If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.
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If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.
Use the wordpress rss mechanism to follow categories:
So. James T Hodgkinson attacked a basketball practice and shot some republican congressmen. I don’t condone this. But the american right is in paroxysms of outrage over the fact that he’s a leftie – a BernieBro.
The thing that shits me is this: ever since Clinton, ever since 1980, the american right has been dribbling on about how the Second Amendment is what protects American freedoms. According to them, the rock-solid, foundational guarantee of freedom is that any citizen, no matter how stupid or ill-informed, can choose to engage in armed revolt against the government if he is willing to risk his life to do it. Blah blah blah “totalitarianism is when people are afraid of the government; freedom is when the government is afraid of the people”. You maybe know the drill.
Suddenly some leftist actually does it – actually does the thing that every libertarian and right-wing bore in the USA has been dribbling on about for 35 years. Shoots at some congressmen at the cost of his own life. And all those right-wing bores are shocked, shocked, shocked.
It’s enough to make your eyeballs bleed. Maybe what they hate most is that some overweight not-a-real-man librul has done what they themselves could never quite sack up and do, despite all their chest-beatings and threats.
Maybe now they’ll realise that “government by whichever whackjob is most ready to shoot a congressman” is actually a *bad* idea. That government by armed mob is actually the opposite of freedom. That – for instance – Somalia is not a paradise.
Maybe. Probably not. But my God, don’t a whole lot of old tweets by right-wing american blowhards suddenly look dated and ill-judged.
“Captain Mallard! What a delight to see you here! I hardly hoped you would come, so pleased you could make it.”
But let’s rewind a few hours.
The Dairy King had been something of a shock for poor James. I mean – one hears of that kind of thing. But being thrown into the thick of it with Uncle Ben – the Black Duck of the family – took a little coping with. James had managed to foist him off onto Tarry, and had also managed to find a relatively quiet and up-market casino. The word being “relatively”. Decent gin in the martinis, and the hookers were almost fully clothed – although the practised eye might have noticed the lack of fussy buttons, catches, and laces on the dresses.
The Diary King is a big, proud, magic and steam-powered vessel, and utterly unsinkable.
As for the hookers … I assure you that the main thing a hooker looks for in a working dress is something easy to get out of. Bra, but no panties.
James decided that grandfather Lancet had put him here for some reason or other, and that he probably ought to make some sort of a showing. A little drinking, a little gambling (he even won – a pleasant surprise), and someone still with all her teeth to take back to the cabin for some afternoon delight.
After they were done, the girl left, and Uncle Benjamin stepped in – hearty, backslapping, and more than a little drunk. Let’s say “moderately”.
“James! James! Trust you to find the good ones, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I see.”
“Uncle. Our credit is good?”
“Of course! Of course! Porsche is one of the good ones, lad – smart and discrete. She works for the Dairy King, you know. Now, if you can take a little advice from your uncle, then take this to heart: never fuck the same girl twice in a row. Not until you are married.” Benjamin Lancet’s face flickered for a moment – the bluff, red-faced, careless sot replaced by that of a shrewd and serious man who had seen a little of the world, a genuinely concerned relative. James answered with a look and a small nod, and the mask slipped back in place.
“Well! We should invite your friends aboard! All Griffinsheart’s merry heroes together again. It’d be a shame to break up the group.”
And so they wrote a note inviting the party to travel westward on the Dairy King. The “King” would embark midday tomorrow. Eight berths were booked. Left unsaid was that at least one of those berths would be unoccupied, Cannis Lashley having perished in the defense of Santa Cora. Benjamin watched, a little bemused as James summoned sprites to make copies of the notes and Arcane Marked each one.
In the end, James decided that for his one night remaining in Santa Cora he should accept at least one of the dozens of invitations he had been sent. “A ball? You are going to a ball?”, asked uncle Benjamin. “Well, somebody should”, replied James, “and nobody else really can. Nacelle, perhaps, but she may make certain people uncomfortable and that’s not really the point of the evening. Mal is dwarvish nobility, which really wouldn’t do at all right at present.”
James had sorted through the various invitations he had been given. One or two caught his eye, and one of those was being held tonight. Isabella, the Countess Lorraine, was holding a charity ball in aid of the displaced and homeless of Santa Cora. Countess Isabella packed rather more clout than one might suppose. The count was also a colonel commanding the Regiment Lorraine, one of the older and better-respected units, and the countess herself was quite the society matron. That she was here in Santa Cora at all was interesting in itself. There would most certainly be news from the west.
Attending a ball is actually a rather expensive business. One is expected to arrive and to dress in style. James would be attending in his dress reds, of course, and the whole point of a uniform is that it be uniform. But details matter. James flew about the city. A little help from Uncle Ben and a visit to the Mallard unit turned up a family brooch to be pinned to a sash – the three mallards, of course – a tastefully expensive swordbelt, and James outright rented a jeweled dagger for the evening. For his sword, however, James decided that his plain working shortsword would perhaps send the right message. Likewise, rather than arrive in a carriage he would arrive on horseback – a splendid glossy-coated chestnut courser borrowed from the Mallard unit. With some misgiving, his cloak and wand remained behind. Last but by no means least, he organized an eyepatch to conceal his necromantic stone eye. Then, with his dress uniform crisp and immaculate, his boots polished to a mirror shine, and with invitation in pocket, and he was ready.
He arrived and made his way along the receiving line. “How d’you do”, “Enchanted”, as appropriate. He was relived to see that his rig had hit the right notes. In particular, his was not the only uniform in attendance, and he not the only one who had brought his working sword along. A plain sword, he guessed, would be something of a badge of honour for the next few months.
And finally, the countess herself. A brightly intelligent midddle-aged woman. James felt instantly at home.
“I could hardly miss the entire season”, he replied, “and such a good cause.” The countess smiled and nodded, and James moved on. He had reluctantly financed the evening from the Lancet treasury via his magic pouch, but that was small beer compared to what faced him now. Oh – did you think that these things were free? Before James was the guest book, and against each name was an amount in support of the Countess’ charity. James wrote his family name “Mallard”, and a number that made him wince a little. Not extravagant by any means, quite correct really, and father would understand. But still.
That done with, he made his way into the ball.
James got a little intel: seems the Emperor himself has sailed with the fleet. Maybe we will have some sort of party meeting next week on the Dairy King. I don’t know what else may have happened at the ball. Some dancing, some canapes, perhaps some brandy and cigars and good advice later on. James is a little young to hang out with the true veterans, but “hero of Santa Cora” and all that. Perhaps there will be retcon 🙂 . Presumably James scored various other info as well, but that’s all part of maintaining his “Minor Nobility” background.
Ra, climbing the horizon!
Rising up the mountain, lighting up the valley below
Ra, giver without measure!
Beacon of compassion, shining through the spectrum of life
Day is born, night is gone
One in all, all is one
Communion with the sun
Ra, ruler of all nature!
Burning on forever, melting all together in one
Ra, holy synthesizer!
Inspiration showers green and growing gardens of love
Voices rise to the song
One in all, all is one
Communion with the sun, with the sun!
What a great game night! What a fine end to a plot arc!
Our investigator/alchemist had frozen the fallen Phoenix in place, locked in time. And, in a fit of impatience, our DM brought out the BBEG – the maralith general of the armies of Deskari, architect of the worldwound. Fight, fight, fight. Her extremely nasty friend was killed, and with his ability to redirect spells neutralized our Arcanist could deploy the big gun on the Maralith herself: Suffocation – save or die. The spell dropped her unconscious, and we cut her head off. (coup-de-gras).
Then another BBEG game through the portal, briefly foiled by a Wall of Force. Another Suffocation rendered him staggered – without his spring attack (a full-round action), his main trick was cancelled and he, too, was killed. We had recovered the Sword of Valor.
But finally, the corrupted phoenix began to flicker with flame, began to re-enter normal time. She dropped a Wall of Flame but our magics were more than enough to permit us to deal with the damage. She directed a Meteor Storm at our cleric. But we had been discussing – surely, with the general dead, this phoenix’s corruption might be undone?
We each in our own way attempted to reach it. Our investigator, by reason; our paladin, by charisma; our cleric, by an offer of Atonement; and Brother Warming, by the morning prayer to Saranrae – and a little Inexplicable Luck.
Our tactician decided to reach the phoenix another way – positioning himself to attack, should that be the way of it.
However if might be, whether by dice or by fiat (perhaps your chronicler’s age has made him cynical), the phoenix heard us. She offered her neck to our tactician – who had been made a vampire months ago, and who had lived struggling against his undead urges. The rest of us recoiled in horror – and then realised: phoenix! Gavren drained the life from the Phoenix, but did not grant it undeath – simply death. And, as they do, the Phoenix crumbled to ash and we watched it reborn. A rare sight, witnessed only by a few.
We spoke. We repaired to the scrying chamber of the general and, by its magics, our paladin exhibited the head of the general to the battle outside Drezzen. The demons, in accord with their chaotic nature, broke and fled; and the troops of the righteous, reinvigorated with courage, slew the few that remained to fight.
We looted the general’s armoury and recovering a quantity of magic weapons for Her Majesty’s armies … and one or two which we retained for ourselves. We found also a Rod of Lordly Might, and not just any such (not that there are “just any” of these), but one bearing the crest of house Hawthorne.
We returned thought the portal to the world. We joined what was left of the battle on the other side. When all was done, Gavren Hawthorne – tactician, vampire, last lord of his house – told us: “I am done with this undeath. Iomedae herself refused me, to restore me to a human – offering me only permanent destruction. But now, I am full of the blood of the phoenix. I will shed my cloak of shadows and see the sun – perhaps I may be reborn.”
We remonstrated, pointing out the risk, which was a bit out of character for Br Warming. But Gavren’s mind was set. We returned to the altar to Sarenrae (?) where Brother Warming-Light-Of-Saranrae – who had kind of taken on Gavren’s vampirism as a bit of a pet project – laid him and stood vigil the night he changed months ago, a lifetime ago, several levels ago.
But the sun was blocked by cloud, part of Deskari’s war: many of his troops preferring darkness. There on the altar, Gavren called: “Iomedae! Remember your promise! Part these clouds, and grant me to stand beneath the sun!”
In the flat grey from horizon to horizon, a grey set in place by the will of the demon lord, above the altar a rift appeared and the full light of the sun shone down on the vampire. He blistered, he smoked, he burned – screaming in pain – to charcoal, to a small pile of ash.
But the blood of the great phoenix was in him. And in that ash, a lick of flame appeared, then a circle, then a hot flame too bright to look at, and then lord Gavren himself, human reborn from flame, naked on the altar.
A miracle. We covered him, and Father Cleophethus performed the ritual of atonement. Our investigator simply said “Lord Hawthorne”, and offered him his rod of office. We were greatly joyed, but subdued – perhaps numbed by the great events of the day, and daunted by the task ahead of us.
As we walked back down the hill, Br Warming quietly reached into his handy haversack and retrieved a small sack containing a mallet and a half-dozen wooden stakes. He discarded it by the side of the road. He would not be needing it now.
Days of travel, south along the Owl barrens. And Griffinshart’s merry heroes faced days more, north again to Santa Cora. They had retrieved the Spear of Hoar, an artifact of unthinkable power, and a trove of other items besides. It had been four days, and was liable to be a few more days yet before they returned to the city. James had not bonded with the strange wand yet, and the foreboding-looking book remained tightly shut. No time – they travelled hard, with all possible haste.
James had written to his grandfather, the patriarch of house Lancet, via his secret message pouch. The messages were carried via the Low Way. A mostly secure method of secret communication. That day, the pouch had alerted James that he has received – something. At camp, James found some privacy and performed the ritual that unsealed it. Within was a tightly folded letter on onionskin paper.
No salutation, no signature, and all the details carefully worded around. “Mineral sample”. “An important city” – quite the understatement.
And there it was. No guarantee of the Imperial Cavalry, no long-forgotten ritual to unlock the power of the spear, nothing. And yet, grandfather was right: James and his companions were scarcely alone. The city was defended by – well – an entire city. All they could ever have hoped for, even with the Spear of Hoar, was perhaps to tip the balance.
“Be resolute. Plan and act.” And if you cannot plan, then act as best you may. Very well. The patterns in James’ cloak shifted slightly as its magics echoed and amplified his resolve.
But the pouch was not empty. Within, the dragonstone fragment that James had sent two days earlier. He drew it out. It was cracked now, the cracks catching the fading light. Cracks forming patterns, structure that James recognised – wards, glyphs. He tossed it away from him and began to prepare for defense.
But the stone did not explode, or summon a foe. Instead, it spoke – its message broken and disjointed, it’s voice the voice of Edmund the Marked:
As soon as the message was spoken, the dragonstone crumbled to dust.
The “Grimoire of Nod”, whoever that might have been; the “Book of Cain”, a name James did recognise – the first and progenitor of the vampires, greatest of the undead; and no doubt the volume was also known as “The Book of Vile Darkness” and sundry other epithets.
It didn’t take a lot of guessing, really. According to Edmund, the necromancer had sent them off on a false mission, and had hoped to find something else. James was not inclined to credit Edmund’s words, but it was likely that they had indeed found this book and that it was currently sitting in James’ backpack.
Maybe Aeg had played them false – no, the Spear certainly seemed to be real. Maybe Aeg was playing both sides. Maybe Edmund was merely guessing, or had information about the book, and was attempting to pin it on Aeg. No, not terribly likely. One might reasonably suppose that “The Book of Cain” was exactly the kind of thing that a man looking to usurp the Lich King might think could come in handy. Then again, who knew what Edmund’s plans were? Or maybe the book wasn’t really … no, James could eliminate that one. Whatever the book was, along with the Spear it seemed pretty damned real.
The pestilent question was: what to do about it?
Obviously: nothing. Nothing yet. All who stand within beck of Santa Cora must do their duty. There would be battle. After that?
As we learn in Genesis 1-4, the Elohim – the gods – created the earth and the races of men, each “in his own image and likeness”. This explains why there are different races that look different. Brown people are brown for exactly the same reason that any child looks like its father – because that’s where they came from, that’s their origin. Remember that this was all written by people who hadn’t discovered cells, yet.
Anyway. One of the gods, named Jehovah, planted a garden and put some people in it. Blah blah blah and then Cain killed his brother Abel so Jehovah banished him. Cain travelled to “the land of Nod”, who obviously was the local god of the tribe who lived over at the other end of the valley. Cain got married there and no doubt lived happily ever after.
This letter is being sent to granddad Lancet via super secret family message pouch.
In hopes this finds you well, I write now that we have a few moments of peace.
It has been an eventful day.
We seem to have recovered the Spear of Hoar. Or if not that, some other spear that seems to be a powerful religious artifact of some kind.
Our researches in Santa Cora narrowed down the probable locations in the Owl Barrens to two. We arrived at a mine at James provides the location here, as nearly as possible from which dragon-stone had been found in the past, and were informed by a local resident (a mad old hermit, but cheerful) that it was inhabited by a dragon.
We entered the mine and dealt with the dragon and a few of its offspring. One was gravely wounded (we took a wing off) and bargained with us for its life, offering to lead us further into the mine where the spear was located. Surprisingly, it (I have it’s name written down somewhere – Z-something – Zika?) was true to its word, and led us to the entrance of a chamber. We kept to our bargain and permitted it to leave and make its own way out. This may one day prove to be a mistake, but it is what it is. I would give long odds on a one-winged dragonling surviving the wilds.
The path to this other chamber led through a chasm in which there were pillars of what appeared to be dragon-stone. Several tons of it each. These pillars bore masks of (God starting with a G). We attempted to retrieve one of these masks, but it did not go well.
The chamber itself had an inhabitant and what appeared to be a library of ancient books. All I can say is that the woman looked human, although obviously could not have been. She indicated the spear – which was lying in a reliquary of some sort – and invited/permitted us to take it.
I should mention at this point that three of our company are of a divine bent.
Backtracking a little – we passed at one point a statue of Hoar, or rather, a statue of Elsbeth slaying Hoar with a dagger. The woman was clearly Elsbeth. Even more startlingly, Toasten – who wields odd magics seemingly connected to the manipulation of time – claimed to have made the sculpture “in the future”. None of us quite knows what to make of this, least of all Eslbeth herself.
So, back to the chamber. The spear was in two pieces – the head separated from the shaft. Nacelle attempted to retrieved the spear from its reliquary, but was not able to. Cannis, however, was able to do so. The spear rejoined accompanied by rather a great deal of lightning, which appears to be one of Hoar’s manifestations.
At which point, the inhabitant of the chamber exclaimed “At last! We can feed!” and attacked along with several shadows. The spear at this point appeared to be possessing (as near as I can make out) Cannis, which problem Nacelle dealt with by rebreaking the spear.
After dealing with the hag and her shades, I had a look at the bookshelves. he library was fake – almost all the books were blank or had pages filled with random gibberish. One, however, was not. It appears to be some sort of necromantic grimoire, and I have taken possession of it.
The way behind us had collapsed by this stage, but one of us detected a breeze coming from further below. Lacking other options, we proceeded even further down.
Below was a cavern containing massive pile of bones of various races and pillars of dragonstone. In the center was a giant skull ringed by four extremely large pillars containing a bier on which rested an elven woman.
We looted the bones – a little unwise, perhaps, but we recovered a few magical items.
I investigated the more natural dragonstone columns and chipped of a sample, which I have enclosed. Our – I suppose “expedition leaders” woke and spoke to the elven woman, and then a great many things happened in rather quick succession. Some sort of spirit – very great, filling the whole cavern – appeared and someone at some point stabbed the Elven woman in the chest with the spear of Hoar I think. As I mentioned: rather a lot going on at the time. We located an exit and ran for it. I gather that the woman and the spirit were some sort of ill-starred couple. One hopes that we have sent her on to a better place.
I am not entirely sure how we made it out, considering the depth to which we had descended and the fact that the caverns were collapsing around us as we ran. However, everybody appears to be here and mostly in one piece. I have a rather interesting grimoire which appears to be sealed, a rather interesting wand which I hve not investigated yet, but much more importantly we have the Spear of Hoar. It all went rather well, all things considered.
Perhaps of interest to House Lancet, however, is several tons of dragonstone laying in the caverns beneath the location I have mentioned. Of course, the war makes retrieving this a trifle problematic, but it is that nature of wars to not last forever. Perhaps the spirit we ran from now inhabits the place, making retrieving the stone impossible. Then again, perhaps with his ancient lover or whatever finally well and truly dead, he has moved on. Quite a bit of the cavern did collapse, but this is not to say that it cannot be mined out. And it’s possible that the dragonstone itself has been damaged by today’s various spiritual and physical cataclysms.
It’s not a certain thing, is what I am getting at. But the rewards could be great.
As for us, we have the Spear of Hoar – in two pieces, granted – but it’s not clear to me what exactly we intend to do with it. I imagine that in the right hands it could spit an orc like nobody’ business, but at present we are trying to deal with half a continent of them.
That is: I find I must trouble you for advice, once again. Has anyone any idea how such a thing might be best used? Any old prophecies, that sort of thing?
In hopes that this message finds you swiftly,
But at the end of session, James faced that big thing alone and popped it with the only thing he had – a Magic Missile carrying a bonus 10 points of holy damage. It called him “star mage”. In 13th Age, holy damage comes from the overworld, from the stars.
I’m not 100% clear on how James got out. Maybe he’ll go to the dark side, maybe he’ll find a way to integrate the two. But I’m a little more hopeful for him now that he has rediscovered his moral center. It lies on the “soldier/commander” side of his character sheet.
I have been putting off writing this for days, but we have a quiet moment and I can shirk my duty no longer.
I am to blame for the recent collapse of the protective wards around Santa Cora, and I suspect elsewhere as well.
As I have mentioned previously, I was gifted with a certain cloak by Edmund the Marked, granting me some access to the magics of the nodes of The Empire. By this means I reactivated the node at Ebony Watch, and the node on the dwarven ruins beneath Chancer’s Hope, which protected the city from the orc and giant incursion from the south.
At Santa Cora, I gained access to the Astronomer’s Tower, a structure which had been sealed for centuries. At its top was a node (connected to air magics, as it happened, not that it matters now). With Edmund present, I accessed the node. As I was doing so, Edmund gained control of the magics from me and cancelled them. This act appeared to not only shut down the node atop the tower, but also the one in the Santa Cora cathedral. I do not know how far the damage may have gone.
His stated reasons for doing so were preposterous lies. I do not know who he is working for and I will not credit anything he might say. Acts speak louder.
Edmund must be brought to justice and made to pay for his treachery. But I would not that the family name be associated with this. Let the histories not say that one of our family was responsible for the fall of Santa Cora. James is careful to not mention the family name – this communication channel is not entirely secure.
As for me, I travel with my companions now joined by one Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Perhaps she will choose her friends more wisely than I. We travel south to the Owl Barrens in search of the Spear of Hoar, god of just retribution.
I still wear the cloak. Pride, perhaps. The Empire might be better served by my sword at Santa Cora – perhaps I could do for a couple of orcs, at least, before falling. But I shall at least see where this paladin leads us, and attempt to keep you informed.
Mother – I doubt I shall be returning home.
Just a summary of my character’s story for a player who has returned to the game recently.
James’ story arc has been a classic greek tragedy – a rise and rise and rise and then bought low in one catastrophic stroke bought about by his own hubris.
We have a couple of mysterious wizards knocking about the world: Edmund the Marked, ex Council of Four, and Aeg Ilsa, Necromancer.
Edmund helped out the party on a couple of occasions and gave James a cloak. The cloak had a connection to the magical “nodes” of the empire – defenses set up ages ago to protect the empire from … stuff. Giants. Orcs. Probably elves and dwarves, too. The cloak also has a quirk, that whoever wears it becomes (fantically?) dedicated to the empire.
At Ebony Watch, James managed to re-ignite one of these ancient nodes. A pretty major deal. Later, in Chancer’s Hope he managed to re-ignite a second one. This one was a bit unusual in that it was in dwarven ruins underground and may have been property of the dwarf king, kinda sorta. Compounding this is that there is political tension between the dwarves and the empire at the moment. Mal Shieldglider was implicated in this, and has been exiled.
While reigniting the node, Aeg asked James if awakening the node was really such a good idea. It seemed to James that it totally was, because the city was being attacked by the orc horde. And indeed, the node once activated put this defense around the city. James got the idea that reigniting the empire nodes was basically the right thing to do.
In Santa Cora, it turned out that there were two nodes – one in the cathedral, and one in the astronomers tower, which no-one had entered for centuries. Edmund was present as James reactivated that node, a bit of a pinnacle moment. But as James did so, Edmund seized control of the magic and through this connection with this activated node brought down the entire freaking network. The immediate effect of this was that all of the storms that this node had been protecting Santa Cora from (this node was why Santa Cora always had nice weather) hit the city all at once. But the wider effect of the entire network going down is obviously more dire. Especially with an orc and giant army attacking from the south.
Edmund’s rationale was that life would be better if common people would rise up and be heroic, rather than relying on the empire or on heroes. I can’t work out if he’s a commie and wants the proletariat to rise up; or if he’s a libertarian and wants to reduce the state to a size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.
Turns out Aeg was the good guy all along. There were clues all along, of course, but James’ distaste of necromancy and his getting all wrapped up in this wonderful cloak he received and the power it gave made him ignore them.
James at the moment is at the “Luke, I am your father and Yoda has been lying to you all along” stage of his character arc. He’s extremely bummed out, which perhaps is why he’s stepped back from trying to tell people what to do and handed off the job to this paladin of the GGW that’s recently joined the party.
Luke somehow managed to stay good. Don’t know about James. He has just gotten this big book ‘o bad necromancy, and it has turned out that he was wrong about at least one necromancer all along. Maybe its time to find out if the dark side has the power to save the empire. Because at the end of the day, a soldier knows that the only way to deal with an army of orcs and giants inevitably involves killing a whole bunch of them.