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Flash Fiction – “Callie, Morning Drama” (~ 1,030 words, modern)

Note: This is sort of a prequel to my first flash fiction attempt titled Flash Fiction – “Callie” (~ 700 words, medical modern).

Melanie stood there with her hands thrust angrily upon her hips as she looked up the dark wooden staircase and then yelled “Callie, unhealthy hurry up or you will be late for school. Conner’s principal is going to be really angry if he’s late again. Come on, child! It does not take that long to brush your teeth!

They were always waiting for their little Callie and it made everyone cross. They were not sure if Callie was just slow for a 9-year-old or doing it for the attention. Her husband, Jeff, even pondered the possibility that perhaps Callie was a budding Time Lord whose sense of time was different than everyone else’s. Her two other children, Connor, age 12, and Crystal, age 6, looked at her, their faces scrunched up in annoyance. Even Crystal was standing with her arms crossed because she would most likely miss play time and possibly even their morning snack time and, today, Conner could lose his place on the middle school football team if he was late to school… again.

Calliiie!!” Melanie yelled. She looked back to Conner and Crystal. “Conner, go help Crystal into her seat and wait for us in the car so we can leave as soon as she gets done.” Conner muttered “Ugghh” under his breath as he gave Crystal a little push toward the door to the garage. Crystal angrily shrugged his hand off her shoulder in a way that looked like a spasm. Looking back to him, she narrowed her eyes in an icy stare and then her pigtails jerked about as she stomped towards the garage. Shaking his head Conner could be heard grumbling “Uggh!” louder this time as he walked after Crystal, his red football helmet under his left arm. This was how it was every morning no matter how they tried to change things so that Callie (and the rest of the family) could be on time.

This seemingly irreparable morning drama had manifest as Callie has grown older, more independent, and responsible for her own routine. This morning drama set Melanie’s days wrong and made her cranky because she was usually late to work. Melanie has become her office’s ‘late person’ and she has never been that person, nor did she ever want to be. She has heard that her supervisor, Teri, who also has kids, gets to work on time, usually a 10 or so minutes early. ‘God, how different would things be if they never had Callie.’ she spitefully thought to herself. Her husband, Jeff, never had to deal with the morning drama because he had to leave an hour early to get to work, and he never understood why she was always so cranky when she got home.

Ok, Callie, you are going to have to take the bus home tonight, so mommy can make up the lost time from your teeth brushing time-warp.

Callie’s voice whined down “But Mom, I hate the bus. The older kids are mean to me.

Cross that Callie had the temerity to be upset with this, Melanie growled “Well, consider getting done on time in the morning and this would not have to happen. It is your choice, little girl! Let’s go!

Callie stomped down the stairs, her pale cheeks and ears were red and her lips were pursed in anger. Sternly Melanie said, “Get in the car!” After Callie ran out to the car Melanie stalked after her grumbling the whole time. She snapped up her phone so she could call their schools and her office to let them know that they were all going to be late… again.


Tired from a long day at work Melanie returned home after six o’clock. She walked in and saw Jeff cooking and Conner at the table working on his math homework. She sat her purse and briefcase down on the counter, hung up her coat, and then, unceremoniously plopped down into a chair at the table. Jeff started to speak “How’d…”.

Don’t ask!” she quickly cut him off. Connor looked up at his mom and then quickly looked back down. He could feel the tension and the stress in her, so he decided that now was not a good time to talk about his football practice problems.

She quietly asked “Crystal?

Just started a bath.

She could smell the garlic aroma from the sauce he was working on for spaghetti, Callie’s favorite. Still grumpy about this morning’s events she rolled her eyes, straightened up a little, and cleared her throat.

Callie in her room trying to avoid me?” There was a pause as Conner looked up and Jeff turned around, confused.

We thought you were picking her up as usual. I was expecting her to walk through the door after you.

Melanie’s eyes and mouth went wide and her mind started running. She stumbled out “I, I told her to take the bus home after school, because I was going to be at work late.” She stood up quickly, the chair slid away, groaning in protest against the wooden floor. Her heart pounded in fear as she quickly picked up the phone from the table and started to make a call. Jeff turned down the burners for the spaghetti and the sauce and then picked up his phone too. Jeff heard the fear in her voice and then, calmly, said to Conner “Conner, why don’t you finish your homework in your room, while mom and I make some calls.” Without making a noise Conner, not sure what this meant, picked up his books and quietly walked to his room.

They each made some calls to Callie’s friends, to the school, posted to Facebook, and then, finally, called the police. All they found out was that some of the kids saw her at the bus stop after school. Jeff pulled Melanie close as she started to sob, eyes red as tears streaked down her cheeks. He rocked her in his arms as she repeated through choked tears “Where’s our Callie, Jeff? Where’s our little girl?

Her phone rang. Jeff Answered. It was the FBI.

Looking for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing

once upon a time...

once upon a time…

Ever since working on reworking a friend’s character history for Dungeons and Dragons in 2011 I have been working on learning how to write with what little time I have had available.

In the last year, mind I have been looking into going back to school for a Creative Writing degree. Specifically, sales I have been looking for places to where I can complete a BA online. I found one that interested me – Southern New Hampshire University. I have had my credits transferred and accepted, and had my classes picked out. Then I had to deal with the dreaded financing. I was hoping that the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program which starts in October of next year would get me there in a reasonable way, but it turns out that whatever my payment plans were for the last 10 years were not a payment plans that qualified for Loan Forgiveness so my 10 year timer will get start when I change the loans which will increase their monthly payment by almost $100. I was counting on this to have my loans paid off sooner than later to justify going back to school, but that was not to be, sadly.

Last week I met with a counselor at the UW Sauk Campus and talked with her. She said for most people who come to the campus with and existing Bachelors Degree that they look at going for a Masters Degree of some sort. She suggested a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA). I had been looking at the MFA while looking for an online degree program, but thought I should get to a BA first. It turns out that if you are accepted into a Masters Degree program in this way they will figure out which classes you need to meet the prerequisites for the degree program and then you will have to complete those before officially entering into the program. Basically, I would need to finish to the core BA courses for a Creative Writing degree. Now, unfortunately, the UW Baraboo Campus does not offer a Creative Writing Degree so that makes things much harder. I will be meeting with their Creative Writing instructor, who graduated from the prestigious Iowa University, in the next week or so to talk to her about things. I also found out that the Wisconsin GI Bill should cover at least 2 years of schooling as long as it is with a State of Wisconsin public university, so that is some good news, however, I had been checking for that specifically and I cannot find one that offers a Creative Writing degree online, although UW Madison does offer an MFA. Me sad panda. We shall see if anything comes of the next meeting.

If you are completely bored and are interested to read some of my subjectively better writings then here are a few examples that might be palatable for you:

I am a guest on Episode 8 of the Storium Arc Podcast!!

I am a member of the Storium Arc podcast team for the Storium game (@FreeXenon), read although I only help a little in the background mostly, generic but I had the wonderful chance to be a guest on the show last week as we were recording Episode 8, ascariasis in which we discuss character creation. I am in a game or two with one of the hosts named Justin (@Twisted_Gnome) and he thought that my view point as a player might be interesting for people to hear.

Now, this was my first time on podcast and I was really nervous about it. I spent time beforehand to write up a script that would cover the parts that I thought I knew I was going to have to speak on, but it never quite came out that way. I never ever looked at what I had written down, although it was fresh’ish in my mind. I felt like a hot, hot mess, so, as a method of some level of redemption, or at least to make myself feel better, I am posting my script here to translate my borderline incoherence below, also keep in mind I have posted links to everything  mentioned here at the bottom of this post.

My Introduction

Hello everyone, my name is Jim O’Neill and I go by Free Xenon on Storium,  and just about everywhere else on the web. That is Xenon with an ‘X’.

I have been playing role playing games for about 25 years starting with Dungeons and Dragons First Edition and then Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth editions. I have also played Alternity, a smidge of Rifts, Shadowrun, Marvel, GRUPS, Vampire, and then a bit of Star Wars, which is what my gaming group is playing now.

As far a writing is concerned, Role Playing Games were my primary gateway drug, and then blogging was a close second. In the years I have been playing RPGs there have been many, many character histories and narratives written, however in the last 5 or so years they have been getting more complex and larger, much to my DM’s chagrin.

My journey into writing really began after I was helping one of our players who was a high school student and son of one of the other players. I was working with him on his character history, since we were intertwining our histories. At one point he came to me with his character history and I was inspired by it so I rewrote it for him. It turned out to be 10k words long and I finished it in 3 days, so about 3.3k words per day. I was completely shocked when I saw that I had written 10k words. I began to ask myself if I could write a book and this was really the beginning to my serious look into writing. I have also participated in National Novel Writing Month 2 years ago (2013) with a Sci-Fi A-Team sort of thing. You can read my posts on this experience under the posts with the NaNoWriMo tag. I am currently, more off than on, attempting to work on a fantasy series.

I have also been blogging or had a website for about 15 years, so I have had a lot of experience just writing my thoughts out on the web covering mostly religion and politics.

I am current playing in 7 games, but all of them have hit that wall, where everything has slowed down a lot. Maybe one post per week or two. I generally prefer sci-fi and fantasy games.

So, yea, that is me in a nutshell, more nut than shell, that is. =)

Character Creation Process

  1. The Hunt
    • Hunt through the Browse Games Listing or, on occasion, I will look at the Looking for Players thread, until I find one that piques my interest
  2. Cardic Inspiration
    • Once I find one that I like I will click through to the character creation cards and see what they are about and see if there is something there that inspires me. If I do find some inspiration then I start will look at the cards more closely and start to assemble a potential character, personality, and history in my mind.
    • Here I also tend to spend some time reading the current characters too, to see where I can fit in or fill a hole.
    • Once I am done experiencing and selecting the cards and I have a character percolating in my mind, it is time to get serious.
  3. Character Creation Preparation in MS One Note
    • Now, if any of you out there have not used MS OneNote and you play RPGs or are a writer please go to download it, NOW. No, seriously stop, what you are doing right now, pause this seriously kickass  podcast, and go to download it. We’ll wait. tick tick tick tick
    • Ok, once I have OneNote open I create a copy my game template pages which contains (link below):
      • a page to copy the game description, a character submission template
      • character profile page
      • a section for writing my posts
      • as well as providing a space to record any research I need to do about the world. This space was especially important for a Mass Effect and Start Wars game I was in.
  4. Character Submission Template
    • In One Note I open the Character Submission template which is the page that I will post to the game’s character page,  and then I fill that out. (link below)
    • This has info like: my post times and time zone at the top; and then the character’s: name, gender, race, faction, height, weight, etc
    • Once I have that filled out then I will work on writing the character history
    • At some point during this process sometimes during the Cardic Inspiriation of the Character Submission Template phase I start to look for images for my character, and for me, frankly, this is the hardest part of character creation – trying to find the image to reflects that character and the cards I have in my mind. I have honestly scrapped a few too many characters due to not being able to find the right images to go along with the character and cards in my mind, which is really, really annoying.
    • Once the history and the rest of the template is done’ish and I have adjusted my cards as needed I will finally submit the character
  5. Character Profile
    • Once the Submission Template is done I go on to the last major step which is to fill out the Character Profile (link below). Now, I have posted my Character Profile to a Storium forum thread under the Player Advice Forum. This Character Profile is something I have put together from trying to put together a Character Profile for characters found in the fantasy series I am attempting to work on, but this is modified a bit just for Storium characters.
  6. Revisit the Character History and Cards
    • Once the Character Profile is done I will generally revisit the published Character History and the Cards to make any changes or corrections as needed based on revelations that the process of putting together the character profile has revealed.

Links

Images for Cards: at some point during this process sometimes during the Cardic Inspiriation of the Character Submission Template phase I start to look for images for my character, and for me, frankly, this is the hardest part of character creation – trying to find the image to reflects that character and the cards I have in my mind. I have honestly scrapped a character due ot not being able to find the right images to go along with the character and cards in my mind which is really, really annoying.

Flash Fiction – “Kin Slayer’s First Breath” (~ 680 words, fantasy)

Trigger Warning: rape, apoplexy murder, women, children, serial killer, prison, capital punishment

They sat there in the sterile white visitation room, a thick ceiling-to-floor glass wall separated them as a large red digital timer on the wall counted down from fifteen minutes, second-by second. The fluorescent ceiling light cast a sickly white light over both of them as one of the ballasts buzzed and was the only thing to break the cold silence. He looked at the floor. She could only hope that he could not look at her due to a deep soul wrenching shame that he felt for all that he had done to those innocent women and their families. Five minutes left and she was growing fearful and impatient that she would never get closure. She needed closure and so did her husband. They both deserved it. Who was she kidding? His victims and their families deserved closure from him more than she did.

The man finally grunted out his first heavily accented words to her in his harsh and gravelly voice:  “I’ve wronged many in dis life. I’ve done some tings. Some dat I regret. But, what has me sit’n here in dese chains isn’t one’o  dem.”  Her heart beat faster and faster as she resisted the overwhelming urge to flee when their eyes met for the first time.  His dark brown eyes started to peruse her toned feminine form like a predator before its meal. She was a mother of three that he never would have hesitated to pull into the back of a van to violate horribly while she would have screamed and screamed, and then leave her for dead along a highway somewhere, her eyes opened wide in terror and desperation staring off into eternity.

She saw it in his cold and remorseless eyes. She could feel it. She could feel all of the horrible things he was imagining he would do to her, which sent a shiver down her spine. Melanie shifted uncomfortably in her chair as he carnally undressed and assaulted her with his eyes.  Her hands felt cold and clammy, and were white from gripping her seat tightly when she knew he was thinking of where he would have left her violated body for the crows. She had never felt so dirty and worthless in all her life, like a piece of unwanted and infected meat, and she wanted to run out of that cold room, but she stayed.

Every night since she braved looking at the numerous reports and bloody pictures two weeks ago that recounted the bloody end of his victims – soccer moms, college students, goth girls, a construction worker, an exotic dancer, and even a nun – she has bolted upright in a cold sweat each night screaming after reliving the bloody deaths of his victims in her dreams.  The news clippings read to her like they had been taken straight from a horror movie. They left her speechless. She did not understand him or anything he had done, least of all why he would kill another serial killer so brutally, smashing in his skull until there was nothing but as crimson paste remaining. She just wanted to know why. Why he did it?

She pulled her eyes away from his carnal gaze, cleared her throat and then weakly said, almost whispering “After raping and murdering thirty-three innocent women over the last ten years, why did you let yourself get caught? Why did you kill him?

Did you do it for what he did to my little Callie?“.

Just saying the words gave her a small sense of closure, for she had come here and was brave enough to say those words, and he heard them, which was more than many whose families suffered such horrible fates received.

She felt it when he looked down to the ground again, his stare was palpable, had a powerful and filthy predatory weight to it. He grunted.“Wimmin folk can struggle’n fight. Chil’en can’t. Met him on a street and we wuz talk’n. Told me what he’d done. Was dead ‘fore he could finish speak’n ‘er name.” He grunted again. Tears streamed down her face leaving black trails on her cheeks as the guard walked in and escorted him to the last few moments of his life.
As the king’s honor guard roughly dragged Tradion out of his lightless dungeon cell by his heavy black iron chains, sickness
his left cheek bled profusely and he limped from the horrendous beating the guards had just delivered him for having the temerity to ask for water. They were once his friends and comrades-at-arms, as was the now deceased Prince, for whom he was accused of murdering. It started three days ago with bystanders yelling, screaming, and pointing at him with his blood-soaked blade and the Crowned Price lying dead at his feet in a pool of blood. He did not know how it all happened and now he is being led to the market for a public hanging.

The black hooded hangman bore the stench of unwashed peasantry and spilled cheap ale as he roughly dragged Tradion up to the noose in the center of the market before a whole crowd of people – beggars, nobles, peasants, soldiers, and slaves, his manacles cut into his wrist and drew some blood which dripped slowly to the wooden platform. People came from miles around to watch his hanging, the hanging of the man who killed the Crown Prince. The Chamberlain read the charges against him before he was to be hanged until dead. Tradion was strangely at peace with what was about to befall and he did not know why. He said a quick prayer to the gods above and then to his cousin the Crown Prince, and then waited for inevitable.

They fitted the noose around his head and pulled it tight around his neck. He looked around, not sure if this was even real, and then the floor dropped out from under him, the noose snapped tight and the pressure on his neck was unbearable, his eyes bulged as he struggled to breathe. His legs shook for a few moments and then he exhaled for the last time as the last sound he heard was the loud crack of his neck. The crowd yelled and screamed rejoicing that justice was victorious this day.

On a hill overlooking the market area were two hooded individuals who had watched the death of the traitorous dog, Tradion.  The much larger of the two men abruptly arched his back and took in a deep mechanical sounding breath, and then his head snapped from side to side like he was confused or panicked, or looking for something that was about to attack him. The other man pulled up his hood a bit revealing the concerned face of the Crown Prince. He wove his staff through the air forming arcane runs and then looked cautiously to his large panicking companion.

After a moment the Prince said “Will you ever forgive me, Tradion.” The Prince’s companion, fully a head larger and with the broad shoulders of a soldier, pulled up his hood with hands that bore metal plates and some bronze colored rotating gears. The Crowned Prince looked upon face made of a steel plate mimicking Tradion’s face, the dull glint of colored gears could be seen peeking out from underneath the sides of the faceplate which ended  at the line following the cheekbones down to the chin. A quiet mechanical whirring could be heard emanating from within his new mechanical form.

A gruff and mechanical voice answered “Next time you will be the one to die, Cuz.” Tradion shook his head and snorted, and then lifted and flexed his arms trying to get used to how this new mechanical body felt.

The King and Queen would never let me nor any of our knights undertake such a mission, so it is up to us my brother. We will need you at your best for the battle to come, for the Lords of Dathnar do not sleep.”  The Prince smiled, for Tradion was still in there… somewhere. His cousin’ spirit was tethered to this mechanical shell by the powerful magics he himself had forged over many long months of research and toil. They both reared their horses and galloped full speed due north toward the Dathnari Mountains where destiny waited.

Flash Fiction: “Callie” (~ 700 words, modern)

Trigger Warning: rape, purchase murder, visit this site women, discount children, serial killer, prison, capital punishment

They sat there in the sterile white visitation room, a thick ceiling-to-floor glass wall separated them as a large red digital timer on the wall counted down from fifteen minutes, second-by-second. The fluorescent ceiling light cast a sickly white light over both of them as one of the ballasts buzzed and was the only thing to break the cold silence. He looked at the floor. She could only hope that he could not look at her due to a deep soul wrenching shame that he felt for all that he had done to those innocent women and their families. Five minutes left and she was growing fearful and impatient that she would never get closure. She needed closure and so did her husband. They both deserved it. Who was she kidding? His victims and their families deserved closure from him more than she did.

The man finally grunted out his first heavily accented words to her in his harsh and gravelly voice:  “I’ve wronged many in dis life. I’ve done some tings. Some dat I regret. But, what has me sit’n here in dese chains isn’t one’o  dem.”  Her heart beat faster and faster as she resisted the overwhelming urge to flee when their eyes met for the first time.  His dark brown eyes started to peruse her toned feminine form like a predator before its meal. She was a mother of three that he never would have hesitated to pull into the back of a van to violate horribly while she would have screamed and screamed, and then leave her for dead along a highway somewhere, her eyes opened wide in terror and desperation staring off into eternity.

She saw it in his cold and remorseless eyes. She could feel it. She could feel all of the horrible things he was imagining he would do to her, which sent a shiver down her spine. Melanie shifted uncomfortably in her chair as he carnally undressed and assaulted her with his eyes.  Her hands felt cold and clammy, and were white from gripping her seat tightly when she knew he was thinking of where he would have left her violated body for the crows. She had never felt so dirty and worthless in all her life, like a piece of unwanted and infected meat, and she wanted to run out of that cold room, but she stayed.

Every night since she braved looking at the numerous reports and bloody pictures two weeks ago that recounted the bloody end of his victims – soccer moms, college students, goth girls, a construction worker, an exotic dancer, and even a nun – she has bolted upright in a cold sweat each night screaming after reliving the bloody deaths of his victims in her dreams.  The news clippings read to her like they had been taken straight from a horror movie. They left her speechless. She did not understand him or anything he had done, least of all why he would kill another serial killer so brutally, smashing in his skull until there was nothing but a crimson paste remaining. She just wanted to know why. Why he did it?

She pulled her eyes away from his carnal gaze, cleared her throat and then weakly said, almost whispering “After raping and murdering thirty-three innocent women over the last ten years, why did you let yourself get caught? Why did you kill him?

Did you do it for what he did to my little Callie?“.

Just saying the words gave her a small sense of closure, for she had come here and was brave enough to say those words, and he heard them, which was more than many whose families suffered such horrible fates received. She felt it when he looked down to the ground again, his stare was palpable, had a powerful and filthy predatory weight to it.

He grunted.“Wimmin folk can struggle’n fight. Chil’en can’t. Met him on a street and we wuz talk’n. Told me what he’d done. Was dead ‘fore he could finish speak’n ‘er name.” He grunted again. Tears streamed down leaving black trails on her cheeks as the guard walked in and escorted him to the last few moments of his life.

What is Flash Fiction?

So, urticaria in 2006 when I was just starting to get into politics and religion I took the Political Compass quiz to find out where I stood and I blogged about it, since it was also news to me. I found myself, where the x and y axis met, just to the left and down. Keep in mind I have no idea what that meant, not that I do now, but then I was just getting into the religious, political and electoral worlds which I never ever cared about before then.

Now, 9 years later, and having become active during California’s Proposition 8 trials in challenging right-wing nut-jobs, writing activist articles for my blog, joining a UU church, voting, joining the Green Party, and reading everything from evolutionary psychology and biology, Revolutionary War history, philosophy, theology, Christian history and theology, Near Eastern Archaeology, divine feminine studies, linguistics, and having joined the micronation of the Republic of Talossa, my views have changed quite a bit. I find myself quite a bit away from my uninformed self. Once you start to really care about justice and how the government treats others how you think about the world really changes.

2015 Political Compass Results [economic left: -7.8,Social Libertarian -5.23]

2015 Political Compass Results

Read More:

According to this short quiz my Political Leanings are Centrist. I have never heard of this until now. I have typically put myself on the side of Libertarians, epidemic
but this might be the closest label to my political leanings. We will see. I have to do more research on this to make sure.

Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction does not have a really hard or fast definition. It really just depends on who is talking and how they want to specifically define it. In general, otolaryngologist
 Flash Fiction is a story with a beginning, middle and end to it and is anywhere from 300 to 1000 words. Writers often try their hand at flash fiction as a challenge or for practice. There is even a national Flash Fiction Writing Day in Great Britain.

What is Flash Fiction

Places to Read Flash Fiction

“Choose to Bless the World” by Rebecca Parker of Starr King UU Seminary

This is a wonderful poem that I heard read at our congregation at the Free Congregation of Sauk County, infection and it touched me enough to post it. It is written by Rebecca Parker, viagra 60mg a Methodist/Unitarian Universalist minister, who attended famous UU seminary the Starr King Seminary.

Choose to Bless the World by Rebecca Parker

Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—

can be used to bless or curse the world

The mind’s power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,

Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
A moving forward into the world
With the Intention to do good.
It is an act of recognition, a confession of surprise, a grateful acknowledgment
That in the midst of a broken world
Unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.

There is an embrace of kindness that encompasses all life, even yours.

And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
There moves
A holy disturbance,
A benevolent rage,
A revolutionary love,
Protesting, urging, insisting
That which is sacred will not be defiled.

Those who bless the world live their life as a gesture of thanks
For this beauty
And this rage.

The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
To search for the sources of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing, and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth
The chorus of life welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.

Together—that is another possibility waiting.

Rebecca Parker

Read More

Angel of Death (Narrative for Kulae Ordo, Star Wars)

Introduction

This was written as a post-session narrative for a Star Wars: Edge of Empire game. This was the first time in gaming that an in-game event really affected me and would have deeply affected my character too. Our rag-tag group of fringers, visit web which had been basically annoying the Empire off and on between shipping jobs, had been basically forced by the Imperial Service Bureau agent, Captain Lynch, who was our long-time nemesis, to do some dirty work for him. We needed to kill this senator on Corusant. We programmed maintenance droids to roll up and then detonate under his landing pad when he arrived. (Yes, our Star Wars games tend to have a rather strong grey or dark streak to them. In war, desperate times call for desperate measures. =O ) When the droids should have detonated and destroyed the just his landing pad what happened instead was the entire tower came down and the news reported something like 45,000 dead. Our Dungeon Master (DM) did not tell us until the next week Captain Lynch’s response. This narrative was almost complete by the time our DM sent us the Captain’s message, which gave allowed me to modify it with the new news. I was going to space my character and start a new one. My character’s was Kulae Ordo – a human female roguish hacker running from an arranged marriage on her planet and who had an uncle she looked up to that was in the rebellion. She only wanted to stick it to the Empire and make her supposedly dead uncle proud. I won’t go over all of the characters or previous crazy events that led to this moment, but I will say that Jake was a droid character whose history was intertwined with hers and they were very good friends. This moment also allowed Jake to do some programming/skills changes too.

Narrative

Destruction of the High Rise (Day 1)

Kulae sat there peering through the rental car’s window, mouth agape and eyes wide, abject surprise and confusion ripping through her mind as she felt the rumble and crumbling of the high rise building even from all of the way up here. The brilliant flash of orange and yellow flames of the explosion bathed the inside of their rental car in angry light as they hovered above, hidden in the crowded traffic of the skyways of Coruscant. They could see the Senator’s three-floor penthouse quite a ways below them, as the entire building started to list slowly in the direction of the explosion. She could not believe what she saw. A terrible knot roiled in the pit of her stomach. Her face drained of color taking on a chalky pallor. She felt as if she might faint. Fear and shame replaced the confusion as it finally set in what was happening. She just knew that dark circles formed around her eyes as her soul died in that moment. Her shoulders began to slump and her head sagged as she was only able to find enough strength to keep her head from lolling around like a doll as the car moved slowly through sky traffic.

She could not even look at her companions, her co-conspirators in this horrible tragedy, this unplanned act of domestic terrorism. How did it all go wrong? She programmed the droid properly, Jake and Victor set up the droid with explosives properly, and she sent in the trouble tickets with the correct password, and even pre-assigned that specific droid to that task and time so that it could be there to detonate and kill Senator Alex Bishop of the Fenris System when he returned home in the evening and landed on his apartment’s personal landing pad. And it all went wrong. Somehow they used too much of the explosives. Somehow the maintenance droid ended up many floors below. It did not make any sense. They planned it as perfectly as they could. There should have been a warning of some sort. She could not believe it all. Her eyes were beginning to redden as tears began to form, and the world started to spin. She leaned back resting her head against the seat and closed her eyes, but the spinning refused to abate.

She did not understand how they all came to this. Were they all so lost that they were taking hit jobs … for the Empire? Has her zeal to support the rebellion and bring down the tyrannous Empire brought them to this dark place? Was this her fault? Did she screw up the programming? Has she failed and shamed herself and her uncle? She just knew that if there was a heaven that he was feeling the most shame that he had ever felt. Kulae lurched forward and puked all over the seat in front of her as this thought washed over her. She could not take it anymore. It was hard to think with her stomach a rabid, angry and knotted pit. She could swear she heard the masses of people scream as they plummeted to their deaths – the children, the teenagers, the mothers, the fathers… the innocent masses caught up in a covert war of ideals of freedom. The thought of her uncle being ashamed of her was the last haunting thought she had before she passed out. They all traveled in stunned silence all the way back to the docking bay. No eye contact was made by anyone. Not a word was said. None of them could believe it either. They all felt responsible.

Arriving at the Ship (Day 1)

She was not sure how she arrived into the ship or even came to her bed. She thought that she walked for some of the way, but she was just guessing. Perhaps Jake, her constant friend and companion, carried her. Yea, that is most likely what happened. Jake, her heavy metal shadow of comfort and protection. She felt ashamed that everyone saw her like this. Not only has she disappointed her uncle in the most horrible way imaginable, now the group has seen her shame too. Perhaps they believed that she is the one who screwed up? It definitely appeared that she felt that way. They must think that she was guilty. How can she ever face them again? As she laid face up in her bed, the world spun and spun, tears wet the side of her face in a salty wash. She could not answer those questions. Her stomach churned even more at the thought of the shame her friends felt toward her. She let them all down too. She let Jake down. The tears streamed down hard as her body lurched up and down sobbing.

After a while, when the tears stopped flowing, she sat up slowly, wiped the tears from her red and puffy eyes, and then feebly walked over to the door, step by step, each one a concentrated effort to not fall over at any moment. She locked the door to her room and slowly shuffled herself back to the bed, slow step by slow step, and then laid down again. After a few moments of resting on the bed, the world began to spin even more, like she was in an out-of-control carnival ride, spinning a death spiral down to the hells to which she will most likely end up. After a while, she decided that the spinning was not going to end. Carefully she rolled over and slid down from the bed to sit on the floor with her back against the side of the bed. She had to pause for a few moments to try to slow down the world and its angry desire to throw her against the walls or the ceiling. She dragged herself along the floor on her hands and knees, carefully trying to keep herself from falling face-first into the floor, salty tears again trickling slowly and dripping to the floor leaving a wet trail of shame. After long and slow moments Kulae eventually made her way into cool confines of the bathroom .

She concentrated hard to get her hand onto the toilet seat and then pulled it up. She thrust her head up over the cold rim while holding on with both hands, and then her body convulsed as she vomited. So many innocent people died because she screwed up. Her body convulsed a few more times as she puked into the toilet which now smelled horrible. Her body then convulsed in dry heaves as she tried to throw up again, as if she could vomit out the shame, guilt, and horror of what happened, but nothing would come out. He mouth was dry and tasted acrid and nasty, but she did not care. This must be what guilt and shame tasted like she dryly mused. She suffered in ways that she ever thought possible. This is more than all of those thousands of innocent people would ever experience again. She pulled herself down to the floor to rest a moment. Before she knew it she fell asleep right there on the cold bathroom floor.

The First Three Days (days 2-4)

She never left the confines of her room that first day. Despair and shame were her only companions, bitter reminders of what happened. She did not answer the door for anyone, not even Jake. How could she look him in the eyes again. The deaths of all of those innocent people was her fault. She could not bare these thoughts and truths any longer. She never really thought she would really truly understand the word despair, but she did now. Now she understood and it was the most horrible thing she has ever experienced. The holofeed said 45,000 died in the collapse of the high rise, whose explosion was attributed to a gas leak of some sort. The heavy weight of the names and faces of the dead floated around in her mind as she watched the vigil channel set up in memory of the dead. She saw the faces and heard their stories, and heard the sobbing and saw the tears of those who mourned the death of their loved ones. 45,000 people died and their friends and family will never see them again. They will never laugh or cry, smile or frown again and it is because of her.

The ghostly faces with names, the shame, the fear, and her guilt drenching and tormenting her soul. It was too much to bear. The failure…HER failure lead to the death of all of those innocent people, and nothing that she could ever do would be able to make up for that. Her mind raced with ideas and thoughts on how she could make up for what had happened. All of the thoughts from cloning to destroying both the Empire and the Rebellion to make sure that this sort of work would not need to be done raced through her mind. It was all so hopeless. She was powerless to do anything in her lifetime to heal these wounds, to bring back the dead, to make amends, to make up for what she did wrong. Hopelessness and despair saturated every fiber of her being. For a whole day she just sat there numb and despondent. Barely a mortal shell, empty of sentience. There was no hope, no commiseration, only the infinite emptiness of despair and hopelessness.

Kulae shook her head slowly, her face was dry with barely seeable streaks marking the passage of her tears. Her ducts were so worn that tears could not come no matter how much she wanted to cry and scream at the world. He body was spent, dehydrated, for she had barely eaten or drank anything over these few days. She would not accept anything from the companions who she unforgivably failed. She did not deserve it for what she had done. This should be the least of her punishment. There is no way to repair the damage, no way to fix things, no hope at all of releasing this burden from her consuming her soul. Her companions would be safer and the world a better place without her and then she would not have to live with the unbearable shame and guilt of the multitudes of the dead that fell eternally silent by her hand.

A finality and calm set in as that last thought filtered through her mind which had a sobering and calming effect on her. The decision was made. This was the end. The only justice that the dead could have and accept would be her own life for theirs and it would be dealt by her own hand, which seemed fitting for Kulae, an angel of death. At least the high rise people died together and suffered a collective fate. She would die alone in the dark and cold depths of space where there is no heaven, no hell, just a vast and lonely emptiness devoid of anything. Her punishment shall be an eternity of death in the icy cold solitude of space. She shook her head acknowledging that this is the only way. This is what will be done. This will make everything right again.

The Last Three Days (days 5-7)

The night before she slept an hour or two. Knowing what was going to lay ahead and that justice was going to be served allowed her to sleep a little. She cleared her mind, drank some water, and summoned Jake to bring her some food, and then promptly sent him away telling him that she will be ready in two or three days to come out for good, but she needed more time to grieve. Her hands trembled partially from fear and partially from being so very hungry. She ate slowly as she pulled forth her data pad and her slicer box, connected them, and then pulled up a special program that she had been working on for most of the years that she had known Jake. He had been her constant companion and she wanted to she give him something in thanks for his years of friendship and dedication, and for saving her life so many times. She has never forgotten that fateful day that she received that holorecorder that told of her family’s death, and then Jake, who she did know at the time, saved her from some ISB agents and escorted her onto the ship leaving the planet. And now he has taken her again in his cold arms and saved her from Coruscant. She had always wanted a way to show him how thankful she was for him, to give him a piece of herself in a true, deep, and soul-felt way.

She spent the day in a space of clarity that she had never known. The code just ran and ran from her mind and down her fingers into elegant lines and forms that were like poetry that came directly from the depths of her soul. Kulae had never programmed a computer so cleanly and efficiently in all her life. This was to be her finest work, and, hopefully, she would not screw this up. Jake did not deserve that. None of them deserved that. None of them. She barely slept at all, only sleeping when her body reached the limits of its endurance where she fell unconscious at the keyboard only to wake up 2 – 3 hours later with an imprint of the keyboard on her face. She would just rub her face, drink some water, and then continue with her work. She needed to get this done so that even with all of the horror and death that her hand has wrought that she could end it all with some form of peace, dignity, and some good could have been left in wake of her death. Two full days passed and the first and most important part was done. Her real gift to Jake.

The last 2 parts would come quicker, much quicker since they were much more straight forward. She pounded out the code one line at a time and did not stop. She winced through the pain which lanced through her hands and shoulders as she worked at a feverish pace. She did not care about the pain. It was truly going to be temporary. She needed to finish this today, so that tonight this could all be given to Jake and it could all be done. Her pain would be gone forever and some form of justice would be given to all of those people who died. A few tears trickled down her face as she thought about them again. The faces flew before her eyes. It was hard to see anything else, but she kept writing the code as she tried to see through the haunting and mangled faces of the ghosts of the dead. She was not sure if they were trying to thwart her work out of spite or if they were trying to get her to go faster so that she would join them faster to they could enact their revenge upon her. She did not care. She was almost done. At some point, the tears stopped and the spectral faces stopped, and she just coded. She was just a vessel through which her soul worked, not a person, just a mindless and empty vessel through which the code flowed. She finished every last line of code, and even had some time to do a code review. It was late, late into the night on the 7th day. She finished the code review and then made her last message in the holorecorder for her companions of their ship, the Cold Sun. Her last goodbye and apology to them for her failure.

The Last Night (day 7)

The last night was dark and the ship was quiet. She found some comfort and resolve in that. Victor and Skyyla were quietly sleeping, and X-23 was still rebooting and installing that ’98 patch update which has taken over a week with no direct end in sight, and Jake was left in charge of watching over the ship. He waited outside Kulae’s room as she had requested. Kulae looked upon the ship’s console which she had in the wall of her room. She initiated the protocol that would lock everyone’s rooms and only unlock them when this is all done. She then initiated the airlock routine too. The door to her room opened automatically as a part of that routine and Jake walked in. Kulae bawled as soon as she saw him. Tears streamed down her face as she jumped up and hugged Jake wishing that he could understand, wishing that he could forgive her, wishing that all of her companions and friends, her family here on the Cold Sun could forgive her for her absolute failure. She wished that Jake could hug her in the way that would really comfort her in this desperate time, and make all of the pain go away. He did what he could. He put his arm around her as he has seen other humans do in moments like this, not fully understanding what was going on with her, but only wanting to help her a best he could. His rifle was still in his hand like a permanent fixture of his chassis and hands, and extension of his being and will as an elite weapon of war.

After about 10 minutes of sobbing her breathing slowed and the tears finally stopped. She sat down on the bed and motioned for Jake to site as well. He did. She wiped away the tears and took a few moments to clear her voice. Her eyes were red and puffy from all of the crying.

My beloved Jake, I know you will not understand me now, but I promise you. I promise you, my rock, my apple pie, that you shall. Her eyes began to well up again when she said apple pie. This is something I need you to let me do. This is the only way to make things right, that their deaths can have any sort of justice or peace. It is the only way I can have peace. Everything is all set. All I have to do is to walk out there, open the door to the airlock, and everything will happen automatically. I will have peace. The dead of Coruscant will have peace. The doors are locked all around the ship and they will unlock once it is all done.

Jake sat there, rifle in hand, and listening intently for what he need to do to assist her or for some way to help fix her. Her emotional processor must be severely broken and needed a reboot or something. He knew humans could not do that, but that was the metaphor which helped him to make some sense of what she was experiencing. Her hands started to shake in fear even though she felt a sort of a solemn calm. Kulae walked slowly to her desk, paused for a long moment as she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, then she looked at both items that were sitting there. Jake thought she looked rather out of place in the Cold Sun jumper suit she was wearing. She never wore those, and he thought that she looked very out of place in them. Kulae’s arm extended slowly, her hand shaking a little, as she limply pointed to the first item – a rather large data chip.

I have spent most of my free time since you rescued me on our home planet working on this as a gift for you. I hope that you will find a piece of me in this and some peace with my passing in what is contained here. I am hoping to show you how much your companionship has meant to me over these years. In this chip are not commands, but requests, my last requests and offers to you. Use it when you are ready. I hope that you will find what I have done is something that will move you and drive you to save the rebellion and the Cold Sun from the dark side, that will help you to understand me and how much you have meant to me over these years.

Kulae then pointed to the second item – her holorecorder.

This contains the last recording of my family that I have received on the day you saved me for the first time and we left our planet. It also contains my last message to the group which I have recently finished recording. Please make sure they hear both of these so that they will understand, and, hopefully, they can find some way to forgive me.

Do you understand? Can you allow me this peace? Can you do this for me, Jake?

Jake was confused at exactly what was happening. He understood that she meant to enter the airlock and then open it up to allow herself to die in vacuum of space, but it did not compute as to why or what function this would serve. He nodded only wanting to obey and to make her happy again. If this is what she wanted then this is what he would make sure would happen.

Tabula Rasa (day 7)

Jake stood up with a measured pace and walked over to Kulae and looked down at the chip and then to the holorecorder, and then back to her. He slowly picked up the chip and then looked back to her, not sure what to make of it or what she intended, but she trusted her, completely. From his utility belt he pulled out a small set of tools, and quickly, with practiced hands, opened up his chest plate.

Kulae said, a little worried “You, you do not have to do this now. This will draw a lot of power from the ship and may wake people up. Jake!!

He kept disengaging and unfastening the appropriate pieces, moving wires as needed, and then recessed the large chip into place. In a blur of motion, he reversed the process and closed up his chestplate.

Kulae stepped back a little. She could hear a humming sound coming from his chassis and various mechanical parts chirping a little. A small antenna popped out of his right shoulder, and then the lights from the ship clicked off and on a few times, Jake’s head sagged and his lights went out as if he had been deactivated. “Jake??” The lights flickered off and on several more times. She could hear the life support ventilation resetting and the ships’ red emergency lights came on drawing a dull crimson pallor over everything. Moments passed of this flickering and Jake did not move. “Jake??” she said a little louder. Long moments passed.

Kulae panicked and popped open his chest plate, attached her datapad to check his diagnostics, and it all seemed ok. She unplugged, stepped back and prayed that her work was done well. More long minutes passed and no response from Jake. By this time the flickering lights stopped although the emergency lights stayed on, and some of the computers seem to be losing their connection to the main communications bank and she could hear some light static from the Cold Sun’s comms panel.

Jake??” she whispered quietly, hoping that he could hear her. “Jake??” she said a little louder. She was so afraid that she failed again. Maybe she screwed up the programming. She did perform the last bits quickly and in a sleep and food deprived yet clear haze. What did she do wrong? ‘Oh, please, Jake! No!Not you too! Please say I did not kill you too.’ she said to herself. Her heart began to race. “Please, gods above, let me do this one thing right!!’ She just watched for any sign of life, and she prayed. How long could the process take. She really was not sure. She could only hope that what she had done was enough. It was a miracle the last time when she corrected the programming which originally freed Jake from the Rodian and made him sentient. She barely knew what she was doing then , but now she… who was she kidding! “JAAKE!!” she yelled.

She pounded and pounded on his chest piece with her fists trying to physically shock his systems until her fists became sore and bruised. “JAAAKE!! JAAKE!! JAAKE!!” she cried in desperation as she pulled out the butt of her blaster rifle and started to slam that into his chassis. Heavy tears started to trickle down her cheeks as she slammed the rifle as hard as she could over and over again screaming “Jaaaake!!!“. She was barely able to see through her tear-blinded eyes. She just dropped the rifle to the floor with a loud clang when her muscles were to tired and sore from many minutes of clanging on Jake’s chassis.

She quickly hooked up her datapad to Jake and there was no power to him at all. Nothing. “I failed. I failed again.” she whispered, the weight of losing her best friend heavy on her soul. Kulae collapsed to the ground sobbing. She said ‘Jake. Jake. Jake.’ over and over while rocking like a desperate and lost child. Tears of loss streamed down. She really did not care now. There was nothing else left for her here. Kulae cried and cried. She did not know for how long. All that mattered is that it seemed like an eternity in her own personal self-created hell. In that tear-drenched delirium of despair and anger she thought should could hear his voice. What a beautiful torture he mind was playing on her. If only that was to be true. If only…

All of a sudden she found herself being foisted up from the ground by big metal arms and then she received the biggest, most human hug she had ever received. She could tell by the glow of the light reflecting onto his chassis that the color of the lights on Jake’s chassis and eyes had changed. She did not care. She just cried and cried and just melted into the embrace. She heard what could be identified as a whisper from Jake “I understand.” She cried even harder for many, many minutes while Jake just held her.

Chastising him she said “You stubborn metal bastard, you should have waited.” She shook her head as they separated. “You are going to feel funny for a while and then things will start to change. Your lights have changed color too, which I did not expect. I think you will be all right.

Into Eternity (day 7)

She turned and looked at the door for a few moments and then looked back at Jake still standing near the desk who was still processing while watching her. She smiled faintly and slowly walked out the door of her room. When she left the room Jake followed her, his metal foots steps a like a heavy echo behind her. She walked slowly through the ship towards the airlock, memories of her time with Skyyla, Victor, X-23 and Jake lazily danced in her mind: watching Victor and Jake work on the hyperdrive engine and listening to Victor curse; watching Skyyla look at the astrogation charts and galaxy maps talking about some of the interesting places she has been or pointing out interesting stop-over points for their trips; X-23’s complete lack of bedside manner, but yet perfectly professional manner while patching her up like a true pro. She remembered the feeling of abject fear as they performed a gravity assisted hot drop into Volgurt IV. The adrenaline rush from that lasted three days and she was not sure if she would ever recover from that. It was all so clear in her mind, vivid like it all happened yesterday. They were all more family to her than her real family, even the distant X-23. She knew she could count on him to be there and to fix her up again. She felt safe here with them and also felt appreciated.

Her hands started to tremble and her breathing quickened as she arrived at the door to the airlock. She was afraid, but still calm. She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her as her mind forcefully overcame her fight or flight instincts, but the adrenaline would not stop and her heart raced. She could hear that Jake was right behind her. When he stopped she turned around to look at him and then she looked back to the door. This was it. She walked over to him and hugged him one last time.

She closed her eyes and breathed in a deep breath and then said “Thank you for everything, my friend.“. She took a good long look at Jake as they separated so that she would always remember him. Kulae shifted slightly to the side of him, put her hand up on his cold metallic shoulder, took another deep breath and then looked at the airlock control panel. Jake looked at her, analyzed her movements, and her facial expression. He nodded affirmatively.

She hoped that this moment with Jake opening the door for her could help to absolve her of some guilt and fear, to help confirm that she was doing the right thing. Jake looked from her to the airlock control panel, then pressed the button. The airlock door hissed open. He looked at her and realized that was going to be the last time he was going to see her. He could feel a change in his neural pathways that he had never experienced before. After a few long moments of him looking at her, he looked back to his highly customized rifle which was still in his hand, but, at this moment felt strangely alien to him. He gently handed her it to her. Kulae smiled as a glistening trail of tears meandered down her cheeks as she thought that he may have started to really understand, in some way, what she wanted, which gave her some sort of comfort in what she was doing. She turned around and walked into the airlock. The door hissed shut behind her as she turned to face Jake for the last time. He looked at her. Kulae held back the fear as the tears streamed down her face, her heart raced. She waved a weak final goodbye to Jake and awaited for justice and the end to come.

A Cruel Twist of Fate (day 7)

Right as the airlock door shut Jake’s head cocked to the side as if he was listening to something. A small antennae popped out of his shoulder and then turned to face behind him. Kulae watched Jake as she listened to the airlock timer count down from 10 and she also listened to the automated warning that proper space suits must be worn inside an airlock to protect against the dangers of complete depressurization. These did not faze her. She just watched Jake in her last moments. She wanted her friend, Jake, to be her last thought and memory before justice was done and the pain was gone.

Jake’s comm sensors barely picked up staticky stream of angry communications from R2-DH. It took Jake a few moments to clean up the channel so he could pick out something sensible. When he did he heard R2-Dh raging about the complete disarray of the ship’s systems and requesting assistance in fixing it. He also mentioned a priority holo-message that needed to be delivered for at least the last 20 minutes, but the ship’s comms have been down and NO ONE WAS ANSWERING. Jake had never heard R2-DH this angry before. Jake shifted his focus and looked to Kulae for the last time and heard the countdown continue ‘5..4..”

Jake responded to R2-DH who sent some rather specific droid based expletives his way, then it sent a long list of areas where Jake could assist. Finally, it started to relay the holo-message to him, although it was going to take a little to force it through the static flooding the ship’s communications. A moment passed and Jake received it and began to view it internally. His head snapped up, eyes focused on Kulae. The countdown continued on ‘..1’.

Faster than she had ever seen him move, Jake’s hand slammed the airlock control, shattering it. She saw pieces of it flying across her view of the airlock door as its angry red maintenance light popped on. In a seeming protest to its rough treatment it angrily hissed opened as Jake yanked her like a ragdoll from the airlock by her arm, leaving a large bruise around her arm. The door started to close just as the external airlock opened. They could feel the slight venting of the internal atmosphere through the airlock to the outside as the door quickly shut. Kulae just stared at him, her face was red with anger and surprise. She was a fool for believing that he understood. She felt betrayed. She really thought he understood. She really, really thought he understood.

Jake concentrated a few moments prepping the holo-message for transfer and then he tapped the buttons on the holorecorder to set it up as a relay for the holo-message from his internal storage. After a moment the holorecorder played a new message which was from Captain Lynch. His upper torso and head appeared ephemeral in the air above the holorecorder. His face was calm, yet belied arrogance with an air of confident command and veiled disdain as he began to speak:

Can’t say your plan wasn’t a good one, but your small seismic charge would have done very little to that landing pad. Thought you could use something bigger. ” Captain Lynch smirked and then the message faded out.

Kulae never knew rage like this before. Her face was hot with anger. The veins on her forehead were pulsing in time with her heartbeat. Her fists were white from clenching them so hard she couldn’t even feel them now.

I will kill that frakking bantha stain myself if it is the last thing I do. There WILL be justice for the 45,000 innocent people HE murdered. Mark my words, Jake. Mark my frakking words.

She stomped off towards her room, her thudding steps echoed through the corridor as Victor and Skyyla hurried down the corridor towards her wondering what the hell was going on and why were the emergency lights were on and static was coming through the ship’s comms.

My First NaNoWriMo Experience (NaNoWriMo 2013)

I have participated in my first ever National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November and it was a hell of an experience. Out of 312, no rx 866 people signed up for it worldwide only about 40, buy 000 or so succeeded. As one of the 40k+ I can count myself as one of the 2013 NaNoWriMo winners (winner means having submited your novel and had it validated at 50k+ words). On the early afternoon of Friday, online Nov 29th, I submitted my incomplete science fiction novel, The Veritus Engagement, for word count and it came back at 50, 309 words. Praise be to the gods that I was able to finish. There were moments when I was not sure.

I have to thank my wonderful wife who was more than understanding and allowed me to make time for writing in order for me to participate. Did I mention that my wife was awesome? If I have not said that before let me state this now – My wife roxors my boxors! For reals!!

The Veritus Engagement (overview)

Set over a hundred years in the Earth’s possible future where a semi-united Earth has achieved limited space travel and has colonized some of the planets in our solar system, the United Alliance of Interstellar Earth (UAIE) is mired in seceded corporate space colony politics, the threat of a reignited war with the aliens, and competitive corporations vying to monopolize precious resources throughout the solar system.

The Veritus Engagement follows an elite off-the-record paramilitary group, called the Wardens, in which Kuulgan while assisting an elite human military organization, must wade through racial tensions and gun fire to help stop radical alien insurrectionists from reigniting war between the humans and the aliens.

The Preparation

I spent a good portion of September and October planning the writing in MS One Note, which rocks as software. If you have not tried and you are a writer or Dungeon Master, please give it a try I started with a one sentence synopsis, then a 6 sentence synopsis, and then I jumped into writing chapter synopsi using the 5 act plot arrangement with 5 chapters per section @ 2,000 words per chapter. Now, having an even number of chapters per act is not the preferred way to go as I understand, but that is what I went with in order to keep it simple, especially since this was my first time ever attempting anything like this – NaNoWriMo or writing a book. Each chapter synopsis was 3-4 sentences long stating what I was expecting to accomplish during that chapter, and, on occasion, there were also a smattering of bullet points too. I also worked on putting together some character information as I went and was thinking about the plot and needed supporting characters. I spent most time on the protagonist, an alien Named Kuulgan, and his supporting characters, of which there were a total of 14. I also spent a little time on the setting, technology, and history that was needed to support and make sense of what was going on. I even setup Scrivener, my writing tool of choice, with the chapters and 4 scenes per chapter.

The Month of Writing

November 1st came really fast and landed on a Friday. On that Friday I made my 2500 word quota and I was surprised with this and I thought that, with my first 2500 words completed, that I might just be able to this.  The first week of writing went fast and furious. I kept to my daily quote quite easily. Although as we jumped into week 2 I was finding that the 5 chapters about diplomacy that were spread around the book were only going to be about 500 words, so I knew I was going to have to make up for it somewhere. This amounted to about 7500 words of extra writing I was going to have to figure out. Fortunately, a few chapters sprung up that were at least a 1000 words over so I was fairly confident that I was going to be able to get it done. Week 2 was a little slower, but I kept pace pretty well. I used the weekend to get myself ahead by a little over 1300 words. Week 3 was tough. Some of the chapters were coming out, writers block seemed like it was going to be a problem. I had some setting issues that I had not figured out yet, and eventually said the hell with it. Just write and I will figure out the specifics later. I struggled that weekend to get myself caught up but, I was able to. By this time I was not ahead, only just keeping up. I even had to create another chapter with some background writing to fill up the writers block I was having. I was only keeping up, which was good enough for me. Week 4 was the week of Thanksgiving and I had no idea how this was going to work, plus at work my PC was upgraded to Windows 7 which was an all day affair, so I missed an entire day worth of writing, but fortunately I had Thursday and Friday off and was able to easily take the late nights if needed. At this time I also realized the way I budgeted my time I did not compensate for the extra 2 days of the month. I did the math based off of 4 weeks at 5 days a week, so I had extra time if needed, and, fortunately, I kept pace and finished on Friday, just like planned. I was soo happy that I finished. I was glad to finally be done and have conquered this beast. The NaNoWriMo Beast! I think that ding sound means I made it to second level! Squee!

The Experience

I was glad to be done with NaNo. It is not that I did not enjoy it, since i really did enjoy the experience. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is an incredible challenge with a full time job, wife, kid, and a business to manage. I learned that what you plot out and plan to take up a complete chapter worth of words may not actually end that way. I learned that even if you have everything planned out well that writers block may decide that you need more of a challenge. I learned that as you are writing that the writing may take on a life of its own and take you somewhere that you had not planned or it will reveal to you something about your book that you had not realized. I learned that Warrant Officer Giovanni did not like the sound of vibro weapons. The last combat that I had writing turned out nothing like I was intending – no one died. =( I am not sure who is boss here me or the book. =O

What Now?

Currently, I am working on what I hope will be an 7 book fantasy series based on a character and character history from a Dungeons and Dragon’s Second Edition game that played in the 1990’s during my time in the Navy. This was a single player game  that someone else DM’ed for me while we were on our 6 month cruise in the Mediteranean. I am currently in the process of plotting it out and workin on history. The series will be based on the character history titled ‘Of Books and Blades‘ (see link below) and the first book was going to basically be a large rewriting of this short story. I have since come to find out that I have almost completely abandoned this. The only part that is kept is that Jaerle and Kari and the rest is completely jettisoned. I am having the most problem figuring out the plot for this first book. Books 2-5 are fitting together pretty well. 6 and 7 are still a work in process I think either I will get the basic plot for book one done first, or book one’s plot may not happen until the plot for the last two books  are fitting. We shall see.

Wish me luck!

NaNoWriMo (3 Days and Counting)

DDP Yoga LogoThis post is written as a break off from my previous post about Tanya and Uliana being in Belarus. I wanted to separate the DDP stuff into another post, read more so here we go:

First let me tell what DDP yoga is:

About DDP Yoga

DDP Yoga came into being after DDP , sick the professional wrestler named Diamond Dallas Page, eczema  messed up his body while wrestling. The doctors told him he would never wrestle again. He was desperate and would try anything to get back into the ring. His wife was doing yoga at the time and recommended that he give that a try. He was desperate so he tried it, and within 3 weeks he was back to training for wrestling  With his seemingly miraculous return to wresting he worked with a chiropractor who specializes sports extremity medicine affectionately named the ‘Yoga Doc’ , who is also a Power Yoga instructor, to create a workout that integrates Power Yoga, rehabilitation techniques, and dynamic tension to create low impact yoga based workout that delivers cardio and strength training too. He has championed it among his wrestling buddies and many are doing DDP Yoga as a part of their training regiment.

“It ain’t your mamma’s yoga!!”

How It Started

So, why did I start looking into DDP yoga?  Well, it all started when a rep from the Madison Mallards called me to let me know that DDP was going to be at a Mallards game some time in June and will be teaching a class after the game. He wanted to see if our studio wanted to arrange for a group outing for the game and DDP’s class. This, of course, had me thinking DDP?  Yoga?? What the hell is going on here? I spent some time researching it and it looked legit.

In doing some research on this I found  the inspirational story of Arthur Boorman‘s transformation using DDP Yoga, which was amazing. Eventually I bought his book Yoga for Regular Guys (YRG). After reading the YRG book I took a better look at DDPYoga.com and I really liked what I saw. Last Thursday I made the jump by purchasing the Max Combo pack, and then the fun began.

Why I made the Jump

As most of you know, my wife and I have a yoga studio, and she teaches there as the primary instructor teaching about 13 classes per week. I have been taking Yoga with her on and off, depending on babysitting, for about 3 years or so, which has been great for my back and neck. I will also say the Tanya is an awesome instructor.

I have wanted to become a yoga teacher for a few years now, but this is difficult because of babysitting, time (~1 month) and money (~$3,500). The 2 paths I have considered are Power Yoga and Yoga Therapist. I first considered Power Yoga since that would appeal to guys more and it is a great workout for muscle building and weight loss. I definitely need a little bit of both of those, but the possible intensity of workouts sorta scared me. =O I found a more important Yoga focus, since in the last year or so I have been battling with RSI (repetitive strain injury), which is the precursor for carpal tunnel syndrome, and it came to the point where I was concerned about having to quit my job. I decided that if I were to get certified I would pick a therapeutic focus and I found that Yoga Therapy was a possibility, more specifically I found out about the Integrative Yoga Therapist certification which also includes diet and Ayurveda too. I am a strong proponent of ‘fix your freaking diet’ as my friends and family well know. Again, this also takes time and money which we do not have at this time.

Now, DDP Yoga is a nice mixture of both Power Yoga and Yoga for a therapeutic end, and they also recommend good dietary changes too. They recently released the first part of  a certification path which only costs $500 and you can do it at home. If I am able to survive DDP Yoga and benefit from it, especially at the upper levels, I may look into getting certified and then I may run classes in the morning as a sort of a boot camp, but that is in the future and assumes much. We shall see if that shall come to pass.

DDP Yoga Poster

Read More

Here are some links about it in case you get curious:

OK, sick
everyone there are 3 days and counting before National Writing Month (NaNoWrimo) which runs all through the month of November. It is coming… brace yourself!!

I do not have as much prepared as I would like, and I am not sure if the chapter synopsi that I have prepared will work well enough for me to be able to actually write each chapters with 2500 words. We shall see. This is my first attempt at something like this so it will be a huge learning experience.

Attempting to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

OK everyone…. I am going to attempt to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is all through the month of the November (Nov 1 -30). The challenge is to write a 50k word novel in one month. I think 50k words is technically classified as a novella, visit this site but whose counting anyhow? Not a fully edited one, case of course, just a rough draft. I have no idea if I can accomplish this, but I am going to try. I have a Google+ Community setup for those who wish to assist me in this craziness. If you would like to look up the community titled: FX’s 2013 NaNoWriMo GP – the Vertitus Engagement, or you can find a link below

FX’s 2013 NaNoWriMo Entry
Genre Sci Fi
Title The Veritus Engagement
Cover Summary Kuulgan, and alien from another galaxy and a former member of their alien military, while assisting an elite human military organization, must wade through racial tensions and gun fire to help stop radical alien insurrectionists from reigniting war between the humans and the aliens.
Setting Set over a hundred years in the Earth’s possible future where a semi-united Earth has achieved  limited space travel and is colonizing the planets in our solar system. The United Alliance of Interstellar Earth (UAIE) is mired in seceded corporate space colony politics, the threat of reigniting war with the aliens, competitive corporations vying for the next great technological advancements that can take our species beyond our system, and monopolize precious resources, tries to keep the peace with an elite off-the-record paramilitary group, called the Wardens.

Humans have encountered one sentient alien species which has traveled to our system resulting in a decades long war, but finally ended in a tense detente with the aliens colonizing the he periphery of our system. An eventual agreement allowed some cross immigration for both humans and aliens.

Bloodflame Successor (Demascatus, D&D 4e, Narrative)

Introduction

This is a was a rewrite of part of a character history for a D&D 4E game that I did for a player at our table, neurologist the 16-year-old son of one of the other players. I originally did a rewrite for when he wanted to intertwine his character’s beginning history with my characters’. Since I rewrote his original history, patient and because I similarly felt inspired with what he wrote, I rewrote and cleaned this up for him as well. If you are looking to understand a bit of what is going on then you may want to read his original history too to help give you a frame of reference.

This writing covers two related writings which will only really make sense if you played the Fourth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. This first narrative is narrating my friend’s character, Demascatus – a male tielfling warlock dedicated to the Raven Queen – taking on the Paragon Path of Turathi Highborn. The second narrative goes over what his character did with about a year of in-game time that we had off as a part of making that transition into the paragon path. Both of these re-writes took me about 3 hard-writing days to complete and are responsible for me looking into becoming a writer – near 9,500 words in 3 days! =O The quality has a lot to be desired, of course – too much telling and not showing, but we all have to start somewhere. =)

Narrative – Turathi Highborn

Battle after battle filled with screams, flame, and terror blurred together as the years passed by dotted by calm moments of training, meditation, prayer and service to the Blood Knights. It seemed like yesterday that he had  just arrived at the Citadel with Zerda and began his training as a boy, to graduate the next day as a full-fledged wielder of the Sacred Bloodfire in service to the Raven Queen. Her finding him was his the beginning of his freedom. Freedom from his personal demons, those angry and otherworldly voices that always called for blood, flesh, and flame. They have been quiet for a very long time, so long that he almost had forgotten what they sounded like, which, in some way, unsettled Demascatus. They were quiet so they must be planning something.

As he trained and gained in power and control over the Sacred Bloodfire. He advanced at a steady rate in the Order and, of course, held a special place in the Order, but his progress seemed to just stop. His ability to advance and to push himself further just reached a wall. This invisible wall where he knew that there was more on the other side. He could feel it. He could sense it. He knew that it was there and that there was more he was capable of. Something was holding him back. Something was keeping him from accessing that power and potential.

Demascatus spent some time talking with other warlocks of his order as well as his mentors, but their well-meaning and experienced advice did not help. Frustration set in and he began to feel alone and a little isolated again. He could not find someone that could really understand his block and his frustration, not even Tszeez’dar. Demascatus was unsure where to go next. He could feel the excess Bloodfire was burning inside him and it was beginning to roil and churn, yearning to get out, but he had no way of getting to it. No way to set it free. This is when he heard it again. The faint dark whispers in darkest and deepest recesses of his mind. It was faintly audible to him, but he knew it was them… his demons. This frustrated Demascatus a little for they had been gone for so long, and he hoped that he had broken their control or affect on him, but it looks like they may have found a way back.

Demascatus was frustrated so he went to Zerda and to the Blood Matron to let them know that he was going to be going away for a while, that he had some ‘personal demons’ to wrestle with. Because they knew Demascatus and his life they understood and they wished him well and a safe return. He left shortly thereafter to seek solitude and quietness so he could concentrate and call forth the voices, to summon his personal demons. They had something to say and it seemed that they currently held all the cards.

He took a ride through his past. He took that same path Zerda took him while taking him to the Citadel so many years ago. He was surprised to count up how long ago that really was and how long they have been silent. He felt hesitant about going back to the darkness, back to where the voices mentored him and were present every moment of every long, dark, and hungry day. Perhaps they have grown in power like he has over the years. Perhaps they would win and fulfill their desires to consume and possess him this time. These thoughts bounced around his head, but he was still confident in his abilities. He was sure that he could control them again as he had controlled them before. The closer he came to his ‘home’ of the past, the more he expected that with all of the quiet and solitude that the demons would return, but they did not, and that bothered him.

This bothered him for the rest of his several week trip back to his past. When he arrived at his place of darkness he was flooded with a familiar and unsettlingly comfortable feeling. Part of this comfortable feeling annoyed him, especially after having been used to the camaraderie and friendship of being a Blood Knight for so long. He still found this place, this darkness, strangely comforting. Even with these feelings settling in him, the voices did not return, which began to annoy and worry him at the same time. He wondered what is their game now? What trump cards were they carrying? No matter what their message or how good their hand was, Demascatus was determined to beat them at their game. He was one of the few wielders of the Sacred Bloodfire. If he could wield and handle that surely he could handle a few angry demon voices in his head that may have grown in power as he has grown during the intervening years.

After he put together his camp and arranged his things for the inevitable onslaught of the voices, he sat and meditated, which after closing his mind to them for so many years, felt strange and potentially self-defeating. As soon as he opened his mind and invited them forth they were loud and present like they had never missed a beat… like they had never been gone. Their message has changed little in all these years… death, violence, flame, and practice, but this time their words were more about the flame, fire, and burning…. They chastised him and cursed the very ground that he walked upon, they condemned his soul to the deepest and darkest recesses of eternity for suppressing them for so long. Their words were loud and they shuttered his body as if there was only one setting on the gate that kept them back and now the flood gates were fully open and they were livid at their absence and he could feel that to his very trembling core.

All these years of training to control them was put to good use after the first few moments of rage and anger they had unleashed into him. It caught him by surprise how powerful and present it they were. He could almost see outlines of creatures out of his peripheral, as if they were trying to manifest and attack him directly, but he slowly decreased the flow of the power that they were trying to unleash, and after a few moments he had their rage under control and they were not happy about it. They roiled in anger at him about all of the lost time, for what seemed like an eternity, and then they just raged about the flame and fire. They chastised him in no kind terms that so much time has been lost and that he is so far behind…. They cursed and condemned him in even more angry terms. Then they just screamed about FIRE!!!

Demascatus now had an advantage that he did not have before, he was able to have a little more control over the “conversation” and was able to coax some direct answers from his direct questions and every time he managed to do so they roiled in anger. He could feel their flames and dark energies trying to assault his mind and body during these moments, but he held fast. He was able to get them to teach him abilities and powers more directly and quickly. With their lessons he was able to manipulate the Sacred Bloodfire in ways he was not able to before and this made him happy, and more confident.

After each long daily session was Demascatus was drenched in sweat and hungry, but this time, he had plenty of food around, and he was able to mute the voices enough that they did not disturb his sleep too much either. He was in control now and he stopped when he was ready. Even in his dreams they were speaking to him and mentoring him. Revelations came in the dark dreaming visions of demons, flame, and death. These visions made his mornings an almost frantic rush to practice what revelations and thoughts came to him so he would not lose them as sleepiness wore off. He was always very, very hungry in the morning, almost as if he had not even eaten the night before. Mornings were a busy and fulfilling time for this reason and since he was readying himself for a new day with his “demon” mentors.

Several weeks passed with this daily ritual. He had eaten what food he had quickly and had to spend some time hunting for food and even that was not enough for him. He lost some weight during this, but this was not a process that he was unfamiliar with. There came a moment when the voice stopped talking about the fire.. stopped talking about the flame and training and continued with their talk of killing, death, and blood. His training was done it seemed, or perhaps they were giving him the silent treatment. He spent some time meditating following this change to even himself out and to renew the barriers he had put into place to hold back the voices, these demons in his head, so he could once again enjoy the quiet and peace of solitude.

Demascatus found  his ride back to the Citadel filled with a peace and satisfaction. He had proven to himself that he had control over them. They had grown in power, but so had he, and he still was able to control them… to not allow them to consume or control him. He was their master now, Damascátus thought to himself, as he chuckled at the mere thought.  He just enjoyed the ride back in a way that he had not enjoyed solitary rides before. He enjoyed the weather, the trees, and the birds. He found it quite relaxing to have this moment alone, which is something that he had not felt in…. well, it is not something that he has really ever felt in his life. Demascatus was not quite sure what that meant or even what to do with that. Being content in solitude like this was unsettling to him. He had never really felt this before. Perhaps this is something that he will have to get used to. Such a problem to have…

The ride back to the citadel passed quickly. He even stopped off by the shrine where he first met Zerda and where she took him under her wings and brought him to the Raven Queen. He could do naught but smile, this was one of the best moments in his life. The moment where freedom and family began. Once he returned to the Citadel he checked in with his mentors and their Blood Matron and he was able to train with them once again. A week or two later and he was now a properly initiated wielder of the Sacred Bloodfire of the Raven Queen.

Narrative – Bloodflame Successor

Shared Shackles

A few weeks following his return from campaigning he was brought a young tiefling of about 12 years of age. Demascatus looked over the young tiefling and she bore that same lonely, tired, and desparate look that he did all those years ago, which is probably why she was brought to him, because he knew exactly what she was going through. The girl was very skittish and not very talkative, but Demascatus knew just what to do. As he stood there he could feel his Bloodfire roil in anger and sadness at her presence. He could almost hear their whispers – those dark and rage filled whispers that he knew all to well, whispering in her thoughts and dreams, tormenting her every sleepless day. He was saddened that another would have to experience them and their horrid words and deeds, and the thing that they would require her to do in order to control them and obtain even a distorted sense of normalcy.

He asked the girl her name. She squeeked out “Tyrell.. Do you know why I’m scared?” Demascatus was slightly startled by such a direct question from her. Yes, he could feel that he knew exactly what was scaring her, but was there something about him that brought her out of her fear enough to talk. Demascatus quickly told her of his own problem – the demons – and the girl became excited for that’s exactly what she had been experiencing. She never expected that anyone would really understand, or perhaps she was going mad. She did not want to be burned as a witch or to be responsible for unleashing horrors upon the mortal realms.

Demascatus, knowing the hell that she was going through, took Tyrell in as his own daughter, to train her as a warlock and potential wielder of the Sacred Blood Fire of the Raven Queen, so that one day she could be powerful enough to control her demons too, and become a great asset to the Raven Queen.

Zerda was a little anxious at first to let this new girl stay with them, but with some convincing Zerda allowed her to stay. Zerda understood what being able to help someone who is going through what he had would mean to him. He would be the only person who would be able to understand or to really relate to what she was going through. He was truly the only person who could help her.

Tyrell wasn’t very open to talking to people yet, and she only really talked to Demascatus, who she called Demy, because he alone truly understood the problem she was facing – the angry and blood filled voices that spoke to her. Demascatus went straight  to helping Tyrell to acknowledge the demons and to try to teach her that they did not have control over her – that she really did have power over them and that they truly do fear her and need her. These facts were hard for her to truly accept for she feared them and their dark and evil whisperings which have tormented her for so long, just as his demons tormented him so long ago.

Demascatus was surprised by the will of this little girl. In the matter of a few days of shared exercises she was able to, at times, control the demons to the point where she could call them forth and banish them from her thoughts, but this was extremely taxing on her. Her body and mind was still young and needed hardening, practice, but above all of that she needed faith. Faith in herself and faith in the Blood Queen for she has been given the gift to wield the Bloodfire and their Queen does not choose its wielders lightly. Demascatus asked Tyrell how she was able to banish and call them forth so quickly and she replied, “I told them if they do not obey me then you will destroy them. You would destroy them wouldn’t you Demy?”

At first, Demascatus was confused by the question. He hadn’t really considered being able to do something like that, but he realized that if he could control his own demons then perhaps he could do likewise for her as well. After thinking about it, he told her “Of course Tyrell. Blood Queen willing – I would crush them with the power she has given to me. I do think, however,  that the voices that we share are part of our gift to wield the Bloodfire. These ‘demons’ are our trainers, tormenters, challengers, friends and our enemies all at once. They want us to succeed, but they also want to consume our very souls. It is our journey in conquering them that has us earn the privilege, power, and strength to wield the Bloodfire which can burn the demons of Orcus and other foul lords that challenge the worlds. We bear a burden that others do not have the strength to. The Blood Queen sees this strength to survive and persevere in you and has chosen you as she has chosen me. For me to battle your demons for you is to deny you your legacy as a wielder of the Bloodfire. The best I can do for you, my child, is to train you and prepare you as best as I can for their tricks and vile words.”  Demascatus sighed in sadness after finishing saying this. He did not like saying those words to her for it means a life of struggle and fear. He would not wish this on anyone, but he would also not give it up for anything for the demons bring him to power to wield the Bloodfire and to serve the Blood Queen in a very special way.

The thought and feeling just clicked inside of him. He had enough of them. Now that he had Tyrella to train his “demons” needed to go. He had suffered their existence for far too long. Even though now he had them under control he could still feel them testing and raging against the stout walls he had set up in his mind so that he may live a “normal” life. It was time for him to confront them for once and for all so that he can show Tyrella that there really can be an end to it once we are strong enough. The time had come. The time had come to be free of the demons.

Breaking the Infernal Shackles

Later that night after Tyrell and Tszeez’dar had gone to bed Demascatus told Zerda he would hopefully be back by morning for he had some things to take care of. Demascatus headed out of the Citadel to a secluded spot he had found along the cliffs around the citadel. He called forth the demons and they immediate flooded back into his mind as if they had never been gone. Their vile babblings and whisperings were as strong and angry as ever and they were eager to try to tear him back down. They raged at his weakness and uselessness to the Raven Queen. They, on promises of blood and mangled bodies, claimed their rightful place as his true masters. They whispered powerful words filled with doubt to Demascatus – that he was just an expendable pawn to the Blood Queen and that his existence did not matter to anyone.

Feeling this all too familiar emotional attack flooding into his consciousness he quickly turned their verbal and psychological assault aside and told them that he now realized how much power he really had over them. He could destroy them all right now if he truly wanted to so they had better shut-up and listen well. The demons suddenly became even more angry than they normally were for his insolence and arrogance, but he could now for the first time feel their fear. This was the first time that he really felt fear from them. Before he only felt anger, rage and a merciless confidence. They knew he had discovered the power they had given him. Demascatus told the demons that they were to obey his every command or be destroyed. Demascatus told the now livid demons they had a choice. They could obey him from this point forth or be excised from his enchained body and to be destroyed forever. Many of the demons quickly and angrily bowed, cursing in respect to Demascatus’ new found will, but in the same instant a few of the smaller and less intelligent demons began an all out assault to try and break down his walls before he could be even more full of his power. This is exactly what Demascatus had expected. He quickly vaporized these demons and his walls were intact standing strong and defiant.

The largest demons did not agree to obey for they knew that they were more powerful than any mere mortal. They came forward to play his game and to beat him at it once and for all – to make his mortal shell their meat puppet from which they could wreak havoc upon the material world. They came forward and requested to fight for final control and to prove who was truly more powerful and the true masters of his being. Demascatus thought that the demons of this rank would have fled out of fear of their destruction and the power that he now realized that he had over them. Hoping that they would just return to the vile place from whence they came, and to scorn him for his insubordination, but they did not, as he expected they would not.

Demascatus accepted their challenge and engaged these larger demons, and they were stronger than he really expected they would be. They truly were holding back their full power and he was getting their full onslaught with nothing being held back. This fight lasted for hours and hours long into the night, for the other smaller and fearful demons were healing and assisting the bigger demons indirectly so Demascatus couldn’t detect their game. When Demascatus was finally finished with them he was standing over all of the bodies of the ephemeral demons that hadn’t bowed before him. Following this final blow the rest of the demons just faded into a rage fill quietness the likes of which he had never felt before. He felt like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He felt a freedom – a true freedom from the demons that had plagued his consciousness for so many years. Perhaps he truly had won this time and this was truly the end of them – the dark and bloody whispers which had been so long a part of his life. He wondered if he would miss them and the struggle they brought since they were so much a part of his identity, but he quickly dismissed this thought for now. For now, he relished the thought of this new found quiet and freedom.

By the time he returned to the Citadel it was early morning and a few Blood Knights who were engaging in a sunrise practice saw him return covered in sweat and looking weak with fatigue. Demascatus collapsed half way back to his home from the sheer exhaustion of his combat with the “demons” and his return to the Citadel. When he finally awoke there were many people standing over him. He recognized the room as the infirmary he had been taken to for his burns from the immolith. Standing there was Zerda, Tyrell, Tszeez’dar, Tarrana, the kids and many of his brothers and sisters at arms. Demascatus tried to sit up, but found that he did not have the energy to do much more then rest lying down. His head was pounding, but his mind was strangely quiet. He also felt a drain on him different than he had before and he felt that he was being watched, not in an way that he felt threatened, but something else was also watching over him.

Late at night when he was all alone with only his thoughts and the quite of the night a small creature appeared at the foot of his bed. A small wretched demonic thing with small needly fangs, a stinger on its segmented tail, and respect filled and power filled eyes. Demascatus knew instantly that this was what he felt was watching over him. It was an imp and Demascatus knew that it was of the same breed of “demon” as the those that he fought for his freedom from – the ones that plagued him for so long and for so much of his life, and for the first time he was able to see one in the flesh. This simultaneously enraged him, scared him, and excited him.

Feeling Demascatus’ mixed and powerful emotions the imp involuntarily winced and moved its arms up to protect itself, but it quickly stopped and it bared an angry fang. Thinking better of being cronfrontational the imp pulled its demeanor into what could be best described as a form of deignful respect. It bowed before Demascatus and said in a creepy and multilayered voice “You, are now our master and we serve you. We are ‘The Ravage’ and are your “voices” incarnate. You have defeated us, whose only desire was to torment you, break you, train you, to prepare you to wreak havoc on the world. You are our superior and we are your reward for your victory over us so all will know that you have defeated us.” Demascatus did not know whether to trust it or not, after all it was a demon(s), but deep inside he could feel that in some way he could trust it, but time would tell just how much trust he could have in this thing. He slept that night with the imp watching over him… silently and invisibly.

Echoes of the Past

After a few days of rest and some healing Demascatus was ready to return to continue training Tyrell. He summoned his family, friends and other significant Blood Knight mentors and he told them what had happened out there that night – that he had conquered and destroyed the demons that had plagued him all these years. He also said that he thought that this was the end of them. Then he introduced them to his new “companion” – the imp who, as he has been told, is his nebulous reward for defeating his demons. He also explained for certain that Tyrell is like he, and she will be haunted with the voices, exhaustion, and fear that he has lived with his whole life. They all nodded in acknowledgement and their eyes reflected pity and concern for the young girl, but also a respect for the journey that she would have to endure, and the inevitable and valuable service that she will provide for the Blood Queen and their battles against demons and Orcus.

Tyrell became excited upon hearing that Demascatus has defeated his demons once and for all, and that it was possible for it all to end. Now, for her, there was a proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. If Demascutus could beat his demons then so she could beat her demons one day as well. The thought of being able to beat her “demons” made her smile. Seeing a smile on Tyrell’s face was a nice change for Demascatus to see, since she rarely smiled due to the heavy and fearful burden that she has born for so long.

Demascatus conferred with Zerda and other Blood Knights and he decided that he was going to take Tyrell to the place where he first learned to control his demons – in the darkness and solitude of that cave where he trained and learned so long ago. Training there worked for him so it should, hopefully, work for her as well, especially now that she has a mentor who has experienced it, and can guide her.

They packed up small wagon and they made the long trek back to where it all began. He spent the several week journey teaching her the scripture and parables of the Raven Queen just as Zerda had done for him so long ago. He had her doing meditation exercises, and he held her when the nightmares came and overwhelmed her into sobbing tears. He could sort of hear the faint echoes of their angry whisperings and vile words, but he could never really make out what they were saying. His imp was quiet and seemed a bit ill at ease whenever the girl was around, which was all of the time. The imp did not care for her presence, but it tried to not let it on that it felt that way. They had plenty of food and supplies for a few months of training, hoping that they could get the basics done in that time, otherwise, they would have to hunt for food, which was not an idea that Demascatus liked. He had enough of that from his lonely childhood.

As they came closer to the forest area where the cave was, he remembered the feelings like echoes of a distant past – the pain, the fear, the weakness, the isolation, the hunger. It has not been that long ago – a year since he was here last, but it seemed so far. The connection being severed has done wonders to separate his psyche from the damage and stress that all of those years had inflicted on him. The demons are still with him but he is now the master and they are now his tool to use whenever he pleases, at least that was how he was hoping it really was.

As they finally arrived, all 3 of them were quiet from the long few weeks of travel. They jumped out of the wagon, stretched their legs, looked around a bit, and prepared to set their camp and training area up. Doings so took the rest of the afternoon and into the early night. They turned in early so they could begin her training early in the morning refreshed from a full night of sleep. With ‘The Ravage’ to watch over them while they slept they had, hopefully, very little to worry about. They both slept strangely well and undisturbed. They were both a little unsettled by this fact – well rested, but quiet and unsettled. Neither really knew what was to come once they started this journey.

Familiar Training

The morning started with a healthy breakfast, a little stretching, some scripture, and some deep meditation to prepare themselves for the stress and fear of what is to come. A little after lunch they both stood up near each other and looked towards the center of the cave. There was just enough light peeking in for them to see an occasional stone outcropping from the caves walls. They really did not need their eyes for what was to come, since the demons were present in their minds and souls. They both could feel the demons’ power pulsing inside her, but they seemed to be waiting for something before unleashing their power upon them.

Demascatus went first. He had never done this before with someone else around, nor with anyone around that might even be able to perceive the demons, so he was a little unnerved and nervous about what was to happen. He looked upon The Ravage and called them forth slowly and in a very controlled manner. Slowly the his demons manifested before them and they were angry. Tyrell shrieked in fear, but Demascatus motioned for her to stand her ground. His hand seemed to just freeze her in place.

The imp seemed irate and very unnerved at this as well. Demascatus called the imp forward and he said to the imp and the manifested demons  “Bow before me.” The demons bared their fangs and hissed, but they did so slowly. The demons wailed in anger as they kneeled before him, their mortal master. Demascatus had to focus in order to compel them to obey, but they did, knowing full well that he could destroy them as he had done before.

Now, Tyrell, it is your turn.” Demascatus said quietly and firmly. Tyrell said fearfully “I… I cannot. I am afraid. I am not as strong as you, Demy.” Demascatus smiled lovingly to her, knowing full well how she was feeling, and he said “You have nothing to be afraid of child. I am here. We will get through this together. Focus and know that you are in charge and that they need you and as much as you need their guidance. If you are fearful then they will have an advantage and can grow stronger and more cruel to you.” His demons hissed loudly as he spoke. The holy truth searing their unholy forms.

A tear streamed down her cheek. She looked at Demascatus fearfully. As she looked upon his demons wailing and hissing quietly she seemed to shrink in place. She cleared her throat, straightened up, and focused on the center of the chamber as a tear ran down her cheek. As soon as she called them forth they burst into existence in the chamber which nearly blew them both over with its force. Demascatus staggered back a few steps and Tyrell dropped to her knees her eyes wide in terror. Demascatus had never felt anything like that from his demons. They raged in anger and black flames roiled off them. They howled and bored feasting eyes upon Tyrell. They hissed at the two of them and then seemed to growl even louder in disappointment and anger at his demons and the imp. “Command them!” he yelled trying to make his voice cut through the roar of their flames and howls.

Tyrell was frozen with fear. They had tormented her for so long and she had never felt them like this. They were larger, scarier, and more real than she had ever experienced them. Before they were just angry and blood filled whispers in her mind, and horrible dreams. Now they were here. They were definitely real and were given faces and eyes to stare into. There was no going back from this moment on. She could not try to ignore them or pass it off as her possibly just being insane. They were here and they meant business. This was real.

Seeing that Tyrell had frozen ‘The Ravage’ flew over to her quickly and stuck her with its tail barb. She yipped and shook her head and slowly stood up. She stared at her ‘voices’ incarnate and tried to focus her mind to try to control them, while Demascatus focused to maintain control of his demons. Demascatus said just enough for him to be heard over the noise of the demons “Light your sacred flame that you can feel burs in your blood. Let it empower you, child. The Bloodfire is the key. It is your power.  You’re are its master. It is what they fear and they want you to learn how to use it. LIGHT THE BLOODFLAME!!!!” his voice crescendoed cutting unusually clear through the demonic cacophony.

After a moment or two with her eyes wide eyes with fear as her demons drifted closer to her, the Bloodflame licked slowly to life in her right hand. They hissed in a way that almost seemed laugh, and then they roared loudly, which startled Tyrell which caused the Bloodflame in her hand to blast into life to cover both of her arms and scorched the ground all around her. Her demons recoiled and laughed maniacally at her fear and her lack of control. Their hate filled and predatory laughter resonated throughout the chamber and filled their skulls and bodies with it. They could more feel their pounding laughter than they could hear it. The Bloodlflame still pulsed out of her hand sand into the now scorched ground like two upside down flowers made of flames. The scent of burning ground and grass was strong in the air along with the scent of sulfer. Her hand tightened into a small fist and the flame became more controlled. She pursed her lips and then threw flames at the demons which they dodged easily. They mocked her clumsiness and lack of control. They called her many names and told her what horrible things they were going to her dismembered body when they get a hold of her. Her failure was their reward and her soul was destined to be their eternal play toy.

Tyrell’s eyes showed a little anger and she blasted more flame at them, but the blast was wide and dispersed which ended up being stopped by a protective field that the demons seemed to have around them. Demascatus’ demons never had that and this concerned him. ‘The Ravage’ perched on her shoulder, wound its tail down the front of her shoulder and under her arm to root itself to her, and it started to whisper into her ear. He could not hear what it was saying to her through the cacophony of howls, laughter, flames, and echoes. After a few moments Tyrell’s shoulders slumped and tears burst from her eyes and she sobbed deeply almost collapsing to her knees again.

The imp darted away seeming almost afraid of retribution from Demascatus or the demons. Demascatus began to raise his arm now sheathed in the Bloodfire in anger to strike down the vile creature for hurting her. Tyrell’s arm raised slowly as the tears continued to stream down and a concentrated blast of flame jetted outward, ripped through the protective barrier, and burned a hole through the demons in its path. The demons roared in pain and in delight as several were consumed by her Bloodfire. They all seemed to collectively smile maniacally and laugh, and then scorn her for not destroying them all in one blast. They let her know how weak and incompetent she was, and they leered at the imp who darted to hide behind Demascatus, wrapping its tail around his left ankle.

The demons hissed, and laughed, and laughed. Their noise grew louder and louder until nothing could be heard but their evil and manical laughs resonating throughout the chamber. They vanished just like they were never there, and all was quiet. Demascatus did not even notice that his demons had faded away during all of this somehow. Tyrell collapsed to her knees sobbing quietly sitting amidst the ground charred by her Bloodflame. She just sat there shaking and crying.
Demascatus was a bit taken aback by it all. His experience was never like this. Her demons seemed much more powerful, larger and more numerous. Their words and emotions were effectively the same, but her demons’ sheer power and abilities were more than his by perhaps an order of magnitude. His confidence in his ability to help her began to fade a little. The imp slowly flapped his way up and sat on his shoulder rather unceremoniously which seemed to pull Demascatus out of his thoughts. He rushed over and held her and they rocked together as she cried that soul-wrenching cry of fearful innocence that only children can cry. Demascatus, who was all too familiar with this cry, began to cry as well. They just sat there for an undermined amount of time crying and rocking together. The imp just perched itself a a  vantage point where it could seem them and the entrance into the chamber watching over them.

Weeks of tears and fears, and doubt, meditation, and studying went by. Tyrell grew stronger with each passing day. Demascatus learned each day something different about her demons, and not a day went by where they would strike the right chords to drive her to tears. He was finding that there was not a whole lot he could do for her but support her and help to steel her mind and resolve, and help to have the Raven Queen’s words guide her. Her nightmares grew stronger as the weeks went on. The demons would torment her during the training of the day, and even more so in her dreams at night when she was weakest. Every few nights she would wake up screaming or crying. Demascatus had some of that early on, but not as much as she has had to endure. All he could do was whisper words of support and hold her as she cried and cried. Each day was emotionally and physically draining on both of them. They spent the time that they were not training in quiet and rest.

Their food supplies had started to run out a week or so earlier than they had anticipated. That combined with that fact that her training was going to a much longer than he thought it would means they were going to have to start hunting for food which was a strange but somewhat welcomed distraction for them. While hunting Tyrell was able to work on firing on smaller and moving targets, which was a great challenge. It is one thing to try and blast somewhat stationary demon-things with raw concentrated power, and another to attack something that does not want to be hit. Tyrell found the hunting a great distraction and it helped her to cope with everything that she has had to endure here.  It seemed to empower and strengthen her for training. The more they hunted the less the demons were able to make her cry and the quicker she made progress. Hunting, for her, seemed to be a key to her unlocking her potential, and to open the gates of confidence and control. She made more progress in the next week while they hunted and trained than she did in the previous month or so of training combined.

As the next few weeks came and went, they hunted and trained. Even though she was a small girl she gained in confidence and in power. She cried less and less and the nightmares seemed to lessen as the weeks went on. She came to a point where the nightmares and breakdowns the demons were able to force were limited to once or twice a week. The demons still mocked, toyed, threatened, and insulted, but their words just did not affect her as much. She had grown used to their words, and only a few times did they inflict real harm on both of them.  With significant progress being made they decided to make their way back to the citadel. They had spent enough time in the forests and the cave. They needed real food and real beds, and perhaps it will be safe to continue her training at the citadel and the other mentors can work with her on the warlock aspects as he continues working with her to help her control her demons.

They started their several week trek back towards the citadel. With Tyrell having gained in strength, confidence, and control they were both in better moods. Tyrell was actually more talkative and even started a small conversation with a boy who was passing by as they rested. She was starting to sound more like a normal child and less like a tormented soul, and this made Demascatus smile. ‘We really were making progress.’ he thought to himself.

When they finally returned to the citadel about 6 months later and they were both looking thin, tired, and exhausted but in good spirits. The few Blood Knights that were on guard that night cheered when the two of them arrived. Looks of elation washed over their brethren since now they knew that nothing bad had happened to the pair of them. The Knights sent runners to let their family know that they had finally arrived. Food and clean warm clothes were brought to them and they both eat heartily and really appreciated the real food which they have missed for quite a few months now.

Shortly thereafter Zerda and little Tszeezdar came running in and Demascatus and Tyrell ran an embraced them. Tears and kisses flowed from all of them. They were all so happy to be home and to know that everyone was safe and sound. Zerda took the kids back home and Demascatus stayed behind to give a debrief to the Blood Matron and several other of the order’s leaders about everything that happened and what it all means. After several hours of retelling their tale and answering questions Demascatus and Tyrell rode home as the light from the sun was peeping out over the horizon. They walked quietly into the house and crept into bed and slept like a log throughout most of the day.

Demascatus and Tyrell spent the next week or so recovering from all of that time away. They ate, meditated, read and practiced with the rest of the order’s mentors as a sort of vacation from their real training. Demascatus trained Tyrell lightly and let her work by herself at her own pace as well giving her a chance to explore it with her newly empowered control. ‘The Ravage’ stayed around her to assist where it would or could. She progressed slowly, but steadily and the tears and nightmares seemed to lessen, perhaps happening once a month or so now. She had become a bit more chatty with people around and was asking more questions about being a warlock and the scripture.

Once Demascataus saw this change he told Tyrell it was about time that she started to attend a warlock apprenticeship here in the Citadel to become an even more powerful warlock so she can one day join the Blood Knights in fighting for their Blood Queen. This thought saddened her for he and Zerda were the only real teachers and family that she had really known.

“Demy, why does someone else have to teach me? You can teach me all I need to know. You can teach me about the warlocky stuff and Zerda can teach me scripture and I can stay here with you guys and help with baby Tszeez’dar. Please?” A large smile grew on Demascatus’ face, but it quickly faded. Demascactus told Tyrell, “Of course you will stay here with us, but you will have to turn to teachers other than us. You are our daughter and we want what is best for you. The mentors here taught me as well, and you are growing strong enough that you can work through the demons well enough on your own. Your journey in dealing with the demons is important to you and your utilizing the Bloodfire fully. Trust me, dear. The people here are wonderful and will be happy to help you in ways that I cannot. I had nowhere near the control you did when I started training here. You will be a great warlock one day.” Tyrell was sad with this, but she knew they knew better and cared for her, so she acquiesced.

Bastion

A few years have passed and Tyrell has grown stronger and more confident. She is picking up on the warlock training well. He has gone on missions for the Blood Knights with Tzseez’dar as needed, which was always a welcomed reprieve. Tzseez’dar has spent quite a bit more time in the field than Demascatus since he has been more occupied with helping Tyrell and ensuring that she advances and is safe. By this time Demascatus and Tzseez’dar have heard that their former companions of the Raven’s Host and their victory over the Tiefling army of Bael Turath and Orcus, Demascatus had also heard they were able to pursue the ambitious project of building a massive keep called Bastion as a new mecca for the Raven Queen’s faithful, and this new achievement excited him.

Demascatus did a lot of talking with Zerda and their daughter, Tyrell, to see if they were willing to head to this new citadel as a new home so he could work with his friends in the Host again. They all knew how much Demascatus missed being with that group and were happy to head out to Bastion to be a part of this great and holy project. Demascatus also took a lot of time to talk to priests and other Blood Knights and arranged for a contingent of Blood Knights to be stationed at Bastion to represent them and their sect. He also worked diligently to ensure that appropriate teachers will be going with to handle Tyrell’s apprenticeship.

The Blood Knights spent time accelerating the training programs for their apprentices and tried to acquire the extra resources needed to set up another temple dedicated to the Blood Queen at Bastion. Several months were spent copying or obtaining sacred texts, weaving new clothes, making extra armor, holy symbols, rods and weapons as well as candles, incense, and other items required for a new temple grounds. The entire Citadel was busy preparing to send this contingent to Bastion. Tszeez’dar, knowing full well what Demascatus was up to, talked to his family and superiors and obtained the go ahead to make his way to Bastion as well. He knew Demascatus was going to ask anyhow, and he was going to need to be around to make sure Demascatus and his family was safe.

Tszeez’dar approached Demascatus one day while everyone was abuzz in their preparatory work and he said “I know what you are up to and we are going too.” Zadi smiled  “but, my place will be training new recruits and guards for Bastion, and I will not be able to accompany you in your service with the Host, which saddens me deeply. My place in the temple is changing and you are going to have all of the fun. I will look after them for you, so do not fear for them. You, on the other hand, have been assigned to assist the Raven’s Host. They are going to need your Bloodfire in the days to come – our Blood Matron has foreseen this, Brother.

Tzseez’dar continued “I do not know how our people found Tyrell, but I am happy for her, for your family, and for the Blood Queen. Demascatus, you have done well with her. She will be a great asset to the Blood Queen and our order. You have brought great honor to us all.”  Tzseez’dar smiled broadly.

When everyone was gathering and packing things prior to the final trip through portals that were opened and humming with magic to allow easy transport of everyone quickly and safely to Bastion, some people had already been making their way back and forth to get things prepared and the logistics for everyone’s and everything’s placement finalized. The portal was busy with people and supplies coming and going every few minutes. Carts and people were lining up outside the portal chamber for that final trip to Bastion. The people were abuzz with talk of what they had heard so far about Bastion and its accelerated building and the beauty and holy glory of it all.

During the blur of finalizing their packing and lists, and meetings and arrangements, Demascatus found the ruby that he always wore around his neck was missing. Distraught at the thought of losing such treasured item Demascatus asked Zerda if she had seen it. She told him sheepishly that she had taken it and wanted to surprise you with it as a pre-moving gift. She brought it out and showed it to him and now. Underneath the name Tszeez’dar, was the name – Tyrell. His entire family was now completely on that stone and he pulled it close to his heart and he hugged her tightly.

When the moment finally came to leave their long-time home in the Citadel for good, they sat for a moment to take it all in. Their crates and sacks of stuff were in a small wagon outside. Their room was empty and as soon as they exited it, it  would no longer be theirs and someone else would live there. They would be leaving a significant part of their life behind to move on to something more exciting and new. A tear wandered its way down Zerda’s face, as baby Zadi cried not understanding what is going on. Tyrell was just quiet and a little excited to meet these friend of Demascatus’ that she has heard so much about, and to see what this Bastion was going to be like. With everyone’s excited talk and dreaming it seemed like the hallways were either paved with gold and/or the Raven Queen herself happily waited on everyone hand and foot. She did not care either way. She was with her family and she was not afraid of anything that was to come.

While making their way to the portal chamber to begin their new life in Bastion they chatted about everything they have heard and about Bastion and his friends in the Raven’s Host. The next few weeks went quickly as they acclimated themselves to the massiveness of Bastion and its precise dwarven built architecture, as well as their new place in Bastion’s hierarchy. Training had to be arranged for, bedrooms had to be filled, supply logistics had to be arranged for, meetings with Bastion’s clergy, mentors, and command had to be attended, as well as a plethora of other things to finish getting the place ready for a routine for the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice and the rest of Bastion.

During this time little was seen of the Host as they were working on finishing up their various projects and getting themselves ready and acclimated to Bastion as well, but the moment came when he was finally summoned by Bastion’s High Priestess, Uldana Farthan. Demascatus was excited to get back to working with his friends, but also felt a bit guilty about leaving his family again. He knew that Zerda understood since this is their lot and a fact of their life in the service of the Blood Queen as they have chosen, but Zadi and Tyrell were a different story. They were children and they knew that what their father did was dangerous, not like ‘standing guard in a prison’ dangerous, but a ‘one false move and a demon could suck you soul and torment you for eternity’ – or a ‘vile undead could drain your life-force and use your meat-suit as a corpsey puppet’  sort of dangerous.

Zerda suppressed her tears and baby Zadi was screaming and crying because he did not understand why daddy was leaving for so long, and why mom was sad too. Demascatus said his goodbyes to them and made his way to say good bye to Tyrell. They pulled her out of her daily lessons with the other apprentice warlocks and she looked upset and on the verge of tears. She has known that this day would come when he would come during her class and that may be the last time that she might see him. Tears started to stream down her face as she hugged Demascatus tightly. Through her tears she sobbed  “Why do you have to leave? Why can’t you stay here with Zerda, baby Zadi, and me?” Demascatus started to become choked up at her extreme sense of loss and fear for him.

He said gently to her  “Tyrell, I’m doing what the Blood Queen needs of me. She needs me to fight with my brothers and sisters at arms, my friends. I promise you that these my friends will make sure I return happily and safely, so I can hold you and continue to train you again.

Until then, take this piece of ruby necklace. It is identical to mine except that it has the name of Zerda, baby Tszeez’dar, and myself. As you get older and pass your rites of initiation in the ranks of the Blood Knights we will add their symbol and your favorite scripture, and then you will serve as I do, as a wielder of the Sacred Bloodfire of the Raven Queen. You will take your place beside brave men and women and support them in battling Orcus and other vile things. I will return to you. I promise.” He kissed her on the cheek and hugged her one last time and then said “They are waiting for me, my dear. Be good and listen to Zerda and you mentors.”  He smiled at her and she smiled sadly at him and he walked slowly towards the High Priests’ chambers.

Having finished all of his goodbyes Demascatus was still upset that he had to leave his family behind, but he knew Tszeez’dar would watch over them just as Demascatus had done for him in the past.

Dark Voices – Demascatus’ Character History – (D&D 4e, Narrative)

Introduction

This is a was a rewrite of a character history for a D&D 4E game that I did for a player at our table, one health the 16 year old son of one of the players, generic who wanted to intertwine his history with my character’s. I worked with him on his history and then he sent it to me. I was inspired with what he wrote so I rewrote and cleaned it up for him. At the time I had been reading a lot on religion so, health system as a part of my original character history, I came up with this cult for one of the most popular gods in 4E – the Raven Queen, the goddess of Winter, Fate, and Death. My character was a tiefling warlock-knight named Tzeez’dar and he belonged to a minority cult called the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice. They were a mostly tielfling cult dedicated to a unique view of worshipping and serving the Raven Queen. His character, Demascatus, was a tiefling warlock who had a special connection to the Raven Queen and was given a special gift because of it. This history is really going into the special gift and why it is more of a curse than a gift.

Narrative

Dark Voices

The darkness spoke in whispered and bloodied words to Demascatus for a long as he could remember. He has never been truly alone. The voices spoke to him and it was not at all about rainbows and unicorns. Mostly they spoke of blood, viscera, duty and rage, but sometimes, only sometimes did they chose to be useful.

On that fateful day during his youth when his village was attacked by servants of Orcus the voices, in a rare moment of lucidity and perhaps benevolence, led Demascatus away from the village to escape from the evil clutches of the Horned King of Undeath. Having run away, Demascatus was now free from the corrupt hands of Orcus and his minions, but what would he do now. He was all alone with no food or shelter, without protection from friends or family who were now slaves to the vile servants of the horned one or worse.

The voices, demons Demascatus called them, even though he was not sure who or what they/it was, spoke to him differently now. They were strangely helpful, which truly made Demascatus very uneasy. They were pushing him to learn, to grow, and to challenge himself, but he noticed that their “training” kept him moving through the darkness and seeking, even manipulating the darkness. In these strange and uneasy lessons Demascatus found a sort of serenity and solace there in the quiet and cover of the pitch black blanket of night.

During these “trainings” Demascatus listened and thought hard and carefully about their carefully selected words, about what they said and what they did not say, about how they answered, didn;t answer or redirected their answers. He had this suspicion that the “demons” were trapped inside him and were trying to get out. They were using him, training him, to set themselves free, or even worse, to possess him and take control of his being to do whatever bloody things that could be on their agenda for the mortal world.

Demascatus caught on to their game and focused his thoughts and everything he has learned to try to ensure that they would stay contained and would never get “out”. Whatever “out” would finally mean he did not want to know. Even though they knew that he knew they still kept teaching and pushing him to learn and grow more. He could feel that they were still waiting, like a powerful and fierce predator just watching for just the right moment to pounce and rend their hapless prey.

This training took time and Demascatus still needed food and other supplies. He still needed to survive. The “demons” did not pay so much attention to that, sometimes pushing him in his exercises, prayers, and meditations until he fell unconscious, sometimes from starvation or lack of sleep. Someone had to look out for him, especially since the “voices” did not seem to care for his wellbeing. He was just a tool to them – a means to an end, and that end was most likely freedom.

Demascatus crept into nearby villages during the night taking food and other supplies. It seemed that the easiest targets were the churches. There he found their books of scriptures and histories and he stole whatever he could find that was of immediate use. His mind was hungry, hungry for knowledge and understanding. His appetite for learning was borderline insatiable, much hungrier that his physical appetite for eating was by a large margin.

He found the scriptures and other books on history and the arcane interesting, but what intrigued the young Demascatus was the brief mentionings of the goddess of death – The Raven Queen. Maybe it was the voices or maybe it was the training or the lack of food, but he found death even more interesting than any of the other worldly writings. The ephemeral lights of death and of what happens when we sluff off our mortal coils to be embraced” by the goddess of death. What would she do with us? Would it be painful? Would there be a tomorrow when we pass from this world? Would we serve her for an eternity once we die? Do the dead of those of other faiths still go to her? So very many questions and not so many answers. The other books provided what seemed to be definitive answers to other worldly matters, but the answers for death seemed quite elusive and ephemeral, and this intrigued the young Demascatus greatly.

Years passed of this cycle: train, pass out, search for food and books, return to hiding to eat and read, perhaps even sleep a little, and do it all again the next day. Day after day his youth was spent alone and in the darkness, looking for refuge and someone to trust. The demons have tried on several occasions to harm him indirectly or to exert direct control over him, but each time he fought them back harder than they were able to attack him. There have even been moments where he has won their silence. The quietness in his mind, the emotional and mental solitude was scary after so may years, but also comforting, because it meant, at least to him, that he was getting stronger.

Salvation

Zerda was her name and she seemed young, too young to be a priestess at any rate, but in reality she was Tiefling about his age or maybe a year or four older. Demascatus was now in his mid teens. She was a priestess of the Raven Queen. He watched her from the shadows of the darkness inside of a small roadside shrine. He knew that she knew that he was there watching her, but she did not let on to this fact. She prayed to the Raven Queen and he even caught her preaching a parable or two of the Raven Queen to some locals. She came back a few times and he was there to watch and listen to her. In his mind he was begging, no, yearning to hear more about the Raven Queen and what knowledge and understanding she could impart to him.

One day while he was watching her quietly pray she smiled, stood up, and looked directly at Demascatus hiding in the darkness. She called him forth by his name. “Demascatus” she said whispered in a gentle, but yet commanding voice. It was sort of strange to hear his name being spoken in a “normal” voice – one not contaminated with disdain, hatred, and detachment. It shocked him. He had almost forgotten what name sounded like when spoken aloud. She spoke his name with a gentleness and compassion has has not heard since he lost his family so many years ago. Those words, those intentions, he knew, but they seemed so foreign to him now after years of a sort of a self-imposed isolation with just the demons as companions, if you could call them that.

Zerda could immediately sense the power and the struggle that was going on in him as he stood there unsure what to do. She smiled warmly to him and slowly approached. She gently caressed his tangled mess of hair and smiled as if she had known him all her life. It was a strange look to see from someone, well anyone, but it was comforting to Demascatus. Zerda said to him “It is time to come home, Demascatus. The Raven Queen is calling your name. She needs you and you need her.

Demascatus smiled the largest smile that he could ever remember smiling and he felt a great wave of elation, safety, and strength at that moment wash over him. Tears began to fall from his eyes. He did not know where they came from they would just not stop. He just broke down sobbing as Zerda held him. Finally, Demascatus was home. He had forgotten what home felt like.

What happened next seemed like a blur. He knew it all happened, but it went so fast and it was such a challenging and freeing joy. Demascatus rode with Zerda for several weeks on horseback, and all the while she was telling him the parables of the Raven Queen. During this time the demons slowly quieted themselves, as if they struggled to have themselves heard, or perhaps Zerda’s presence, the presence of a pirestess of the Raven Queen, silenced them, until all was finally quiet in his mind. She taught him the scripture of the Blood Queen and he devoured it like it was his life, as if it was his existence. At the end of the journey, they worked their way through the mountains to a citadel in where the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice trained.

Years passed as he trained, and, prayed, and meditated, and learned. Demascatus devoured everything that they taught him. He relished the challenge and the feeling of belonging. He lost himself in it all. He was afraid that someday he would just wake up in the darkness with just the voices to keep him company, and that this ‘dream’ was their way of torturing or playing with him. Demascatus was blind to it, but Zerda became very close to Demascatus in those years, for she spent much of her time teaching him and preparing him for his eventual rites of initiation. She knew that he was unaware of her feelings and sometimes she grew impatient. She tried to show her affection without throwing herself on him, which she really wanted to do for he had grown from a boy into a man. A man of great power and respect. He, of all of the people that have come through in all the years that this citadel has stood, was chosen, as only one other has been chosen, for special a special gift from the Raven Queen. He was chosen to wield the Bloodfire of the Raven Queen that purging flame that not even demons or devils can resist. After several rigorous and intense years of scripture and training, he was initiated into the ranks of the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice as a wielder of the sacred Bloodfire of his beloved Gloaming Queen.

Healing Wounds

During his years training in the citadel, Demascatus became close friends, no, brothers, with another Tiefling named Tszeez’dar. The paths that led them into the Raven Queens arms were similar. They both suffered losses of loved ones and spurned too many close connections, so they found “family” of sorts in each other. Most of their brothers and sisters in arms called him Zadi, but Damascátus preferred to call him his full name, Tszeez’dar, and Demascatus was probably the only person who did. They were most often paired up on almost every campaign given to the Blood Knights by their Blood Matron. Tszeez’dar and Demascatus were a very powerful pair in the field together, and after every battle they would share the ceremonial cup with the blood of their enemies in honor of the Raven Queen.

Distubing thoughts crept into Demascatus’ mind after several years of campaigning for the Blood Matron. It bothered him that he was thinking these thoughts, and this time, it was not the words of the malign demons that bothered him. It was a desire that he started to feel. After all of these years, he was starting to want a family or something more than what his brothers and sisters at arms could provide. This though has previously always scared him. He knew what it was like to love and feel safe and to lose it all again. He did not want that again. Tszeez’dar had similar sentiments. Such wounds were old, but still ever present for both of them. They both mused that all they needed was each other to stay strong. We have the family of the Blood Queen here in the Citadel. Why would we need anything else?

Tszeez’dar was moving on. He seemed to finally have found a sort of peace that came over him following his rite of advancement in the Blood Knights. Following these rites he confidently asked Tarranna for her hand in marriage. He let go of the pain and the regret, but has never forgotten his family and their loss. He has moved on with a peace that he has not seen in his friend’s eyes before. Seeing what was happening with Tszeez’dar, Demascatus had revealed to him someone in plain sight who has been waiting for his affection. It never occurred to him before now.

Zerda and Demascatus began to spend more quality time together, and when Demascatus heard that Tszeez’dar was engaged to be married to Tarranna, he knew that it was time for him to move on too. Right before he was about to ask Zerda for her hand in marriage their Blood Matron summoned her Blood Knights for a great battle. Tszeez’dar and Demascatus were among these selected individuals that were to prove themselves, yet again, in the eyes of the Blood Queen. Following the mission debriefing Demascatus returned to Zerda to tell her what was happening. He promised his safe return and told her that he had a very important question to ask her when he returned from the proving grounds of blood and combat.

The Scars of Battle

The battle was going well in their favor when something went horribly awry  – large undead creatures of fire and necrotic energy surged around them like ants. There were so many… these immoliths were everywhere and they were hungry for flesh and spirit. Many Blood Knights were lost on the field that day. Too many were lost, but then again, the dead found themselves in the loving and icy embrace of the Winter Queen. He would not shed a tear for them. In some strange way he envied them, his fallen brothers and sisters, for now they knew peace and were with Her.

Demascatus suffered horrible burns from the Immoliths. Their necrotic laced flames were more than his innate devil-born flame resistance could stave off. There were too many and they were too powerful. In the end, Demascatus and the Blood Knights prevailed with great losses. The surviving Knights returned to the Shadowfell, worse-for-the-wear, with their blood filled chalices being carried in trembling and weakened hands. Demascatus’ face was horribly scarred  to the point that he could not be recognized by his face which was now deformed by scar tissue brought on by the Immoliths and their relentless assault.

The surviving Knights were sequestered away in an isolated part of the citadel so they could heal and not be disturbed, nor be infected by outsiders. Their clerics tended to them, but even their expertise and magics could not fully heal their scars. Even with all the magics flowing from priests of the Queen of Death, it still took several months for him to be able to walk and talk again without support.

When he was able to he left isolation and went to find Zerda. She was shocked and deeply saddened to see what happened to Demascatus, but she did not care what he looked like now, for she knew the beauty of the man beneath that grizzled mess of a face. She knew his heart and soul. When Demascatus asked for her hand she squealed with delight. She just wanted to be with him. They were married within the week and shortly thereafter she became pregnant.

Even though he could now walk and talk without assistance his burn scars still greatly weakened him. Their lingering necrotic energies still held sway over his body sapping his ability to recover.  He very deeply wanted to return to the service of their beloved Queen, but these scars would just not purge themselves of their necrotic energies.

After a few more months of tending  by their clerics he was able and ready to return to service. Demascatus looked proudly at the his blood filled chalice from that fateful battle against the Immoliths. This chalice was waiting for one other person to partake of the honor of the blood of battle and that person was Tszeez’dar. Demascatus had not seen his friend in the isolation area and wondered what had became of him. He went to search for Tszeez’dar to see how he fared against the Immolith swarm, but he was told by the Blood Matron that his friend had been sent ahead to assist a group of the Raven Queen’s choice and faithful servants to stop of on-coming wave of Tieflings that threatened to wipe out large human civilizations. These Tieflings worked their intrigues under the fetid breath of Orcus and they needed to be stopped at all costs.

The very thought of his friend and battle companion being in the midst of a plot born on the horns of Orcus’ minions without him by his side enraged him. His friend needed him by his side to stop the mechanizations of the vile demon lord of the undead. With these thoughts and emotions roiling in his mind, his skin reddened with deep-seated and personal rage that brought something that he had almost forgotten about…. the voices… his demons inexplicably returned to the forefront of his thoughts and they were whispering their dark and bloody whispers as if they had never been gone. This angered Demascatus even more…

The Blood Matron told Demascatus that he would soon join Tszeez’dar in his mission. He must be patient and, when she says he is ready, he will go to this assist in this important mission. After hearing this news, the rage still warm in his skin, Demscatus returned to Zerda to tell her what he had learned. Zerda was very understanding. She knew how close Demascatus and Tszeez’dar were, and service to the Blood Queen was all that was important to all of them. There was much work to be done and they were all servants of the Blood Queen. They are all her soldiers and when there is war brewing and Orcus rears his putrescent mange then it is up to them, the Blood Knights, to stop them.

After a few days he was summoned to service and told he would be sent forth in a few hours and that he needed to prepare himself. He went to his room with Zerda to tell her the news. Zerda proudly told him to go and return safely, preferably returning more “safely” than he did last time. As a parting gift to her beloved she handed to Demscatus a red ruby engraved with her name to the left the symbol of the Blood Knights. To the right of the symbol was the name of their unborn son, Zadi. Zerda had also put what all Blood Knights think before they go into battle running along the top and bottom of the signet:

All ends lead to none but the serentity of the wintery embrace of the Blood Queen.

Demascatus was deeply touched by this gift and, after gathering all of his gear, he said goodbye to his wife. Demascatus was ported to the location of the Tszeez’dar and the faithful of the Raven Queen. He arrived with his ceremonial chalice full of the blood from that battle so long ago. It was the only way Tszeez’dar would be able to recognize him under all of the scar tissue that was now his face.

New Examiner Article – “My faith (part VII) – Conclusion”

I have posted a new article for the Milwaukee Examiner titled “My faith (part VII) – Conclusion.

In this seven part series I have tried to cover as thoroughly as possible the primary influences to my spiritual path so that you can see where I have come from and, pill potentially, myocarditis to assist you to more easily see where I will be going with my writings. I have a wide variety of influences from civil rights and globalizisation to games and a visceral desire to takecharge of my spirituality.

In retrospect I am very thankful that my parents were not very religious. This has allowed to me have a very open mind about religion, dermatologist morality, and spirituality. I have not had the ‘benefit’ of being indoctrinated into one belief set so as to potentially blind me to learning of and from other spiritual paths. I have been very thankful for this freedom to choose my own path… more than you can probably imagine.

Associated and important labels

I think I can safely say that I am a sex positive soft agnostic deist with strong secular humanist tendencies as a member of a Unitarian Universalist and Free Thought Congregation. Below are some of these labels (and more) that I ascribe to myself in some fashion and my interpretation of them:

Deist: believing in a divine or supernatural creator of sorts, whether actively present or not.

Evolutionary Creationist: believing that if a divine or supernatural entity did create all of existence then evolution could very likely be its engine for life.

Logical: finding that having degrees in computer programming/networking and training as a reactor operator/electronics technician in the military has made logic, science, and reason a heavy part of my spiritual needs. If something does not make sense, then it does not make sense…. or I may just not understand it yet. =)

Other Religious Interests: learning of Yoga and Buddhism, which my wife teaches and knows of, is an interesting path. Paganism/Wicca have been quite interesting to read about, as well the history of Christianity and of the Bible.

Secular Humanist: believing, very strongly, in the separation of church and state, and the inherent strength and necessity for humanity to take charge of saving itself for no one or nothing else can. We are in charge of our destiny and and we alone have the choice to do good or evil in this world, which is the mixed blessing of free will. The absolute freedom to make that choice – to do good or to do evil – can be overwhelming and powerful, almost too much for some to deal with. To some the path to the dark-side can seem the easiest to follow, even though the ramifications are not pretty..

Sex Positivist: believing that our sexuality is a very natural part of our existence and there is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Our sexuality is a beautiful thing that allows us to grow closer together and to celebrate our humanity, and possibly even our faith.

Skeptic: skeptical of the possible existence of a divine being, but the possibility of the big bang and our self-awareness gives me great pause and reason to believe otherwise.

Without evidence in the supernatural I find it hard to believe or consider it. Believe me, I love fantasy, science fiction and the supernatural. I love playing Dungeons and Dragons and watching sci-fi and fantasy movies, and nothing would give me a greater sense of awe and wonder than if any of that was just a tiny bit true.

Soft Agnostic: acknowledging that their may be a divine creator but are skeptical of the possibility barring proof, but I am still comfortable in my assumption that there is one and working forward, in some manner, from there. The creator might be on his 7th day of rest which may be several hundred million years long, so it is in our best interest to work together to make things happen instead of waiting on some deity (or his minions) to do it for us. If ‘he’ exists then ‘he’ has faith in us to do the right thing, so perhaps we should have the strength to try to prove ‘his’ faith correct.

I hope this helps to give you some perspective on my spiritual path. I am still learning and I am still growing in my path. I hope that I do not ever stop for I wish to always be a student.

New Examiner Article – “My faith (part VI) – The influence of Unitarian Universalism, Free Thought, and the ULC”

I have posted a new article for the Milwaukee Examiner titled “My faith (part VI) – The influence of Unitarian Universalism, denture Free Thought, cheap and the ULC.

Unitarian Universalism (UU)

Assuming you believe in a creator at all, cost we Unitarian Universalists believe that there is only one creator regardless of your polytheistic or monotheistic leanings. We are all praying to the same entity called by different names.

Unitarian Universalism is a non-dogmatic faith that has but one small set of principles with which to pursue your spiritual or aspiritual journey. Outside of that, where you go and what you believe is up to you. We gather together reveling in the different paths that we walk and look forward to learning something from each other. My congregation at the Free Congregation has those of the Buddhist, Zen, humanist, secularist, atheist, Christian, deist, naturalist, and others as well as a token Republican about.

An important tradition in the UU churches is lay led “worship” or discussion within congregations led by the lay person, and this is powerful and empowering tradition that invites congregational wide discourse and participation on topics via our individual (a)spiritual journeys.

Many UU’s are active in the various civil rights movements from gay rights to opposing war actions. A UU minister was the first to hold a legally recognized same-sex marriage. These are all reasons why Unitarian Universalism is important to me and my faith.

Free Thought (German)

In coming to the Free Congregation I knew they were a Unitarian Universalist congregation, but I did not know that they were a German Free Thought congregation as well. I had never even heard of the movement until I started to go there.

The German Free Thought movement, which was crushed in the mid 1800’s in Germany by the Catholic church, promoted critical thought and analysis of spiritual matters as well as relishing its debate and discussion. They value introspection and the individual journey that each person travels while basing individual beliefs on reason, evidence, and logic – dismissing the supernatural for there is no evidence or proof of its existence. Free Thought is a non-dogmatic and more secular and humanist approach to religion or spirituality. The Secular and Humanist movements do find some of their roots in the Free Thought movements.

The key points for me about the Free Thought movement requires evidence based reasoning verses the deciding issues on dogmatic religious stances that are counter to facts and the interests of humanity. The logic and the separation of secular and religious matters are exactly what the doctor ordered.

Universal Life Church (ULC)

Being ordained as minister of the non-denominational Universal Life Church is more of an affirmation of me taking charge of my faith and spirituality. No one can tell me what to believe, because I am responsible for my journey and beliefs. I am more than happy discuss and consider other view points and ideas. I am minister of my own faith and some may choose to listen, and perhaps there might be something to learn from each other. The ULC’s motto ‘Do only that which is right.’ is very appropriate, though highly subjective,  for making a difference in this world.