Monday, August 31, 2009

As A Prelude

Melissa danced; and though she had given better performances in the past, she was quite nearly sober and in every way invigorated by both music and surroundings, and therefore those both present in the night-club and observing (including her friend Ingrid, who she had known since the second grade) were in agreement that her dance had within it no slight element of grace.

But though enthusiastic and somewhat skilled, Melissa was mortal yet, and wearied, as mortals do. For this reason, when (some time hence) the song ended (to presently give way to another), Melissa made her way to the bar, there to briefly rest and speak with Ingrid.

"Did you see those guys in the corner?" Ingrid inquired. "They're totally weird - just sitting there, not dancing, not drinking, just staring at people. I don't know why the bouncer hasn't kicked them out already! It's not like this place isn't busy enough that they've got practically no room to spare."

Melissa followed her friend's gaze. There indeed were three figures seated at a table in the corner; little more could be said of them than that, for they were shrouded in shadow, remarkable for the strobe-lit nightclub. Nonetheless they accomplished it, a fact which only served to pique Melissa's curiosity further.

"I think they were staring at you, too, a minute ago," Ingrid observed. "While you were dancing. Total creepers."

"Really?" Melissa inquired. "Bizarre! I'll go talk to them, see what their deal is."

Ingrid appeared surprised. "Really? I mean - I guess, yeah, sure, that makes sense. But there's something about them... takes more courage than I've got on me to talk to people like them, I guess."

"You've got more courage than you think," Melissa said warmly, reaching over and taking Ingrid's shot-glass. She drained it in one gesture, saying "See?" and then turned to the figures in the corner. "I'll see you in a minute or two, yeah? We'll take the next song together,"

"All right," Ingrid said, some formless, sourceless anxiety writhing in her belly like a nest of worms. "Be careful, all right? Don't drink anything they give you!"

"'Course!" Melissa agreed cheerily, and then was gone amid the crowd.

Ingrid watched the scene a moment longer, and then ordered another drink.

Melissa approached the shadow-shrouded table, both natural and liquid courage strengthening her step. Peculiarly, despite her closer proximity to the table's occupants, she could make out no more of them than she could from the bar; nor did they make any response to her approach. It was up to Melissa, then, to make the first move; which she promptly did. "Hey!" she called out. "I'm Melissa! I heard you guys were watching me?"

The shadows parted somewhat. Melissa could see somewhat more of the general form now: one man, one woman, and... the third had a gender impossible to distinguish, from the dark, blurry image Melissa could percieve. (Though something in its face, even what little could be percieved, seemed fundamentally wrong...) Their features were sharp, but not unkind; in all ways they seemed set apart from the ordinary stock of Man. When one spoke - the man - his voice was crisp, cool, clear. "Watch you we did," he agreed without any tone of apology. "Your dance was in every way attestatory to the peaks of the spirit," the woman agreed, the burble of brooks flowing through her words.

"Aw, I haven't had that much," Melissa said, pulling up a chair from a nearby table. (The table was already occupied by a pair of lovers, their attention elsewhere; they made no objection to the appropriation.) She focused her speech on the matter which prompted her visit: "Who are you guys? What are you doing here, anyway?"

Somewhat more of the air cleared; Melissa now had a clear view of the man and woman who had spoken to her. They were of a type: their features sharp, noble, aquiline; their figures both tall and slender; their garb, though superficially of a type with that worn by the other patrons, somehow set apart absolutely in nature. (A thing which might apply to them in general.) The woman answered Melissa's question willingly: "I am the Marquessa of the Void," she said, and with a gesture to her companion, "He is the Prince Inhuman. We are here to observe and prepare before we begin our task in earnest."

Melissa raised an eyebrow at the names. "Didn't know there was any nobility visiting the area," she said. "Should I have bowed first, and called you 'Your Graces'?"

"If you prefer it," the Prince Inhuman said, shrugging. "We've more important matters on our minds than formality."

"Your task, right?" Melissa asked, intrigued despite herself. Certainly these were strange people - and in most circumstances, she would have willingly dismissed them as lunatics or god-botherers of some obscure cult. But their manner and appearance in some way disarmed her, rendered her willing to speak and to listen... and, of course, they had offered her no drink. (This being somewhat of a reassurance, under the circumstances.)

"It is an action of some scope," the Prince Inhuman admitted. "To extract some manner of amends from humanity for their wrongs - "

"- and to offer somewhat for the way in which they have been wronged," the Marquessa of the Void interjected, "for though much is said of man's inhumanity to man, and rightly, still there are no few horrors tormenting humanity that are neither self-inflicted nor deserved."

"Let me guess," Melissa said, her disbelief still held in an unsteady suspension. "You're in charge of making amends," this said to the Marquessa, "and you're in charge of - demanding them?" Melissa asked the Prince Inhuman.

"Roughly correct," the Prince agreed.

"And what about her?" Melissa asked, turning to the third figure at the table.

"Ah," the Marquessa said.

The shadows lifted as the figure rose; and a shape similar to the Marquessa's own, female and unnaturally slim, appeared - but it was clearly a thing of another type, for upon its face it wore the mask of some alien bird, its movements were jerky and sudden, and it spoke not at all.

"Nine Lives Twirling," the Prince Inhuman named the creature, even as it stepped towards Melissa and Melissa stood up and began to back away and it reached out and touched her -

- and Melissa was reeling, the table before her empty, something ringing in her mind. Ingrid appeared from behind her, gingerly reached out to steady her; "Are you all right?" she asked. "What did they do to you? Should I call the cops?"

Melissa felt queasy; her skin tingled strangely. She looked down. There was something - something had happened to her clothes -

Ingrid was staring at her in slack astonishment, now, unable to believe her eyes: for in all the places that Melissa's clothing had covered was now a vast array of rings, golden and capped with jewels of the same colors as the garb they replaced; threaded through her skin in the manner of piercings, rendering her skin like a great perforated sheet.

"Oh, God, Melissa," Ingrid gasped.

Melissa reached back to feel her ears; both were whole, unmarked, as though they had never been pierced. She looked at her body, at the rings; felt one. Melissa attempted to muster a response. Somewhere from the depths of her mind, one arose. She seized upon it; weakly, she said, smiling,

"Guess this was a good night for the tank-top and cutoffs, eh?"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

History: A Discussion

Moderated by the eminent Dr. Zhang, arch-professor of History at Gressenheller University. Let's thank him for his time here tonight, and then watch as the discussion begins. Wow! So tightly focused!

Tarvek S: Pardonnez-moi, monsieur, mais ou est la catastrophe?
Gilgamesh W: En Utah, je crois!
Il y a un grand feu.
C'est quinze miles proche d'Eli!
Tarvek S: Wow! I hear it's also pretty bad down near LA.
They are "besieged".
By flame!
Gilgamesh W: (Il m'a telephone il y a une heur)
Tarvek S: Oh!
He never calls me.
But that is all right.
We were never really that close.
Even before his untimely accident.
Gilgamesh W: How ironic, given that his untimely accident caused his left arm to be permanently glued to your right!
Tarvek S: Ironic indeed.
Like rain on your wedding hay!
Gilgamesh W: Wet hay is entirely inconsumable.
Tarvek S: It's tragic, it is!
The wedding will never go through like this!
Gilgamesh W: A good thing, I think; they've only known each other for three weeks.
Although, statistically speaking, their communities have extremely low divorce rates!
Tarvek S: That's true.
It's their stoic Mormon way!
The Mormons had a kingdom once, you know.
In Wisconsin, on an island.
It ended poorly.
As most kingdoms do.
Oh - I was reading about a kind of a tragic thing.
It was its own independent state for centuries.
A history, famous (or semi-famous) inhabitants, the works.
Gilgamesh W: Should I roll my Rs when pronouncing its name?
Tarvek S: And I had never heard of it until today.
It's dead!
It's gone!
Even its name practically forgotten. (Except for Wiki, of course.)
Gilgamesh W: How curious!
Tarvek S: (The possibly was for the r-rolling.)
Gilgamesh W: What lead to its demise?
Tarvek S: Napoleon.
He had many guns.
The Ragusans had rather fewer.
Gilgamesh W: Blast that Napoleon
Tarvek S: They didn't really put up much of a fight.
Gilgamesh W: And his cookies, too
Tarvek S: Man, if it weren't for his hunger for cookies, he would've started hardly any wars!
Gilgamesh W: Quite!

And that wraps it all up, folks. Thanks for watching, and I hope you've enjoyed your time here. Don't forget to tip Dr. Zhang at the door!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


(Speed-blagh: can I finish this post before the inimitable Zhang and Kessler finish playing their rocke-band song?)

The man wailed, moaned, complained.


But whatever might have provoked such an emotion?

"They have taken my dog!" he complained, momentarily articulate. "They beat him, rubbed his nose in spit - disgusting! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAFFFUNCHHERGH!"

His articulacy lapses. Nonetheless, the problem is clear; the answer, likewise. The dog must be found, recovered, returned to his owner. Thereby will the anguish ebb, and something like blissful quiet return to the region.

So we go forth; and what do we find? Naught but skeletons, beating some pagan rhythm with their own bones!

"This is entirely the wrong song," my companion complains. "Aren't you wandering off-topic a mite?"

Her words fail to daunt.

We come before a great and terrible iron door: its face spiked and lined with poison. "Only those devoid of the blood of the Americas may enter here and live," it reads; and I shrink back, alarmed.

"Why does this concern you?" my companion asks. "Your blood is of the wintry steppes of Mother Russia; you need fear not!"

"But - all my friends are Indians!" I reply.

She boxes my ear gently. "Enough of that. Inward and onward!"

The door is opened; the dog is found. We take it in our arms and return it -

- silence, at last!

(Could I finish before they? Yes - very barely!)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The kronickels of desmound level 5

This is the hiſtorye of Deſmonde, who wæs geboren in the towne of Iſce-lunde, and who wæs a fyghter in the armies of the fourtificatione, and allſo, who wieldid the greate Sworde Durendall, and who defeated the Ratte-Kinge Nikoulous, yea, and who was a friend to the Preiſt Matteo, and allſo, who commanded the pouer of the Magicke Dragone Kinge. Yea, it wæs richt, that in the tyme before the greate criſiſſe of the Ratte-Kinge, ther weran a auld legende, who ſaith, that of the mych tymes of Deſmonds youthe, and that he taken the tyme to become a miniſtre of the fayth, and that he was to be educated, at Oxforde, that was cloſe to his hauſe, and ſych that he taketh a longe boat, that was conſtruit of ſtrong woode of the tymbres, that he cutte downe, and placed uver a fyre, in which was alight the dunges of nombreous elfes which roomed the foreſte, and which Deſmond belifed that this proceſſe werden fortifie the rafte, which he was carefull to be ſtronge in the great ſee. Then he taketh the ſmall boat, and then he ſaileth acroſſe the fjordes, untill that he recheth the iſles of Britaigne.

Whan he coume to the lande of the Britons, Deſmond needed to rech ſtill the halls of the Univerſite, which was as he knewed, at leaſt ſeveral furlonges from the ſhor, and Deſmonde, being a clevar ladde, and who was reſourſefull, did gather ſeveral ſea-faring birdes, and the tooke the legges of ſych birds with a rope that he hath gemaken aut the beards of nombreous muſſels in the tydal pooles. Thuſly, he tyd a length of rope unto his own corps, and did he alight unto the aire, ſuch that he kunne travelle at great viteſſe unto the colds winds of Britaigne. In the aire, he looketh down unto the ſurface of the lande, whereupon he ſawe manny townes, and having greate thirſte from his voyage, he drooped down unto one of the townes, and he went in ſide the publick hauſe, and he demanded a tanckard of ales.

Whan Deſmond hath gedrinkt the ales, he talketh amoungſt the local peoples, who were converſing of the newes, and that the invaſion was imminente, and Deſmond was in great diſtreſſe, for he feared that he not kunne contignue his educacion againſt the threght of any foreign invaſions. Thuſly, he enquired as to the nature of the war fare that werden occureth. And it came to paſs, that, the Normans, who waren in the ſouthe lands, and who deſired to conqure Britaigne, hath gelandt ſone yette upon the ſhors, and that they were hoſtyle to them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Coyote In the Woods

Warning: this story is rated "Coyote" for sexual imagery, language*, and suggestive content. Children, the faint of heart and Mormons may wish to abstain.

*Well, mostly just the English language, really.

That said:

Coyote was always horny! He was always thinking about copulating.

(But you knew that already, didn't you?)

One day, when Coyote was walking through the woods, he espied a beautiful young maiden.

"Ah!" he cried. "She has stolen my heart! Or something nearby. Certainly I must have intercourse with her!"

Coyote created a plan as quickly as lightning; he ran into the forest, found a dead tree, and dragged it to the path that the girl was travelling on. Then he unslung his member from over his shoulder, set its end down upon the log, and walked backwards into the woods, carefully avoiding sharp rocks, rough branches, and tripping. "Ha ha!" Coyote crowed to himself. "When the maiden spies that log - so convenient! - she will certainly sit down on it for a rest from her tiring travels. Then - yip yip yip yip yip!" Coyote was besides himself with delight.

The girl, walking along the trail, heard distant laughter. Her eyebrows went up.

"There!" said Coyote, whispering now. "I see her coming along the trail! She'll see the log in moments!"

The girl saw the log. She walked over to it. She examined the strange, bulbous mushroom growing out of the top. She considered.

"Wow, what a large mushroom this is!" she exclaimed to the surrounding woods. "And of a quite extraordinary shape, too. It looks delicious - I simply must have a taste!"

Coyote licked his lips.

"Now," she said, reaching back to her pack, "Let me just fetch my knife!"

"Yip yip yip yip!" Coyote wailed, terrified, and fled posthaste. His member dragged ignominously and painfully on the ground. "What a disaster!" he whined. "How could she have unraveled my ruse?"

Once he was in safety, Coyote stopped and pulled himself together. "She saw through me once - but no matter!" he decided. "I will simply have to use a more sophisticated trick." He considered. "Ah!" he said. "I have just the thing. Here!"

Quickly, he ran ahead of the girl once more, then donned a ragged brown robe."I will decieve her," Coyote declared. "I will pretend to be a fellow woman, travelling along the same road; and then - yip yip yip yip!"

Again, the girl heard the sound of distant laughter. She paused a moment, and then continued on.

Carefully, Coyote posed himself, leaning against at tree as though exhausted. He primped. The girl rounded the bend.

She stopped. She considered. She continued.

"Hello there, fellow traveller!" Coyote said in his highest falsetto. "Care to travel with me awhile?"

The girl tilted her head. "No reason why not, I suppose," she said agreeably. "Sure. What's your name?"

Coyote improvised rapidly. "Margaret!" he declared, still in falsetto.

"Nice to meet you, Margaret," the girl said, not the faintest hint of sarcasm in her voice. "What are you doing here, so deep in the woods?"

"I'm travelling, of course," Coyote said, falling into stride with the girl. "I'm going to the village just over that way," he said, pointing, "to peddle my wares."

"What wares are those?" the girl asked curiously.

"I sell herbal remedies," Coyote said, his voice becoming more eager. (And still in falsetto.) "I have many, all puissant and powerful cures, but there is one that is more powerful, more valuable, than all the others; a cure for whatever ails you, or so the customers tell me. A most magical herb it is. Would you like to see it?"

"Sure!" the girl agreed. "What's it called?"

"It's called the love root," Coyote said, reaching under his dress -

- but the girl's hand reached out and stopped him. "Really," she said, raising her eyebrows.

Coyote considered quickly. "...yes?" he said.

"I still have that knife," the girl said significantly. She reached for her pack.

"Yip yip yip yip!" Coyote wailed, throwing off the girl's grasp, and fled once more into the woods, discarding the dress as he went. The girl watched him depart, shrugged, and turned back to the road.

"She saw through my tricks again!" Coyote moaned. "But - I know the problem. It is that I have been using all my old tricks, all stale and moldy! These are things I have done before. It will not do! I will create a new plan, something that no-one has ever seen me do anywhere, and then - "

Coyote slapped a hand over his mouth as he began to yip. "Perhaps that is not such a good idea," he admitted.

Then he moved swiftly away by a magic way; and when he returned, minutes later, he was dressed as a great Swan, proud and white of feather. "Ha!" Coyote cried to himself, quite pleased. "No woman could reject an animal so handsome as this! I shall have my way with her, remaining disguised throughout, and never she the wiser!"

Quickly, he stalked to the trail, and there caught up to the girl, some distance from where he had seen her last. "Hello, Mr. Swan," she said. "What business are you about, this fine afternoon?"

"I have come to seduce you," said Coyote. "Admire my magnificent plumage!" He preened it.

"Those are very nice indeed," said the girl. "And on any other circumstances, I would most certainly be yours. But I regret to say that my heart is another's."

"Another's?" Coyote asked, startled. "Who? I will best him! I will beat him, I will prove myself his better in every respect, and then I will eat him! This I will do for your love!"

(Coyote held, at that time, certain misapprehensions regarding the customary diet of the Swan.)

"A proud boast," the girl observed, "But I fear you will have difficulty in fufilling it. The subject of my love is clever; strong; and proud in all things. He will not accept any challenge easily."

"Who is this creature?" Coyote asked, his neck feathers rising. "I will kill him and boil his bones for my supper! Or - gently displace him as the object of your affection," he added as an afterthought.

"Why, Coyote, of course," the girl told Coyote with a smile on her face.

Coyote took a moment to consider this.

" love Coyote?" he asked.

"Of course," the girl said. "Would I lie to such a noble beast as yourself?"

Coyote took another moment to think.

"There is no reason to love Coyote," Coyote said carefully. "He would only trick you - "

"And I would trick him right back," the girl retorted. "I have done so already twice today."

Coyote filed this away for later examination. "He would not stop at that," he said. "Coyote would steal from you; cheat on you; copulate with you - "

"For all of those, I am fully capable of reciprocation;" the girl replied hotly, "most especially that last; to which, I think, I would have no objection."

Coyote, his curiosity now knowing no bounds, indulged in an aside: "But did you not reject - ah - Coyote - most violently, earlier today?" he asked, his tail-feathers ruffling.

"This maiden must be asked, not taken," the girl said firmly. "I am glad that you, at least, seem to understand that."

"So if Coyote were to ask you - " Coyote began.

"I would accept," the girl said.

"But why?" Coyote asked, entirely without comprehension. "When he would lie to you, cheat on you, turn your genitals into an aphrodisiac after your death - why would you consent to be with such a creature?"

"This last, I will confess, I did not anticipate," the girl said, "and I might object - but, being dead at the time, what would it matter to me? For the rest, though, the answer is simple. I have thought on it betimes, and I will answer thus: what more exciting life, in all the world, could there be - than wife of Coyote?" the girl asked, and her eyes burned bright at the thought.

At this Coyote turned away, conceding defeat and victory both; in the forest he shed his Swan-costume, and stood naked beneath the trees.

"She loves me," Coyote said to himself, disbelieveing. "She loves me! The greatest trick of all - and I all unknowing of its performance!" He stood there a while longer -

- and had it been in his nature, perhaps, he would have wept then.

But instead Coyote bent his head upwards, toward the sky, and cried out, triumph pure within his voice, "I get to copulate with a womon!"

"More than once!" he added after a moment, and his cries of delight, yip yip yip yip!, echoed through the woods.

And the descendants of the two would spread through the world, and thrive, and multiply, as their natures let them; and in time, when men at last found themselves in need of names both first and last, one scion of that far-spread clan chose for themself the name Fynbergh; or Finbirg; or Feinberg, as the customs of the time had it. And they carried with them this story, of Coyote and his wife;

and the blood of Coyote runs strong in them still, even to this day; or so they claim, and I am inclined to believe them, for their ways are most tricksome indeed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mr. Kelsey and the Elephants

One day, while all the elephants of the Elephant village were doing macrame - as was their custom - a wild Kelsey appeared.


The elephants were terrified! "Whatever can we do?" they asked. "We cannot defeat the love-power of the Kelsey, not with only our own strength! We are surely doomed!" They wailed and moaned and, should they have had hair, would surely have torn at it. What to do, what to do?

Then one rose from their ranks. "We must," he proudly declared, "shoot ourselves in the head on masse!"

This caused some confusion. The elephants conferred among themselves; one approached the speaker. "We recognize that you have travelled far to reach us," the elephant said to the other, "from the distant Other Elephant Village, so far away that we have never heard of it before; and we have accepted and sheltered and fed you in the manner dictated for the treatment of an honoured guest. But, despite all this, there are limits to our hospitality; and it is therefore perhaps meet that you explain your reasoning, for we find it difficult to concieve of any way in which shooting ourselves in the head, en masse, would improve the situation."

"Behold!" the helpful elephant cried, lifting a pistol to his head. He fired -

And with the sound of shattering glass, something -

- emerged -

- a shape, a swirling presence, something that did not belong in the world of men and beasts!

With a guttural cry, the elephant commanded it, "Scour our foes!" - and fire leapt out, and lashed forth, and the Kelsey was driven back, wailing, "Oh, man! Man! Man! The heck, man! I can't believe you did that! You really burned me, man! Man! Ow!"

"Behold!" the elephant cried triumphantly. "We can drive the dreadful Kelsey back - but we all have to act together! Now, take these," he said, handing out pistols to the elephants gathering around him. "I startled him - but he won't be beaten so easily next time. He'll be back soon - "

"RAAAR!" came a distant cry, helpfully.

"And this time, we'll all need to act together!" the elephant finished.

"Will we have to do anything special?" another elephant asked.

"No," the foreign elephant said. "Just put the muzzle to your head - and pull! But not yet," he clarified.

"RAAAAAAAAAAAAR!" the Kelsey said, tromping towards them. "I WILL EAT YOUR DELICIOUS ELEPHANT FLESH!"

"Get ready!" the elephant with the gun said, looking from side to side to be sure that the other elephants were following his directives. "All together now! Ready... PULL!"

There was a noise as of thunder. Then, slowly - sadly - the elephants, all except the foreigner - fell over.

"Ha ha ha!" the foreign 'elephant' laughed, climbing out of his elephant suit. "Yip yip yip yip yip! Stupid elephants - to believe anything a stranger tells them and then backs up with supernatural proof! Their flesh will be delicious!"

"And you're sharing it me, right?" asked the Zhang, climbing out of his Kelsey suit.

"...of course I am," Coyote said, grinning widely.

And that's why elephants don't do macrame!

The grand adventures of sir késsler, duke of spain

One day in a high tower there was a young prince upon the thrones of the bloodline succession of the thrones of a court somewhere in Spain, and one day this prince he cried out and he trembled vigourously, and he wailed and punched a straw bale, which caused its imminent collapse, upon the stone ground, and then he lay down on the floor, defeated. The cause of such rambunctiousness in the prince was the result of his most unprincipled endeavour to the day, the report arrived by the horse-messenger and caused much alarm and panic in Mr. Kessler, and sent chills down his spine, and he convulsed and trembled with fear and apprehension. The endeavour in question was the unwarranted espionage against the youngest daughter of the noble family which lived some twenty or thirty kilometers to the south-east, where there were hot breezes from the gulf that swirled in, and mixed with the gaseous miasmas of the swamp-waters which surrounded the territory. The viscount of that noble family was a man of the renaissance, as he said, to him-self, and he was wont to have his daughter educated at the university, which was upon the boughs, and also the prince Kessler was resident there as well. And so it came to pass that Mr. Kessler spent a brief time in the company of that girl, and then they parted ways, as was customary for those times, and took the winter holiday at their separate estates. However, the most ungentlemanly behaviour of the prince started when the young Mr. Kessler spotted the portrait of the girl upon a poster which was posted upon the town square, which was governed loosely by the duke, and, despite his best efforts inquiring of her at the tavern, he discovered nothing, as her informations were shrouded in secrecy. Then, the prince Kessler, not having the moral character of a good Christian man, decided to conduct espionage against her, being a man of the strangest passions. Thusly, he took under his employ several serfs, and peasants, which formed an organisation, whose purpose was to track the number of outgoing and incoming messages which were delivered by the horse-coach to her estate, and, like all fiefdoms, was to be in stable equilibrium, unless she should take action against this, at which point Mr. Kessler would immediately discover that she was indeed being courted by many men, of the town, such of the lower classes, and this repulsed Mr. Kessler, who was of noble blood, and so he saw to it that it was done. And at last, the month had passed, and the organisation reported the solemn news to Mr. Kessler, and he ran off in a hurry, and so that is how the suffering of the prince was began.

Monday, August 24, 2009

kelseys fiurst day of scool

kelsey wock up in the morning when the cock tcrowed and then he ran off to catch the scoolbus and then he sat on and ate a cereal with whiskey pored over it becuase he was healthfull. Then his first class was in a very cold place and it snowed a lot, then he had a dream about some owles and then came to pick him up into a big towuer and then kelsey climbed all up the tower and he saw the big owles and also he saw nikolous and nikoulous said i will kill that owls because they were interfeing with his scoolwork, but nikolas had a big sword. he stole the sword from the village where he lived and he want to unleash the true power, but nikolous was not a nice man so he can not make the sower glowed porple. then the owl came to kill the kelsey but nikolas interfered which this and then he became a nice person and his sword became glowwing. Then kelsey went to his next class, the techer said, les go on a field trup to learn about his tory, and then he went into a big door that went 1000 years into the past, so kelsey could see what happeend then. Then he saw a naked womon, and he stole her closths, so that he could put them on. then a big snake cane to eat the keslesy, but he took his whiskey to make the snake drunk and then he cut off all his heads, and he became a big hero. then kelsey went home and ate some sandwhsiiches.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Edwin Bucknell Survives This Story!

Edwin Bucknell crouched in a trench, quite entirely alone. Machine-gun fire whizzed constantly overhead, and shells fell with such frequency as to approximate a torrential thunderstorm. (The mud their detonations cast overhead did not hurt their efforts to approximate this effect.) Edwin's rifle was out of ammo, and his pistol had but one round remaining. He held it, considering. If I see the foe approach, shall I employ my last round against them, or to end my own life for fear of capture?

Then he heard a whistling from overhead, terribly close, and he knew the moment of his end had come. He gripped the pistol close to him, huddled against one side of the trench, and when the shell burst he went instantly blind and deaf -

- and regained the former sense moments later, still rolling. Slowly he brought himself to a stop, examining his surroundings.

Why, that shell blew me entirely off the battlefield, and with no worse injury to me than a few bruises! Edwin realized, entirely to his own surprise. Well, all for the better. My mission can go on!

Two hours later, outside the enemy HQ, Edwin was to be found crouching in a bush, watching the enemy's patrols stroll by. Their dogs, vicious and lean, sniffed suspiciously at the night air.

I must be very cautious here, Edmund thought to himself. They will kill on sight here - and that would be that!

Seeing a gap in the patrols, he stood up cautiously, creeping from cover to cover. One a sentry hesitated near him; but he passed. But then he gained his way inside the HQ-building - and found himself face to face with an enemy officer, trying to exit at the same time Edwin sought to enter!

The officer hesitated a moment, giving Edwin a moment to deliver a vigorous roundhouse, topping the man; but as he fell, he cried out, something in the enemy's gutteral tongue. "Intruder", no doubt, Edwin thought. Now, I have to get through here quickly - there's no more room for slip-ups!

Swiftly, he dashed through the halls of the HQ, zigging from side to side as he ran, careening into guards and staff with abandon. Now where's the General's office - ah! There! Locking the door behind it and blocking it with a file cabinet, Edwin frantically searched the room, toppling stacks of paper and military trophies. It must be here somewhere! Where is it?

"Stop!" a voice came from outside, thickly accented. "Ve can see you through the window! Stop, or ve shoot!"

Edwin dove for cover without time for thought, firing his sole round of pistol ammunition as he fell. He heard a cry of pain as he rolled under the desk - enough to buy me time, at least! - and then, dropping his emptied pistol, saw to his astonishment two more fastened to the underside of the desk. Just what I needed! Now, it's clear this mission's a wash - time to abort!

Quickly, Edwin took down both pistols, fastening them to his belt, and made a dash for the window, firing as he went. Leaping out, he dashed through the floodlight-lit street, bullets whizzing past him to every side, and commanadeered an enemy truck, shoving its driver out with one swift motion. "Later!" he cried, and drove away, even as the enemy impotently emptied their magazines at him -

- and later, driving down the dark road, Edwin examined the pistols he had taken from the General's office. This one wasn't firing when I made my escape, he thought. Unloaded? - but that makes no sense. Why keep a pistol under your desk for emergencies without loading it? Why keep two at all, for that matter? He felt at the butt of the pistol, frowned. It's certainly loaded - but what's inside?

The mechanism clicked as it disengaged; the contents of the pistol's magazine slipped out. Edwin grinned.

The General's secret, hidden where he thought no one would ever find it. And I wouldn't have, either - if it weren't for a fantastic stroke of luck!

Edwin Bucknell was very pleased with himself.


Many writers, and creators of fiction in general, could stand to take a lesson or two from George R. R. Martin.

Infantry Doctrine: Rank Zero

The scene:
A capacious hangar-bay, largely empty, completely silent. The walls and floor are grimy, seeming ill-serviced. A starfield twinkles gently outside.


Also, there's a firefight going on.

"I NEED FIRE SUPPORT!" Lieutenant Brown, local commander of Union forces, cries into his helmet-mic. "They've got us pinned down at the south airlock! Need reinforcements pronto!"

"Roger that, Alpha Two," SITCOM replied. "Bravo Four is inbound to your position, ETA one minute. Can you hold out?"

Lieutenant Brown looked back to the firefight, peering over the improvised barrier of crates his platoon had set up. "I think so - wait, no! Damn! Damn! They've got a grenade launcher!"

Had the fight been conducted in atmosphere, a rather satisfying thoomp noise would have followed this declaration, itself followed presently by the powerful whoomp of rapidly expanding superheated gassess. (The shrapnel, even in atmosphere, wouldn't have made much noise.) As it was, though, anyone seeking such noises would have to make them themselves.

"Man down! Man down!" Lt. Brown's NCO cried. "I need fire support now!" Lt. Brown demanded. "He's reloading - get down!" one of Lt. Brown's platoon-members exclaimed.

Had the fight been conducted in atmosphere, a line of green light would have appeared in the air, backscattering from dratted interfering air particles. A hole would have appeared in the grenade-launcher wielding soldier's forehead (wait, actually, that still happened), and then he would have fallen to the hangar deck with a distinct clatter. But alas; the vacuum is a harsh mistress.

"He's down!" one of Lt. Brown's platoon-members rather redundantly exclaimed. "They're falling back!" the NCO more helpfully reported. "Thanks for the sniper-support, SITCOM," Lt. Brown said gratefully. "We've got it from here."

Then there was a rumble in the deck-plating which, even in vacuum, the Union soldiers could feel. "What's that?" one asked. "Look up!" another cried.

"Someone flew a gunship into the hangar!" Lt. Brown exclaimed.

"Is it ours or theirs?" a Union-man asked.

The gunship turned towards them. Its chainguns visibly spun up.

"Theirs!" the NCO shouted. "Take cover!"

Swiftly taking up positions on the other side of their barricade, the Union soldiers cradled their vacuum-rifles in their arms. "What do we do?" one asked Lt. Brown.

"Open fire!" the Lieutenant ordered.

Bravely, as they were trained to, the soldiers popped up over the barricade, spewing small-arms rounds toward the fiendish foe. Callously, the gunship mowed them down with a spray of high-caliber fire, completely immune to their attacks. The hangar floor was swiflty littered with bodies.

"Oh god!" Lt. Brown wailed. "Oh god!"

MORAL: Recognize the limitation of small arms! They are pretty okay at killing human beings. Occasionally, they can even deal with nastier things, like bears, or cape buffalo. But attempts to shoot at anything armoured with anything smaller than a recoilless rifle will only lead to SADNESS.

Shooting at people in general leads to sadness, but that's a separate issue.

The Wendigo's New Hat

Five women, swords drawn, surrounded the cowering Wendigo. Each was armoured in shining mail, and carried a bow and quiver on their backs; their swords were both sharp and keen. The Wendigo, in contrast, was naked (saving only its fur), panting from earlier exertions, and appeared terribly unprepared for conflict.

"We have you at last!" one of the women exclaimed, triumph filling her voice. She wore a distinctive white fedora on her head. "Your life of murder and cruelty has come at last to its end. Now - we will kill you!"

She advanced towards the Wendigo, sword held pointing directly at its skull.

"You have done so many terrible things," the woman continued. "You have killed so many, destroyed so much... to imagine that we would finally corner you, here, now? It's barely imaginable."

The Wendigo seemed to be catching its breath.

"But now we'll kill you," the woman said. "We'll take revenge for everything you've done and render you unto dust and carrion. We'll patch the flaw in the world!"

Her sword slipped downwards as the woman stared into the Wendigo's eyes, her teeth bared.

"Now," she said. "Now, I'll kill you. Now, I'll make an end to everything you've done. I'll stab you with my sword. And that. Will. Be. Tha - ergh!"

In one quick movement, the Wendigo had her throat in its hand; there was an ugly snap, and she went flying into the ranks of her comrades, sending them tumbling. The Wendigo was moving, its dirty white fur stained red -

And when the fight was over, the Wendigo had a brand new hat!

If you're going to kill someone, do it. Standing around for half an hour, gloating, rarely (if ever) ends well!

Actually, gloating over your defeated foes is pretty much always a bad idea. Worth considering.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Buffalo: An Explanatory Fable

This is a story about Coyote.

One day, Coyote was walking down the road. He came to a river. In the middle was a buffalo.

This was not an unusual thing for rivers, especially in those days. So Coyote paid the buffalo no mind at first, walking up to him without paying any great deal of attention - and then he stopped. He looked at the buffalo. The buffalo looked at the sky.

"How curious," Coyote thought to himself. "Most buffalo look at the ground, to see their food; or at the water, to see what they drink; or, at a stretch, at the creatures around them. But this one looks in the air. What is it looking at? I will ask, for my keen nose scents great opportunity here."

"Noble Buffalo," Coyote began, "I see that your head is pointed upwards, and your eyes are similarly, unlike the usual manner of your kind. Wherefore sources this behavior?"

The Buffalo considered this. "I am looking upwards to see the island on which I once lived," he said, "for my owners, in those days, were kind, and treated me well; therefore my memories of it are fond."

"An island?" Coyote asked, suprised. He yapped in amusement. "Silly Buffalo, islands are in the water, not in the sky. Your gaze is misplaced!"

"So most islands are, and so this one was, when I lived there," the Buffalo sighed. "But it is so no longer, nor has it been for many years."

Now Coyote was curious. He looked up. And there, far in the distance, so far he could barely see it, was an island; a rather large chunk of rock and dirt, hovering in the sky.

"That is very strange," Coyote said. "How did that get there?"

"I do not know," Buffalo said sadly, "but I miss it. The beautiful woman who kept me there was very kind, and always fed me with the finest food and adorned me with magnificent trinkets. But that is all gone now," Buffalo sighed, "all gone with the island itself."

Coyote's eyes glowed with greed. Fine food? Magnificent trinkets? Beautiful women? This sounded like Coyote's kind of place!

He hatched a plan.

Leaving Buffalo, Coyote raced off at high speeds. In a tree, he saw a blue-coated swallow, cooing to its egglets. "Come down!" Coyote cried, "and look at these delicious worms I have found, in the grass!" He grinned widely. The swallow, cautiously, spread its wings and glided down. Coyote broke its neck, pulled off its feathers and ate it. "That was delicious!" he cried, spitting out a bone.

He raced off again, finding a pig rooting in a field. "Stay away!" the pig said. "I have found delicious spices, and I want them all for myself! I am not sharing with anyone, Coyote or otherwise!"

"Don't worry, little pig!" Coyote cried cajolingly. "Look at me! I am just a plain old Coyote. I do not need spices to enjoy my meals!"

"Oh, all right," the pig said. Coyote walked over to him. Then Coyote killed and ate him!

"I don't need spices to enjoy my meals," Coyote said, pulling the pig's curly tail out of his teeth, "but they certainly help! That was a very delicious pig." On a whim, he pulled up the spices and took them with him as he raced back to the river.

Once he was there, Coyote looked at Buffalo cautiously. "He is much too big for me to kill easily, and eating him would give me a stomache-ache!" Coyote said. "Especially after I ate those other animals. I will let him live."

"Thank you," Buffalo said. Coyote was embarrassed! He had not meant to say that so loudly.

"Buffalo!" he said, brazening past his embarrassment. "I want to go to that island in the sky. Would you mind giving me some of your hair, so that I can get there?"

"I do not see how that makes any sense," Buffalo mused, "but I do miss that island, after all, and I do not see how it can hurt. Very well: you may take your hairs. Just do not take too many, for there is no person who may love a hairless buffalo."

Carefully, Coyote plucked many strands of buffalo-hair, Buffalo standing patiently and stolidly to allow him. When he was satisfied he had gotten enough, Coyote wadded them into a ball, stuck them behind his ear, and raced away. "I must practice secret Coyote magic to get to the island in the sky!" he explained over his shoulder. "Later!"

When he had concealed himself behind a convenient tree, Coyote pulled out the swallow-feathers he had been saving. He placed them all about his body. Then he stepped out from his place of hiding. "Look!" he cried to the wind. "I am a bird! And a blue-bird, too - your favourite colour! Carry me!"

The wind looked him over carefully, but saw no flaw in this argument. "Very well," it agreed. "Where to?"

"The isle in the sky!" Coyote cried dramatically, pointing upwards - and at once he was carried off through the air.

"That is most peculiar," Buffalo observed.

The wind dropped Coyote on the island rear-first, causing him to roll in an undignified manner for some distance. "Dropping me like that was very rude!" Coyote cried.

"What?" the wind asked. "Any bird could have made that landing easily. I do the same thing to them all the time, and they never complained." The wind peered closely at Coyote. "You are a bird, aren't you?"

"Of course," Coyote said. "Totally a bird. No question about it. Just a bad landing, that's all." He looked around. "Hey, a castle! I will go inside."

He went inside. "Grumble grumble," he complained.

Then he looked around. "Huh," he said. "This must be where the people of the island lived, before it went into the sky. But I do not see any grand treasures or rich food! All I see are a lot of cobwebs."

Coyote considered. "I will investigate," he said.

He wandered deeper and deeper into the old castle. It grew darker and darker, and spider-webs were everywhere. Coyote tripped and fell in one! "Ew!" he said. "Yuck, yuck, yuck!" He thrashed to get free. "That was nasty!" he said, standing up and brushing himself off. Feathers and bits of cobweb drifted gently downwards. "Why are there so many webs around here, anyway? And why did it get so dark just now?"

"I would be the answer to both," a cold voice intoned from above Coyote.

Coyote looked up. He gulped.

Directly above him hung a spider much larger than Coyote himself. It filled the entire room, even bumping against the chandelier hanging from the ceiling above. It did not look very nice - but it did look rather hungry.

"Hello, Spider!" Coyote said with forced cheer.

"Hello, Prey," Spider said, venom dripping from its fangs. "You should not have come here."

Coyote thought quickly. "Wait! You shouldn't eat me yet!"

"Whyever not?" Spider asked, leaning back and forth. "I am very hungry." Its voice was filled with cold menace.

"That is exactly why you should not eat me!" Coyote exclaimed. "If you eat me right now, straight up, your body won't be used to it. You'll get a nasty tummy-ache! It'll last for days and days. Trust me," Coyote said, rubbing his own belly. "I know!"

"I am willing to take the risk," Spider said.

"But you don't have to!" Coyote said. "Just eat something else first - a few small things - and your stomach will be all warmed up. Then you can eat me without worry!"

"What would I eat?" Spider asked. "I would not be so very hungry were there anything else to eat around here."

"But that's just the thing!" Coyote cried, improvising. "I am a - ah - pig, granted with the gift of making all things delicious! Surely you've heard of that?"

"I have heard that pigs are delicious," Spider said, venom dripping. "I ate some, once, when I first came to this island. But it has been a very long time. I will enjoy this, I think."

"Wait!" Coyote said. "First, I will make this - " he looked around - "This big strand of web - delicious. You will eat it. You will say, 'how wonderful!' I will do this for one or two more. Then you will be able to eat me!"

Spider thought, and then gave a great shrug, setting the chandelier to rocking. "Very well," it said. "But I reserve the right to change this agreement at any time."

"Don't worry!" Coyote said, grinning. "You won't want to!" Quickly, he ran over to the strand of web he'd selected, and carefully - keeping his body between the web and Spider - rubbed some of the spices he'd stolen from the pig into the web. "Here!" he said, backing away. "Have a bite!"

Cautiously, Spider bent down, keeping several eyes on Coyote. It bit. It chewed.

"Not bad," it said, its voice devoid of inflection.

"Ha!" Coyote laughed, yipping a little before he caught himself. He ran over to another strand of web and rubbed more spices into it. "Try this!"

"You're quite certain you're a pig?" Spider said, looking at Coyote.

"Of course I am!" Coyote cried. He waggled the twisty tail of the pig he'd eaten. "See?"

Spider seemed skeptical, but took another bite.

"Now, I will eat you," he said, leaning downwards.

"No!" Coyote cried. "I mean, wait. Look up there," he said, gesturing to the chandelier in the ceiling. "See that?"

"The big, rusty, iron chandelier?" Spider asked.

"Yes," Coyote said. "I will work my secret arts on that and make it even more delicious. You will never taste anything more delicious! Never never. Then you will be ready to eat me! But I will be a pale disappointment afterwards, let me assure you."

Spider thought about this. "Why are you going to all this trouble for me?" it asked. "I am going to eat you, after all."

"I'm a pig!" Coyote cried. "Making things delicious is what I do!" This did not seem to impress Spider. "Plus, I'm going to die anyway," Coyote said. "So, why not?"

The spider shrugged again. Then with one great arm it reached over, and lifted Coyote to the chandelier. "Do your work quickly," it advised. "I am very hungry now."

"Will do!" Coyote said, grinning. "Duck low, and get ready. This one will be so delicious, it'll flatten you!"

Spider ducked downwards obligingly.

Coyote, still grinning, ripped the ancient, rotten rope holding the chandelier to the ceiling in two. One part remained attached to the ceiling, and to this Coyote kept hold. The other followed the very old, very rusted, very heavy iron chandelier downwards in its swift path into Spider's carapace.

"Gurgle," Spider said, and promptly expired.

"Yip yip yip yip yip!" Coyote laughed uproariously. "Stupid Spider! That showed it! Now, how am I going to get down?"

The rotten rope tore again.

"Ow," Coyote observed.

Some minutes later, still bruised from his rough landing, Coyote came upon a door with a lock. "What's this?" Coyote asked. He poked the door. It fell apart. "Hm!" he exclaimed. "Shoddy worksmanship. But - what's inside?"

He looked.

"Yip yip yip yip yip!" he laughed. "All the treasure I could ask for! Now I'll wrap it in a bag of cobwebs, cover myself in buffalo hair, and make off with it. If its owners ever come looking, they'll think dumb old Buffalo took the treasure! I'm scot free! Yip yip yip yip!"

Outside the castle, Coyote paused at the edge of the island. He placed his few remaining feather strategically. "Wind!" he cried. "Carry me back to the land!"

"Are you quite sure you're a bird?" the wind asked, looking Coyote over skeptically.

"Of course I am!" Coyote cried. "You carried me earlier, remember? Would you carry anyone who's not a bird?"

"I suppose not," the wind agreed, and carried him off. But Coyote found the ride unexpectedly turbulent.

"This is rather bumpy!" he complained. "You gave much better service last time. Do it better!"

"I am only having such a hard time since you are so very heavy," the wind said. "Much heavier than a bird should be."

Coyote looked guiltily at his big bag of treasure. He said nothing.

"And look - you've got hardly any feathers!" the wind exclaimed. "And is that buffalo hair in your - fur? Why do you even have fur?"

Coyote tugged frantically at the buffalo hair. But no matter what he did, he couldn't pull it out!"

"You aren't a bird at all!" the wind decided, and dropped Coyote. He plummeted.

"Eeee!" he screamed.

"Kerplunk," he splashed.

"Gurgle," he gurgled.

He was a very damp Coyote indeed when he finally crawled back onto land, and was in a foul temper for days. But even worse, he never could get that buffalo hair out of his fur.

And that's why every Feinberg's beard has two colours. It's the buffalo hair, you see, still there - it never would come out!


Friday, August 14, 2009

young nikouls' enterprising adventures

IT Waas the yeer 1612 and olde towne upon the hylles of the Univyrsity on the castelle of Glasgowe, and yronnge Nikoulous was being ordayned as a Mynistre, thusly was he being educated there. And, it beeing Christmastyme, were there many festevals, bothe upon the strets of the towne squaure, and allso in the halles of the Univyrsity too. The wintry stormes swirlt across the planes of the grassey knowles of the stoune walls. Mr. Nikoulous, being the sonne of a welthey merchante, whos commisions came upon the Weste Indies, and the shippes which sayled thereof, he had seezed several barrels of rhum, from the pyrates which troubbled the waters there, and of this controband, he did partake a tanckard, for he was a heartey Christen man. Then, he wente unto the large roome in the halle of the Univyrsity, whereupon there was much merriemaking, and also carouling, and carousing, and the invitations of estrange womene, into the walls of the place, and youngge Nikoulous was much comfuised, for he know not of the Worldly affaires, that beplague much of the pouplace. And he engaged in many japes, and festive dances, and skittes, and he had much wyne from the pounchbowle, and he was wont to knowe of the estrange ladies who were in the compagnie of the estudiantes thereupone, and he enquired of it, and 't was explained to him, that they were for the goode compagnie, and the pleasures, and entertainments, of the younge men in the festivalle, and that, if he wishe, that he may go up to one of them, and ask for the tymes, and that he shall engage hier in counversation, and that then she would go to the bedchambre with him, and engage in exotick affaires. And Nikoulous was intrugeud by thisse, and he did what he was tolde, and when he arrived upon the bedchambres, he was much frightened, and she began to do strange thinges to him, and he was very much afeared of thisse, and he withdrew from the roome imminently. The next day he enquired to the rector of what the estrange women were, and he told him, and then he was very muche asshamed, of his behaviour, and he went to confesse his sins, and atoune for them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Manor-Haus of the Inclined Land

The Thief stalks through the shadows, his eyes narrowed. His target: a rich baron's manor, currently away on holiday. He's sure to have left traps and guards - but then, would it be any challenge otherwise?

The Thief's scoped the joint beforehand, of course. It's a big place, four stories, very modern. Entrances on the fourth, third, and first floor; the former two are big, fancy, visible, but the first floor entrance is in the back, through the garden. (Ugly thing, that. Barren, dead. The Baron apparently isn't much for horticulture.) The first floor entrance, then, will be where the Thief makes his entrance.

There's a guard there, unsuprisingly, but he's neglecting his duties with the Baron away - bottle at his side, leaning slowly back and forth as he stares into the distance. It's a moment's work to creep up behind him, give him a sharp blow from the blackjack, and then lift the keys from his belt as he falls. With that, the Thief is in.

The first floor holds the servants' quarters; the Thief passes through them unnoticed, stalking his way through the shadows. Nothing there to take, but the second floor is more profitable; the Baron's sons share a room there, and, picking the lock, the Thief finds a wide selection of loot ready for the taking. Golden bracelets, gilded daggers... the fence will give an excellent price for them. Taken and done.

Little else on the second floor, saving a few expensive sets of game pieces, and the third floor is quiet, a lounging area, empty with the Baron's family gone. The Thief becomes impatient, careless; and as he climbs the stairs to the fourth floor, he bumps straight into a guard.

The guard staggers back, startled. His eyes focus. "STOP!" he bellows, going for the weapon at his belt. "THIEF!"

The Thief has no intent of obeying. Quickly, he draws a bow from his back, nocking and firing a rope arrow into the wooden ceiling (even as he backpedals away from the enraged guardsman.) Suddenly, he reverses course, smashing past the guardsman and catching hold of the rope arrow, shimmying upwards and swinging forwards. Through the door he goes, and off, running, even as the two bewildered guards at the door watch. "STOP HIM!" the first guardsman shouts, charging outside - but it is too late. The Thief is gone.

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Virginia City is not in Virginia! Instead, it's a tourist trap. (A historic tourist trap.) Visit the world-famed Suicide Table!

I do not think it is actually world-famous.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The brave knights stand atop their noble boat, making their way back. Some are seasick -all are homesick. So it is with great relief and excitement that the knights react when one cries out, "There, there! The shore, the shore!" Possessed by this excitement, one knight steals the wheel - the helmsman fights back - the other knights cry out, with increasing alarm, "The shore, the shore!" - and the boat, striking jagged rocks, swiftly sinks.

Alas for the knights, so gaily clad in shining steel! Their tragedy repeats through all of history.

(We went rafting yesterday!)

Exciting news: we are all soup!

(currently On a Boat. Hooray!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Biking in Tahoe!

1. Horrific traffic. Woo!
2. The trail. But - which way?
3. The truth uncovered. A Nikolas gloats.
4. The Menace of the Pedal-Pushers. Swift death avoided.
5. Misadventures with bolts.
6. The trail ends. A terrible hunger rises.
7. The Restaurants of Summer.
Epilogue: There and Back Again.

A more complete accounting, &/ photos, to follow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Two stories are told to my youngest cousin, just four years old. For the first, I attempt (more-or-less by his request) to teach him about the planets. He gives up by Jupiter. The second - pointing to a painting of an old rusty car hanging on the wall, one of my grandmother's, small-cousin inquires as to what causes its state. Swiftly, my father & grandfather leap into action, telling him of how my uncle (young-cousin's father) borrowed the car & reduced it to such a state in just three weeks, returning it to my grandfather to be repaired. My uncle looks on wryly; young-cousin is delighted. Entertaining lies are our family's favourite product.

Of course, I once persuaded a young-cousin (on the other side of the family) that President Lincoln was a) a character in the New Testament & b) sixteen feet tall, so I can hardly stand innocent in the matter.

Ahhh, good times.

The cat, now 23 years old (remarkable!), soldiers on. Arthritic, deaf, cataract...ic... but still trooping. He sheds, despite my grandparents' grooming of him. (With a Shop-Vac.) We - my cousin and I - pet him all the same. How else to show our respect? What else could we do? - when he may not be long for this world.

Mssr. Ethan, aka "Sib-Sib", fares poorly at the hands (and fists, and improvised weapons) of his young cousins. He suggests that, perhaps, we should not encourage them. He is probably right.

Ding dong! DING DONG!

More Updates

The blag is silent like the grave. Sorry! It's been worse, but. Well. It's not very good.

Heading off for Tahoe for a week, so it'll probably remain quiet here. Woo! (Woo.)

Another update to the game mentioned earlier is here. "Challenges" added (in a rudimentary, first-pass form), and a number of UI improvements added. Next release will make major changes to Mook-spawning and Frood-limits, add more and more interesting challenges, and hopefully make several fixes to the Barracks. That might be split over two releases, actually. We'll see.

A quick story, since this is the Blag:

There was once a man who lived in a bog.

His face was all dirty and covered in smog.

(Why smog in a bog? Well, he came from the city, you see.)

Hungry, the man cried, "I demand cookies - for me!"

And then he was eaten by a frog.


(Later, the frog ate Tokyo.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Emperor's Court, cont., cont.

Ser Erich, an hour later and an hour soberer, lay couchant, discussing the problem of Bu Teh with Ser Karl and Wu Xi.

"There's no doubt of his treacherous intent," Ser Karl said. "The evidence is all too clear."

"Meaning that we have two traitors on our hands," Wu Xi said solemnly. "A most unpleasant situation."

"We have done as the Emperor requested - found the traitor within his court," Ser Karl slowly said. "Were we to say nothing of Bu Teh, our duty would appear fufilled... but," shaking his head as he began to speak with sudden decision, "that is a thing too dishonourable for me to contemplate. I would understand if you preferred it, Wu," Ser Karl said accommodatingly - but Wu Xi, too, was shaking his head.

"I may not have your knightly chivalry to bind me," he said, "but I still hold some code of personal integrity, and abandoning Bu Teh to whatever mischief he plans would certainly violate it. We have uncovered him; it is now up to us to see that he faces justice."

"We cannot simply deliver him to the Emperor," Ser Karl said. "He strictly instructed us to find no more than one traitor - our giving him another would be recieved poorly."

"Are we sure that the Minister of Culture is a traitor, after all?" Ser Erich asked, his voice slightly slurred.

Ser Karl looked at him with surprise. "We did deliver him to the guards and the executioner, on reasons we agreed were valid at the time," Ser Karl said. "What reason do we have to second-guess ourselves?"

"Well, the problem is the answer he gave, right?" Ser Erich asked. "He said he would be happy to see other ministers accused of treason. So: why? We thought it was because he himself was a traitor. Could be. But what if he wasn't a traitor himself, but knew he had one in his employ? Another minister being found guilty of treason then would give him a cover for rooting his own demon out - what sin is it, after all, to have a traitor in one's direct employ, when even the Emperor committed such an error?"

"An elaborate tale..." Wu Xi said, pulling on his beard.

"But, given that we know there was a traitor on the Minister of Culture's service, entirely possible," Ser Erich pressed.

"So - perhaps there is only one traitor," Ser Karl said. "What then? We cannot say, 'we were wrong, the real traitor was this man' - it would be a humiliation, to us and the Emperor! We could arrange some kind of swap - have Bu Teh executed in the Minister's place, let the Emperor exile or rehabilitate the Minister as he sees fit - but I have a hard time imagining the Emperor agreeing to such a scheme..."

"What if we were to present it as a fait accompli?" Ser Erich asked. "Do it first, seek permission later?"

"A bold move..." Wu Xi mused. "Reckless, even."

"Do you have a better scheme?" Ser Karl asked.

"None," Wu Xi replied. "And so I endorse this one. But before we act, we must consider the particulars..."

Bu Teh was roused by the sound of a scritching at his door. He rubbed his eyes; his room was dark, lit only faintly by the glow of the waning moon. There was a whisper in some foreign tongue, then another in Chinese: "Quiet!" it commanded. "Dress and then come outside. Quickly."

Bu Teh, drowsy and increasingly worried, complied. Outside, he met three men - two of whom he recognized from earlier in the night. "You!" he said, pointing. "The foreigner and his translator! What are you doing here?"

"Shh!" the foreigner hissed, and then something else, which his companion translated. (The other foreigner remained silent.) "Remember how you spoke to me earlier of taken back the spoils of the rich men?"

"Yes..." Bu Teh said nervously. "What are you thinking of? Are you the Emperor's man, come to arrest me?"

"Exactly the opposite!" Ser Erich said through Wu Xi. "The Minister of Culture - your former employer - he was a wealthy man, yes? An estate, servants, jewels?"

"Yes?" Bu Teh said. "Most certainly he did - but what of it? He is a condemned man. The Emperor will take it all, as punishment for his treachery. There is nothing we can do."

"Not so," Ser Erich said. "We cannot get it all, certainly - but as a wealthy man, living away from his home, the Minister will have certain valuables left in his safe. These we can get at, and steal quickly away - the Emperor will never know they were there!"

"I am no safecracker," Bu Teh said. "If that is what you wish from me, I must regretfully inform you that you have the wrong man."

"We plan no such strong-armed tactics," Ser Erich said. "Besides - those would certainly leave marks of our presence. We would be hunted. Instead, consider this: the Minister is condemned. Like all condemned men, he will be wracked with guilt, seeking some absolution for his crimes before his death. Were he presented with a confessor, asking for him to give up all worldly wealth before the end - well!"

"And why do you need me for this?" Bu Teh asked.

"Us he would recognize," Ser Erich said. "We two foreigners; and Wu Xi, our translator, who spoke to him just before his arrest. But you - he is an important man, yes? A self-important man. He would barely recognize his servants under normal conditions. Now?" He hefted a confessor's robes in his hands, the hood large and concealing.

"And what would you give me for this?" Bu Teh asked, his voice growing suddenly sharp.

"Why, a full quarter share of the proceeds," Ser Erich said. "It is only fair."

"Half," Bu Teh demanded.

Ser Erich shrugged. "A third."

"Half," Bu Teh said again.

Ser Erich rolled his eyes."Half, then, but no more."

Bu Teh's eyes glinted with greed. "Lead on," he said.

They passed the guards without difficulty, half-sozzled with alcohol smuggled out from the festivities; finding the Minister's cell proved somewhat more difficult, but was managed in safe time. The lock on his cell was simple, and openable from the outside; it appeared that he had been placed in an area of lesser security, the short span of his imprisonment and nature of his character minimizing fears of his escape. Huddled in a corner, the Minister's eyes cracked open as the party slid the door open: "It's not dawn yet, is it?" he asked fearfully.

Confused by his swift reversal of fortunes, the former Minister of Culture was an easy mark for deceit, just as Ser Erich had predicted; Bu Teh was able to worm the location of the hidden safe keys from the Minister without difficulty. Ser Karl had made his way behind the Minister during the conversation; as soon as the last necessary information had been given, confirmed by a nod from Wu Xi, he struck, sending the Minister crumpling to the floor. Bu Teh flinched back. "What was that?" he asked, his voice nervous. "What are you doing?"

"We can't just walk into his suite as we are," Wu Xi explained. "His servants and guards will still be present; they will cast us out as once. You must disguise yourself as a noble to make entrance; and where better to fetch a noble's robes from than the Minister's own person?"

"And we'll have to dress him in your old clothes," Ser Erich reminded. "If the guards find him naked tomorrow morning, they'll be most suspicious."

"This wasn't in the plan," Bu Teh said, his eyes darting about.

"Half the treasure, remember?" Ser Erich said reassuringly. "You'll be a free man, after this. Rich, even."

Bu Teh nodded, slowly, then set about disrobing.

Once the swap was done, he looked about apprehensively. "Nice clothes," he said. "They fit me well - I could even pass for the Minister, to anyone who didn't know him too well, I think."

"That's exactly what we're planning," Ser Erich said. Wu Xi rolled his eyes and neglected to translate the comment.

Bu Teh looked up. "What? What was that?"

A crashing blow from Ser Karl drove him into unconsciousness.

"All these attacks from behind really seem most unchivalrous," Ser Karl fretted.

"In a cramped jail cell, in the middle of the Emperor's dungeon, against a traitor, may not be the best conditions for a duel," Ser Erich noted. "Now, we should get out of here before a patrol stops by."

"Yes, yes," Ser Karl agreed, shrugging off the concerns. "Help me pick the Minister up."

Hefting the courtier between their shoulders, such that an inattentive guard might mistake him as simply unsteady on his feet, Ser Erich and Ser Karl made their way from the cell, Wu Xi closing and locking the door behind them, with Bu Teh (in the Minister's clothes) still inside. Again fortune was with them, and the guards offered them no challenge; passing through the halls of the Imperial palace, the party (after a few alarming minutes in which they feared themselves lost) managed to find their way back to their suite.

"What now?" Ser Erich asked, rubbing his back.

"Now, we tie the good Minister up, gag him, and stuff him behind a couch," Ser Karl said, beginning on just that. "After that, we get a good night's sleep, and watch the fireworks."

When they saw him the following morning, Bu Teh seemed in poor spirits, being dragged kicking and screaming to the center of the execution square. "An ill character to the last," Wu Xi observed. "Condemned by his own greed, just as we knew he would be, he now fails even to live the last moments of his life with dignity or grace."

"They're gagging him now," Ser Karl observed. "Good. Less chance of someone figuring out the swap."

Ser Erich's thoughts were elsewhere. "What sort of execution are they performing?" he asked. "There seem to be an awful lot of executioners."

"It's a new form of punishment, introduced just for the occasion," Ser Karl said. "I missed the name, but I believe it is somewhat similar to our drawing and quartering?"

Ser Erich considered this.

"Do you think it will be thought of as a slight if I turn away during the execution?" he asked. "I have been in battle, yes; I have seen death, yes; but I have no desire to watch a drawing and quartering."

Ser Karl nodded. "Just don't make a show of it, and I think it'll be fine."

Afterwards, Ser Karl, Ser Erich, and Wu Xi had a brief encounter with the Emperor's sister; from what they could tell of her expression, she seemed pleased.

This was not the case on their subsequent audience with the Emperor. In fact, quite the opposite. "Who is this man?" the Emperor's sister asked, pointing to the man kneeling on the floor.

Ser Erich looked at Ser Karl. Wu Xi looked at Ser Karl. Ser Karl decided to do the talking.

"I'm not entirely certain," Ser Karl said. "He appears somewhat similar to your former Minister of Culture, but that person was executed, for all to see. We thought to present him before you, for your consideration."

The Emperor's sister looked at the man kneeling before her; she looked at the Westerners' party. "Who did we have executed yesterday?" she asked.

"Your Minister of Culture, of course," Ser Karl said. "All know that. If a traitor, formerly of the employ of the Minister of Culture, also went missing at the same time, it was most certainly a coincidence."

The Emperor's sister appeared ready to speak again; but, before she could do so, the kneeling man began to babble. Wu Xi listened, his brow furrowed.

"What is he saying?" Ser Erich asked.

"He is apologizing to his Emperor for his betrayal, and asking why his life was spared," Wu Xi said. "It appears that there were two traitors after all."

The Emperor's sister strode to the Westerners, speaking quietly so that the kneeling man could not hear. "Why have you brought me two traitors?" she asked her voice heated.

Ser Erich looked at Ser Karl. Wu Xi looked at Ser Karl.

"I have sought to act in every way in your Imperial interests," Ser Karl said. "The discovery of two traitors would have undermined your court. This we have never doubted. But how many traitors have been discovered? Only one, and he is dead. This man, you may consider a... bonus. To dispose of as you will, without accountability or consequences."

The Emperor's sister looked at them expressionlessly; then she turned, stepping over the kneeling man, and strode to the Emperor's screened-off throne. Some conference was held.

"What now?" Ser Erich asked.

"If they decide that we have acted in Their interest, then we are honoured, rewarded, and sent home flush with the fruits of success," Ser Karl said. "If not - " he made a hand gesture, a sharp slice across the air at neck level. Ser Erich winced.

"Which will it be...?" Wu Xi mused, watching the Emperor's sister emerge.

She stopped before them, something like a smile appearing on her face.

"Is that good?" Ser Erich hissed.

"I don't know!" Ser Karl hissed back.

She stood still a moment longer; then spoke, two words, harsh and guttural.

"Is that good?" Ser Erich hissed.

"I don't know!" Ser Karl replied. "Wu Xi! What did she say?"

Wu Xi translated.

"Well done."

The Case of the Traitor in the Emperor's Court:


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Persona 3

A few thoughts on the video-game I've been putting most of my video-game-playing-time into recently. It's fairly interesting, and I've been getting some 'razzing' on the matter, so.

This is a game about a group of high-school students who blow their brains out on a regular basis. (To fight monsters.)

So, yes, this. But there's more to it than that.

There's a lot of stuff in the game. It's a JRPG, which means that the game only really started an hour-and-a-half in (ridiculously!), and, sixteen hours into it, now - more, really, but a few restarts mean that the recorded time is somewhat less than the real one - I'm still perhaps a fifth of the way in. And that's only for the first campaign. See, this is Persona 3 FES, which has an added campaign nearly half as long as the first one - total estimated playtime, for the two campaigns combined, of about 100 hours...


Back to the point: first, there's story. Which is decent enough, more for the characters than anything else. (They're quite likeable, I find.) Then there's the combat: turn-based, indirect control of party-members, based on knocking enemies down by hitting them with their elemental weaknesses, then piling onto them in a cartooney ball of smoke. There's the titular Personas that you use to fight - the ones that you summon by shooting yourself in the head - which can be collected, leveled (independent of your character's level), fused, and turned into weapons. Like, swords. There's a shop for it.

Then there's the equipment. The side-quests. The Persona-combinations - I've already mentioned them, but there's such a ridiculously complex system involved that I feel I should mention it twice. Frankly, it puts me a bit out of my depth. There's all that... but that's not the part I'm most interested in.

It's the noncombat stuff that's most compelling to me. You are a junior in "Gekkoukon High School" - which the infamous "sib-sib", schooled in all aspects of Japanese, informs me translates to something like "School High School" - and, each day, you have some amount of time to spend on extracurricular activities. (Your nights are split between addicting yourself to coffee to improve your 'charm' and delving into the monster-filled interior of the dark tower Tartarus. Well, the coffee thing might just be me. But the monster thing is pretty general.)

In a given day, you might have many options. You could attend swim practice - or Kendo practice, or track practice, depending on which club you decided to join. Or you could attend a Student Council meeting. Or you could give money at a shrine, to improve your academics. (This is, as far as I can tell, the best way to improve your academics. Far better than studying.) Or you can take a girl from another world on a date. Or you can just throw up your arms and play video games.

But you can only do one of them.

There is a finite amount of time in the game. The calendar stretches for a year, though the internet-men inform me the actual length of the game is closer to ten months. Every day, you have pretty much only one thing you can do. (If that. Sometimes you're caught in exams, or similar situations.) And there's always a hundred things demanding your attention - an ever-increasing number of relationships to be maintained and improved.

(Why do the relationships matter? Why, because they dramatically increase the power of the Personas you can fuse, of course. It's a purely pragmatic thing. Befriend people, gain increased power.)

(Very, very weird.)

That choice - that tension-filled, perpetual decision of which thing you're going to spend your scarce time on today -

That is the thing I like most about Persona 3.

(Just wish I would stop dying to random encounters. Even on Normal, the combat can be hard. Sheesh.)

The Emperor's Court, cont.

On the evening of the social occasion, the Emperor's sister appeared at the door to Ser Karl's suite. "A good evening to you noble gentlemen," she said politely, translated by Wu Xi.

"And to you," Ser Karl replied. "We have just concluded our preparations, as you can no doubt see from our dress. Has it begun? Should we make haste?"

"Not so," the Emperor's sister replied; "it has not quite begun, and in any case, it were best that you arrive slightly late, so as to make the best impression on society. I did not come to instruct you on timing, though, rather, I came to remind you of your task."

"Of course," Ser Karl said. "We had not forgotten."

"Enjoy yourself," the Emperor's sister said. "This is a momentous occasion, after all; very seldom are we visited by emissaries of the Occidental princedoms. But remember: you must be at all times alert, so that you may find the traitor in our midst."

"What if there is more than one?" Ser Erich asked.

"There must be only one," the Emperor's sister said sharply, a tone even the Westerners could hear. "One traitor will damage the credibility of our reign; two would shatter it. Do not come to us with two traitors."

"We understand," Ser Karl said, "and will obey."

"Good," replied the Emperor's sister, her voice as perfectly calm as before. "We hope you have a pleasant time."

When Ser Karl and his party arrived, the gardens were buzzing with activity. Whichever way they looked, there were courtiers gossiping, servants swarming, and country nobility gawking. Immediately around the Westerners, conversation focused on their appearance: their strange eyes, their peculiar skin, their barbarous language and fashion.

"So, what now?" Ser Erich asked. "I don't see the ministers anywhere. For that matter - how will we recognize them?"

"We spoke about this beforehand," Wu Xi said. "We will mingle, and I will listen for references to the ministers. When I find word of them, I will guide us in their direction; then we will make small talk with them, and by this means determine their guilt or innocence."

"And how are we to do this?" Ser Erich asked hotly. "Why did I not hear any of this beforehand? Have you been conspiring without me?"

"You were in the same room," Ser Karl said; "we kept nothing from you. Why you did not hear, I cannot say, though I might offer a guess: were you thinking about - a girl?"

Ser Erich's ears turned bright red. "That's none of your business," he said.

"Keep your mind on the matter at hand," Wu Xi advised. "This will be hard enough if you're thinking with your right head, much less the other."

Ser Erich was blushing furiously now; Ser Karl looked at him a moment longer and then, considering him sufficiently admonished, turned to converse with an approaching courtier.

The first minister they encountered was the Minister of Order, surrounded by a swarm of fan-holding young ladies. He was an old man, gone somewhat to seed; in conversation he was, so far as Ser Erich and Ser Karl could tell through the translation barrier, quite reserved.

"This is where we put our plan into motion," Ser Karl explained to Ser Erich as they approached. "There is a certain question I will slip into conversation, for each of the ministers: 'How would you feel, were one of your fellow ministers discovered as a traitor in this very court?'"

"Hardly lightweight party conversation!" Ser Erich remarked.

"I will soften its impact with context," Ser Karl demurred. "Regardless: by the minister's reply to this, we will take his measure."

"And how, exactly, will this be accomplished?" Sir Erich asked.

"Hark!" Wu Xi hissed. "The Minister has acknowledged us; now you must speak!"

"I would consider it a most uncomfortable thing," the Minister of Order replied when put to the question. "One of my fellow ministers, a traitor? It would cause a most unpleasant hubbub - yes, most unpleasant indeed. Most off-putting to my poetry. No, that would be not a good thing."

"Ah!" cried the Minister of Arms, a thin, cold man. "A disgrace to the Imperial honour - to have appointed such a man! It would be a blow to the entire realm. No, no, that would be most unfortunate, if they were to find a traitor in the court - especially in these troubled times. - Is there one in particular you suspect?"

"I would be pleased, of course," the Minister of Culture replied with considered thought. His wide, jovial face creased as he thought. "Yes, that would be good news. If there is a traitor, better that he be caught then be let loose to wreak further havoc, yes? Especially in such a high position. How could anyone think otherwise?"

"And so?" Ser Erich asked, turning to his companions in a corner surrounded by bonsai shrubs. "Who is the traitor?"

"The Minister of Culture," Ser Karl said flatly. "Guilty beyond the slightest doubt."

"Yes," Wu Xi agreed. "His words condemned him."

"But - how?" Ser Erich asked, confused. "He said he would be happy if they found a traitor!"

"No," Ser Karl said. "He would be happy if they found another minister to be a traitor. What better atmosphere for the guilty to hide in than one in which the innocent are convicted? In such a smoke of confusion, he would be free to work his foul deeds, certain that others would be blamed for his wrongdoing."

"For recall what the Emperor's sister said," Wu Xi reminded. "There must be only one traitor found; more would destroy the credibility of the court. If an innocent man is found to be the traitor, then the true villain is free from worry; he knows that he cannot be named for what he is, even if discovered, for to do so would wreak certain destruction upon the Imperial throne."

"Ah!" Ser Erich said. "Your guile is great indeed. So - shall you now go to inform the Emperor?"

"No," Ser Karl said. "You and Wu will go; I will stay here, to avoid a connection between our party's absence and the condemnation of the guilty. We will not be long here, but it would be ill for us to be seen as too involved in local intrigues. Remember - we are lieges of Emperor Sigismund, not Emperor Zhu Di."

"Myself excluded, of course," Wu Xi said politely.

Ser Erich nodded, somewhat overwhelmed. He moved towards the nearest entry to the palace, Wu Xi at his side; Ser Karl, now alone, turned towards the nearest servant holding refreshments.

"Could I have some of that wine?" he asked in German, gesturing towards the wine.

The servant, correctly guessing at Ser Karl's intent, gave him a glass of wine.

Ser Karl looked elsewhere. "Might I have some of those shrimp?" he asked of another servant.

He was given shrimp.

"Ah - and some of that rice?" he asked.

He was given something with too many tentacles.

"Er," he said, prodding it.

Normally he would give a polite demurral and return the item - but, not having Wu Xi with him, his only choice seemed to be to take a bite or to give mortal offense to the poor servant, probably resulting in an immediate honor-suicide. This seemed a bit much for Ser Karl; so, nervously, he took a bite.

Ser Erich and Wu Xi rejoined Ser Karl midway through his third fried squid, just before the Emperor, in a palanquin covered in gold, made his appearance. Heralds blew trumpets. The court, as a collective, kowtowed. (Ser Karl and Ser Erich bowed; as a matter of honour, they would bend the knee to no monarch but their own.)

"We have an announcement to make," the Emperor's herald read from a scroll unfurled before him. "This man, Our former Minister of Culture, is a traitor to Our person. He will be arrested immediately, and executed tomorrow for his crimes." Already, guards had appeared as though from nowhere, surrounding the very surprised-looking Minister of Culture.

"Well done," the Emperor's sister said, appearing next to Ser Karl with a surprising amount of subtlety, given the number of servants surrounding her. "Now that you have found the villain, the job is done; we will conclude the trade agreement in two days. For now, you may enjoy yourself."

"Thank you, Your Highness," Ser Karl said. "We intend to."

Somewhat later, Ser Erich, very drunk and feeling rather unhappy, wound up lying in a corner, next to a similarly-sozzled Wu Xi and a servant named Bu Teh. "Man, it's just not fair, you guys keeping me out of the loop like that," he complained to Wu Xi. "It's not right. The little guys always get picked on, always. Not fair at all. You know what I mean, right?"

Wu Xi, obligingly, translated.

"Yeah, that's the way of it," Bu Teh agreed. "Everyone steals from the little guy. The merchants steal from the poor, the noble steal from the merchants, and the Empire steals from the nobles. But - you know what?"

"Wha?" Ser Erich asked. "Whuzzat?"

"Sometimes," Bu Teh whispered, "sometimes, the little guys can take something back."

Wu Xi's eyes opened wider. Carefully, he continued to translate.

"Whaddya mean?" Ser Erich asked. "Like breaking into the nobles' houses and taking their stuff? Mostly that just ends with hands gettin' chopped off, from what I see. Wouldn't recommend it."

"No, not like that," But Teh hissed. "Look - you serve the Western prince, yes? You have no loyalty to the Emperor?"

"He's an Emperor, too," Ser Erich said defensively. "Rules over aaalll the Holy Roman Empire. Biggest one in the world, too. Tell you that."

"But you serve him, yes? Not our Emperor?" But Teh asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Ser Erich agreed. "Why?"

Bu Teh considered. "I'll show you something," he said, "but you have to leave the other guy behind."

Ser Erich looked at Wu Xi. "Why?" he asked. "But then we won't be able to talk?"

"That's why I'm showing you," Bu Teh explained with drunken care.

"Ahhhh," Ser Erich agreed. "Sorry, friend."

Wu Xi shrugged, his eyes narrowed. He watched as the drunken men staggered into the palace; and he was still there, but now with Ser Karl at his side, when Ser Erich appeared again.

"And what did he show you?" Ser Karl, just briefed, asked.

"Man, he's got cash just papering his room!" Sir Erich exclaimed. "It's crazy! All this stuff he took back from the tax collectors, and sends back to his people at home! He's got nerves of steel, I'll tell you!"

"Where is his home, again?" Wu Xi inquired.

"Uh, not sure exactly," Sir Erich said. "Ler was the name, I think? Somewhere in the southeast?"

"And who was his employer?" Wu Xi asked.

"Uh... don't remember," Sir Erich said. "Oh! No! He was that Minister of Cultures guy, the one we arrested. Bu Teh was grateful when I told him we did it. Said the guy was a big jerk, the biggest. Go us, right?"

Ser Karl looked at Wu Xi. Wu Xi looked at Ser Karl.

"So there's a man who steals money from the Emperor, sends it to his home in the southeast - very possibly in the rebel province of Annan, in the southeast - and works for the Minister of Culture, who we just had arrested because we believed he was a traitor," Ser Karl summarized.

"Yeah," Ser Erich agreed. "And - wait."

He thought.

" mean we arrested the wrong guy?" Ser Erich asked.

Gravely, Ser Karl nodded.

To be continued, again.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Small Update

My apologies - the sequel to this post should be up soon, I've had the whole plot in my head from before I started writing, but I've been hanging out with the infamous brother-man for the vast majority of today, reading Saturn's Children - quite a good book, I think, though it's got some clumsy segments. Also managed to get an update to this out, belatedly - it's here, and has a new tower, a new enemy, and a number of other refinements and bug fixes. (It would have been out much sooner, but I wasted a ton of time trying to make a catapult-tower and got completely boggde down on non-gameplay-related rubbish. Mistakes were made.)

Good way to start a month, eh?

More soon.