Wednesday, January 30, 2008

to a certain womon whose name will not be mentioned

hey
i hate you
i really do
yah

you think you're so hot
sitting there all cocky-like
wearing a glazed expression on your face

but every time i look over at you
i smile and laugh
to myself
it can't be helped

but deep down
you suck
so hard

how can one be so arrogant
and so sickeningly modest at the same time
you perfected the art

oh oh and liar too
you're good at that

and sneaking around
all quiet like
on the inside

you the master of deception

yeah
go suck
eggs

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2 LATE ENTRIES: Leafs-Eyes

The thing at the lower-right was Waldo-found in random gibberish my graphing calculator gave me, and the bigger thing is my interpretation of the smalling thing's anatomy and posture.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2 LATE ENTRIES: Pirate Gentlemen

The pirates raided the ship with superior precision, clambering onto the deck of a ship with a large dinner party taking place. But the dancing and fine cuisine caught their attention. The knives were fine tools for serving the many roasted meats, and were passed of quickly as devices for such. And they were SO dressed for the occasion. And they danced and laughed and partied, and each took a fine maiden for the slow dance. What the party lacked before was life, and the pirates brought more than enough.

And besides...



...The wine...



...was excellent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: Blobs

They're all pretty much the same blob, really.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: What is SAVE THE BLAG DAY?

The full explanation is here, with the reasoning being much the same as then. Except this time, there were more evil monkeys and video games, and less Nikolas-lameness. (I hope.) David and I posted this time, as last time; we're hoping that Kelsey will turn up with a late-but-not-never post, but who knows?

Um.

David's posts aren't labeled SAVE THE BLAG DAY. They're interspersed, though, so it's not a big deal.

Um.

Mr. Singe eventually gets transferred to a new hat, due to the interventions of sentient extraterrestrial koalas, Patrick Stewart with hair, and no less than fifteen Roshans. It's rad.

Good night!

The kronnikles of desmond: Nikolas the walrus

there wasse a daye in the fyne dayes of the sunneshyne of the states of isse-laundde, yea, and while the yoghurt farmers were tilling the fyeldes, and the fyfoltes, and the fyrefockses, and yea, the good shepherdes did come from the caves and trumpertter the gretate daye inne, yea, this wasse the time that the Nikolas, who wasse transformed in to a greate walrusse, by the sourcerour "prynce khavin", yea, his tuskes were steelley, and gleaming in the light streames, and he did decklare in this fyne day, (for he had manie researchers in the wayes of arckane magickes, and yea, they dide disckover that the cure of the walrusse-spelle was to be loved by a womon, who was faire, and beautaceous, and goode, and rambunctious), that hisse weakeness was a vulnerablilty to the wilde leo-pardes of the areass, and this wuse unacceptable to the ratte-kinge, for he was a nationaliste, and a raciste, and it wasse good.

And it came to passe that Nikouls in his ragge did see manie fyne prostitutes of the regione, yea, though they were pleasureable, they dide notte love himme, for they were synners, and shunned by the populaces, and yea, the Nikoals did comme and he did go to the universitie of Iyse-laendde, and he didde attempt to seduce the manie fyne youngge womons in the lectoriums, and the great colloseume, and yea, one of their numbere was indeed faire, and beautaceous, and goode, and rambunctious, all qualities that were reckuired to despelle the spelle, and yea, her name wausse #@$&^@#&$, and Nikolas, seeing this opportunitie, and yea, deciding that he would like to have her, for hisse wyfe, yea, he did come to her and speak that she was indeede faire, and goode, and other thinges, and yea, he did buy her sweetes made of floure, and sugarre, and other thinges, and yea, he did woo her, in the way of knightes, and the classickal tradidouns, and yea it wasse goode.

And it came to passe that the womon did not love him, but he was determined, so he lay a trappe, and yea, he didde go to her yurt, or her ger, the dead of nighte, in the blissardes, and yea, he did take her yak-milk tea, and yea, he did pour into it a potione, which was purported by his researcheres, to cause the love of a womon, yette, they hade never tested it on themselffes, for they were afraid of beckoming the homosexuales, and yea they did send the rat-king a parcel of thie potion, and yea, he did smoke half of it, and he put the other halfe into the yak-milk tea of the womon, and yea, he did journey alonge the steppes, on his horse, with his bowe and arrowes, back to his yurt, or his ger, and yea, he did sleepe.

And the nexter daye, the womon, did not love him, but rather suffered a greate dissease, and yea, Nikols , who was a comsummate gentelmanne, did come to her and raise her to healte, and yea, for this acte of kyndness, she did love him, and yea it was then that Nikols saw the true powere of the potion, for it caused love, but only of the capacity that the men who take it love in their heartes, and it wasse good.

And it came to pass that Nikolas, jubilant, did return from walrusse-forme, and he married the womon, and he becamed he kinge, and she the ratte-queene, and she was indeed quite faire, and rambunctions, and yea, on the night of the wedding, they did retire to the bedchambres, and they did consummate the love of nikolas and a womon, and it rocked the earthe, and yea, it wasse goode.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: Mr. Singe Is Evil

Now, Mr. Singe, being the evil little gremlin he was, hatched an evil little plot - to throw the world into chaos! (Iss. 598) He shortly adjusted his sights downward, but nonetheless, his evil was palpable.

He stole candy from babies. He popped party-balloons with pebbles - at birthday parties! He forced horses to drink - until they passed out. This was the measure of Mr. Singe's evil! So very evil.

In other places, he was more creative. He planted a bomb in a peaceful household - scarring them forever!. He traveled to medieval Isselunde and replaced a delegate's gift to the new king with grass jelly - forcing him to improvise, and driving the king mad! He even traveled into the late 1940s, and started a human sacrifice cult. Mr. Singe's evil was not limited by space or time! This is because he was both a small purple monkey on a hat and a spike cut from the head of the source of all good. The quantum flux allowed him to flicker backwards in time! This is your technobabble for the day.

After a long day/week/aeon (depending on what timescale you're using) day's work, Mr. Singe sat back on his perch, high in the Mediterranean Rockies. (That's just how much chaos he caused.) He sighed.

"Boy, I sure hope Mssr. H. and his friends appreciate what I've done for them when they get back," he commented.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: Some Video Games

I know that video games are not everyone's first love - so I'll keep this short and sweet. Ten games, ten words each. Let it begin!

Galactic Civilizations 2: Twilight of the Arnor: Lots of new stuff.

Audiosurf: I like music. Playing on it is just rad.

Synaesthete: Weird techno, rhythm game, lasers, philosophy, but pretty unfinished.

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance: Some new stuff, basically just avrage.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies: Levels aren't that different; but it's hard.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin: so rad so rad hooray {>

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: Normal=strange, Hard=GBA, both=fun.

Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots: Old, hectic, buggy, lovable.

Medieval II: Total War: Buggy, AI lacking, okay despite it.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Why didn't I buy it before?

Wicked Defense: Another TD, worse balanced than many free ones.

...okay, the word limit didn't help at all. Ah well. This should last me a while. Feel free to investigate the ones I recommended (or others) - most are cheap or free.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: Mr. Singe's Evil Plan

Once, there was a strange creature known as Mr. Singe. The primal beat of nature resounded in his breast (as described in Issue 592, loyal readers!), and he lusted for adventure - for conquest. But he was a spike on the head of Mssr. H., and as such, limited in his activities. But one day, Mssr. H. packed himself up in a suitcase, and traveled away - cutting himself in two to fit! (from Issue 594!) Mssr. H. was cramped for space as it was. So, to fit, he had to cut Mssr. H. from his own head! It was a sad parting, and both wept as they separated - but, for the first time in a thousand years, Mr. Singe was free.

Mr. Singe thought and plotted. What to do? He could conquer the world - but it had been done. No fun there. Plus, he might be destroyed by a band of courageous, plucky, rag-tag heroes. Far too dangerous. No, Mr. Singe would have to think of something different.

He could hide in the wilds - but no, that was too boring, and he would likely miss Mssr. H. when he returned. It was an even worse idea! Thankfully, its successor was quick on its heels - the idea of casting the state of California - no, the World - no, the Universe! - into chaos while he waited for Mr. H. to return.

Some adjustments might need to be made, Mr. Singe conceded to himself.

A Womon Tome

one fine day
I ventured into
one of the fine halls
of the lyceum
wherein there was much debates and debacles
on the universities
and other topics
and thusly, my comrade being there
to procure some official documents
for his voyage abroad,
(for he was to be a merchant marine)
and thusly I happened upon
a womon
she sat in the grand oaken lounges
of the parlour
smoking and savouring the whisps of life
and I, having obtained
a fine bottle of cognac for such an occasion,
spied some glasses by the embankments,
and I sallied over to fetch us some
amusements
for the wait,
whereupon
I heard (quite inadvertently)
the discourse of the womon
and her compatriote,
and I became driven
with mad rage, and the fires of the damned
to utter madness,
but being a gentleman, my etiquette,
prevented a show of such foul behaviour,
and so I brought the cognac,
yet the womon did not become
alack at my presence
or cry "ho, a gentleman comes" anon,
and so, I,
dejected,
wandered into the halls of the lyceum,
and to ponder the mysterious words
imprinted upon my bosom
for a time.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: A Man On Fire

Jacob was on fire.

On fire with enthusiasm with the savings from his new mobile phone plan?

Oddly, yes.

You see, Jacob subscribes to the Flaming Evil Skull wireless plan. Whenever he feels particularly piqued, he types in a particular four-digit text code, and a swarm of flaming evil skulls converges on whatever he is annoyed at. On special occasions, the skulls are on fire with frost. This gives them an extra plus five damage and the ability to attack fire-immune creatures.

It costs Jacob a hundred minutes every time he types in the code, but so far, it's been more than worth it.

SAVE THE BLAG DAY 2: Supper on the Terrace

Some time earlier, my dear friend James Munroe Callahan and I were having supper on the terrace. It was a lovely evening, and as the sun crossed the horizon, I felt a chill at my temples.

Feeling cold, I looked down. Then I saw, on the floor, a set of odd wires. I followed them to their source with my eyes while picking at my shrimp. At one end was a sort of tiny device that I supposed to be some manner of transmitter or receiver, owing to its large antenna. At the other end was a bomb.

I at once arose and, quite agitated, shouted. "Oh my God! J.C.! It' s a bomb!"

J.C. himself arose. Looking at the device, he, too, exclaimed, "A bomb!"

I gained my head quickly. Examining the device, I informed Mr. Callahan, "It's remote controlled. Hold on."

J.C. himself had no such restraint. Looking at me, he shouted, "Get out of there!"

I did no such thing. Instead, fiddling, I announced: "Just have to pull this wire. There. Relax. I disabled the detonator. We can toss it in the trash when we clean up after supper."

From there we finished our supper. The shrimp had acquired a bit of a metallic taste, tragically, but the rice and naan was still delicious, and the yoghurt had lost nothing for the wait. All in all, a lovely evening.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG1qKzIsisU)

The Nikolas Quiz

1. What is a Nikolas?
A) Mouse
B) Louse
C) Grouse
D) Turtle
E) Turpin

2. Where is the Nikolaus-house?
A) On the river of dreams
B) In a big city
C) By the rivers on the woodland
D) Where the sun never shines
E) 921 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10021

3. How do you get to the Nikolaus-house?
A) Motour-cade
B) In a magic way
C) Beg
D) Believe in yourself
E) Walk

4. What is the Nikolas favourite food?
A) Rattes
B) Myce
C) Catts
D) Dogges
E) Flour, sugar, and other things
AB) Crab, eggs, and lump meat
AC) Palm nut soup and groundnut soup mixed together with goat meat

5. What is the Nikolas favourite subject?
A) Maths
B) Chymistry
C) Physic
D) German
E) English

6) What is a Nikolas favourite pastime?
A) Arcane magics
B) Games
C) Maths & Sciences
D) Base-ball
E) Sex


See comments for answers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Journeying and Suitcasing

My dear friend Mssr. A. and I were on a journey to the exotic East. Thereupon disembarking, we each opened our suitcases, only to find within each a half of our mutual friend, Mssr. H.

"You don't mind reassembling me, do you?" he inquired, and of course we, being gentlemen of the highest breeding, could do no-thing but oblige.

That accomplished, both Mssr. A and I had many questions. In an oblique manner, so as not to injure any feelings, we inquired of Mssr. H: "Why are you here? How did you manage to pack yourself so tightly without injury? Is it a general property that you are able to sever yourself in two without permanent harm?"

He declined to answer, however, so we (on his suggestion) instead proceeded to festivities of the most jovial sort. We did Blag, and Kelsey-Blag, and Instablag, and Travelblag, thereby transmitting the knowledge of our passage to the ancient West. Further, we traveled about the East, exploring the lands of Brotherly Love, wherein the custom of the "tail-gate" was found.

Finally, our task was deemed accomplished, and we did travel back home, packing Mssr. H. in our bags before departing. When we returned, however, we found something quite unexpected. Good companion Mr. Singe, friend to man and beast alike, had been set loose in our absence - and he had done something terrible!

Save the Blag Day 2 is to-morrow!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In the Dark, Part Five: Dealings with Authority

I went home and changed my blood-stained clothes. My hat I kept, but I discarded pretty much everything else for fresh clothing. That accomplished, I checked myself over in the mirror, adjusted my flechette gun, and tilted my hat to the appropriate angle. This wouldn't be the first time I'd dealt with a councilman, but it was rarely pleasant. Better to be prepared.

I ran into trouble at the gates. The guards at the gates gave me one look and began stonewalling. They refused to accept my credentials as an agent of the Tyrant, and forced me call her myself before they'd believe me. When they let me in, it was grudgingly, and with eyes constantly trained on my back. I kept my own hand quite near the flechette gun: I didn't like some of the looks I was getting.

After that, Councilman Adrianus's secretary kept me waiting for another good ten or fifteen minutes, claiming that they'd had no warning of my visit. (Quite false, of course, but as long as it wasn't too blatant, a Councilman could get away with any lie he wanted to.) I sat on a marble bench, in one of the largest waiting rooms I'd ever seen; furthermore, I'm almost certain that the walls were plated with gold. (Hard to tell with all the chandeliers and paintings and statues blocking the view.) When finally I was admitted, it was with a mood mixing irritation and intimidation.

The Councilman Adrianus, His Grace the Steward-Until-Impeached of the Fifth District of the Città del Profondità, had chambers quite as lavish as the waiting room, if not more so. He lay on a couch, eating grapes; as I approached, he indicated with a slight nod that I should take a nearby, slightly smaller couch. I did so, feeling (for all my efforts) quite underdressed.

"There is some misunderstanding?" Adrianus asked. "They say that I am accused of hiring thugs to ambush an agent of the Tyrant; quite silly, of course, I would do no such thing. But to clear it up, I agreed to meet with you on the matter."

I frowned. "You are accused of no such thing, Your Grace. The accusation is of something rather more serious: a plot to destroy the city."

"What?" he asked. "Why would I do such a thing?" He gestured to himself. "I live here, do I not?"

"That was one of the questions I hoped you could help me with," I told him. "Nonetheless, it seems clear."

"What?" Adrianus asked, surprised. "I'd think that you'd be investigating the Councilman with responsibility for the district, not me."

"We have evidence, your Grace," I explained.

"Evidence?" Adrianus asked. "What evidence?"

I picked a coin out of my pocket and laid it upon the table. "Thugs were guarding the bomb, the one that was in a position to destroy the city. Their purses were full of these; every one of which bear your head."

Adrianus picked one up, examining it closely. His eyes widened. "But - these aren't mine."

"What?" I asked.

He held a coin of his own in the air and laid it onto the table. Beside the other coin, the differences were immediately apparent. "The head is much cruder on your coin," Adrianus told me, "And the text is lumpy. This isn't from my mint - it's a forgery."

He was right. I picked up the forgery and pocketed it. "Well. I suppose that's all I had, your Grace. I'll be on my way now."

"Very well," he said. Frowning, he added, "If you don't have any more proof the next time you accuse a Councilman of high treason, I think you will find yourself in a rather nasty position yourself."

I nodded, wordlessly, and rose to leave. As I stood, I had a sudden thought and asked, "One last thing. What do you know about the Frankish ambassador?"

He frowned. "I don't know him personally. He mainly moves in different circles - with Rafiel, Leonardo, Mario, Edmondo, the ones who do the most trade with the Franks. I heard he left recently, in quite a hurry - a family emergency, or so they say."

I smiled, thinly, thanked his Grace, and left. I'd check with the Tyrant to see if they'd found anything yet, then I'd investigate the other suspects. Starting with the Councilman responsible for Oxy Street - who, I was pretty sure, was in the group Adrianus had just named.

As I walked down the street, away from Adrianus's gates, I heard gunshots. I turned to see his guards firing into the street.

They were firing at me.

I tried to do everything at once. I reached for my gun, shouted for help (the civilians filling the street were scattering from the first gunshots), dropped to the ground.

I woke up in the hospital.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ניכולאש

אתאח ניכולאש ּבן התלפון
אני ניכולאש בן הדישכותכ
אתאה שמונע
אני ניכולאשּ ב כפ ב תלפון ב תלוישיון ו בנאנ

A Magic Time

there was a time
of the kelsey
he roamed along the swamps
and the caverns
in the cosifferous era
and he ate mosquitoes
with his serpentine forked tongue
and sipped cool waters from the streams
that ran along the valleys and the meadows
of the great land
and he grew his horns
and his claws
and one day
the spikes from out his body
grew together and coalesced
into one solid mass that was great
and manifold in its design and firm and steady
and this mass peaked into the heavens above
until the lighting struck it ten thousand times
and the colour changed its hue to a brilliant amethyst
and it sparkled in the reflections of the morning dew
and under the clarion trumpeting of angels
their wings beating a gale force
so furious that it shook the heavens and the earth
the horn took form
unlike any other being that had ever lived
it grew into a being
one that was flesh and bone
and that beated
with the primal call of nature
and this horn on the top
it grew
from out his head
the tip of the top
that outpouring of all that is good in the world
and it sat there for 1000 years
and to this day
the kelsey still has the beast
and we call him
mr. singe
the end

Light (part four)

Aelph's grandson had grown rich and prosperous in the city near his homeland. Through adroit manipulation and steady progress through the bureaucracy of that place, he became the first advisor to the King's chancellor, himself known as the power behind the throne. Thus he was established when Jasmine came to his town.

She did not know where to look for him, as she had never expected that he would rise so high; but her unusual appearance, clothing worn paper-thin beneath her great cloak, quickly spawned rumors all around town - and Aelph's grandson made it his business to hear all the rumors. On a hunch, he arranged to meet her, and was overjoyed to meet his sister once more. Brother and sister alike scarcely recognized each-other, so were they changed by time and experience.

They talked into the twilight, Aelph's grandson feasting his sister on delicacies as they recounted the hardships and triumphs in the time that separated their last meeting from the present. Each hid somewhat of the truth. Aelph's grandson told nothing of the silver idol, the gift from his father, that he had sold to begin his journey; Jasmine said nothing of the living brother that Jasmine had abandoned to finish her journey. Then, slowly, the conversation petered out.

"Do you have them?" Aelph's grandson asked.

Jasmine swept aside dishes, placed each treasure upon the table. The ancient greatcloak, white-furred and magnificent even in its decrepitude. The steel-forged sword, long as a man's arm, nearly unmarred by nick or scratch. And the golden necklace, chain still severed from the blow that knocked it from the merchant prince's neck... but did not kill him.

"Is it over, then?" Aelph's grandson asked. "Can I return home to my father, and tell him that justice is served - my quest complete?"

Jasmine opened her mouth to speak. Then something caught her eye - a star, the first of the night. She looked at it, and its light, inexplicably, prompted in her a memory. She remembered the beggar on the streets of the distant city, tortured and worse for no reason but existing. And she remembered the crest on the uniforms of the horsemen that tortured the beggar - the crest of the merchant prince, Aelph's brother.

Jasmine closed her mouth. She lowered her head, ashamed of what she had nearly done. Then she apologized to her brother - apologized for the lie of omission she had told him. Now she told the truth - that the quest was not yet over, not while Aelph's last brother yet lived. She told of the inhumanities that his minions callously perpetrated, and vowed that she would not again forsake her duty - that, in the morning, she would return to the city where that prince made his residence, and finish the task she had begun. Then, tears in her eyes, she looked at her brother again, and apologized for destroying his faith in her. She rose from the table.

Her brother shouted, urging her back. Tears were in his eyes, too. With a hoarse throat, he told her that he, too, had lied - had kept the silver idol for himself, and used it for his own gain. He had justified it to himself before, he explained - why would Jasmine need such wealth for her task? - but, seeing her ragged and thin, his guilt plagued him. Yet it was only Jasmine's own confession that prompted his.

Both siblings were silent a moment, absorbing the revelations each had given the other. Then Jasmine's brother spoke again. He would help Jasmine, he said - with his position and personal wealth, he would give her new clothes, food, supplies. There was some trade between this city and that of the merchant prince - Jasmine's brother would arrange a trade mission, with Jasmine at its head. Rather than climbing over broken glass to gain entry, Jasmine would simply walk in; rather than hiding in the rafters, Jasmine would walk up to Aelph's middle brother, face-to-face.

The merchant prince squinted as Jasmine walked up, wearing great finery and surrounded by her own guards. The cloak and gold necklace were with Jasmine's brother, in the far city. As Jasmine approached within feet, her hand moving towards her sword, the merchant prince's face cleared as he recognized her. Jasmine drew her sword and charged as her quarry fled, screaming to his guards. The guards clashed with Jasmine's, and Jasmine chased Aelph's brother alone, finally cornering him in a small garden near the rear of the palace.

Aelph's middle brother begged for mercy. Jasmine offered none.

In his last moments, as the starlight shone down brightly on him, Aelph's brother whispered, "...I always envied his wit..."

Months later, Aelph's grandson formally returned the three treasures to his father, bodyguards lurking discreetly in the background. As his father, smiling broadly, began the manhood ceremony, Jasmine visited her family - so long abandoned. They asked questions - where were you, why did you leave? She answered none, but only asked questions of her own. She admired newborn siblings, praised her younger sister's growth (and slipped her a note, with a finger to her lips), and then, as the manhood ceremony reached its conclusion, Jasmine quietly vanished.

And that is her happy ending.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Economy Of Isselunde

Problem one: The Nikolas does not hang out enough at the luncheon-time, with friends. This results in the dissatisfaction of said friends, leading to...

Problem two: The friends do not post on the blag any-more, and the Nikolas cannot make up the difference on his own - he barely keeps up!

Thus.

What may both reward the friends for blagging, reward the Nikolas for hanging out with the friends, and be fun at the same time?

It's simple!

It's...

The BARONS OF ISSELUNDE*!

The Barons of Isselunde is a study in economics. Each player rules as a Baron of Isselunde, competing for money and power. Players earn money initially by blogging - 5 florins** per post, paying up to 10 florins a day. (A judge should be appointed to determine which blog posts count - basically, anything that's on the blog currently would count, from stories to illustrations to things like this. Spam, on the other hand, wouldn't.) Then, their objective is to take money away from others. Whenever all players agree unanimously that it's time to restart, the player with the greatest wealth earns immortal fame for defeating a swarm of Isselunde-ravaging monsters, and everyone's wealth is reduced to nothing. Until then: the game goes on!

The game's outline follows: Players begin penniless and landless. Once they have earned initial capital through blogging, they may purchase land from the Crown, which holds it in trust for the nation. That being accomplished, players invest money into their new-purchased land to plant the seeds for various products (manna, land narwhals, baby dragons...). The seeds bear fruit every three real-life days, players sell their product either domestically or to foreigners, and the game goes on. Through all of this, players may buy or sell land or goods from each-other at any time, to acquire a monopoly or to take advantage of a rival's penury. If the King becomes less than watchful, too, they may hire private armies - though, of course, true nobles of Iceland would never be so coarse as to attack one another...

Table of contents.
1: Of the purchase of land, for a nobleman's enjoyment and later profit.
2: Of the cycles of nature: overview.
2a: Spring: or, a time to plant.
2b: Summer: or, a time to wait, and watch.
2c: Autumn: or, a time to reap, and to profit.
2d: Winter: or, why there is none.
3: Of the sale of goods; why? What principles ought be observed?
3a: Domestically.
3b: To the Continent.
3c: On the matter of overseas shipping.
4: The Crown, and certain notes on its responsibilities.
4a: Enforcing the tariffs, and their modification, if necessary.
4b: Declaring the Whim of Nature; the rhetorical roll of the dice, if you would.
4c: Holding Peace in the Land.
4d: Private enterprise.
5: That last resort of desperate men: storage.
6: Final notes.
7. Appendix.

EDIT: I've tagged several areas with "room for expansion" - that is, I'm not going to actually run the numbers just yet, but if players want, this is a feature that could be added. YOU decide what direction the game goes in! An example (that didn't fit anywhere else) follows.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players could be able to hire thieves to loot other players' treasuries, or sabotage their production. This would add a greater element of chance to the game, but provide more options for players.

[1.] LAND.
Land is essential to the economy of Isselunde. From land, all wealth springs; and Isselunde does have ever so much wealth to offer. From Israelites who may bring down heavenly manna through appropriate propitiations, to the fearful land-narwhals (of which every by-product is a treasure), to the inhuman nikolas-wool trade and the most dangerous traffic of all, in baby dragons, there is much profit to be found for the wise baron. There are five types of land which may be purchased, of which only a limited amount is available for purchase from the Crown.

- 25 parcels of manna-bearing Israelite land; 1 florin per parcel. (20 g) [1f, 8g]
- 15 parcels of narwhal-inhabited tundra; 2 florins per parcel. (40 g) [3f, 4g]
- 10 parcels of peaceful wool-bearing meadows; 4 florins per parcel. (80g) [6f, 8g]
- 3 parcels of dragon-infested caverns; 10 florins per parcel. (200g) [16f, 8g] (These, tragically, are currently exterminated by the crown, as it is quite illegal to "tolerate a dragon to live." A waste, as any baron can see.)
- 5 parcels of trade-filled ports; 8 florins per parcel. (160g) [13f, 4g]

These last are special. Overseas trade is the lifeblood of any truly enterprising Isselunde merchant; yet, tragically, the ships that make it possible are far too expensive to reasonably purchase. Renting them, however, is quite feasible; and owning a port gives one the resources to do this; though they must be rented rather in advance...

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Two things here. First, and most obviously, more types of land and goods could be added, if things seemed a little too simple otherwise. Or if you just wanted more Isselundic oddity. Second, an option to buy ships could be added; it would cost much more than renting (initially), and fewer would be available, but maintenance would be cheaper than renting new ships, and one could keep them - providing that they weren't tragically sunk, of course. The former would add complexity; the latter would... well, just be more work for me, honestly.

[2.] THE SEASONS.
For every thing, a season; so the proverb goes. In Iceland, that's more or less true, except for all the things that can be done in any season, or none, and also except winter. (See section 2d.) The game begins in spring; every season takes a day, so that on the fourth day of the game, it is spring once more.

[2a.] SPRING.
The season of life! Everything begins here. For crops to grow, they must be paid for well in advance; in fact, two seasons in advance. The Israelites must be paid, the narwhal-hunters must be commissioned, the dragon-tamers must be hired, and the only time to do it is in Spring. The prices are as follows:
- 4 groats per parcel of Israelis.
- 6 groats per parcel of land-narwhals.
- 6 groats per parcel of nikolas-wool.
- 1 florin (20 groats) [1f, 8g] parcel of dragons.
- 16 groats [1f, 4g] per parcel of trade-ships.

[2b.] SUMMER.
Summer is all about waiting, for the nobles of Isselunde; waiting for the crops to flourish. There is one important event occurring in the summer-time, however: it becomes clear, by this season, whether the harvests are to be rich, or poor. Rich harvests result in half again the usual yield for a type of good; poor harvests result in the loss of a quarter of the usual harvest. There is a 60% chance of there being a normal harvest, a 20% chance of an extraordinarily good harvest, and a 20% chance of a sickly harvest. Different types of crops have independent harvests; thus, there may be a good harvest of dragons, a poor harvest of land-narwhals, and a normal harvest of manna, nikolas-wool, and... ships. (There are just less/more available for hire, due to... kraken attack?).

NOTE ALSO that goods are NOT harvested yet. All that is determined in summer is HOW MANY goods will be harvested.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: If things seem too slow in summer - i.e., a waste of a day - then planting dates/harvesting dates could be staggered. In other words, rather than having to plant in spring and harvest in fall, players would be able to plant at any time, receiving the forecast one day later and the products the day after that. This would be much more complicated to track, as different parcels would be all in different states in all seasons (fallow, planted, ripening, just harvested) rather than just two per season. Trade-off: More choice, more complexity, more book-keeping.

[2c.] AUTUMN or FALL it doesn't really MATTER at ALL (but if you want one or the other it's COOL)
Okay, now you can harvest goods. Yields for a normal harvest are as follows:
- 2 tons of manna per parcel
- 2 tons of land narwhal byproducts (tusks, meat, fur, horn, fins) per parcel
- 50 hairs of nikolas-wool per parcel
- 4 baby dragons per parcel
- 4 trade ships per parcel

As noted above, yields for an excellent harvest are half again (1.5x) those for a normal harvest, and yields for a poor harvest are three-quarters (.75x) those for a normal harvest. Also remember that trade ships are not properly goods: they are merely rented. After they ship one load of goods, or after autumn ends without them being sent out, they are dismissed; they cannot be hoarded!

It's okay. I'm not accusing you or anything.

[2d.] WINTER.
Everyone hibernates in winter in Isselunde. The King hibernates, the nobles hibernate, the snow-flies hibernate. It's too cold!

Also, the game is faster if there's no winter.

If you really want, we can have one, but I recommend against. Three seasons are more interesting.

In real life, too.

[3.] SELLING OUT.
The main mechanism of profit for a Baron of Isselunde is through the sale of the goods he so carefully cultivates throughout the year. He may sell them to other players, if he feels uncertain of his desire to make a good trade for them to the general populace, or if they offer better terms than he could get on his own, through control of the shipping or some-such. It is unlikely that players will sell all their goods to other players, though; and, barring that eventuality, they will need to sell to the populace, either Domestically or Internationally.

The populace is a steadfast beast. Individually, they may have varying desires for your goods from year to year, but as a mass, they are so predictable that they may be modeled with very simple mathematical equations. At the base price, which varies from good to good (for instance, it is 3 groats for a ton of manna, domestically), there is a given demand for the good: in the case of manna, it is 20 tons. If a player attempts to sell at a higher price, demand will lower according to the equation: in the case of manna, the demand drops by 2 tons for each groat added to the price. Similarly, the demand will rise if a good is sold at a lesser price. In general, prices are higher for goods sold Internationally than goods sold Domestically, but the cost of tariffs and shipping makes it a trade-off.

But what if two players attempt to sell the same good to the same market (domestic/international?)? Why, then, they compete! The market buys the goods of the fellow with the lower price first. If the capacity of the market is filled by this, nothing more occurs. If not, then the higher priced fellow may sell some or all of his goods - either the difference between the goods sold at the lower price and the market's capacity at the lower price OR the market's capacity at the higher price, whichever is lower. (This assumes that people who would only buy the lower-priced goods buy them first, and that people who would buy at higher prices buy later.)

Selling to markets occurs simultaneously - that is, all players agree on what prices their goods will be sold at (perhaps negotiating impromptu monopolies), then the transactions are finalized. International trade works somewhat differently, as will be addressed in the relevant section.

[3a.] DOMESTIC TRADE.

Market capacities are as follows for selling to Isselunde. Note that money is gained within the same day of selling for domestic trade.
- 20 tons manna - (price in g - 3g/ton)*2 tons
- 20 tons narwhal - (price in g - 5g/ton)*2 tons
- 100 hairs of nikolas-wool - ((price in g - 1g/5 hairs)^2)*30 hairs
- 2 baby dragons - (price in g - 10g/dragon)*.2 dragons (rounds up)
(g=groat)
(as price rises, the market will buy less. See discussion in section 3.)

[3b.] INTERNATIONAL TRADE.

Market capacities are as follows for selling abroad. NOTE: Revenues from overseas trade are received on the autumn following the sending of ships! Also, there are tariffs. See the section on shipping, below.
- 100 tons manna - (price in g - 10g/ton)*20 tons
- 100 tons narwhal - (price in g - 15g/ton)*20 tons
- 450 hairs of nikolas-wool- ((price in g - 2g/hairs)^2)*30 hairs
- 9 baby dragons - (price in g - 30g/dragon)*.2 dragons (rounds up)
(g=groat)
(as price rises, the market will buy less. See discussion in section 3.)

[3c.] SHIPPING AND HANDLING INCLUDED.
Though Isselundic clippers are quite swift, they do not travel instantaneously! It takes them a full season to travel to the Continent and another to travel back, meaning that any profits from their journeys arrive only on the fall succeeding the one upon which they were sent. (That is, three days later.) Three other major factors encumber the otherwise-more-profitable international trade:
- Tariffs. The Crown sets tariffs upon certain goods, as also discussed in that section (4a). By default, they are 2 groats per ton of manna or narwhal and 1 groat per hair shipped overseas. This payment is determined at the time of shipping, but may be delayed (if necessary) until the revenues from that trip return.
- Shipping costs. It costs money to maintain ships - for players to rent them, in context. And, thus, it is only appropriate that players should charge for shipping. It costs 4 groats per ship for the renter; a likely fee might be 6 or 8 groats for use, assuming that the player does not simply reserve the ship for his own use. If players truly need to ship goods overseas, the Crown has its own private fleet, available to lease at 9 groats per ship; this is more expensive, but may be worthwhile for the man who really needs to move goods. (And Zig.)
- There is a slight chance - one in fifty or so - that any ship sent out will sink before it reaches its destination. This is checked before ships reach the Continent (in Spring) and before they return to Isselunde (at the end of Summer - after dudes spend cash etc.). Tragedy may strike at any moment! Beware.

EDIT: I am pretty sure that I forgot to mention how much of each type of good a ship may carry. Trade-ships, in their missions, carry only a limited quantity of goods - up to 10 tons of manna or narwhal-stuff, 200 hairs, or 4 baby dragons each. There can be no mixing of goods on a single ship, as goods tend to react poorly with each-other. (Do you really want to ship a baby dragon in a ship filled with vulnerable nikolas-wool?) Also it would be a little too complicated to track.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players could hire privateers or use their own ships to try to destroy competitors' commerce, perhaps looting the ships in the process. This would be extremely rude, and quite ungentlemanly, so I'm sure that no-one would use the feature even if it was put in place. If it was, though, it would allow more interactivity in the overseas-trade process, at the cost of... well, more complexity!

[4.] THE CROWN.
The Crown rules Isselunde with a gentle hand. The joint responsibilities of all Barons to guide, the Crown distributes public property, enforces laws, and is even held responsible for some acts of Nature. Players may pass the role of the Crown between one-another, or they may simply each act in its stead as necessary. There's not much to do, at present...

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: The Crown's duties might be expanded to include inflation, which would penalize players who hoarded money too greedily. Players would somehow persuade the crown (perhaps with bribes - no, gifts...) to inflate the currency... I'm not certain that we actually need to penalize players for hoarding right now, but if the need arises, this might work.

[4a.] TARIFFS WITHOUT TEA.
As mentioned in passing in section 3c, the Crown imposes tariffs on certain goods. By default, the tariff is 2 groats per ton of manna or narwhal, and 1 groat per hair exported. No tariff is imposed on dragons; as they are quite illegal, all dragons are smuggled.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players may influence the crown to raise or lower tariffs, or impose custom inspections which increase the cost of concealing dragons. (Essentially the same thing.) How they would influence the crown is unclear - perhaps they might give monetary gifts, or contribute to some other influence system... most things relating to the crown would benefit from an influence system, so that's something to consider. Variable tariffs are generally beneficial - they would make the game more dynamic, and mess with players who trade heavily overseas (possibly to their profit) - but it would require an influence system, which doesn't yet exist.

[4b.] NATURE.
The Crown is responsible for all random numbers, for such things as determining the results of harvests and whether ships sink. This should probably be done in person, to prevent the dreaded CHEATING.

[4c.] PAX ISSELUNDUS.
Were Barons to declare war on one another - unthinkable, unbearable! - and were they to maintain it for more than two seasons, the King himself would be forced to take action against them, destroying the warring armies. This would never happen, though, obviously.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Systems for private armies - that is, pricing for their hiring and maintenance, conflicts, burning and conquering land... These would add another, more competitive side to the game, but would make it much more dynamic.

[4d.] PRIVATE ENTERPRISE.
The Crown does buy and sell certain goods, but at prices rather removed from those of the market. They are a last choice for any sane Baron.
- buys food at 1g/ton, hairs at 1g/15 hair
- sells manna at 8g/ton, narwhal at 15g/ton, hairs at 1g/hair, ships at 9g/ship (as mentioned in section 3c, above)

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: The Crown's supply and price of goods might be made dependent on how much land of the appropriate type remains in their possession - if someone's bought up all their nikolas-wool lands, they won't be able to sell nikolas-wool anymore, and will buy nikolas-wool at a higher price. Could be amusing - slightly more complicated, though.

[5.] STORAGE
If Barons find the prices in the current season truly unbearable, they may store goods for a season, selling them in the following season. It costs 1 groat per ton of narwhal or manna per season, 1 groat per fifty hairs per season, and 10 groats per baby dragon per season. Note that overseas trade only occurs in the fall; thus, one must store goods for three full seasons if one wishes to preserve them for that purpose.

[6.] LAST NOTE
Remember the purpose of the game, as mentioned above. Cash for blogging. Meeting together to solidify any financial deals - though all the details should be worked out online, likely on a message-board. Inter-player transactions can take place at any time - one may sell land in Summer or goods in Fall, if one has them. The more enterprising players might even sell futures!

And, of course: have fun!

*All details are rough, and may be changed before play begins. Mutable! Be warned!
**Isselundic florins. Twenty groats to a florin, twelve florins to a Desmark.


EDIT: I forgot the Appendix. Whoops! Here it is:

[7.] SPLEEN
(sorry about the line breaks here - they seem to be a bug of some sort.)









Resource NameMannaNarwhal Nikolas-Wool Dragons Ships
Base Land Price 1f 2f 4f 10f 8f
Cultivation
Cost
4g 6g 6g 20g 16g
Normal Products 2 tons 2 tons 50 slaves 4 baby dragons 4 ships
Domestic Demand 20 tons manna - (price in g - 3g/ton)*2 tons 20 tons narwhal - (price in g - 5g/ton)*2 tons 100 hairs- ((price in g - 1g/5 hairs)^2)*30 hairs 2 baby dragons - (price in g - 10g/dragon)*.2 dragons -
International Demand 100 tons manna - (price in g - 10g/ton)*20 tons 100 tons narwhal - (price in g - 15g/ton)*20 tons 450 hairs- ((price in g - 2g/hairs)^2)*30 hairs9 baby dragons - (price in g - 30g/dragon)*.2 dragons -
Ship Capacity 10 tons 10 tons 200 hairs 4 dragons -
Base Tariffs 2g/ton 2g/ton 1g/hair 0g -
Crown Buying Price 1g/ton 1g/ton 1g/15 hairs - -
Crown Selling Price 8g/ton 15g/ton 1g/hair - -
Storage Costs/Season 1g/ton 1g/ton 1g/50 hairs 10g/dragon -

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lot's Adventures in Sodom

Even from miles away, Lot could feel the heat of burning Sodom at his back. He sighed. "Well, that went wrong," he said sheepishly. "It's not my fault, though. Not really."

His daughters looked at him.

"Well, maybe a little," he conceded.

Five days ago, Lot stood in the market square at the center of Sodom, chatting with a fruit merchant. "They say angels have come to Sodom," the merchant told Lot.

"What, Angels of the Lord?" Lot asked incredulously.

"The very same," the fruit merchant affirmed. "What do you think we should do about it?"

"Well, they are very important guests," Lot said, musing. "Representatives of the Lord, the Almighty, who watches over us all. Their eyes watch for him; what we do unto them reflects upon ourselves to the utmost degree. This will be a decision of some importance, certainly."

"Well?" the merchant asked. Others had gathered around, waiting for Lot (known as a man of some wisdom) to give his verdict.

"Well, what else is there to do?" Lot asked rhetorically. "Guests of this importance? The only thing to do is to give them a taste of the hospitality for which Sodom is so rightfully famous!"


With the heat of burning Sodom on his back, Lot grumbled, "It's not my fault they see double entendres in everything."

Dedicated to a good friend to whom the last line totally does not refer.

In the Dark, Part Four: Containment

I walked into the deli, and ordered a sandwich. Then I went into the back, to use the phone there. The owner knew me, so I didn't need to show my credentials.

A functionary answered after the first ring. "Office of the City Tyrant. What do you need?"

"I need a dozen of the Tyrant's Finest down at Oxy and Ring in ten, and an appointment with the Tyrant in twenty," I told the functionary.

After a pause, he replied, "...who are you?"

I told him. Then I hung up and ate my sandwich.

Let me tell you a little about the sandwiches this deli served. They're always on sourdough. Two thick slices of bread, with culinary joy inside. Lettuce, bacon, onions, cheese, poppyseed, pickles, bananas, eggplant or eggs, whatever you could ask for, they had it. I generally asked the owner to design my sandwiches himself. They were always fresh, different, and delicious.

After I ate, I left the shop and saw a platoon of carabinieri outside, hanging off the sides of an armored truck. Their leader saluted me. "Good sandwich?" he asked.

"Very," I answered sincerely, returning his salute. "The problem's over that way." I pointed toward the nearby airlock. "Just follow the bloodstains."

He acknowledged the order and signaled his driver, who accelerated smoothly, so as not to dislodge the men on the sides. I smiled. That should deal with the explosives, for the moment. No surprise my employer had sent four times as many men as I'd requested; the Tyrant believed fervently in overkill, and had the resources to indulge that belief.

I looked at my watch. I was running late; eight minutes to my appointment. That wouldn't do.

Nine minutes later, I arrived at the Tyrant's Palace. Another minute took me to the Tyrant's desk. She raised an eyebrow at me.

"Sorry," I told her. "Transit was running slow today."

"You could at least bow," she suggested, ignoring me. "A genuflection would be even better."

I waved my hand, dismissing her suggestions. "I'm running late already, and this one's a big one."

"All right," she said, leaning forward over his gigantic desk. "Give it to me."

I took a deep breath. "There is a conspiracy to destroy the city, possibly aided by foreign spies and certainly funded by our own Councilmen, that came within inches of succeeding today, foiled only by information from one of my most unreliable sources and a great deal of luck."

The Tyrant considered this. "Does this happen often?" she asked.

I thought about it. "Never."

"So what do you want me to do about it?" the Tyrant asked, furrowing her fingers.

"I want teams searching the rest of the Rim, looking for more explosives."

The Tyrant nodded. "That can be done."

"I want an investigation into the thugs I killed, the ones who were guarding the bomb. I need to know if they were common street trash, or if they have some other association."

"That sounds more like something suited to your resources than mine," the Tyrant remarked.

"It'll take brute work, slaving through the records to find men of their descriptions - the only name I have is Alex Brandon. Frankly, I haven't the time, and you do have the men."

The Tyrant nodded. "Anything else?"

This was the boldest of my proposals. "I want unrestricted access to the Councilmen for the duration of the emergency, for purposes of investigation. Them and the foreign ambassadors."

"The foreign ambassadors should be easy enough to gain access to," the Tyrant mused. "Consider it done. But for the existence of the Tyranny, the one right the Councilmen have rallied behind is their immunity from City investigation. If I violate that and grant your request, there will be trouble."

"They brought this upon themselves," I told her. "Every one of the thugs had a purse full of Council coin - from just one Councilman, Adrianus. And where was the local Councilman's men while the thugs were lugging those explosives? Something stinks, and the Council is up to it in their necks."

Slowly, the Tyrant nodded. "Very well," she agreed, "You will have your access. But if this intrusion is unjustified, the Council will scream for blood - yours."

For a moment, I reconsidered. But: "Every bone in my body tells me it's them. If I can't investigate them, this is over before it starts - and whoever's behind the bomb will be free to strike again."

"Will that be all, then?" the Tyrant asked. "If so, I have calls to make, men to set in motion."

"Yes," I agreed. "I'll talk to Councilman Adrianus. Make sure he knows I'm coming, please."

"Will you be returning home first?" the Tyrant asked.

I looked at my streetwear, and at my boots, spattered with blood. "I suppose I might," I conceded.

The double glass doors of the Tyrant's office closed behind me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mr. Red.

There was a man named Mr. Red. He lived in an arcology, far from his place of birth. Sometimes he became homesick, but he tried not to mind. This was Mr. Red.

Mr. Red lived with his partner, Mr. Brown, and his good friend, Mrs. Green. Their trade was in ideas, and stories, as were many others' in this arcology. Mr. Red's entertainments gained him many followers.

One day, Mr. Brown became very sick. He was not alone. Many others became sick, too. Mr. Red was not happy at all. He was desperate! His followers and his partner were sick. Some people were dying! This was not good at all.

Mrs. Green decided that things would not get better. She did not want to get sick. She decided to leave! She asked Mr. Red to come with her. Mr. Red refused! His partner was sick. Mr. Red had to help him! Mrs. Green left alone.

Mr. Red decided that there was something wrong with the arcology. Along with others, he investigated. But he could find no flaw in the ventilation or the food or the seals. Yet the disease was here! How had the autodoctors and the disease-hunters failed?

Boldly, he asked them.

"We have not failed," they told him. "This is our greatest success!"

Mr. Red hurried back to his quarters.

On his bed, Mr. Brown was emerging from the cocoon, new wings spreading wide.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dreamtime

Transcription of the dream of a friend.

i was like the manager of this big office building
and there was this girl who was like depressed of something

(but she was hot)
also
she reminded me of a womon who i saw
on a television show
and she was gonna jump off the ledge
but there were 2 companies in the building
they were rivals
and Korean
with similar sounding namesand they both thought the girl was a corporate spy or soething
for the other company
so they were like
all shouting the the corrididrrs
and i was there to try
to resolve
the dispute
but then
i saw that womon
and i made her come inside
and then
we tried to go downstairs
so we got to the elevator
and she was hot
and i was like
restraining her
but then
i was like
put my arm around her
and then the elevator was like
3 options
1 was go down
the regular way
the other 2 was
send an email
to the elevator
to say
where you want to go
1 was with
the gmail
and 2 was with
the yahoo
mail
and then i tried
but they didn't work
and then this big black man came
and he tried to do the same thing
but it didn't work
so i try the regular one
and it worked
but i had to use some weird computer
program
to work it
and then
we went down
really fast
and i think
i kissed her
in there
and then
i woke up

The most obvious question, is, of course, what happened next? But, frankly, I think that's a little too easy. So let's ask a better question: What happened before?

1: The dreamer was contacted by a woman he had once known and recruited into an arbitration agency. His normal agenda, which might have led him to a job more suited to his interests, was suppressed by a desire to impress her.

2: The suicidal woman had suffered for years from a disease that most doctors refused to believe existed. Becoming less and less social, her state of mind provoked the confrontation between companies even as it provoked her own near-suicide. (Her willingness to be talked down should be ascribed to the dreamer himself.)

3: The black man is an agent of the KGB. His efforts to use the elevator represent his attempts to penetrate US national security. Until the dreamer's approach, he had attempted to use the elevator many times before, having gained entry in the first place through the actions of the Korean firms, of course representing the near and urgent threat of North Korea.

Any or all of these may be true. But beware: the wrong choice could ruin everything.

Of Beards Pointy and Vigorous

ok

i will tell you
a little story
about a man
who lived
in a hut
and he had a magic book
and every time he touched it
he got "excited"
(Like an electron!) because he was touching
"walt whitman"
and one day
walt took him to the store
and they careened
and touched
many people
and a mexican guy
at the watermelons
and they touched all the food
so that they would touch all the people
who bought the food after-
wards
and they derived much pleasure from it
and then they touched
each other
and it was exciting
and they exploded
in a pulsar
and they say
that if your heart is pure
and your beard long
if you go out on a clear night
and point your beard up at the night sky
you can feel them
touching you
(in the fleshy part)
the end

(context)

Light (part three)

Aelph's grandson had months ago had abandoned his quest to avenge Aelph's death by the hands of his three brothers, giving it (and two of his father's three gifts) to his sister, who took it up in his stead. While he awaited her return, the grandson had become resident in a city near his homeland. In this place, he worked as a bureaucrat, watching his lessers and superiors alike in fear of betrayal and hope of advancement. That latter hope was sooner met; when they were toppled (tragically) by scandal and disgrace, the grandson gained power through quick exploitation of his superiors' failings. He rose steadily, enough to provoke fear from those above him, but not enough to justify action on their part. And as he acquired power for himself, he gained wealth, as well. No longer did he live in the small apartment he first rented in that city, but in a rich villa, outside the city; his clothes studded with gems and gold.

A great distance away, in a place linked only by long and difficult trade routes to the city of the grandson's residence, Jasmine, Aelph's granddaughter, strode wearily through the gates of a great and gleaming city. Her clothes were dirty, tattered, and ill-fitting, stolen from the bodies of dead refugees on the side of the road; her finances being entirely emptied by the difficulties of travel. Her purse was filled only by the wind. She walked alone; for most of the journey she had traveled with merchants and caravans as a guard, allowing her to avoid starvation, but this last stretch she had made alone.

For all her poverty, Jasmine cut an impressive figure as she walked through the streets of the city. She was yet bound beneath her clothes, to present the appearance of a youth, not a woman. Her cloak, taken from Aelph's oldest brother, swirled around her, somewhat concealing her poverty; the sword at her side, long and steel-forged, was an unspoken threat. A dagger-hilt protruded from her coarsely patched boots, the only item Jasmine had managed to save from the beginning of her journey.

She had come to this city with the last of her knowledge: that Aelph's middle brother, the only one yet breathing, had come to this city some time after his betrayal, and made of himself a merchant prince. On her journey, she had learned more with his name: that he was a power, keeping a private army on his estates, and holding many secrets with which to manipulate the others of equal wealth. She had considered some plans for his death, and the retrieval of the last of Aelph's legacy, the golden necklace, but much rested upon the men guarding him. So she walked through the streets, heading for his palace.

The streets were lined with rich facades, every wall richly painted. Onion domes and corkscrew towers reached upwards proudly. The road was empty of beggars and vagrants. A squad of cavalry cantered through a cross-road as Jasmine walked through, passers-by fearfully giving way to them. Jasmine stepped aside, and otherwise refused to acknowledge their presence; they, fat and cowardly, looked at her and decided to take no action, instead spying a poor beggar, lurching from an alleyway. The beggar, clearly both destitute and desperate, raised her arms to the cavalrymen, begging for pity. Laughing, they reached out with their weapons and impaled the beggar cruelly; Jasmine broke into a jog, so as to quicker escape the sound of their sport. The reason for the absence of the poor was now much clearer to her.

Unsurprisingly, the gates to the merchant prince's palace were guarded. Jasmine requested entry; the guard, guardedly, requested a bribe, and that being (necessarily) refused, requested that Jasmine take a hike. Having done so, Jasmine rounded the nearest corner and scaled the wall in seconds. Broken glass topped the wall; Jasmine avoided the shards and vaulted over, onto the roof of the interior building. Voices from inside cried out in surprise at the thud of Jasmine's boots on their roof; Jasmine ran onwards and climbed upwards, outrunning their complaint. She was atop the palace.

In the rafters of the prince's cavernous dining hall, Jasmine watched the merchant prince, her greatuncle, at his meal. She considered poison; but as she could not bribe the guard outside, she could not bribe his food-tasters. She considered hurling her dagger down upon him; but there was no guarantee that she would hit him, much less kill him, and besides, she was fond of the blade, it being the last thing she had from her home. So, other options sadly refuted, Jasmine made her way over to the rear wall, and dropped to the ground.

Her left palm skimmed the wall as she fell, to slow her; her right drew out the sword of her grandfather. Even as Jasmine landed, the guards to either side of the merchant prince were reacting; she slew the rightmore of the two with a single stroke of flashing steel, and as the other drew blade and swung, Jasmine pulled back her sword and retaliated in kind, smashing the guard's dress sword like so much clay and cutting him down where he stood.

The guests were jumping to their feet, panic in their faces; other guards were drawing swords or crossbows. Jasmine's gaze focused on the man in front of her: the merchant prince. He stood and turned, recognition not yet in his face.

Jasmine's sword freed itself from the guard's corpse, flashed down.

With a painful crash, the sword hit a hidden coat of armour and rebounded. Jasmine winced as the blow strained the scars on her palm and arm; the prince fell backwards, smashed downwards by the force of the blow. His necklace, still worn after all these years, puddled at Jasmine's feet, severed by the blow.

Jasmine froze. She would only have one choice. More guards were approaching, and she could see bolts being fitted into crossbows. Deciding, she stole the necklace from the floor where it lay, and ran, fleeing through a servant's entrance in the back. Guards followed; she slew the first through the door and ran again, leaving confusion and disorder in her wake. Twice bolts flew at her; the first missing, the second lodging itself in her cloak, harmless. Jasmine made her escape, panting and gasping at city's edge, and considered.

Her attack would not work twice. Guards would be alert, looking for her, and more numerous; a direct attack would result in failure or death. And in her hands she held the golden necklace; the third part of the sign her father had asked for, to prove the three brothers' deaths.

She had vowed to return to her brother, when the quest was done, and the three treacherous brothers were slain. With a heavy heart, she set out on the road to their promised meeting place.

The proof of her success lay in her hands, as the merchant prince oppressed his people behind her.

Night fell, cloudy and moonless. For Jasmine, there was no light.

Friday, January 18, 2008

In The Dark, Part Three: The Process of Discovery

I stood before the pile of explosives, shocked, appalled - and thinking.

The city of the deeps, Città del Profondità, is protected from the terrible pressures outside by a gigantic, miles-wide dome, as any citizen knows. The dome is, in fact, double-layered, with the greater part of the structural support on the outer layer, and the reflective shielding and lights on the inner part, with a small, bulkhead-separated space in-between. If the outer wall, by some vast catastrophe, were to give way, the inner wall and bulkheads would (in theory) hold it for long enough for evacuation to take place. The inner space, where I now stood, was painted and ornamented where it formed part of the main exits (used for trade, fishing, and travel), and elsewhere locked and plain. Those parts were scarce-used, frequented only by maintenance workers, smugglers, and vagrants who managed to pick the locks. Those latter groups were largely thought poorly of by the law, and cracked down upon often. Certainly anyone seen loitering in such a place would be attract the attention of residents, and the law would follow soon after.

Yet, here before me were enough explosives to blow a hole in both parts of the dome at once, flooding the city instantly. Everyone would die, save perhaps for the very fast and very lucky on the other side of the city, if they reacted in time.

There were a lot of questions here. Who would want to blow up the city? Why hadn't the law come down on the thugs while they loaded the explosives here, and why had Jacko come to me, not them, for that matter? But the question that occupied my mind as I traversed the inner airlock to re-enter the city was one readily answered: what did the thugs know about their deadly task? I turned past the corpses littering the wall to question my captive.

He was gone.

Hmm. This was a problem.

From the looks of it, someone had dragged him to a street-trolley and taken him away, depriving me of my only source.

What did I know? Someone was trying to blow up the city. That someone seemingly had cooperation from the local law, judging from the utter lack of response from that party. They also had more resources than the thugs, judging from the quantity of explosives (how did those get into the city, anyway?) and were ready to respond quickly when I waltzed in and killed their men. I was willing to guess that it was the work of foreign spies; extremely worrying that they'd gotten so far before I found the explosives.

On a hunch, I checked the bodies again. Their purses were filled with coins: a few of mixed vintage, from the Tyrant's mint or the Franks', but the vast majority of them were from the Councilman Adrianus's own mint.

Most suspicious, indeed.

I had my own plans for further investigation; but the first thing to do was to walk to the local deli. I was hungry, and, in addition to their sandwiches, they possessed a telephone. It was about time for me to tell the Tyrant what was going on.

Author's Note: As usual, I underestimated how long this would take to write; it's the first half of what was originally going to be one post. Some exciting stuff is going on. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Best Of David Zhang, Part One

Chat logs from the dawn of time.

I was more aggressive back then.

16/03/2006
21:30 me: ZHANG!
I will kill you!
21:32 David: hello
me: MY REVENGE WILL BE HAD!
Do you hear me?
David: ok


Sometimes we would have odd impromptu competitions. (Actually, we still do this.)

20/04/2006
19:01 me: !!!
David: ...
19:02 me: **
David: ,,,
19:03 me: 3!
David: HALLOS
me: Goodbye!
David: BYE
19:04 me: Still wrong!
David: HALLOA
me: Groove.
How are you, gentleman?

Some conversations were almost like ones we would have to-day.

29/04/2006
13:21 David: mereik will be most displeasesd
me: Will he?
He is a far kinder fellow than you think.
You always think the worst of the teachers; or, possibly, of yourself.

Unreasonable requests were sometimes made.

13:22 David: What is this tune???
i stucelk in my head:
hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmmm hmmmm

Questions were asked.

13:25 LSDJ FLASDJ FLK SJDLFKDKSFSDf
sd/LFjlsAKDJF SAJDLKF jSDAK fjKLSADj f
sd;fkj sdk;afj klsdajfklsdajf
sd
sf
sdfh
fdh
dfs
hwhrfhwdfhdfsjdlfhdfslh;lwdfhkdfs;lhk;ldskfh;sdkf;lhkd;flh
fdxgjfdlsjhklsdfhklsdflkhjdskfljhklsdfjhkldfsjlkhjndfkslhjlkfdsj
dgjoirejigjerpjpowpoyuioeptrklcprleh
ewqcnoehtuewhoxozqmwos,fvptyih
cvrtbgvnepwmcqxpburnmqeklrhbb
dgfvuwdobvhnwe
13:28 me: Do you think that I should pay more attention to you?
Is that it?
So.
David: YYYYEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS
me: How long will the Afrikaan lecture be?
David: 800
13:29 me: In minutes, not in kstreeeeth, please.
David: 45
13:30 me: Your lecture.
David: 44
me: Five or ten minutes!
It is a simple question.
David: No
me: Please answer it thus.
No?
You would dare defy me?
13:31 David: It is neither 5 nor 10 minutes.
so no.
me: Is it between those two tallies/
?
David: PERHAPSE
me: Sir, what is the true sum, that does bubble ichorously in your bowels?
13:32 David: MABYEE 5 or 10 munutes...
me: Choose one.
Five would be better.
David: BOTH

Capslock was sometimes on.

20:23 me: Bilbo, Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins...
Bravest little hobbit of them all!

20:29 David: Leonard Nimoy?
20:31 me: How did you know?
I only encountered it to-day.
David: WE HAVE ENCOUNTERED IT BEFORE
YOU HAVE NOT
me: It's awesome.
It'll be on my iPod in a moment.
20:32 David: KESLEY IS ONLYNE
YOU WILL ASSIST US ON NUMBER 24
20:41
me: Eh?
Oh, math.
Sort of coding right now...
David: ON WHAT ?
me: can I email you my thoughts in the morning?
c#
David: AAAAHHHH
YOU WILL NOT LEARN MORE CODE THAN US
me: Too late!
This has tooltips.
I am unstoppable.
20:42 David: YOU WILL ESCORT US TO SECTOR ZERO-ZERO-ONE
IF YOU RESIST, YOU WILL BE DESTROYED
me: Dude, I really have to go.
David: BYE

And some confrontations were inconclusive.

This has been a lovely trip into memory lane for me. I may revisit it if others were entertained. (As the title implies, I'm rather planning to.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Odd Creature.

This office gives up. Now, for something entirely different.

I will describe a creature to you. It is not humanoid - this being a primary concern of its creation - rather existing in a shape best compared to the naga - with a snake-like lower body, and a torso that bends backwards to seat the upwards-facing, heavily armoured head. (The top of the body is actually a really good place to put the head, for anything that depends on sight. The eyes need to go there, because that's by far the best vantage point, and then the brain really needs to go there too so that reaction time can be high enough. (Probably.)) Were this creature dependent on smell, or taste, its head might be elsewhere; but it is not.

The creature's main method of manipulating its environment - to kill, eat, etc. - is through its grasping arm/tentacle. It has one only, on its right side (though there are uncommon, left-armed mutants, perhaps 4% of the population), the main body of which comprises a five-foot long grasping tentacle, roughly a foot thick at its middle point. (All proportions are given for the adult.) This arm is fractal - in its middle, two smaller arms fork off at forty-five degree angles, each two-and-a-half feet long and half a foot wide at its middle. These are equivalent to human arms for many purposes, being of similar dimensions. From these each sprout two smaller tentacles - very large hands, perhaps - which sprout two more, very small tentacles - fingers, of sorts - from which sprout little grasping hooks.


The creatures evolved with such a heavily armoured, upward-facing cranium because all their enemies attack from above. A sort of bat-analogue, with long, raking talons, that tended to strike from above was this particular species' bane, though they became one of the first to die out when the species developed tool-making skills. (Spear beats talon.)

I have little more to say of it, for the moment, than this: surely, it needs a name. Perhaps the Infiniciliate? I invite suggestions.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Deathless

This office is increasingly worried. Our best efforts to sponsor only deserving works, containing suitable content, have gone astray repeatedly. In light of this, we have decided to sponsor a new author, on the stipulation that he will include absolutely none of the content we have objected to recently - most especially death, to counter our previous oversight. The results are below.

Oh, our world is great
oh yeah
so great
Gonna have a good time
oh yeah
all day
all night
(but not in bed)
(not allowed)
the man
he's keeping us down
telling us what to do
what to write
how to think
what to see
who to be
(the man! the man!)
(who's the man?)
(you're the man!)
no sex
no children
no emotion
no death
(no death!)
(no death?)
(what does it mean?)
the streets overflow
the bread lines are endless
too many people
too many
too many!
people on the ground
on the sea
in the sky
everywhere
endless
nothing but people
who can never die!
never die!
NEVER DIEEEEEEEE!

(not Never Die.)

(Though that's good too.)

Immortality without end!

The horror! The horror!

Mr. Kurtz! He alive!

Fin.