Freedom and Democracy

16 June, 2017

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.

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Not exactly Cinderella

7 June, 2017

“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 Dairy King hosts a non-stop Mardi-Gras with laser lighting and pumping EDM. Andrew described various milk and dairy-product-related shenanigans which … you had to be there.

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.

James isn’t me. James is from good family, is a junior officer in the Imperial Army, and has a Charisma of 16 – which easily puts him in the top 10% of attractive people. He’s tall, slim, good-looking, clear headed and clean shaven, and has no difficulty in social situations. Sure, sometimes that makes role-playing him difficult. I have to guess what his life would be like, lucky bastard.

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.

I got the impression that Benjamin is actually a Lancet and kinda sorta got some sort of Mallard family title as part of the same deal in which Ducalis married Frances. The Mallards are book-smart wizards and courtiers – politically savvy public servants. The Lancets are shrewd bankers and businessmen. I am informed that Uncle Ben is the “Black Duck” of the family. I suspect that someone is a Game of Thrones fan.

“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.

Out of game – eight berths because Dref has a new character. In game, however … how did whoever booked this know we needed eight? They would have to have done it before Cannis died. Oh – of course. I think this was all set up by granddad Lancet.

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.”

Nacelle is a female drow paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. She has a strength of 16 and is not to be trifled with. What can I say? Peeps be raycis.

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.

This charity ball will raise – in our money – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. It’s a major city, after all, and there are quite a few very wealthy people knocking about. Charity and noblesse oblige is how the nobility tax themselves. A million bucks isn’t actually a lot of money these days … but it isn’t nothing.

Peeps, I am going to stop this here, because I have Dwarven Forge castle pieces that need painting, and really I just wanted to talk about the idea of attending a 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.


Phoenix rising

4 June, 2017

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.