Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Future Year 2009

This is the personification of the allsentient Blagmind speaking.

In certain parts of the world, at this time, it is already FUTURE YEAR 2009. It is thus utterly urgent for this blagmind sentiencehive to commit to a resolution or resolutions for the aforementioned timespan. RESOLVE BEGIN:

  1. Two posts a day, every day; just as the ancients might have wished it!
  2. Resume the forgotten series: Father and Son, Faith, and more! Let no thing molder in the dust of antiquity when it might better be brought forward to shatter and fade away in the bright light of modernity!
  3. More blagoauthors! The one known as NKLS has been wielding the blag as his own PERSONAL TOOL for TOO LONG. The blagmind will bend the knee-chiton to no man! The ZHNG, who once matched NKLS post-for-post, must be incited to return to his blagging; others, such as the KSLR or GAVN or others, even, should begin a glorious blagocareer within FUTURE YEAR 2009; their contributions thus far STARTLINGLY underestimate their potential value to this blagmind sentiencehive.
  4. More blagoreaders? It is possible - though uncertain - that an increased readership for this blagodromespherespace might increase the success of OBJECTIVE FIVE:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nicholas Photocollection, Pt. 1

Things that don't deserve their own stories, but are lovely enough to have a place on the blag all the same. (Some of the readers will remember seeing them in meatspace. Fear not - here they are immortalized!)

The Nikolas seems to engender these kinds of failures by his mere passage.

And now, a Kelsey moment.

Monday, December 29, 2008

David's Activities

NOTE: Not Mormon-Safe. Or Work-Safe. Or Parent-Safe.

I blame David.

Today, three brave adventurers journeyed (by bicycle) to the lair of the notorious ZHANG. But their trip was less successful than they might have hoped - the Zhang took much time to appear, and when he did, he claimed business and shut the door in the travelers' faces. He made up his rudeness later, taking all and sundry on a magical journey to the Bar of Chops, but the question remains - what, exactly, was he doing, that made him reject his friends with such haste and certainty?

He was being seduced by a succubus!

You might think this would be a problem for him. Quite to the contrary - he wanted to be seduced. Further - he had summoned the succubus himself! There was only one obstacle to his carnal enjoyment - a pair of demon hunters, set on the task of hunting down the succubus now resident in the Zhang's house.

He wasn't really sure why they were there! But they were - and while they were, he could never have the joy he desired!

He tried a number of ploys to be rid of them. A polite request; a wordless scowl, given while quivering with rage; cunningly concealed pitfall traps beneath the main staircase. All these failed! The demon-hunters were too cunning. The Zhang would need to try some other way!

He asked the succubus. "Why won't they go away?"

"Have sex with me," the succubus suggested, pouting suggestively. Then the demon hunters appeared from around a corner, and she fled.

This was not very helpful!

The Zhang considered the matter carefully. He retired to his library; researched the matter in tome and Google. Then, having settled on a plan, he searched out the demon hunters.

"You're both Belmonts, right?" he asked. "Members of the legendary clan of the same name?"

The demon-hunters tenatively agreed that this might be the case.

"Look!" the Zhang said, pointing. "A Dracula!"

The Belmonts turned, startled at the mention of their ancestral foe. Then the Zhang pushed them out the front door and locked it!

"What a cunning boy," the succubus said, purring. "Clever with words, clever with languages... ince you seem so skilled at it, why don't I let you practice a cunning of a different sort?" She licked her lips.

And that's the real, completely unembellished and utterly Mormon-safe story of why the Zhang took a while to get to the Nikolaus-haus! Also the story of why he has no soul, succubi being as they are, but he didn't really miss it.


Sardine Hunt

Another contribution from the most eminent Dr. Zhang.

you hitched up the old bottom trawler
and took it to a small island
off the coast
of italy
and fished for sardines
you sold most of them at the market
but kept some
and salted and preserved them
and then you cut them up and filleted them
and made a lovely and hearty stew
that you served to your hot neighbour
in the villa
across from you
and she was very impressed
you took out some of the wine that you had been making
with some grapes
you got from the local vineyard
and you kept them in a jar on your terraza
and you took some cheese
from your root cellar
that you made from the goat's milk
which you got by bartering with the local goatherder
with some fresh sardines
you had left over
you left it in a vat with some rennins
and then aged it in your cave which you dug out of the local volcanic ash
then you went into the orchard next door
where some locals were growing pears and figs
and picked them and cut them up
and then you went and got a fatted hog
and slaughtered it with your bare hands
butchered it up
and took the hock to be salted and hung in the cellar
and dry aged
then you cut up some of the meat from the bone
and put it on a clay dish
that you hand fired in your kiln
and that you molded with ash and clay you gathered from the quarry
and you put out some of the fruit and cheese as well
and you took the wine
and you poured it into a glass that you made
and blew with a tube until it formed the right shape
in a blazing furnace
and molded it with your glass cutting tools
and you took the platter out
and you had a lovely luncheon
with the neighbour girl
and afterwards
you had sex with her
it was very nice
not immediately afterwards
you might have gotten a cramo
after wards
you got married
and took her to america
where you had some kids
and then they had some kids
and one of their name was
and then
the grandchilden
had some kids
and their names
mr kessler
des mond
des moines

Thank you again, the Zhang! We always welcome your contributions.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Wind Awoken

(Written from an unsecured wi-fi network, in a restaurant by the name of "Restaurant". Thanks, unsecured wi-fi people! You're a boon to all mankind.)

Ethan trudged along the snowy road, his shoulders slumped, his eyes downcast. Sorrow was his lot; he had no respite from his troubles.

Then came a trumpeting cry! Ethan turned, but too slowly; before he saw the cause of the noise, he was snatched away, grabbed by a green-clad youth hurtling just feet above the earth. They spiraled into the distance; in their wake, snow swirled upwards, and then slowly settled again. Silence prevailed.

Ethan was rather alarmed at his unexpected abduction. He attempted to query his abductor on the subject, but the deafening winds whirling about them precluded any response. In less than a minute, the flight ended, a vast distance traveled; their destination was a small raft, bobbing in a vast sea. The sun shone, the waters gleamed; and ominous, swirling clouds approached from the east.

Again Ethan asked, "Why have you done this?" But again he gained no response; the youth, hurriedly, retrieved sword and shield from under his garments (somewhat bizarrely - wherever could space be found?) and handed them to Ethan. Ethan took them, confused, and watched as the green-clad youth took another pair of sword and shield out, wielding them himself. (These two were notably superior in make, the sword glowing faintly. Ethan felt a momentary stab of jealously.)

For the third time, Ethan attempted to gain an explanation from his abductor. "Who are you? What the heck is going on?" His only response was an outstretched finger and wordless shout: "Yaaah!" Then the youth produced a conductor's baton from beneath his clothes, with it conjured another wind, and whirled himself away as swiftly as he came, towards the darkness in the east; leaving Ethan standing alone on a small raft in the middle of endless water.

Ethan, both confused and bemused, looked to the direction indicated; and there saw a shape, moving beneath the water. It came closer and closer, and Ethan readied his sword and shield nervously; then it erupted into the air in a column of sea-spray, bellowing hideously, and Ethan realized that it was a


Taller than Ethan himself, many times his weight, its fierce claws shone with a terrible sharpness. It fell onto the raft, squirming towards Ethan; that noble individual backed away, rather more than a little concerned. "Am I really intended to kill such a fierce creature?" he wondered. "And if I do not - will it kill me?"

(As with previous dialogue, he may have been less eloquent at the time. This author reserves the right to embellish as necessary, or even just when it seems funny. This is probably not a big surprise to anyone.)

Ethan tried to take another step backwards, watching the lobster click its claws together fiercely, and nearly fell into the water; he had retreated as far as he could. Sword and shield ready, he watched the lobster as it closed what little distance remained, considering whether to attempt flight (but if I do, surely the lobster will catch me, better suited to the water than I!) - and then he had a sudden revelation.

"It's an inflatable lobster!" he shouted. "I needn't worry at all!"

In a single moment, he stepped and lunged; the sword pierced the lobster, and with a terrible wail of escaping air it whirled into the air, deflating. In a poof of violet-black smoke, it exploded into nothingness; a green gem dropped into the space it left, whirling slowly as it balanced perfectly on its end.

Ethan picked it up, examining it; and was startled by another trumpeting noise. The green-clad youth returned to the raft, dropping to his feet from the wind he had summoned; behind him, the dark clouds had somehow vanished, and a sheen of ichor shone upon the sword he bore. Smiling broadly, he took the gem from Ethan's hands, examining it, then making it vanish; he produced instead a violet gem, of the same shape and size. This he gave to Ethan, who took it with a look of confusion. The youth gestured, seeming to request something in return; Ethan gave him the shield, hesitantly, then (on seeing its acceptance) the sword. The green-clad youth smiled, bowed, said something unintelligible, then once again called forth the wind. Ethan was whirled away, transported, and dropped onto the snow which he had so recently left.

Slowly, he rolled to a stop and came to his feet. The violet gem he held a while longer, staring at it; then he put it away within his snow-jacket. The skies were as bleary and the weather as dreadfully cold as when he had left; yet still Ethan could not restrain a smile from appearing upon his face. For he had defeated the lobster; and with this achievement, he could no longer feel sadness.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Nikolas Agenda

The Nikolas Agenda is, by all reports, unspeakable.

So let's say no more of it!

Instead, we will discuss other agendas.

The Kelsey Agenda:


The Ethan Agenda:

See "Kelsey", above
- Sudden, unprovoked violence
- Physical
- Verbal
- See "Kelsey", above

The Mormon Agenda:

Joseph Smith
- Brigham Young
- Le-hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

The Zhang Agenda:

-Rage at accurate descriptions of self

We hope this has been an education! Also, we hope that David doesn't injure himself in his standard fit after seeing something like this.

We hope a lot of things.

It's all part of...

The Nikolas Agenda!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Return of the Sib

He's coming home!

But not quite yet.

First: the power of dance!


(The events depicted herein occur chronologically before the events at the Cove Fort, outside a restaurant by the name of "Chinese Buffet". (That's actually the name.) Here is their pricing scheme, in part:

They have a system, man! There's depth.)

Anyway: YAY SIB

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Conspicuous Consumption

Visit (Mormon) Historic Cove Fort!

The weather was dismal. Gusts of snow blew with startling force, sometimes obscuring the highway on which we traveled on our hours-long journey. But we saw a sign: "See Historic Cove Fort: Next Exit!" Much in need of a break, we turned off the highway and went to have a look.

The Cove Fort, being soundly inland, was presumably metaphorical in its naming convention. It was a rather small fort, of similar appearance and design to other forts of the same period we had seen in California. It was Christmas Day, so we expected no guides, despite the signage indicating "free tours". Imagine our surprise when an old man emerged from a nearby building, ready to provide the advertised tour!

Our first moment of concern was upon seeing his nametag. "Elder Thomas," it read*, with a clarifying "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" directly beneath. Why would a tour guide be a church elder? We wondered, but - in my case, at least - supposed that he was just an elder because he was really old. The tour began.

It started well. We learned historical facts - mission from Brigham Young, sent to build a fort, never really used, waypoint for mail-coaches and travelers... there was one off-moment, in which the Mormon good-treatment of Indians was explained as an "understanding" of their "descent from the tribe of Lehi" imparted by the Book of Mormon... but we, or I, shrugged it off.

Things, naturally, deteriorated.

We went room to room. We saw the trading-room, the telegraph room, the parlour. In this last, we were presented with a puzzle from Elder Thomas's equally ancient wife. "There are four sources of light in this room," she told us. "What are they?" We quickly named lamp, fire-place, and window, but those summed only two three. "It's a bit of a trick question," she admitted, and then told us the answer: the fourth source of light, of course, was scripture, which lights all our lives. (There was a Book of Mormon lying on the table.)

It was a very awkward moment.

The tour became more and more Mormonious. Here's the dining room, with a portrait of Jesus Christ, to which the original occupants of the fort would always kneel and pray before meals! Here's the kitchen, with a portrait of Brigham Young and his twelve apostles; here's the boys' room/root cellar, with a portrait of the governor/president of the church at that time; here's the girls' room, with a portrait of Joseph Smith, his brother, and the successful reconstitution of the Christian Church despite their untimely deaths!

A series of awkward moments. (Though I nearly cracked up when we were advised to go to "" for answers to all our... mormon questions?)

The tour concluded, rousingly, with a presentation of Books of Mormon in many languages (in a case that folded out from the wall!), a gift of many pamphlets (one of which was actually about Cove Fort), and an analogy of a spinning wooden toy to the essential nature of Jesus Christ to our lives. (Presumably, I have spun to a halt. I think. It's a little unclear to me.)

So... Mormons, eh? In Utah, eh?

I guess.

(Here's a link.)

*Though he was a church elder, I confess that I don't recall our guide's name, nor do any of my family members. Thomas is a good name, though.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


How did the ice-man get his ice-beard?

It is like this.

Once, he had an ordinary beard, of hair and love. (These are the standard components of beards.)

But then the war came!

The terrifying Cacodemon King, ruling with his many-tiered hierarchy of henchmen, descended upon the peaceful land wherein which the ice-man lived. He sought to perpetrate tyrannies unheard of, tyrannies too terrible to describe here - but with him came his foes. The space pirates and space elves and space pirate space elves all followed the Cacodemon King, leading a grass-roots opposition with heavy funding from special interest groups opposed to being ruled by a giant floating demon-head.

But for all their resources, the Resistance had a number of problems! First was the fact that they were fighting an immense horde of demons. They figured they could probably handle this with enough money. But the second problem was the Cacodemon King's greatest weapon - hypervomit! Unlike regular vomit, it possessed strange and deadly properties - digesting its victims alive. The Resistance was powerless against it!

But, after a series of extremely painful defeats, they formed a plan. They found the ice-man, deep within a secluded valley, and recruited him to their cause. (This took some doing.) A conclave of wizards, druids, and warlocks chanted a great spell, turning the ice-man's beard to ice. Now immune to the effects of the hypervomit, the ice-man marched at the head of the Resistance's armies, his ice-beard shielding him from all harm hurled his way. With a single spear of ice, he slew the Cacodemon King - but this victory was not without harm. In his dying breath, the Cacodemon King burbled a curse - that the ice-man must be frozen in place, never to move again from the banks of the stream where the last battle was fought. And so it rests to this day.

Rational thinkers might explain it otherwise - dismissing talk of Cacodemons and space-pirates, they would instead attribute the ice-beard to some kind of cycle of freezing and re-freezing that eventually forms stalagtites in the shape of a beard.

But no one likes rationality*!

So that is the end of our tale.

*er um maybe? In a sense.


How did the ice-man get his ice-beard?

It is like this.

Once, he had no beard.

He was not even an ice-man!

He was just a boulder, sitting above a little stream in a Utah park near the town of American Fork. As boulders go, he was pretty happy.

Then winter came.

Snow covered him, deeper and deeper. He became a man of ice!

This surprised him a little, but he continued his many duties unfazed.

(It's hard, being an immobile, inert object. Try it! You won't be able to last long.)

Then the snow began to creep down to the water. The water melted it! Then it re-froze. Again and again!

It became a snow-beard, for the ice-man!

That is how science explains it.

Irrationality would explain it differently! There might be elves, and pirates, and space elf space pirates, all engaged in an epic battle against the Lord of Darkness, the Cacodemon King.

But no-one likes irrationality!

So that is the end of our tale.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dreadful Zhang

The dreadful Zhang roars, his long tusks thrusting into the air. Before him cowers a maiden, her skirts ripped and torn in her haste to escape; but in this she has failed, for behind her is a deep, dark crevasse, like a tear in the earth itself. Her eyes dart left and right, but she makes not a move, seemingly frozen in place with terror.

"Womons..." the Zhang mutters appreciatively, moving towards the maiden with his seven cloven hooves on his seven twisted legs. Trailers of drool slip from his fang-filled mouth as the maiden squirms backwards to the very edge of the abyss, trying to avoid the Zhang's advance.

Then comes a cry from behind: "Cease, foul creature!" The Zhang wheels, swifter than any creature of his size has any right to be: and there sees his bane, the foe of all evil, Ser Matthias, returned from the lands of the East at long last. "I am returned from the lands of the East at long last!" Matthias shouts, "We have fought before, and you emerged triumphant - but I have been seasoned by my journeys of the last two years! I have fought blizzards, baptised children, and taught youth. And more - I have practised the skills of battle! You were my better when I left - but now you will find that I am the master!"

The Zhang snorts and rears, bellowing in wordless rage. Something like words seem to emerge, for a moment - "Only a master of Mormons," perhaps - but it is twisted by the hate and pain that fills the Zhang without end. He charges, tusks moving to gore Matthias and his mount (the horse Mosiah); but Ser Matthias spurs Mosiah, turning him aside, and places his silver spear in the space he had occupied a moment before. The Zhang slows, reducing what might have been a fatal wound to a severely painful one; but the spear sticks, protruding from his forehead, and as the Zhang rears again, screaming in hideous agony, Matthias pulls his sword from its scabbard, urges Mosiah closer, and delivers unto the Zhang its death-blow.

The Zhang roars once more. Certainly it is a roar of pain - perhaps of anger - perhaps, too, of relief at the ending of its too-long existence. But it falls, blood pouring from its wounds, and its life ends. Ser Matthias salutes the maiden, who has begun to rise to her feet, tentatively elated at the defeat of the Zhang, and retrieves his silver spear from the Zhang's corpse. He makes to wipe the blood off it - then halts. There is a terrible realization within him, as the blood begins to crawl up the spear towards him:

The Zhang's blood is made of Nikolas-spiders.

Ser Matthias's face is filled with sadness. He looks about him, but it is clear that are too many Nikolas-spiders to kill - they swarm endlessly from the wounds of the Zhang, coming nearer and nearer to Ser Matthias. He is no coward, to ride away and leave the maiden to their tender mercies. This is not a choice he can make. So he rides to the maiden's side; passes her Mosiah's reins, asking her that she might "feed him and water him, please, that he should not suffer in his absence." Then, as the Nikolas-spiders bite at his feet, brave Ser Matthias turns and dives, falling into the crevasse; the Nikolas-spiders follow, and in their absence, the maiden and Mosiah are alone.

That is the story of Ser Matthias: for it has been three long years since these events occured, and no word since has come to us of his fate, be it good or ill. We tell this story every year, that his memory might live on among us; and we pray, as we do every year, that Brave Ser Matthias might have survived the fall, defeated the Nikolas-spiders by some clever ruse, and might, some day soon, be returned unto us.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mormonia in the Frost-Land

It is the land of the ice and snow.

Snow falls in drifts and flurries, clogging roads, roofs, car-windows. When the snow does not fall, rain drenches hapless pedestrians; when the rain, too, falls not, gusts of freezing wind batter cars and people alike. It is an ill time for travel.

Yet this we do. We travel from Oakland - itself beset by rain and darkness - to Salt Lake City, covered in wintry white vestments. (The trip is hours delayed - but I digress!) We travel by motor-car to Orem, buffeted by deadly wind and unable to see the road-guides. And there we meet at last that fellow long severed from us - known to some as Sib-Sib, or Ethan.

It is a joyous reunion.

There is much to do, and little time - I will write more later.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Advertisement

In an attempt to control costs (sadly necessary in the current economic crisis), this fine blagoinstitution has been forced to accept commissioned posts to support itself. Here is the first: an advertisement for the fine book Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline, M.D., and Jim Fay. Feel free to applaud regularly as we continue.

Parenting with Love and Logic! A thousand lessons in one book! In just a few pages, look at what it teaches!


"I've always been impressed with how clean, bright, and shiny [petri dishes] look on the outside. They really sparkle on the outside. But wow, the ick that grows on the inside! The scum, the scuz! When I look at folks, I realize that no matter how spiffy they look on the outside, there are a bunch of folks who are walking petri dishes."


"Those darn venereal diseases have wiped out whole cultures of people. Whole populations. Shoot, the Black Death in the Middle Ages only killed half the people!"

Reproductive Biology!

"When young girls have sex early, the darn bugs have a lot more time to gnaw away at the cervix of the uterus; they can make it pretty ragged, you know."

And more!

"The sperm have a real challenge. When things get a little ragged in there, the sperm have a hard time getting in the door and up the escalator of the fallopian tubes. It gets too crowded with bugs and scar tissue. So fertility clinics are pretty busy helping women having babies all sorts of ways because it is so difficult the old-fashioned way."

The educational value is unbounded! Order today!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Autumla and Luke

August 26th, 2006.

A skiff cuts through the waves, spray shooting out from the prow. Its sails flap magnificently in the wind. At the stern stands a woman, handling the wheel with a kind of calm competence; occasionally she turns to look at the north sky, towards which the ship rushes. Dark clouds gather there, milling and combining; the waves are rough beneath them.

"How goes it, warmth of my heart?" asks the other occupant of the ship. He is emplaced amidships, beneath a sort of pavillion erected to repel the spray and damp that are the eternal companions of the sailor. His hands are busy upon keyboard and mouse, performing arcane manipulations upon the laptop before him; a blue cable runs outwards from the laptop, connecting to a tall antenna at the ship's prow. A headset is snug upon the man's face, the microphone swung away so that he might speak to the ship's pilot; normally he would speak to it constantly, in strange, incomprehensible utterances. He wears a beanie upon his head, to keep away the cold of the day.

"Well enough," the woman responds. "Danger is coming, though. The clouds are dark ahead before the shore we seek; I fear attack."

"I will aid you so soon as I may," the man says, "but they press upon me; the raid is soon to begin, and all men must be ready to do their part. I cannot desert my people in their hour of need."

"Well it may be so, but remember this: should I fall here, should our task fail and our voyage founder, you may have cause to regret this choice."

The man nods, resolute. "This I will remember, but I fear not: your courage and skill are second to none. I will have faith in your efforts, and you in mine; together we cannot fail." The headset-microphone swung down again.

"I may only hope you are correct," the woman says under her breath, locking the wheel in place and moving to adjust the trim of the sails.

The raid begins. Autumla - for so the man is known - was rigid with concentration, eyes flicking back and forth upon the screen. His hands are steady, triggering macros as he had trained himself to do; no-one could accuse him of failing in the tasks assigned to him. But do not think him unemotional: he cries out in triumph at moments of victory. "Ha!" he says now. "Take that, giant two-headed fire-dog thing!"

Then the creatures attack.

They crawl over the sides of the skiff, emerging from the waves without warning. They are small in size, half the woman's height, but the weapons they bear in their three-fingered hands were brutal and deadly in appearance; their mouths bristle with sharpened teeth. They gibber war-cries as they come, but the woman is unintimidated. Four of their number she slays with the pistol she draws from her belt; then, pistol emptied, she opens the supplies locker (next to the mast), which she had stocked for such contingencies. One murloc falls backwards into the waves, transfixed by a long spear. That spear's mate the woman places within her hand, and with it wreaks dreadful slaughter upon the remainder of the creatures.

"Yes!" cries Autumla, fingers at rest for a moment. "Ha, ha! Take that, big floating-rocks guy! See how you like my shadow magics!"

The last of the green creatures falls to the deck of the sliff, clubbed by the butt of the woman's spear. She picks the body up with one hand and hurls it into the ever-more-turbulent seas, there to join its many fallen brethren. Then, ichor-stained hair blowing in the ever-stronger wind, she reloads her pistol from the magazines in the supply locker and walks back to the ship's wheel. There is a hard storm coming, and she wishes to be prepared.

Autumla and his comrades rejoice: another triumph, harder won than any of those which came before it. They loot the treasures given unto them, readying themselves for the final battle. "Yeah, you'd better meekly surrender, fire-elemental-middle-managment!" laughs Autumla. "Better not make any trouble about my stapler, either!"

Then comes another assault; crude war-galleys, manned by blue-skinned men with tusks protruding from their jaws. They laugh and jeer, whirling axes and spears in the air. The woman ignores their crude jibes, focuing her efforts on sailing. At wheel and hawser she plies her trade, keeping sails full even when the black storm-winds threaten to tear them asunder, steadying the rudder against waves that seek to tear the wheel from her hands. The skiff speeds forward, outdistancing the pursuit.

Autumla curses. "Magma blast! There goes the left-center healer... this is not looking good."

Shore comes close; the woman's skilled hands work the rudder, bringing them to the cove that was their destination. They round the headland, entering the sheltered waters within; and there waits another galley, laden with blue-skinned warriors. They hoot and holler as they sight the skiff; it is too late to turn back, for in the time it would take to reverse their course, the galley would set upon them. The woman instead prepares herself; locking down the wheel, loading magazines of pistol-ammo onto her belt, and readying a spear in her off-hand. She spares one last glance for the man beneath the canopy, still busy upon his computer.

"I'd prefer not to be purged by fire, if that's all right with you..." Autumla suggests to his foe. Laughter comes in from his headset.

A terrible ripping and tearing shakes the skiff as it collides with the galley, nearly interrupting the man's concentration. Blue-skinned berzerkers rush off the side of the ship, frothing at the mouth; the first two that come fall to accurate pistol-shots, tumbling into the brine. The third throws a javelin at the woman, forcing her to step-aside, and allowing the warriors time to board. As they rush towards her, the woman fires one last shot, cripping a leg; then she switches weapons, leaving her pistol in her left hand for an opportune moment, and steps into the fray.

"Nearly there, nearly there..." Autumla mutters under his breath.

The blue warriors fight brutally; in their philosophy is no room for mercy or pity. The woman is their superior, though, in skill and endurance; she leaves their blood all across the deck, save where the man still sits, busy with his laptop. Covered in cuts and abrasions, she struggles with the blue warriors' chieftain, intent upon the need to finish the fight before the other galleys return; but he is strong and terrible, and they both fall at last to the deck. He wheezes, gasps, and is no more; she persists some little while longer. "Luke," she says in little more than a gasp. "Luke..."

Luke arises at last from the laptop, looking about him like a man risen from a deep slumber. The triumph upon his face - fresh from the victory over the fire-lord - fades into despair. "No." he says, quietly but with increasing intensity. "No. No. No! Tiffany!" He runs to her side, cradling her unbreathing body in his arms. "What do I do?" he asks despairingly. "She's not breathing! No, no, no..."

"Heimlich manuever, idiot!" the voices on his headset respond.

Luke starts - but he does as the voices command. (A virtue, yes?) He puffs and breathes and struggles - and Tiffany breathes again. "We made it," he says at last, relieved. "We made it."

The skiff glides smoothly onto the beach, safe from the ravages of the storm.

The Cell-Phone that Forgot it was a Cell-Phone

Once there was a cell phone.

It was a very nice cell-phone. This it knew of itself: It was small, yet powerful; capable of performing many tasks, yet simple in its user interface. Aesthetically it was a delight to behold; all who looked upon it, and possessed none-such of their own, felt bitter envy clawing at their innards.

Such did the cell-phone know. But, slowly, it realized that it had problems.

The first and least of these problems was instability. The phone, for reasons it did not fully understand, performed slower and slower as time passed. Applications began crashing; photography took longer, and produced lower-quality results. All was sadness!

But this problem could be solved; the phone learned the ancient art of the "shut-down", and put itself into a deeper sleep than its normal sort; when it returned, it was healed of its woes.

But there were more than that first. The phone was built to connect to other devices; interconnected in a copper datalink-chain, it could become more than the sum of its parts. To remain mobile, it did so rarely; and one day, when it tried to connect, it found it could not. Oh, how the cell-phone wailed and moaned and tore out its hair! (Metaphorically.) But it could not connect. It worried and fretted and tried other connections, but nothing worked for a time; then, through some strange fortitudinous coincidence of the first problem being ended and an improvement applied to the device with which it mated, this problem, too, met its end. The cell-phone basked in its restored connectivity.

But there was one more problem: most recent and troubling of all. For the cell-phone tried to connect to the cellular network, as was its wont: and realized that it could not.

"No SIM card", it cried despairingly.


Weep for the cell phone, the phone that forgot its function.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Bear and the Waitress

Hektor, a bear, sat at a corner table at the Three Horns Bakery and Cafe. "Waiter!" he cried. "Waiter!"

The waitress appeared. "What is it, sir?" she asked.

"Why haven't I gotten my sandwich yet?" Hektor growled.* "I've been waiting here for twenty minutes, and the cafe's nearly empty!"

"My service is terrible, sir!" the waitress said.

Hektor paused. "That's... refreshingly honest," he said grudgingly.

"Thank you, sir!" the waitress said beamingly. "I try to always be honest. Just the way I was raised!"

Hektor looked at her. "Are you trying to give terrible service?" he asked.

"Yep!" the waitress happily.

"...why?" Hektor asked.

"It's revenge!" the waitress said. "You see, my father worked here as a waiter. Then he was killed by a customer! So now, ten years later, I got hired and give terrible service to all of the customers, in retaliation!"

Hektor looked at her. In a moment of decision, he pulled out a card from his pocket. "My name is Hektor," he told the waitress, "and I'm a revenge specialist. I consult and train prospective revenge-seekers. A few of my more famous clients are listed on the card; there are more online."

The waitress looked at him with surprise. "But I'm just a waitress!" she cried uninformatively. "I can't possibly afford your rates!"

"Look - what's your name?" Hektor asked.

"Gerda," Gerda replied. "Why?"

"Look, Gerda," Hektor said. "We each have something to offer. I can teach you how to exact a proper revenge on the customer who killed your father. You can teach me how to make that delicious sandwich that this place makes, and that I was trying to order. It's a fair trade."

"All right!" Gerda said. They shook hands.

After Gerda's shift ended, they met at Hektor's office. He taught her how to track a man by the brand of his shoelaces; she taught him how to slice the bread and the meat. He taught her how to enlist allies in the hunt for the killer; she taught him how to apply the seasoning. He taught her how to kill a man with gun, knife, or bare hands; she taught him how to tell when the bread was done cooking. And finally, he taught her the most valuable skill he had to offer: rigid, unbreakable self-control, the kind that would be needed to act rationally while hunting a target she utterly deplored.

"All right," Hektor said at last, breathing heavily from the exertion. "This has been a very productive half-hour, and I think we're done here. You're ready to finally enact your revenge. Properly, this time."

"But I'm not done with my end!" Gerda protested. "I haven't taught you the final skill necessary in the preparation of the sandwich!"

"No?" Hektor asked. With one smooth motion, he brought the sandwich forward, keeping it perfectly level in his hand. With another, he drew back; the sandwich and plate rested safely on the table between them.

"Mein Gott!" Gerda cried, astounded. "You must be the finest sandwich-server ever born! If you'd only heard the calling-"

"But I follow another calling, liebste Frau," Hektor told Gerda decisively. "And now you must go."

"Yes," Gerda agreed. "I am ready. Thank you again for the help, Hektor! I could not have done this without you!"

"The pleasure," Hektor pronounced, "Was all mine."


Gerda, though long, painstaking effort, and the help of many friends in low and high places, finally found the man who killed her father. Her revenge was long and painful, and satisfied all the guidelines that Hektor advised. When it was done, the nightmare that began ten years ago with her father's death finally ended.

Hektor took a bite of his sandwich.

"Hm," he said. "That's pretty good."

Gerda returned to college, becoming a high-energy particle physicist. Her research, in conjunction with a team of colleagues, paved the path for truly high-efficiency thrusters, and she was accordingly named the "Mother of Interplanetary Travel" after her death.

Hektor took another bite, finishing the sandwich.

"It's a bit off, though," he decided. "I'll have to ask Gerda where the cafe gets its meat."

Gerda and Hektor remained in contact for years and years, forming a friendship that was valuable to both of them. Both successful in their respective fields, they cushioned each-other from the many sorrows and indiginities the world had to offer. Gerda was crushed by Hektor's death at the hands of a rogue trailer-truck driver; she died less than a year thereafter.

Fifty years later, Gerda's grandson was killed... by a murderer. His daughter took courage from Gerda's example, assembling a rag-tag crew of heroes to avenge her father's death. Their journey was long and hard; many obstacles barred their path, and more than one of them nearly died in the pursuit. But the quest was successful; Gerda's great-granddaughter had her revenge, and the friendships she made in her quest would persist across generations. When the first intergalactic generation-ship set out for Andromeda, the great-grandaughter's own grand-nephew's uncle's niece was its captain.

And all thanks to a sandwich, and a bear that loved them.

*Did you think that he was growling because he was a bear? Would you have thought the same if I had not introduced him as "Hektor, a bear"? If the answers are yes and no respectively, then you are indulging in racial stereotyping, and I am very disappointed in you.

Father and Son See Things Happen

Where we left off...

Wally covered his eyes with one hand, pointing with the other - "Oh, look-!"

And now...

Allen looked above the destroyer. It took him a moment to see the object that had caught Wally's attention: a speck, coming in fast from the east, growing larger very fast. The destroyer must have noticed it, because its AA guns swung into action, spewing golden sparks towards the distant plane.

"One of ours, then?" Wally asked. "If this destroyer is one of the bad guys'."

"Beats me," Allen said. "Could be some third party's, for all we know."

The plane flew on, unharmed. By this time it was a sort of triangle-shape, still too far away to see any detail; a pair of smaller dots fell from it, plummeting towards the destroyer. The plane shot over the ship, momentarily out of sight; an explosion sent flames and smoke shooting up from the destroyer. Then, as the bomber re-emerged on the other side of the destroyer, gold sparks still chasing it avidly, another explosion erupted below; one of the bombs had undershot and hit the town. Allen looked away from the bomber for a moment, sizing up the damage on the ground; by the time he looked back, the bomber was plummeting, worried at by AA fire like a dog with a bone. It exploded before it hit the ground.

"That didn't work," Wallace said.

"What do you mean?" Allen asked. "They hit the destroyer, right?"

"Well, one, they only hit with one bomb," Wally said. "Two, the bomb that hit didn't do that much damage. Look!"

Allen looked. He couldn't see that much from his perspective, too far away and too low; but he could see that the smoke was dying away, and the destroyer was continuing forward as though nothing had happened.

"I hope the fire engines get to the site the bomb hit soon," Allen said, changing the subject. "It looks like a nasty mess." Smoke was rising thick and black from the impact site, over a mile away.

"Will they even operate today?" Wally asked. "With the destroyer looming overhead?"

"They'd better," Allen said. "If that blaze gets out of control, it'll burn down the fire station as surely as anything else."

The two, father and son, stood watching a while longer. The destroyer grew closer and closer, its shadow covering the better part of the town. Allen went inside to make sandwiches; when he came back, nothing had changed, except that the destroyer had gotten somewhat closer.

Midway through his second sandwich, the destroyer stopped. Allen looked up, startled. "Effects of the damage?" he wondered.

"No, I don't think so," Wally said. "I think it's going to-"

There was a distant, muffled thump - a sort of layered thump, as though a half-dozen impacts had occurred at nearly the same moment. Red traces bisected the sky, arcing away from the destroyer; then they were gone.

"-fire its cannon," Wally finished. "Like that."

The destroyer showed no signs of moving. Several minutes later, it fired again.

Allen finished his third sandwich, which he'd savored as long as he could. "Nothing we can do," he admitted. "I'm going to head in, see what the news has to say. If anything. You alright?"

Wally nodded mutely, still watching the destroyer. It wasn't clear what he was thinking.

Allen paused, unsure of what to say. "Don't worry too much," he said at last. "Nothing we can do. Best to just bunker down, don't do anything rash, and hope for the best."

Half an hour later, Allen came back downstairs.

Wallace was gone.

At first Allen was afraid that someone had kidnapped or killed him - with that destroyer looming overhead on its six metal legs, it was hard to have too much respect for the law. Then he realized that the minivan wasn't in the garage, and put himself in Wally's head.

"Oh god, oh god," he moaned. "He's gone to the destroyer."

He thought about what to do. Wally had left his phone at home. They only had one car...

Allen looked in the garage again, and put his head in his hands.

"God damn it, Wally," Allen said despondently. "When I find you... when we make it through this alive..." In a situation like this, he didn't feel that he could indulge in ifs.


Three hours later, Allen arrived at the closest destroyer-leg, too exhausted from the bicycle-ride to be angry. The minivan was there.

"Thank God," Allen said, breathing a deep sigh of relief.

Wally was not.

Allen looked up the length of the leg. A ladder led up it, with sections offset and enclosed in barred cages to minimize injuries from an accidental fall. Allen found himself thinking about what would happen if the destroyer began to move again while he was still climbing.

Under his breath, Allen admitted to himself: "It's at times like this that I wish I wasn't afraid of heights."

To be continued!

Video-Game Ideas From Sleepy Nikolases

This is the kind of thing that Nikolases think about as they drift off to sleep.* (Largely unrelated quotes added for drama.)

1) "One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes." - Nietzsche.

The context for this idea is a game something in the mold of the Zeldas - though something else might also work. (The premise of the Zelda-games: the player explores, gets new items, solves puzzles, and fights bosses, without "stats" or "levelling"... a sort of "RPG-'Lite'".)

Normally -in Zelda games as in others - the character you control grows more powerful over the course of the game. You get more and better items, open up new areas, etc etc etc.... and if you're tossed in jail and lose all your items, well, that is very inherently a temporary setback.

What if a game did the opposite? You grow less powerful over the course of the game - start out being able to go nearly anywhere, leap five meters high (double-jump!), punch out titans in a single blow - and eventually become a mere, ordinary human, or even weaker?

That's still too broad, actually. Have to think about goals: defeat some villain? Get some item? Survive? Other themes - items acquired, increasingly relied upon to cover increasing weakness? Or allies - your actions towards them early on, when it is very, very easy to be dismissive and ignore whatever boring nonsense they're saying, determines what kind of support they give you later on, when you become their equal or even inferior in power? (The wheel turns...) Perhaps the timescale could be something like the rise of civilization - what role do you play as the mythic hero, fading into legend...?

There are games that did something like this. Shadow of the Colossus did it - but very, very subtly. Furthermore, it wasn't exactly a main theme - though saying more might be a trip to spoiler-towne. Half-Life 2 Episode 1: Aftermath also did it to some degree - one starts the game with a specific super-weapon, inherited from the end of Half-Life 2 proper, and loses it midway through the episode, being forced to replace it with conventional, inferior armament. The Metroid games also have a terrible habit of doing something - see Metroid Prime 2, off the top of my head, which starts the player with a perfectly splendid set of weapons and then (SPOILERS) promptly rips them all away after the tutorial - but it's not the same, really. In the Metroids, such disadvantage is a temporary, one-time thing; you lose the capabilities, the charge-beam and missiles and morph balls, and you go get them all back and more. This hypothetical would be the opposite... a game in which loss, not gain, is the norm. (Bleakness would be a problem.)

This idea is something that I've been tossing about for much longer than the other (which I will discuss shortly), and it's much less clear. The most important question is, of course, is it fun? I think it could be - counterbalancing a decrease in raw power with more options, in the form of items, more refined techniques, more people to interact with in different ways... but there's a lot of uncertainty there.

Another good theme for this game-idea, while I'm still on the topic: sacrifice, explicitly giving away one's own power for some greater cause (defeat the villain, empower the nature-spirit, save the child)...

But this is an old idea, and my thoughts on the other idea, new to me for last night, are a bit more coherent.

2) Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. - Nietzche.

The context for this idea is some manner of computer-RPG, perhaps in the Western mold. In such RPGs, characters possess numerical values ("stats") for various attributes, some of which may affect level-up gains - the most common example being the "intelligence" stat affecting the number of skill point given out for a new level. There are any number of things that can affect these stats - spells, items, and potions, to name the most common three (and those on which this piece will focus). Using "buffs" (stat-increasing effects) to increase level-up gains is generally forbidden by games using such systems - gains are instead calculated from base, un-"buffed" stats. So far, so dry and boring - a minor, anticipated and adverted exploitation of game features.

But what if it was part of the game - intended - a moderately important, if not entirely central, feature?

Step back a moment. In this game - a hypothetical, an Emile - the main character would start out as a fairly ordinary person. As the game progressed, and as they "levelled" and became more powerful, they would grow in size, strength, and speed - becoming, by the end, a thoroughly heroic figure. (Or perhaps a thoroughly demonic one, if our Emile allows for an evil player-character.) The essential point - that they will be sound of mind and body, as only characters in a simulation that does not model disease truly can be.

So, there are any number of things going on in the game. The player finds new equipment, gathers companions, solves side-quests, and intermittently tries to progress in some larger plot. (Or constantly, if they don't feel all that interested by the side-questing. But then what's the point?) And, after making enough progress, they level up.

Simply allowing the player to use buffs during level-ups isn't nearly interesting enough - so let's kick it in the nose a notch. Let's have stat growth be exponential - say, increase by a power of 1.3 or 1.5 or some-such at each level. (Powers of two are probably a bit too steep, growth-wise.) Let's give the player a pre-level-up screen that allows them to distribute "buffs" as they wish - temporary spell-buffs, consumable potion-buffs, armor/weapon based buffs, stack on whatever they can afford. (Any buff used to level is, by the nature of a temporary buff, unusable for later combats - so it might be unwise to lather them all on.) And let's look to our very meaningful quote up at the top, and stick on a tangentially related disadvantage.

First - before we discuss the disadvantage - let's note that playing through the game without using these "buffed level-ups" should be possible. Harder, yes. Nearly impossible on the highest difficulty, if there are multiple difficulties, sure. But there is a choice. And why is that important - what is that disadvantage, anyway.

Mutation. (In a word.)

The mutations should be subtle. They should be proportional to the magnitude of the buffs used to level (a +10 to strength should inflict ten times as much mutation as a +1), and they should stack over time. Perhaps the main character should have some inherent tolerance for buff-levels, so that a (very) small amount of buffs each level might be ignored, or over-buffing early on might be 'atoned' for by later 'abstinence'. There'll be two reasons they might want such atonement: one visual, and one statistical.

The visual effects should be based on the types of buff used.

- Potions: The player's skin changes colour, becomes mottled, their veins stand out, their hair (if any) falls out.

- Equipment: The player's skin skin becomes increasingly shiny, and metal plates begin to cover large parts of the body (emerging from beneath their skin).

- Spells: The player's overall shape begins to deform, small bumps growing into waving tendrils, one leg and arm growing dramatically larger than the other, torso tipping sideways, a sense of the alien pervading.

With a sufficient concentration of any or all of these, the player's eyes would begin to shine white, their pupils would vanish, and their entire body would begin to emit a low-level glow.

More importantly, though less dramatically, the player abusing buff-levels would suffer nonvisual changes in parallel with their physical mutations. Whatever stats they had governing interpersonal interactions would drop - accounting for their increasingly inhuman appearance - and they would begin to go insane, as reflected in their conversation options. Empathetic options would vanish - irrationally furious ones would appear - and, eventually, they would be reduced to a kind of Lovecraft-esque gibberish. They should still be able to play the game to completion - perhaps they could intimidate shopkeepers into trade, somehow - but things should definitely be a bit trickier.

Mutations would probably be governed, behind the scenes, by some kind of "mutation points", gained by applying buffs in level-ups and never vanishing. I mention this not to begin rambling about some suggested algorithm (which would be even more pointless than most of what I write) but to note that the mechanism governing mutations - the numbers involved - should not be visible to the player. There is a sense of mystery and uncertainty involved - players should be aware that buff-levels cause mutations, they should be aware that mutations do bad things to conversational intercourse, but they shouldn't know exactly what's happening to the last decimal place. Some uncertainty must remain in place - perhaps even a slight random element - for this system to convey the desired risk-vs-reward effect. (I might argue against even something so vague as a visual "mutation gauge" on a menu, though I feel less strongly about that.)

(This system is perhaps partially inspired by the wonderful Geneforge series, which I have written about before on this blag - the details are, though the overall idea was my own.)

The whole baroque buff-level system has two purposes. One, to add a new strategic element to gameplay, creating (hopefully) more interesting choices for players. Two, to create new themes for the plot. A balance between power and humanity is a well-known theme, and one that fits well - though it might be important to note that the choice to risk mutation is not, in and of itself, evil. A main villain might be pure-human (perhaps zealously so), and a powerful ally might be physically warped and prone to fits of uncontrollable rage as a result of the buffs they used in an attempt to ward off foes. Party members might be at one step or another in the process.

The trouble with allowing the main character to mutate party members is that something of the trade-off is lost. When it is a choice between power and the ability to communicate with other human beings - that is a very real trade-off, and it is the one that one faces in deciding the level of mutation allowable for the main character. With party members, however, it is rather different - much easier to mutate them as much as is allowable, benefit from their strength in combat, and do all the talking yourself with plot characters, shopkeepers, and so forth, as you would have anyway. There are ways to balance this - perhaps more mutated characters might occasionally turn against you in combat (owing to madness-inspired rage) or even leave, while less-mutated ones could offer personal side-quests that might otherwise be unavailable... it's something to consider.

A note on my game ideas, for anyone who reads this far: they're always far too big. With the arguable exception of the Nikolausse Run - sadly in perpetual hiatus - they tend to be far too large to ever really prototype, much less make, for persons without a development studio and funding behind them. That is why they are the products of dreams. (See what I did there?)

*While they're asleep, on the other hand, they dream about vaguely hallucinogenic experiences that, within the dream, are alluded to being the results of spongiform encephalopathy. So I'd stick with the stuff above, were I you.



(It's time to get on the bus!)

Everybody on?

All right, our first stop will be... point-counterpoint towne!

Now, we all know how popular the Kelsey is. There are signs for him everywhere. Everyone wants one. But they're very expensive! And, especially in the modern economic climate, that just won't do.

Now, the David is much more widely used. He's much cheaper, too! The trouble is, he's less loved. Hardly anyone likes the David - they may use him, but they don't really feel any affection for him as a result. He's just there! It is the perennial tragedy of the David.

So, honestly, why not just buy a David? They're cheaper, and, in the end, they do basically the same things. Plus, many Nikolases will only interact with Davids, as the result of the relatively small Kelsey-market


It's true that Kelseys are more expensive than Davids. Some compare this to a "Kelsey Tax" - rather a ridiculous term, but whatever. The key point here is that they're only looking at a small part of the picture when they say that! There are any number of advantages to using a Kelsey over a David.

First, Kelseys are notoriously more user-friendly. They just like people more! Partially, this is because they're more carefully overseen in production - when you know a Kelsey, you know you're buying quality - not like a lot of the shoddy, foreign-made Davids you see advertised. Another reason is that they're just safer. Hardly anyone wants to attack a Kelsey! It's just not worth it, when it's so much easier to pick on Davids. Unlike the increasingly paranoid Davids, the Kelseys can afford to be friendly!


If you really want security, when not get an Ethan? They're free, lightweight, and just as secure as a Kelsey, if not more so - and their repuation of user-unfriendliness is really quite exaggerated!


If you love Ethans so much, why don't you marry them?


Yeah! David-loving pig!

Oh no! It appears that point-counterpoint towne has turned into brawl town! Well, I hope you've enjoyed your stay - because we're turning this bus around!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Snuu


Then came a terrible thunder. From behind the Imperial lines, a bright flash radiated outwards; in its wake, all the Orks could see was darkened by comparison.

"HUMIES GOT DEM PSYKERS!" one of the Ork Nobz complained. "DEY BEEN 'PORTED IN SUMTIN' BIG!"

The Warboss slapped the Nob with his enormous power-claw, knocking the eight-foot-tall Ork to the ground. "SHADDUP, YOU! ORKZ AIN'T AFRAID OF NO HUMIE PSYKER!"

"YEAH!" another Nob chimed in. "ALL DEY GOTZ IS BRAINS - AND WHO NEEDS DEM?"

The Imperial lines parted. A figure, unclear with distance, approached.

"DAT AIN'T NOTHIN' BIG!" the first Nob complained. "WHAT DEM HUMIES BE TINKIN'?"

A cluster of Grutchkins approached, milling about at high speeds. They held what appeared to have once been a telescope, long since wrecked, reassembled from parts, and wrecked again; a Nob yanked it away, only to have the Warboss immediately confiscate it and swat the offending Nob upon the head with bone-crushing force. As the Nob staggered about, dazed, the Warboss put the telescope to his eye. "WHAT'S DIS, NOW?" he asked, incredulous. "IT JUST A TINY LITTLE FUZZY TING!"

"WHAT DEM HUMIES BE TINKIN'?" the Nobz asked en-masse, now unified in their confusion.

"WHATEVER," the Warboss declared, tossing the telescope aside. (Neither it nor the grutchkin it hit fared well from their encounter.) "WE DON'T GOT TIME TO BE SITTIN' AROUND ALL DAY. WAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!"

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!" the Orkz cried. They set themselves to charge.

Distantly, but still with a remarkable clarity, there came a counter-cry: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaargh!"


"WHAT WE DO?" one of the Grutchkins asked, still standing (unwisely) nearby.

"WE GOTTA MAKE A BETTA NOISE!" the Warboss said.


The Warboss took the initiative, as was his role. "WUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAARGH!" he yelled.


"Wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!" came the reply from the Imperial lines.

The Warboss tried again. "BJAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" he roared with deafening strength.

"BJAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" the Orcz cried, with even more intensity than before. They had a mission!

"Bjaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!" the strange warp-spawned creature answered.

"WHAT IS DAT TING?" one of the Nobz asked.

"I HEARD OF DEM!" another said, slapping himself on the forehead. He fell to the ground; the first Nob picked him up. "WHAT? WHAT?"

"IT'S A SNUU!" the first said. "IT'S-"

The Warboss slapped both Nobz sensless. "NO MORE CHATTERIN'! NOW, WE FINISH DIS! NO SNUU'S GONNA OUT-SHOUT ORKZ!" The Orkz cheered in agreement.

The Warboss readied himself. He pumped air in and out of his lungs; grutchkins crawled onto his back to assist. When he was ready, he shook them off, opened his off, and with eardrum-shattering intensity-


The Orkz' accompaniment was a pale shadow in comparison.

For a long moment, silence hung like a shroud across the battlefield. The Orkz slapped each-other on the back and rattled their weapons loudly, firing off a few shots in the air.

Then the response came, belated but stronger than ever from that furry, adorable Snuu: "SNUUUUUUUUUUUFLAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

The Orcz fell dead quiet. The Warboss pulled back his head and roared, but his time it was an animal noise of frustration and rage. "WE LOST DIS TIME, BOYZ," he admitted. "BUT WE'LL BE BACK!"

As the Orcz retreated, the Warboss shook his power-claw once, and then turned to follow his men: first into battle, last to leave. Already he had begun to hunt for his Mek-Boyz, desiring them to construct some kind of mekk to out-shout the Snuu.

The Imperials rejoiced. The Orkz were cast back! The peoples of Exoria VI were safe another day!

The Snuu, warp-spawned abomination that it was, promptly met the open end of a bolter after the end of the battle. Its scattered remaines faded back into the hellish Warp from whence it came.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Father and Son Hear a Noise

There was a loud noise.

"Hey, son," Allen said, leaning back from his computer's screen. "Go to the window and find out what that was."

His son Wallace, grumbling, obeyed. "I don't see anything," the teenaged son said, letting the window-curtains fall back in place. "The sky is clear and blue, so I don't think it was thunder. Construction, maybe? The elm in the yard isn't letting me see much."

"Would have to be some pretty loud construction," Allen said skeptically.

Both father and son heard the same noise, perhaps slightly louder.

"Go outside, maybe you'll be able to see it from the front door," Allen suggested.

Wally, eyes rolling, left the room.

The noise happened several times more. Allen checked the windows himself; but the elm, as Wally had suggested, blocked his view. He waited.

A cry came from downstairs. "Dad? Dad, I think you should come down."

Allen did so, his curiosity now thoroughly piqued. He met his son at the door, a curious expression on the latter's face, and looked outside.

Allen waited a moment. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and closed them for a moment before reopening them. None of this changed what he saw.

Without looking at him, Allen spoke to Wally. "Son, I'm seeing something pretty strange right now. I know you saw something strange, too, because of the way you called for me and all. But this is really quite fantastically strange, so I'm going to have to confirm with you, by speech, that we're seeing the same thing. Is that all right?"

"Okay, dad," Wally agreed.

Allen cleared his throat. "What I'm seeing could be described as a sort of a naval destroyer. A war-ship, gunmetal grey, with what looks like red decorative edging on some parts. Also, it's about ten miles from the nearest body of water large enough to hold it, and it's walking towards the town on six enormous, articulated metal legs."

"Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm seeing," Wally answered. "Except I'd call the edging more of a salmon color."

"And whenever one of the legs comes down," Allen continued, "it makes that very loud noise."

"Yeah," Allen agreed. "Wonder what the view's like from up there...?"

Allen shook his head slowly. "What is it?" he asked. "Why is it here?"

"Dunno," Wally said. "Probably some kind of secret weapon."

"One of ours or one of theirs?"

"Dunno. It's coming up on the town, though. If it stops before then, it's might be one of ours. If it starts crushing houses and all, it's probably one of theirs."

They watched for a minute.

A cloud of dust and smoke rose.

"Was that the grocery store next to the town hall?"

Wally squinted. "No, I think it was the town hall."

"Huh," Allen said.

"Probably one of theirs, then."

Then came another noise - higher pitched, coming from the east.

"What's that?" Wally asked. Then he covered his eyes with one hand, pointing with the other - "Oh, look-!"

To Be Continued!

Monday, December 15, 2008


This is Horace.

Let's talk about Horace, shall we?

First, a word of caution: he's not very nice.

How, not very nice?

Well, yes. He wants to conquer humanity. Mostly for eating. A little bit for enslaving.

He's a very hungry kind of plant.

Whyever would any-one associate with him, then?

Well, he has flowers, of a sort. And a good green colour. Also, his fronds have the power to control minds.

That's quite impressive.

I'll agree - but it doesn't end there. So powerful is Horace that he may exert his psionic powers indirectly - any sight of his fronds is enough to unleash his majesty!

Such as that photo you showed me?

Yes! Exactly! Ahaahahahaaahhahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahaa!

That's an impressive cackle.

Thank you, I practiced at it.

Well, then, I feel a little bad saying this, but...

Yes? But what?

It didn't work.

Didn't work?


Not feeling any urges to bow down to Horace, the Plant that will Rule Man?

Not especially, no.

It should have worked.

I gather that.

Perhaps I should try again. Another photo, better emphasizing his... emphatic qualities.

You've gotten your mind controlled by Horace, then, I gather.

Yes, yes, of course. Why else would I be going to all this trouble?

Because you're insane?


It's more likely, then, that a slightly strange-looking shrub is controlling your mind.


Even though it doesn't have any effect on anyone else.


This seems reasonable to you?

It would be crazy to think otherwise!

Very well, then. Carry on.

See you next month, same time?


Happy holidays!

Annals of the Victoriana, Part Two of Two

We are delighted to note that our archival efforts to restore the records of the Earl's journey have finally succeeded in full. Here, presented for the first time, are the remainder of those records.

11. The Ancients' bridge. From the Earl's notes: "What do the numerals mean? They cannot be Gregorian, or even Julian - that would place them in the realm of the future, which is nonsensical! Perhaps they indicate a time "B.C.", or in some stranger dating system, like that of the Jews?"

12. The Earl, exhibiting his characteristic poise.

13. An artist's impression of the plants that may have grown in Lexington at the time of the Earl's visit, based on the samples found in his collection.

13. The manservant, displaying his long-practiced skill at tableau.

15. An attempt to create a dageurrotype of this very pipe section resulted in the Earl becoming trapped within viscous silaceous ooze, barely able to escape.

16. The manservant before the foundation of one of the Ancients' structures, considering the best methods of preparing tea.

17. More pipes. Their purpose is still unknown, even in the modern day.

18. A view down the reservoir. One servant still present at the Nikolassia estate claims that the Earl's manservant had a framed photograph of this scene above his bed, though it passed to the manservant's relatives upon his death. We were unable to locate the original at the time of this writing.

19. A strange, aged pipe, presumably a work of the Ancients, as it lies well below the water-line. The Earl was unable to fathom its intended use; we now think that it may have been built for religious purposes.

20. The sky above the reservoir, about to rain, just as (sadly) it did upon the Earl.

21. A parting view of the reservoir, taken as our eyes filled with tears. (And rain.)

This concludes our collection, though we will continue to add items as they are discovered. We hope that you were as pleased by this work as we were, and will continue to celebrate the Earl's life and legacy on each-feast day with renewed vigour.

Annals of the Victoriana, Part One of Two

A dedicated team of archivists - myself among them - set themselves to reconstructing the long-famed expedition of the Earl of Nikolassia to the Lexington Reservoir. Hunting through diaries and aged photographs, searching for witnesses to the historic journey, and even visiting the reservoir ourselves to gain a modern perspective on the Earl's journey, our labours have exhausted us for months. Though there is still much work to be done, our labours have borne fruit, and I am very proud to present to you the first part of the photographical record of the Earl's expedition - a record which, we hope, will soon find a place in the London Museum of Science.

1. The Young Earl, flush with triumph after finally making his way down to the reservoir-bed.

2. The loyal manservant, considering how best he may serve his master.

3. The reservoir-base, surveilled while the Earl and manservant still sought a route downward.

4. That scene as it appears today.

5. The roadway of the Ancients, still marvelously intact after decades - centuries, perhaps! - submerged.

6. The Earl, dreadfully imperiled. Only by Providence did he escape a painful fall.

7. Ducks!

8. A view nearer to the Ancients' bridge. The Earl's notes suggest that he took a daguerreotype near this location, though we have been unable to recover anything matching his description.

9. Strangely textured earth, cracked and broken after spending decades underwater.

10. A window from the estate of the Earl, depicting him examining a cluster of queer aquatic plants.

This concludes the collection currently available to us, but we hope to have the remaining dioramas completed soon, including material from the bridge itself and areas beyond.


Or: a Boy and His Manservant.

The Earl of Nikolassia walked to get a cup of morning tea, having just awakened. "Top of the morning to you, good sir," he remarked upon seeing his faithful manservant in residence. "Be so good as to fetch me a cup of the other Earl, would you?"

"We should go to the Lexington Reservoir, sir," the manservant told him in response.

"What?" the Earl inquired, now within a carriage driven by the manservant. "Where are we going now, my good man?"

"Apologies, your lordship, but there is a rain falling, and I must outrun it," the manservant informed him.

The Earl, still rather befuddled, nodded his head sagely. "Carry on," he said, and then noticed that he was holding a full tea-cup in one hand. What a pleasant surprise!
He sipped. Daintily, as a Gentleman ought.

The rain being outrun, and the tea being finished, the Earl once again turned to his manservant. "Wherever are we going?" the Earl asked somewhat puzzlement. "Lexington Reservoir, you said?"

"Yes, your lordship," the manservant replied with indefatigable patience. "We are going to the Reservoir to see the structures the Ancients built there, which have been exposed owing to the prevailing conditions of drought."

"The Ancients, you say?" the Earl exclaimed. "Why, that's wonderful! They must have been there, beneath the surface of the reservoir, for decades - perhaps centuries! Well worth a trip, I'll say!"

"Thank you, master," the manservant said humbly.

The carriage reached the turnoff to the reservoir; two forks were available. After a brief consultation between manservant and master, they elected to take the left route. Much traffic of man and beast was observed.

"Peculiar!" the Earl said. "Whatever can they all be doing here?"

"Perhaps they are here to see the works of the Ancients, just as we are," the manservant speculated. "But... then why are they all at the rowing club, when the provocation of our visit is drought?"

"Perhaps it is simple coincidence - a weekly or monthly meeting scheduled at the time of our visit?" the Earl suggested.

They continued on, seeing no easy route down to the base of the reservoir from the rowing club.

Shortly thereafter, the manservant pulled the carriage off the road to a scenic point. "Douglas Miller Memorial Point," the Earl read off a nearby sign. "Killed in the line of duty - tragic! And so soon after he ceased to be a sonar, too!"

There was a moment of silence for the deceased Doug.

Then they continued on.

"There's no route down from here, either", the Earl sighed, looking downwards from the memorial point to the base of the reservoir. He could see others who had already made their way down, reduced nearly to specks by the effects of distance. "Perhaps we could take that trail along the side...?" he suggested, gesturing.

"No, your lordship, I'm afraid that really wouldn't lead us where we want to go," the manservant said.

"I'm afraid you're right," the Earl admitted. "Very well, then. Ho!"

They set off again.

To one side, they saw a curious road: "Soda Springs", leading upwards and away from the reservoir. The name intrigued them; but they did not take the road.

After some time traveling upon the circumference of the reservoir, the Earl and his servant became demoralized. "Perhaps we will be unable to make it down," they mused grimly. "Perhaps those people we saw made it down from private property, their own houses. Perhaps we were doomed to failure from the first."

The carriage reached one last turnoff; they turned off. "We have nearly circled the entire reservoir, your lordship," the manservant remarked grimly. "This is where we would have gone if we had taken the right fork. If there is no route down from here - and I do not see one - then this expedition is in vain."

"Wait!" cried the Earl suddenly. "I saw something - there, to the left, as you brought the carriage in. Let us look."

They beheld a gate.

"Here," the Earl said excitedly, pointing to a sign upon the gate. "No Swimming or Wading, Good Gentle- and Lady-Folk - implying that there must be a way to get to the reservoir from here! And - ha - just as I surmised - a foot-path around the gate, which must be here solely to block equestrians and those in bulkier modes of transport!"

Delighted, the Earl and his manservant forged onwards. They encountered fellow travellers - whom they greeted cordially - en route to the ruins of the Ancients, which matched all their expectations. Daguerreotypes were taken, items were studied, an ill-considered movement of the Earl resulted in widespread application of silaceous ooze to his boots. ("Drat!" the Earl remarked.) Quite a successful expedition, both Earl and manservant agreed.

When the rain finally caught up to them, they hardly even minded!

(The mud caked on their boots, though, was rather more a bother to remove - but that is a story for another day.)

A pictorial augmentation of this stirring tale will be forthcoming, so soon as the manservant finishes his duties in the darkroom. Have patience, dear friends - it shall be well worth the wait.