Here I am

Writing about the ocean on a day when I feel about as far away as a person can get.

There aren’t any waves except the ones I’m making, the tide just went out,

The seagulls aren’t bothering me.

There’s no sand in my shorts or ferry boat ticket stubs in my car,

No sudden burst of coconut scent when the bronzed waitress passes by to deliver Mai Tai and Margaritas,

No sneaking out back with the band to smoke a joint,

No chicken shit bingo.

I’m about as far away as a person can get.

Black Petals

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“If he had only listened to me none of this would have ever happened in the first place!”, thought Theodora as she prepared the petals.  She had been drying the rose petals inside her diary for quite some time, and before that, she had died them black.

She had never intended to send them in a letter, but now she wanted to let a certain treacherous thief that she knew what he had done to cause her so much trouble.

So Theodora took out 13 of the petals and placed them inside one of her envelopes,  sealed it with her waxy Red S, and sent it West with her raven.

“When he gets this he will know that I know,” thought Thedora.

How had things gone wrong with Kitsune?  It seemed like a budding alliance: he was a Setite, he was a thief, and she knew that he would make a good ally and a solid member of her clandestine organization in service of King Chaka.

“I should have never left the camp, despite my fear!”, she said out loud to herself, “But if I had stayed here… I wonder… with the necromancy, and the corruption in mind… how would things have gone for me?”.

(to be continued)

Farewell, my love, my Shani, Deux

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The guard took hold of Theodora as she almost fainted upon the sudden knowledge that it was Shani who was arresting her, “and what for?”, she asked herself as her heart broke and she began to weep.

“Shani! What are you doing to me!?!”, screamed Theodora as she wept.

“You will be bound until your trial Theodora of Vendhya”, replied Shani, flatly, sternly.

At this Theodora tried to fall again as she struggled with the guard and wept in large waves of body shaking sadness that fell upon her like a stone.

“Shani, I was your comfort when you were a slave in this camp!”, cried Theodora, “show me mercy now, what have I done to have you before me like this, my only and closest friend, how can this be?”.

“Look here Theo, at entry 8 of your diary!”, replied the Queen as she showed Theodora the book, “you have condemned yourself and will face trial!”.

“My diary!? You have access to all my thoughts because I love you Shani, you are my closest friend, my only friend, that is why you have access to my diary!”, she exclaimed, and then she turned inward, whispering, “you break my heart…”.

Upon hearing these words and seeing that Theodora was in great distress, Queen Shani hesitated, and tears began to flow down her cheeks as well, “and you break my heart Theo, why have you forced me, forced us, to arrest you? Can a King rule without laws, you must face trial!”

Suddenly the Queen’s demeanor was stern again and she became angry and said, “Why did you flee? and not stay and seek justice with Chaka?”

“What justice my Queen?”, replied Theodora, “did you not see what he did to poor Audhilde before I slew her?”

The Queen continued, ignoring what her prisoner had said, “And I am angry that it is I imprisoning you right now Thedora!”; “You will be allowed to move about the camp under guard, but do not try to leave, on pain of death, do you understand Theodora?”

“As you wish my Queen,” replied Theodora, and then she did not speak to Shani again.

Theodora’s Diary Entry 11:

Here I sit and weep. All that I have done is to make Chaka a great king. But he torments me night and day and will not forgive me for killing the Nordheimer. Curse Sekhet! She asked me for it and then colludes against me. Taking my slave Kitsune and inciting Chaka to tar and feather me. I will never forgive her for her this. I would have given her an army. Nevermind her. For now, Chaka is my hope, he always was, and all I have done is for him.

But now my heart is broken beyond repair. My friend has handed me over. Where is Pia? she would not keep her comfort from me in my hour of need. I hope that they kill me so that I do not have to look at her or be in her company again, it is too painful. Why has she done this to me? She even took my things for the bracelet.

I will never speak to her from my heart again. Farewell, my love. 

 

Farewell, my love, my Shani

20190702085113_1.jpgTheodora left her tower in the cold mountains, she left everything.

And now she longed to see her beloved friend again, “Shani, how I miss you Shani, soon I will see you again!”, she thought to herself as she got out her quill and parchment.  She then happily wrote a letter to let Shani know– sending her raven with it to Camp Bone Claw, the center of the Darfari in Exile Kingdom.

Necromancy changed Theodora and her mind had become clouded with corruption.  Only the time away from the camp had given her mind a chance to cleanse and refresh. Her thoughts were clearer now and she longed to return to her tower and to her Shani.

 She penned her letter thus:

“Dearest Shani, I am returning. While I have been away I have come to realize that the necromancy has been corrupting my mind and keeping me from my goal of removing the bracelet. I will return to my tower in preparation to go back to the Black Keep and get the next artifact. Your friend, Theodora the Vendhyan.”

After that, Theodora started the long trek back to Camp Bone Claw.

When she arrived at her tower room the first thing that she noticed was that Shani was not there as she had said in her letter.  Then she looked inside her chest to find that all of her precious things, things needed to remove the bracelet, were gone.

“Where is Shani?”, she said to herself, “I long to see her and she is not here.”

After that, Theodora sat down to wait a while and write in her diary:

This is what she wrote:

“I have returned to my tower in the Darfari camp.

I do not know if I am safe here but I was losing my mind before I left for the north, though I did not know it at the time.

The necrotic powers that Oteku gave me were causing me to lose focus and enter the world of the corrupted undead– it is likely because I am not fully skilled in the arts as I should be.

I will stay here until I am ready to venture forth again to the Black Keep and secure the next artifact I need to remove the bracelet.

Hopefully, the corruption that has afflicted me will not hinder my goal.

–But it is nice to be back in my room. Shani is here sleeping now. She is my beautiful guardian and my best friend. The great Serpent blesses me with such a friend. But what will Chaka do? I wrote him that letter and shamed him, will I die here in this camp? Gods help me.”

When Theodora had finished writing these words in her diary she became restless and went out onto the balcony of her tower and called out, shouting: “Shani, Shani! Where are you! I must see your face at once!”

It wasn’t long before the Queen came riding toward her tower on the cable car, and Theodora’s heart leaped for joy.  “Shani!” said Theodora, jumping up, and with a bright smile and joy in her heart.  The Queen smiled and waved back as she walked down from the car and into the tower.

Theodora waited on the balcony for her. Then, when Shani didn’t appear as soon as she expected her to, went down to her room to find the Queen there, with a guard.

“Shani! It is so good to see you again!”, said Theodora as she hugged her Queen in joy.

Queen Shani’s face did not return the smile… and soon Theodora was in chains.

(to be continued)

A Memory of Bad News

Theodora was just sitting down to her breakfast when a servant knocked on her chamber door, “my Lady, news comes from the front at Uttarakuru, your mother asks that you join her in the dining room immediately.”

Theodora’s heart sank as she answered the servant and said: “Thank you, Arjun, I will be down after I am dressed”.

Her mind raced: “my father! the news must be about my father!”, she thought as tears began to spill out of her eyes.

“Set save him! let it be news of a different sort,” she muttered as she began to sob and get dressed, “he is not dead, it cannot be.”

But the news was true.  Sadar Rajni Rajna had been slain by a terrorist who did not wish to be under the yoke of the Kshatriyans.

The terrorist who slew the Sadar is called Garan Johdahr, a wizard of the Uttara Kuru nobility– Garan suddenly appeared inside the command tent and pierced Rajni through the neck with his arcane sorcerer’s blade.  Poor Rajni died instantly, and before the guards could take hold of Garan, he vanished into the mist and was never seen again.

Theodora dried her face, opened the door, walked down the hall, down the spiral stairs, and then into the dining room where she found her mother in tears and surrounded by attendants.

Upon seeing her mother in this condition she fainted in grief and fell to the floor unconscious.

When Theodora awoke in her bed she thought that she had been having a nightmare.  That is until she opened her eyes and saw her handmaiden, red-faced from crying, at her side.

“Beloved Pia, tell me what I know is not true, save me!”, said Theodora in her grief as she rose from her bed and collapsed into the arms of her servant.

Pia started to cry again and said, “I am sorry my beloved Theodora, your sadness is real and your father is dead, but I am with you, now and forever my Lady.”

“Sweet Pia, what will become of us now!?”, asked Theodora as she sobbed.

Pia said nothing as she enfolded her broken mistress into her arms.

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The Meeting of Zod and Ursa

Sun_Transparent_PNG_Clip_Art_ImageAs Zod was led through the ghost wall towards the place where he was to be tied to a cross, he daydreamed about his homeland and the company of a certain young woman named Ursa. Ursa was not from Khitai and Zod’s father strictly forbade him from seeing her.

Ursa was from Hyrkania across the mountains to the West.  She had been taken as a slave by Kaghan’s relative, who was a member of House Bataar    After some time living in Bataar’s house, and after she had come of age, Ursa was apprenticed to become a concubine.

Zod met Ursa when they were both 16 years old.  When Zod saw her she was sitting down to eat her lunch under an oak tree near the Bataar main house.  Zod saw her and thought that she looked like an angel, and after gathering his courage, walked up to her and said:

“Zod wishes to sit beside you and enjoy your beauty and company, what do you say, loveliest of House Bataar?”

Ursa looked up at Zod and replied, “My lord may do as he pleases since I am only a slave in this house.”

With that Ursa smiled at Zod and his heart leaped inside his chest.  Then Ursa, seeing that Zod was enamored and speechless, continued, “Sit beside me my Lord Zod, Son of Kaghan, I do not bite.”  She then appropriately covered her mouth and giggled as Zod sat down beside her on the grass.

Zod had never before encountered a girl as beautiful as Ursa.  To him, her beauty surpassed that of even the Empress! Even though to say, or even think such a thing, was treasonous– this aspect only added to his fire for Ursa.  
Soon the two were lovers, then close friends, and then soul mates of an exceptionally deep spiritual connection. 

Zod would never again feel the way he did during those years… and as he thought of Ursa, tears began to pour out of his eyes and roll down his cheeks.

 

A Spectacle of Fearsome Acts

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These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.

I, Sasur-amen, chronicle the many exploits of those bound to The Great Serpent through devotion to the Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant.  Read and hear my words and know this tale of wonder.

When the moon was waxing gibbous and the grackles had migrated from the temple grounds, in the days of Ctesphon III, Ish-mael of Khemi was an acolyte at the central temple.  He was 25 years old.

And it came to pass during this time that Ish-mael of Khemi happened to be on his way to Taba on an errand for the High Priest. He was to deliver a parcel of ceremonial daggers which had been blessed.

For this mission, he was not dressed in his temple garments, choosing instead to dress in traveling clothes without any markings of his station.  Thus,  along the way, Ishmael was held up by bandits who stole his parcel.

Enraged by this and not wanting his teachers at the temple to know that he was robbed, Ishmael left the road in search of the bandit hideout.   He would make an example of the bandits and recover the stolen ceremonial daggers.

Ishmael made his way through the dense forest, spotting and tracking the signs of the bandits’ egress.  He followed the bandit’s trail until at last, he spotted their camp beside a small cave.

Now when Ishmael the Wise had found the bandit camp he laid down silently in the brush and watched them for a long while. Once he was satisfied that their number was five and three women and two children, Ishmael took off his garments until he was naked, and with his khopesh and shield in hand started towards the campfire by the cave.

One bandit stood beside the campfire and saw Ishmael walking towards him but did not speak before his head was removed by the khopesh.  Covered in blood and in a furious rage, Ishmael then made his way inside the cave where there the three women and two children were just beginning to realize that they were in grievous danger.

Through tears and shrieking cries for mercy, all five were cut down.  Then two of the bandits returned from a hunt, they also were killed.  After that, the final two returned to the camp after having unsuccessfully tried to pawn the temple daggers– they were slaughtered and their heads were removed.

Ishmael then gathered up the parcel of daggers, the two bandit heads, and a pike that was leaning against the cave wall.  And after cleaning and dressing, Ishmael went back to the place in the road where he was robbed.

There he took the pike and fixed it into the ground, and then shoved one of the bandit heads on it.  Then he took the other head and placed it on the ground beside the pike, and then shoved one of the ceremonial daggers through it and into the ground to hold it in place.

Once finished Ishmael said, “Now these irreligious bandits will know that touching a servant of Set can only lead to death!”.

Ishmael then continued on to Taba.

Thus says I, Sasur-amen, Chronicler of the Order of the Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant

Ishmael Waits

220px-SetThe temple guards took Ishmael, bound in chains and manacles, and led him through the city in disgrace. Some people who saw this spectacle hurled insults, sundry pieces of trash, and rotten vegetables at Ishmael, saying things like, “hypocrite!” and “he saved others, let him save himself now!” and “exile for heretics and death to traitors!”.  

Once inside the temple, the guards took him down to the dungeon.

Ishmael could smell mold as he stood outside the dirty 3×5 hovel where he would await his trial.  It was a familiar smell to him as he had often made checks on the guards and prisoners inside the temple dungeon when he was Captain of the Guard.

Inside the cell, there was a tiny window that cast in a single ray of light when the sun hit is just right.  The walls were covered with graffiti and make-shift calendars scratched into the stone by past prisoners who were counting away the days until they could taste freedom again– one way or another.

“Welcome to your new quarters, Captain, we trust that they will be to your liking.” one of the guards said as the others chuckled, almost in unison.  Another guard removed Ishmael’s leg and wrist manacles, while another gathered the chains and threw them into a pile near the exit.

Ishmael’s cell was very near the exit to the dungeon, but once he was tried (i.e. if he was not executed on the spot) he would be a moved to a cell deeper in the bowels of Khemi’s dark and expansive, undercity labyrinth.

His chains having been removed, Ishmael was then shoved and kicked into the tiny cell. He didn’t have enough room inside to stretch out, but at least he had enough head space to sit on the floor cross-legged without knocking himself out.  The smell inside the tiny cell was unbearable until after a few hours when he no longer noticed it.

First days, and then weeks passed with barely any human contact. The guards came by three times a day to deliver prisoners with their rations of rice, but one could hardly call this human contact. The guards on duty would spend most of their time in the dungeon abusing and taunting the prisoners, sometimes throwing the rice right onto the floor at the feet of hungry, helpless prisoners.

The most severe abuse was always reserved for Ishmael while he was there.  Sometimes a certain guard, called Yuya-abrams, would take a special interest in abusing the former Captain and would beat him and then throw waste and other garbage into his cell, which Ishmael would have to live with until the temple slaves came through and washed the cells.

This was the dark time for Ish-mael of Khemi.

In the darkness, Ishmael the Wise sat in the middle of this almighty forlornness.  There he sat, naked and alone– he waited only for death.

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The Lover, the Snake, and the Thief

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These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.

I, Sasur-amen, of the Order of the Sacred Crocodile write down this tale.  It is worthy to note that Ishmael the Warrior-priest does not turn away the pleasures of the flesh as do the heathen under the cloud of Mitra.

And so it was that one evening Ishmael the Wise was in the tender embrace of his lover when a sneak-thief stole into the side window of the bedroom.  A Shemite thief had broken into the room meaning to rob Ishmael and murder him for a filthy ransom.

But Father Set had other plans in mind for this treacherous Shemite thief and murderer.  For when the Shemite came inside the bedroom he was immediately bitten by a watchful and patient, venomous temple Snake.

Upon seeing what had happened Ishmael and his lover marveled at how Set had protected them. Then Ishmael the Wise said: “Look at how Father Set protects those who serve him! I will build an altar here so that all will know of this wonder.”

Soon after the couple was back at their task. 

So says I, Sasur-amen, Chronicler of the Order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant

Ish-mael and the Skeleton of Yog

These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.

I am Sasur-amen, the chronicler of many secrets concerning the exploits of the Champions of Set.  Champions such as Ish-mael of Khemi, who is known also as Ishmael the Wise of The Order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant.

In the season of autumn, and around the time of Ctesphon III, as Ish-mael of Khemi was walking along a lonely path there appeared before him an animated, chattering skeleton.  The skeleton was armed with a pike made of iron and had on its head a Nordhiemer’s helmet.

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Upon seeing the skeleton Ishmael stood still in deep wonder and did not move at all.  Ishmael was not sure if the skeleton saw him with its eerie green glowing eyes until it raised its pike, pointed it at him and rounded to attack.

Still not moving, Ishmael heard the terrible sound of the skeleton as it laughed and said coldly: “Prepare thy body for the fodder of Yog, Setite!” And then just in the nick of time, Ishmael avoided being impaled by the foul creature’s pike with a quick dodge.

Coming to his senses all at once Ishmael took hold of his khopesh and struck the skeleton with it as he moved to the side to avoid the pike a second time.  The skeleton was jarred by the blow of the khopesh and was knocked back.  This gave Ishmael time to pull his shield off his back and ready it.   *BAM!* *CLANG* the pike slammed into the shield just as it was coming into the ready position.

Now having readied his weapon and shield, Ishmael faced off the skeleton again, this time with renewed confidence; and after a few blows, the skeleton’s bones could be seen laying on the ground, and its green eyes glowed no more.

Afterward Ishmael the Wise said to himself, “Now Yog’s skeleton is no more, I will build an altar here where this foul creature said it’s a curse upon a servant of Set.”

Thus the altar, called dubit muqalab, was built and stands until this day along the road from Khemi to the village of Akhmim.

So say I, Sasur-amen, Librarian. 

 

 

The Arrest of Ishmael of the Wise

220px-Set.pngIshmael stared down at his small cup of tea.

It had just been stirred and as the tea spun, and began to come to stillness, he thought:

“What will I see before I die?”  

He downed the hallucinogenic mixture and his life began to flash before his eyes.

He saw himself in the robes of a Setite Acolyte at the temple of Khemi.  He loved his years as a student and was successful.

“But it was never enough for me, I always I wanted more, and still I want more! Even as I wait here in this tavern for my undoing, I want more!! What a wretch I am!” he thought.

“But aren’t we all?” he asked out loud as he scoffed and siped more tea; grinning as if to say: “everyone in the world knows that all people are scoundrels”.  No one saw the grin.

As the drug began to fully set in Ishmael perceived the small Khemi tavern as beginning to swirl and gyrate.  The flickering candlelight added to the sensory confusion and Ishmael experienced himself giving way to the altered reality that can only be seen by those who dare taste the lotus flower.

There then, was Ishmael the Wise in the miasma of the lotus and what he saw was the flashing before him of his years in the temple guard.  His birth provided him an easy commission and equally easy duty, but he worked long hours, honing his skills as a military leader, a diplomat, and a fanatically devout Setite priest.

“If I had only just been satisfied with what I had,” he thought as his emotions began to surface in response to the lotus and his fleeting memories.

Ishmael wept.

“It won’t be long now before they come. Perhaps another tea will calm me?”  His hands began to shake and with sweat pouring down his face he could hear the loud pounding of his own heart.  It was a menacing sound that he was sure everyone else in the small tavern could hear!

“One indiscretion and now I will be executed! What madness! I am mad. The crown has twenty concubines– no one talks about it! No one is executed!”.  He rambled in his mind and began to think in colorful waves of paranoid, fleeting pictures. “Why is my heart pounding so hard? Can others hear the sound of my heart?!”  He stood up quickly and his chair crashed to the floor.

Startled tavern patrons looked up and saw the troubled cleric shaking, sweating and mumbling to himself.  It was not a sight the tavern regulars had seen before from a man so well respected as Ishmael, Captain of the Setite temple guards.

And the sight did not match the tale that Sasur-amen, a patron that evening and a regular who often sat at a table covered with paper and writing materials, brought into his own memory as he spotted Ishmael and gave away his senses to the lotus flower.

Sasur-amen was the librarian of the order of the Sacred Crocodile at that time and knew many hidden stories of the exploits of men such as Ishmael the Wise.

So as his memory took shape, Sasur-amen wrote:

These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.  I am the chronicler of the exploits of those bound to the order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant. I write this now to catalog the deeds of the one we call “The Wise”.

It was a hot, dirty summer when Ishmael was sent to the desert to complete his final trial.  There he camped upon a barren waste as prescribed by his mentor Ua-khons, who served in the Order for 49 years before he was slain in battle.

During his trial, Ishmael was visited by many wild beasts. He slew them one by one and used their flesh for food and their skins for armor.  Strong as he was, he thrived during his trial and determined to himself to win greater favor with the Temple at Khemi by bringing home a grand trophy of his strength and devotion to Set.

Therefore on the 28th day of his trial, Ishmael the Wise embarked on a 2-mile journey to the cavern where he had spotted two adult tigers and four small tiger cubs. 

“Now I will capture one of these cub tigers for Ua-khons and all will see that I am strong and that Set is my strength!” said Ishmael as he laid himself down upon the ridge over the cavern and looked to where the tigers prowled beside their cubs.

Long did the young warrior-priest look down into the cavern and watch the pacing beasts until at last the female left the den to hunt.  But the male tiger was a great beast of enormous strength and Ishmael the Wise knew that his task would not be easy.

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Ishmael stood and began to creep down the side of the cavern towards the spot where the tiger cubs were playing. Their father was pacing 10 and 20 feet away from them, keeping a close and watchful eye.

“Perhaps the cub can be stolen while the great beast is turned away?” thought Ishmael as he snuck up closer and closer to the cubs.  It was at that moment he heard the deafening roar of the tiger which startled and shook him. 

Never before had Ishmael faced such a great beast under such circumstances.  The great tiger pounced quickly and knocked him to the ground.   It was now on top of him, ripping into his flesh with its mighty claws and trying to bite his face as the warrior-priest held open the mouth of the great beast with his bare hands. 

In a desperate move to survive Ishmael managed to use his legs to push the tiger up and off of him. With this, it tumbled away for a brief moment– just enough time to draw the short sword that he had been given by the Order for his trial! 

The tiger pounced again but this time the dumb animal impaled itself on the short sword.  Ishmael, called the Wise, had quickly and cleverly positioned the blade so that it would penetrate the heart of the beast. The blade did its work and the beast collapsed on Ishmael, who had to push the carcass off his face in order to breath. 

Knowing then that Set had provided him a victory and liberation from certain death, Ishmael the Wise established an altar upon the spot where the great tiger had died. 

Sasur-amen wrote these words as armed men from the central temple came into the tavern, bound Ishmael, and took him away.

 

Where will I go when I have no home?

In March of 2004 I was on my way home from Iraq.

My unit and I were in Kuwait to be precise, and we were there to clean up our vehicles after a long year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Our vehicles were hungry for a wash by the time we got to the what I imagine was a Nestle’s Industrial Truck Wash since it was a truck wash and there was a big Nestle’s sign hanging over the left side of it.

While the washing was going on our unit was bunked in a nearby warehouse with all the other spare parts. We slept on army cots as per normal for service in Iraq at the time.  I spent my days either at the wash racks talking to soldiers or intensively studying a textbook entitled Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment, I still have the book in my library.

The long year in Iraq had taught me all I ever wanted to know about infidelity, but I still needed to know more.  I needed to know more because it was my job to help some of my fellow soldiers deal with the fact that their relationships at home had come to an end.

One day I was walking across the rock yard in our camp, called “Fire Base Steel” after the fact that we were the 3-18 Field Artillery “Steel Professionals”, when suddenly my best friend Mike (Big Mike), who was also commander of Alpha “Gator” battery, came running up to me and said, “Chaplain, I need you to come over here right away, my driver is in trouble”.

So I ran over to Mike’s HUMVEE and I spotted his driver sitting behind his seat in the back.  He had his SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249) in his hands and the barrel was pointing at his face.

One novelty of the SAW that makes it a better combat light machinegun than it’s predecessor the M60 is that it can be belt fed or it can be magazine fed.  Mike’s driver had a magazine in the reciever and had charged the bolt.

For a moment I only saw the private and the SAW, as if I was in a dream.  I knew the man I was looking at well, and I knew his young wife.  The couple was around a decade younger than my 36 years, and they had an infant.

Big Mike, my best friend at the time, escaped the scene quickly and jogged back over to the TOC (Tactical Operations Center): I imagine to update his supervisor, the Battalion Commander, with a SITREP.

So I got in on the passenger’s side, in the back, and spent the next 4 hours talking to my new “battle buddy” until he was ready to go to the hospital.

We got him to the hospital, we kept him safe, and I then I started meeting with him weekly for around 6 months, until we finally left Iraq.

But back to Kuwait, the wash racks, the dirty vehicles, the warehouses, that is where I started after all…

I remember reading that textbook while lying on my cot, crying at times, and feeling about the soldiers affected by the patterns identified in the textbook.

I felt deeply then as I feel deeply now,  I cannot help myself.

I wondered where the soldiers whose spouses had let them down would go once they got settled again at “home”.  I wondered if they could even feel a sense of returning “home” under the conditions that they found themselves in. And I wondered if my marriage could survive Iraq; I wondered where I would go if she wasn’t there when I got “home”.

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Zod learned his lesson, finally

Tonight I learned a lesson that I could have, and should have, learned months ago.

As it turns out, the great and terrible “Tyrant” of The Crocodile Clans desires real connection and refuses to let the digital “community” stay transient and disorienting for him.

Zod takes what he wants!  He is Zod, kneel before him!

The trouble is that not everyone longs for deeper connection on the Discord… it’s just a game after all…

“So once upon a time Zod felt angry, disoriented, and befuddled in his mind about the circumstances he found himself in. He allowed his mind to play tricks on him; and soon after his mind betrayed and murdered him.”

It happened just the way I predicted it would, and it was all my fault.

Just a week earlier Zod had finally gotten the attention of the Great King of the North, (and friendly neighborhood Admin) Chullain.  It was a crowning achievement and something that all “bad guys” want: attention— Zod’s ego was finally to be satisfied!!!  Huzzah!!

And then the greatest triumph of all: Chullain spared Zod his life, choosing instead to chop off his left hand. Victory!  Zod, refined by the fire of persecution, would become more terrible!, more hideous!, and would summon Yog! :ebil:

That was Zod’s story.  It was a Ruins of the Storm story that I had helped to co-create.

I stole it from Zod until tonight, and I have regrets.

I also stole it from the community that I now call “home”.  For that, I apologize.

Zod Sails Away

And Theodora did change… Part 1

Theodora remembers that day when she realized that her carefree and pampered life had ended and that she must learn to thrive, alone, in a hostile barren land.

“These spiders aren’t so tough and I don’t have to outrun them anymore”, thought Theodora as she easily killed one with her handaxe.

Her muscles had begun to bulge and her confidence had swelled to great proportions by the time she had killed her 100th spider.  She now killed them on the side of the mountain, as opposed to hiding from them, when she harvested gossamer.

The giant spider though, that is another matter.  Theodora’s equipment is not right for such a great task as killing a giant spider, and besides, “why kill it when it is useful in clearing the Darfari camps…?”

And also by the time Theodora had killed the 100th spider she had become wealthy by providing a steady supply of silk to the Drifter’s Rest community.

Wealth, physical strength, these were new to Theodora and they began to transform her natural lazy idleness into a greedy hunger for “more”.  She knew must stay physically strong because, as she has said so many times, “how else could one live in these exiled lands without it???” Killing spiders is good exercise.

Material wealth though, that is another matter… for maintenance of her wealth is not fully in her control and the markets of the Exiled Lands are not free.

(to be continued)

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Some Sociological Observations, 4 Months Later

As a Sociologist, I see a social group on Discord; I see one big social group that is the entirety of Discord, but the extent of my involvement is around 1200 members.

I happily came to this understanding of how big my particular group is, in its full extension, by way of meeting a young lady who is the head of the Engagement Team of the Vornair gaming community–  so for the price of some data entry tasks, I was enlighted, thank you @hinata1711!

To put it into perspective, our Discord server (social group) is relatively small and it is somewhat racially and economically homogeneous (although there is some racial diversity that is worth noting and I will spend a significant of time on the subject of race in the future).

Although I had theorized that this group was homogeneous in this way, I am happy to have had the assistance of the server owners at Ruins of the Storm and Song of Sword and Sorcery to post and advertise a 10 question demographic survey that I put together in order to verify my hypothesis.  At this point, February 24, 2019, I have 18  responses from the survey and the result represent and verify my initial thoughts.

Fortunately, I’ll be able to get some more data soon because the server owner of the new Ruins Unchained server, which is a reboot of the Ruins of the Storm server, has agreed to post the link to my survey in his Discord channel.  If all goes well, I should have between 36 and 40 survey entries by the end of March.   40 entries will give me a better picture of what the community of 1200 looks like, although I will continue to add survey data as it comes in.

And I continue to look at the demographics of the entire group because I think it says something about who we are in our leisure time and what we’re doing on the frontier of an immersive digital, digitized community that is in the adolescent stage of life.

Adolescence is a tricky time of life, but I think that the analogy fits.

One of the many people that I’ve had discourse with pointed out that it is this adolescent age that contributes to a lot of the interpersonal problems that we face as we go about doing community inside the net of digitized imagination play, on Discord and in the games we play.

In other words, digital community is sometimes intolerable.

But not always, and not even often, and that’s why we can return to the gaming over and over again, even as we are dealing with the natural confusion and anxiety associated with experiencing a new way of being in community.

And then there’s what’s happening in the games vs. what’s happening in the Discord.  Those things are intertwined and inextricable no matter how many rules we write to keep them separated from each other.

The content of the role-playing in the game and the content that is appearing in Discord are bound to each other.  In fact the whole operation is structured in such a way that is almost impossible to separate oneself from the taboo, and forbidden “ooc drama”.   “OOC Drama” naturally spills over from the game into rl interactions that are far from real. I point this out not as a critic, but as a biased observer of what is happening in our community.

Emoji are not real expressions of emotions and text is not enough to convey word meaning. So we compensate when we really need to communicate, and we get on voice chat.

But when I voice chat I have a sort of transient, disconnected feeling that I can’t imagine as being unique to only me since we are all trained, from birth, to communicate face-to-face– or least those of us who are 50 and older were. 😉

So another sociological observation is perhaps generational. I can feel the difference between a digital native and a digital immigrant when interacting on Discord.  But until now I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the literature around digital natives versus digital immigrants.  I will be diving into that literature very soon…

Another sociological observation that I make over and over again is how the power structures drive the narrative in our fiction. I was introduced to this concept in a sociological work entitled Shared Fantasy, Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds.  In this volume, Cary Allan Fine describes a consistent phenomenon: player-characters who sit close to the DM enjoy the game more than those who sit further away,  and that is to be expected. Unless of course the Dungeon Master is sophisticated and goes out of their way to look at their own unconscious biases.

And my final observation from for this post is more situated in the media than some my more general observations.  What I observed, over and over again, is that inasmuch as the Discord group has some solidarity and functions as a social group in a supportive way, it does so through the repetition of derivative media imagery.

In other words, support in our community most often comes in the form of conversations about superheroes, movies, videogame and the characters we create– characters who are all kinds of wondrous beautiful people who have wondrous, beautiful powers.  This content sharing ritual is cerebral, optimistic, fun… and we support each other through the use of it.

Thank you for reading this far.  And if you dare, I am available for RP on Song of Sword and Sorcery Conan Exiles, Ruins of the Storm Unchained Conan Exiles and Ruins of the Storm Atlas. 

Best regards,

-Zod