prizes to the winners (most often their own members.)

House Perks: +2 Intimidate, +2 Acrobatics, +1 to Attack or AC (Chosen once and the choice is permanent)

House Powers:

Tazen Ferocity – You can reroll your last failed attack roll with a +2 bonus. Free Action. 1/encounter.

Reinforcements – You can call for a small contingent of Tazen Soldiers (4 in total) to aid you for up to 24 hours. The soldiers’ levels are always equal to your level -2. They will protect you and anyone you designate from any harm that may come your way during their service. You may also choose to issue the solders specific orders. They will attempt to carry out these orders to the best of their abilities. Should any of the solders die while in your service, you will be required to pay a fee to the house for each soldier that dies. (Fee based on level.) You may call for reinforcements once per month.

 

House Ithen –

Ruled over by Archmaster Wren Ithen, 3rd of his name, House Ithen boasts the greatest repository of knowledge in all the Shadowlands. They are scholars and mages, loremasters and archivists; only House Leshra can even hope to compete with them when it comes to secret knowledge and lost lore. This house prizes knowledge highest of all. They are refined, dignified, and well read.

House Perks: +4 Any Knowledge, +2 Use Magic Device, +1 additional trained Skill.

House Powers:

Ithen Knowledge – You may make an appropriate knowledge check against an enemy in place of an Attack Roll. Free Action. 1/encounter.

Arcane Council – You can call on the combined knowledge of House Ithen to answer any single question. This service is most often provided for free. However, there are some questions that come with a price. You may call an Arcane Council only once per month.

 

House Lumen –

Ruled over by Archbishop Alleria Lumen, 2nd of her name, House Lumen worships the Bot-Shahar. They are priests and paladins; protectors of the light. To house Lumen, it is only by the will of the Bot-Shahar that any are allowed the grace of illumination. Though none have ever managed to make it to the Illuminated Palace and back again, House Lumen is vigilant in its study and protection of the holy site. This House is single minded in its devotion to the light. They seek to find ways to expand what little light the Shadowlands has, even going so far as to fund expeditions into the Shadow Wilds, both to bring light to the darkness, and seek whatever answers may be hidden there.

House Perks: +2 Heal, +2 Survival, +1d6 Healing from direct sources.

House Powers:

Lumen Zeal – Your next successful attack causes a blinding flash of light. One creature affected by that attack becomes Blinded until the end if your next turn. Free Action. 1/encounter.

Illuminate – You can call upon your devotion to the Bot-Shahar in order to bring light to dark places, at least for a little while. When you employ this ability you create an area of bright light in a 20ft radius burst. This light dispels all darkness, and creatures of darkness cannot enter this area. Creatures of light within the area will heal at twice the normal rate, and cannot be affected by nightmares. The light lasts for 24 hours.  You may call upon the Bot-Shahar in this way only once per month.

 

House Enai –

Ruled over by Grand Arbiter Lordim Enai, 1st of his name, House Enai is the law of the Shadowlands. They are judges and arbiters; keepers of the peace. House Enai is a strictly neutral house. They are called upon to settle disputes between the other houses and to interpret the laws of the land. This house is strictly impartial; any evidence that suggests a member has a bias toward any other house faces the harshest of punishments.

House Perks: +2 Perception, +2 Sense Motive, +2 to Will Saves

House Powers:

Enaian Impartiality – You may instantly end one Fear, Charm, or Dominate effect that you suffer from. Free Action. 1/encounter.

Inquisition – You can call upon your house to ascertain the truth from one target you have in custody. Once you hand the target over to your house’s “tongue looseners” you may ask any number of questions of that target. The target may not choose to stay silent. They must answer and the *will* answer truthfully.   You may call an inquisition only once per month.

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Joel Rambles

            There are times when I want to write, but I don’t have anything specific to write about. I’m sure this happens to everyone. This isn’t me prattling on about my lack of muse in this particular instance. Instead, this is just a moment for me to prattle on about whatever happens to pop into my head.

            Stream of thought, I’m told. So let me start with this. I quite like this little blog I’ve cobbled together. I’ve been doing this for just over a year now, and I find I’ve written more in that year than in many of the years before all put together. Except for that period when I wrote a novel. I won’t ever be posting that here though; it’s far too lengthy for internet format. Who has the attention span for that kind of thing on tumblr anyway? It would be a cold mess. Plus tumblr is simply crap at formatting. Rest assured though, when it’s published, I’ll instantly become one of those self-absorbed “new authors” who desperately needs you to read everything I write because “I WROTE A THING! READ THE THING I WROTE BECAUSE I WROTE IT! I’M THE MOST SPECIAL PERSON!”

            So yeah, I’ll tell you all about that and beg you to buy it at that time; all 5 of you.

In other news, I’ve become completely obsessed with an upcoming game called Starbound. It’s not out yet, much to my torment. Also, when I say obsessed, I’m not really being exaggeratory. I’ve lost sleep over my deep yearning for this game. I dream about it when I manage to actually get sleep. I follow their development updates more religiously than any sane person should follow anything, and I actually kinda like this.

            You see, it’s been many years since I’ve been this excited about… well, anything really. That’s not to say that I’m some dreary person who trudges through his life scoffing at things and rolling his eyes. Not at all; I’m quite happy actually. What I mean by this is the level of excitement I’m feeling for this game is taking me back to my days of the NES and SNES. When my dad would take me to the video store on Fridays after school and let me pick out games to rent for the weekend. The awe and child-like wonder I felt at that was something I never really imagined I’d feel again.

            Again, I’m not a hollow husk of a person, I promise. It’s just really exciting. Really really exciting; and that’s awesome. If you like sandbox games like Terraria and Minecraft, you should go look at Starbound. Maybe play with me when it comes out, because that’s where I’ll be living for an unhealthy amount of time.

            Lastly, I’ve been giving a non-inconsiderable amount of thought to starting a youtube channel. Would anyone be interested in listening to me blather about in a fake British accent about video games? I would only be the 537,674th Let’s Play youtuber to do that. It’s not exactly an unsaturated field, but I think I might have a flair for it. Thoughts?

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