Sir Lucius Fons, The Long Ride

No one directed Lucius to go on a scouting mission, no one but his own military instincts about things.  Eventide Watch would need a good and current understanding of the terrains, villages, and especially the clan bases if they were going to protect their leader from anyone– or anything that might want to take a shot.

Lucius saddled up and rode out of Eventide before the sun came up.

He wanted to make the most of the day and drove Sunshine into the darkness as she snorted and galloped.

Lucius settled into his saddle for a long ride.

Pressing north towards what others had called “the frozen north”, he figured he would be able to make it to the Beast Lord’s shrine before the sun began to set.  With luck, he would arrive before the end of the day and find a place to camp near the shrine.

So he rode hard, and he rode fast, and because he was lucky, he made it to the shrine just as the sun began to set.

The Beast Lord was a smelly and impressive sight.

The red-skinned, goat-horned man was a High Priest of the god Jhebbal Sag, “who is, apparently, a divine manifestation of savagery and wild places,” thought Lucius. 20200112194123_1.jpg

So when Lucius saw the man and recognized the spiritual power of the place, he removed his helmet, kneeled, and then asked for a blessing.

At once the smiling beast-man took Sir Lucius and one other pilgrim to his sacred place.  Then, adorned in his garments, the Priest waved his holy goat stick, and touching the horns of Sir Lucius’ helmet said:

Vah ShaN ka! fATHER of All BEAST AND makER oF worLD….HEaR Howl OF you CHildrEN!

We COme with LOwereD head into DEn and seek the BLessiNGs of THe Father…THat This HelMet….Which have PLeasing scented HOrns OF You MOst sacred BEaST …GOat!…Be StronNG!

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Afterward, Sir Lucius rose, thanked the Priest, received an offering for his liege, and then rode out of the holy place of Jhebbal Sag.

 

Happy Forgotten

Happy.  Happy.

Adoring unhappy is the worst part.

“I don’t miss you at all,” she sings.

 Something for a moment then nothing again.

“I felt your heart,” she sings.

Forgotten.  Forgotten.

Adoring memories and a sick heart.

“Lass mich dich halten,” she sings.

Remembered for a moment then forgotten,

the end.

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Thrown Away…

…just like that.

 

Like the wrapper around a candy bar.   The part that gets torn off right before the candy is swallowed.  It’s no good. It’s just a flimsy outside layer, toss it out and forget about it.

Yesterday’s news is not interesting today. The avatar is almost out of sight.

Next it will be sitting down there beside the others– not seen anymore. Next.

I’ll scroll down and feel a nostalgic tinge of sadness.

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Page Lucius

Baron Zorzi accepted Lucius into his house when the boy was but nine years old.

Lucius would be a Knight one day the old Baron figured, “whether or not I take him in, and if he is disciplined and completes his training, then I will promote him along with his whole family”, he thought as he signed the adoption decree.

Then once the document was signed and sealed inside an envelope, he sent another Page, Baron Zorzi’s youngest son Mateo, to fetch the lucky boy and bring him into the graces of his new life. It was to be the first of many times that luck smiled on  Lucius.

Thus Lucius was accepted into Knightly training at age 9– but by the age of 13 he was already an exceptionally impressive athlete– and very often showed it on the calcio field with grace and humility, and a surprisingly deep understanding of how lucky he was.

He was a boy with a grateful heart who new he was lucky and couldn’t help but beam with love for his Baron and faithful companion Meteo. Those two were thick a thieves and spent nearly every waking moment together during the early years.

At 13 he was given his own horse.  It was after 4 years of tending to 25 or so of them.  Brushing, leading, training, washing, caring, curing, shoveling– and dealing with life and death was his praxis.

Lucius named his horse Sunshine.

And the boy grew in wisdom and stature, and learned prowess, loyalty, courage, faith, humility, largess, and nobility.

 

The Festival of Set

220px-SetI am Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthys, and it is I who remembers and records the great exploits of those who call themselves The Fangs of Set.

When I beheld the glorious Black Pyramid, completed after many days, and after many cracks of my whip, I could not help but cry tears of joy as I remembered what I had written before it’s completion on this barren desert plain in the west:

To whomever might read this, I write it and hope that one day I will be able to send it past the ghost wall.  I am Sasur-amen, Chronicler and Archivist at Apepthys, now the only one of my fallen Order…

…And so now I, Sasur-amen hold the whip to drive these faithful slaves to construct the Library of Sobek as the foundation of Pharaoh’s glory at Apepthys.

Within the Library the many cultures and nations are invited to behold the marvel that is Stygian culture!  And also to read scrolls and books, bathe, and or be comforted by one of those devoted to our mother Derketo. These things and many more luxuries will the Pharoah of Apepthys stoop to bless upon not only his subjects but upon the whole of the exiled lands!

Thereby the Prince shows his divine wisdom and merciful kindness!

So says I, Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthys

And so I wrote it.  And now it has come to pass that Apepthys stands as a glorious display of the marvel that is Stygian culture– and as it reaches into the sky it further calls for us to grasp and tremble before the might of Father Set. 

How wonderful now that the Festival of Set will be held at Apepthys!

Prince Setnakhte has decreed it as lawful to invite all of the exiles to come and enjoin his graces on that day.

Come then! all you who revel, stop your toils for a moment and enjoy a comfortable, splendorous display!

So says I, Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthys

The Downfall of Sir Lucius Fons of Poitain

“Infidelity burns like lava.  When it burns too hot it utterly destroys what it can consume, and when it cools it turns to stone.  My heart is a stone. It was on the day that I found my wife with another man that the lava burned within me.”

“For when I saw it I drew my blade and challenged the young man to a duel, as is our tradition of honor. I do not second guess my rage nor my honor but I have paid a hefty price for allowing hate, and with it rage, to burn so deeply within my heart.”

“Handily I killed the youth, only later to discover that I’d killed the son of Baron Hadrianus.  This Baron, not mine, was a close friend of my own liege. And so my act of rage led to this grim slave galleon to sit beside you, my lovely friend, that is all there is to it, all the rest is details.”

“What about you?”

The curious and overly talkative Zamorian salve woman remained uncharacteristically silent, and then only stared at the former Knight of Poitain as her arms moved with the rhythm of the oars– but not doing much, rather merely riding along… until the dignified Sir Fons gave the lady a gracious exit from the topic by adding, “But so many tales are not as neat as I have it my privilege.”

The slave then continued to ramble on until their shifts at the oars were long over and when they dragged themselves to shared bunks just previously occupied, they shared one and made love in that dirty place in a bid to lustfully numb their longing for some kind of comfort inside of a deep and abiding misery.

When they finished their lovemaking Sir Fons asked the woman, “What is your name?”, but she had already fallen asleep.

Tay-Neseret Part 1

These are the chronicles of the men and women bound to Father Set in exile at Apepthys.  I, Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthy, pen these words as an eye-witness to the glories of Set and his mighty chosen ones who are living in exile under the banner of The Fangs of Set at Apepthys. 

One such chosen of Set is Tay-Neseret, formerly of Luxur, now of Setnakthe’s mighty Serpent Guard.

One evening as I, Sasur-amen, and Mamusa of Khemi, were reclining in the throne room and discussing subtle and arcane mysteries of Our Mother Derketo, a clamor of horses and wagons was heard traveling from the Unnamed City, passing by Apephys and heading further east.

Upon hearing this, Tay-Neseret emerged from his quarters and shouted down to Mamusa and I saying, “Call out the watch, a mounted party approaches!”

Once Tay-Neseret had said these words he departed our company and set out to discover who or what was driving the horses east.   He then followed the noise, the dust and the tracks until he came upon the Worldly Pleasures Tavern and discovered that the Necromancer had finally had enough of the Tavern and was determined to destroy it with a massive force of walking dead.

Now Tay-Neserat was greatly alarmed by what he saw and said to himself, “This is a grim sight, I must return to Apepthys at once and assemble the Serpent Guard!” And then the mighty warrior Tay-Neseret returned to Apepthys and assembled Mamusa, Theodora the Vendhyan, Setna Apophis, and I, Sasur-amen.

The Serpent Guard, thus assembled, rushed back to the Worldly Pleasures Tavern and gave battle to the minions of the Necromancer, following closely to the orders of the High Priestess Setna Apophis. 

But then a wight of exceptional strength, and with glowing eyes full of corruption, spotted and rounded on mighty Tay-Neseret! The foul creature spun and ran in quick motion and circles around Tay-Neseret until at last it enjoined him in battle. 

Now the wight was a glowing and fearsome blue, and it said, “prepare thy body to be consumed by the fires of Xaltutan!” Saying nothing, Lord Tay-Nesseret fearlessly rounded on the creature and crushed it until it was no more. But alas, despite his victory over the blue wight, Lord Tay-Neseret was wounded in the following chaos of battle.

And when the warmakers were finally put down, the entire company of those who stood against the Necromancer there retreated from the now ruined tavern and went up to into Lord Faust’s keep to seek refuge– and for the priests to offer their ministrations to the wounded.

The Necromancer in his fury then sent giant bats, and one of exceptional size and strength, into the keep, and for the purpose of grabbing Lord Tay-Neseret, and any others they could get in their dark talons for the purpose of carrying them off.

Bat and talons, leathery winds and shimmering eyes– the bats landed again and again as the company of heroes, not mentioned here but valiant, gave battle to the foul bats and kept them from the wounded.

Thus the cries of the bats were silenced as Lord Tay-Neseret regained his strength when Father Set provided this respite against the terrible future that was to come for him.

So says I, Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthys.

Pan heads West

And so, the deed having been done… and done again, Pan packed his things and snuck away into the night… he was leaving the tavern for now, maybe forever.

“I mean, maybe it was my fault?”, thought Pan, letting his emotions cover him for a moment.

Pan then cried in a silence of his own making.

“It was a lot my fault,” he continued in his thoughts, sometimes barely holding back tears and at other times letting them flow, “I will miss her, and everyone, but I need to go, I have to go…”

Pan crept on through the night past the aqueduct, he thought he might head West and camp somewhere near the pyramid that Natsuki and he had seen on one of their many adventures.  Perhaps ironically, the pyramid was a comforting sight to Pan.

But Pan didn’t really have a plan, he just knew that it was time to go– it was a time for him to become stronger on his own, a time for him to be brave, and a time for him to morn.  None of these things he felt he would be able to do at the Worldly Pleasures Tavern.

He did plan on going back to the tavern one day!, i.e. if Faust lets him and, “if the Necromancer doesn’t turn everyone into skeletons!”, thought Pan, “who’d want to go back then anyway?”.  /me giggles

And then Pan, being Pan, began to tear up thinking, “how awful to think about my family being harmed…”, and then just as quickly, he remembered Muirne and Faust, “they will keep us safe!”.

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The Breakup of Pan and Natsuki

Every minute Pan waited his anxious heart beat. But every minute that passed he felt less fear and more confidence about his decision.

It was a decision he had made in the silence of his heart, and it was in the face of all his boastings about love, and of all his joy and torment, and of his butterfly– his sweet butterfly.

Would she break down in tears? Pan hoped she would but he had began to suspect that her tears might have been locked away for good– locked away even before he met her!

He imagined that she would not cry, that she would not faint, and that she would find another to love her before he had fully packed his bag.

He waited, he wanted to get it over with! He waited to start planing what he would do next without this weight on his mind, and heart. He dreaded the wait.

The tavern had been his home for a while but now that was over. He would not be able to live there. Not with her, it would be too painful. Instead, Pan would strike out on his own and see what he could make of himself in exile.

Pan waited, and waited, and began to realize that with every moment that passed he gained a greater longing for, and a peace about the thing he was about to do.

He loved Natsuki deeply, so much so that he would let her go. He wanted her to be happy, and so he would set her free from the tyranny of his love.20191017075058_1.jpg

And so he waited.

The Fortification of Pan

Pan found himself motivated.

His love for Natsuki moved him and caused him joy and torment.

Joy because he loved her and she loved him.  And torment because Natsuki was stubborn and Pan knew that she would face Roble again! …and the next time it might be his butterfly who was taken… “I will die before I let that happen,” thought Pan.

And so Pan was motivated to practice his archery with renewed vigor, and with renewed enthusiasm.  He was determined that he would face Roble if he had to: “I will be brave!  I will be strong!” he thought to himself as he fired arrow after arrow in smooth successive shots.

“I am afraid, but I am brave!” he said out loud.

Then with sweat dripping down his face, he kept firing his arrows and filled up the center of his straw target, some 100 yards in front of him.  The arrows split and cracked in time as they pilled up in the center of the target…

…And then hours turned into days and days into months…

Motivation caused Pan to grow stronger, and wiser, and braver–   And all for love. 

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Sasur-amen, scholar in exile

220px-SetTo whomever might read this, I write it and hope that one day I will be able to send it past the ghost wall.  I am Sasur-amen, Chronicler and Archivist at Apepthys, now the only one of my fallen Order.

Now let me tell you what is happening! A tale of wonderment unfolding before my own living eyes.  I, Sasur-amen, saw how happy the slaves were to prostrate themselves before the divine Pharaoh of Apepthys.  And as I live now in exile among my brothers and sisters of the Stygian nobility, the true worshipers of the Great Serpent of the Waters, I have witnessed and smelt the divine order of his reign.

And so now I, Sasur-amen hold the whip to drive these faithful slaves to construct the Library of Sobek as the foundation of Pharaoh’s glory at Apepthys.

Within the Library the many cultures and nations are invited to behold the marvel that is Stygian culture!  And also to read scrolls and books, bathe, and or be comforted by one of those devoted to our mother Derketo. These things and many more luxuries will the Pharoah of Apepthys stoop to bless upon not only his subjects but upon the whole of the exiled lands!

Thereby Pharoah shows his divine wisdom and merciful kindness!

So says I, Sasur-amen, Archivist at Apepthys

The Death of Ish-mael the Wise

220px-SetThese 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.

Now the Library was nearing completion when Ish-mael of Khemi began to frown and say, “How can Father Set be glorified at The Oasis of Nekhet when the Priestess Safiya has been away so long? Our order will move the Sanctum so that all will know the power of Sobek, the Rager of Set”.

And when I, Sasur-amen, saw that Ishmael was full of consternation I replied, “My lord Ish-mael the Wise, perhaps we should tarry longer and wait, there is still much to be done and the slaves are happy to toil for the glory of Set!  Let this be His glory for now!”

But alas, Ishmael, being full of militant fury for Father Set, did order the engineer to construct a trebuchet, and thus did threaten the Setite Priestess in her domain.

Now the Priestess Safiya got word that the Order of the Sacred Crodocile was building beside her temple and that their leader, Ishmael of Khemi, was demanding the Sanctum be moved so that “Father Set could be properly glorified.”

And Safiya, being enraged by these words, and that she was away seeking counsel from her mentor, left the East at once and returned to her home.

What she had in mind for Ishmael, she held to herself in the council of her own dark heart.

But after arriving in her chamber, she took quill and parchment and then wrote a letter addressed to Ishmael.

This is what she wrote: “Dear Ishmael of Khemi, leader of the Order of the Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant, I am Safiya, High Priestess at Nekhet, let us share a meal and put aside our differences.”

Once he had received the letter and read it, Ishmael, called the wise, wrote his own letter and sent it to Nekhet in the hands of a slave.

“Dearest High Priestess Safiya, chosen of Father Set, I am happy to join you for dinner this evening.  It will be lovely to make the acquaintance of my close kin and to enjoy a proper Stygian meal.  And, as you know, I would like to discuss the condition and placement of the Sanctum.  Sincerely, Ishmael of Khemi.”

When the time for the dinner came, Ish-mael wisely directed his personal guard to accompany him and the two then left and met Safiya at the bridge near her quarters.

Upon seeing the two, High Priestess Safiya asked of Ishmael, “Will I be setting two plates for our dinner tonight?”

Upon hearing this question and seeing that Safiya was exceptionally beautiful and seemingly harmless, Ishmael made a fatal mistake and sent his guard away.  For upon completion of the dinner, and when Ish-mael was reclining next to the beautiful Safiya, her treachery revealed itself and Ishmael was fatally wounded by a poisoned dagger.

And as Ishmael lay dying, Safiya’s guards took him to the altar of Set, and while Ishmael cursed and called on his devotion to Set through Sobek,  Safiya sacrificed his heart on the Sanctum altar.

Thus did Ishmael perish, and his body was properly cremated.

So says I, Sasur-men, archivist at Apepthys. 

Love in the Role-Play: Sociological Observations 2 (Part 2)

I previously mentioned that I would cover “death” in this next installment of Sociological Observations 2 until I became enmeshed in an IC (In-Character) storyline that has forced me to think more deeply about what it means to “love” another person.

It’s an age-old question that has been addressed by many, many others in the past, and for good reason.  Because Love, after all, is the only real treasure in this entire world, and we all know it.

Soren Kiergarde, in his famous book Works of Love, pointed us to the Christian conception of agape love, a notion that gives us a potential benchmark to understand the varieties of “love” that can and does exist in human relationships, real or IC.

In the case of what the bible calls “agape love” it has been understood as the love that God shows to all of creation, i.e. a perfectly unbiased and unconditional love that knows no boundary.  Now we can debate whether or not the god envisioned in the bible is in fact as loving as his followers claim him to be, but that is beside the point here.

The point is to give the reader a conceptual reference point for thinking about the varieties of love on a scale, or as types.  Putting scaling aside for the moment, I want to describe types.  Well known among types of love are of agape, but also eros and phileo.  Eros is erotic love and phileo is a loving friendship.

I have long been familiar with these conceptions of love but my own in-character relationship has tested my understanding of the later two.  But how?

One observation that readily comes to mind is that through this kind of play the PC must come to terms with the tactics of love.  When I first thought of this idea of tactics as a matter related to creating romantic IC relationships and storylines in-game, the first next thought that came to mind was a passage from the bible.

Now before we get to the bible passage, let me be clear that I am not suggesting that any religion is sufficient to understand the concept of love; and much less does religion seem to have answers concerning the phenomenology of love

That said, the passage that came to mind is 1st Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For me, these seem rational, true, and the embodiment of what I have called here “the tactics of love”.  Nevertheless, I do not assume that these high and noble-sounding ideas are the embodiment of “love” for every player and there may be other points of reference for role-playing.

Another observation that comes to mind is that playing a loving character who loves is much more difficult than playing a hateful character who hates.

And finally, I am struck by the fact that there has been social pressure in my RP group to abandon “love”.  

And I promise next time will be death. 

 

Pan, Natsuki, and Roble

Pan had only been working in the tavern in a few days when he first laid eyes on sweet Natsuki, the Yamatai girl.  She was seated at a table talking to a Stygian woman of the darkest complexion and motives.  And being wise, Natsuki saw Pan and asked him to take a seat beside her lest the Stygian, who she took for a witch, tricked her and cast some sorcerous spell upon her in their solitude. 

So Pan being Pan, and always friendly and polite, obeyed and sat beside the two.  The one woman was barely covered with anything at all, but and the other, namely Natsuki, was dressed in full armor and her face was covered. 

As the ladies talked Pan listened and wondered why the one lady had her faced covered.  But as he listened the conversation to just that: the mysterious mask covering the face of the armored and petite younger woman.  

A few moments later Natsuki, as Pan would soon learn her name was, removed her mask and Pan saw the most beautiful face he had ever seen in his short life.

But that is a story for another day because today’s story is the story of Pan, a former prisoner of the Bone Caravan, now rescued and coming face to face with the Demon-man Roble.

When Roble came into the Worldy Pleasures Tavern Pan did not recognize him but he saw and imagined that he was a warrior of great strength and power.  And being frightened by Roble, Pan hesitated a moment before mustering his courage and walking up to him and saying, “Welcome to the Worldly Pleasures Tavern, I’m Pan, can I get you anything?”

Roble, being Roble, did not answer the young man, but instead asked the room a question, “Was there an undead attack on the tavern today?”

Hearing this Pan mustered up his brave side again and replied, “Yes sir, and I helped Lord Faust to drive the minions from the porch!”

Just then, Muirne, who was standing nearby groaned and said, “Pan, see about that ALE I asked for!”

“Yes sir, replied Pan as he quickly turned to get Muirne his ale and Roble said, “Then I shall require a pound of your flesh!”

Terrified, Pan handed the mug of ale Murine and asked, “What does he mean Samirah?”

Samirah had been standing near the stairs the whole time, not saying a word. And so when Pan turned around for the ale he saw her and was comforted.

“Pan,” said Samirah as she took hold of his arm, “Come with me right away!”

“Yes mam,” said Pan as he obediently followed Samirah, terrified and in tears.

The two ran down to the basement and out the back door and then to the elevator up to Adutos, Lord Faust’s keep.  Once safely inside the Keep Samirah and Pan continued up the stairs and eventually up onto the roof.  From there if things worsened with Roble, they would be able to see him coming and perhaps slow him down and escape capture.

“From here I will be able to shoot Roble with an arrow to the face and keep you safe Samirah!”, explained Pan as he regained his sense of courage and nocked an arrow in his bow.

“That is the plan, but we will only be able to slow Roble down Pan, and let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” replied Samirah, still visibly shaken and serious.

“Roble? He’s no match for Lord Faust!”, replied Pan confidently.

“I hope you are right…”, replied Samirah, but not as sure.

(To Be Continued)

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Pan’s First Adventure with Lord Faust and Company

Pan never expected to be exiled in the first place! He was strong, or was it brave? and he hadn’t done anything wrong!

On the contrary, Pan had been an exceptionally obedient slave in Stygia, had always loved his life, and was happy serving the Ptelomaes family.  The Ptelomaes were not Stygians but for some reason- a reason unknown to Pan the slave child- were allowed to live among the Stygian Nobility at Luxor.

But the story of Pan’s life as a boy in Stygia must wait until another day! For now, the story is about Pan, living and working at the Worldly Pleasures Tavern, in exile; it is the story of Pan, the free man, who is still a slave boy in attitude, maturity, and spirit.

When the undead began their attack on the Tavern Pan felt terrified until he spotted Lord Faust, standing like a stone wall, confident and ready to defend his Tavern and the people who live their lives bound to his patronage.

So seeing that his master was strong and courageous Pan said to himself, “I will help Lord Faust, I have been practicing my archery every day!”

And then Pan said out loud: “I will help you turn away the minions Lord Faust!”

“Then take your position upon the parapet while I drive away these undead from the porch!”, replied Sir Faust.

Pan didn’t know very much about Faust, except that he appeared to be was a mighty warrior, and was apparently of Noble birth… though he wasn’t sure about the noble birth part exactly… but Pan always assumed anyone who wasn’t a slave was a noble, “in this way nobody would ever be offended or angry with me”, he reasoned.  But Pan was greatly impressed with the older man, Faust, the man that he now considered his master, even though he was “free”– “whatever that means?” thought Pan

So after hearing Faust command him, Pan ran up and into the keep and then onto the roof of the tavern.  From that vantage point, Pan could fire down at the undead beasts with his bow and help drive the wicked swarm from his, now beloved, tavern home.  Pan fired his arrows over and over again at the minions and only once accidentally hit Faust.

“Damnit boy! Watch your aim!”, yelled Faust as he narrowly, but expertly, blocked the arrow, “Slow down if you need to, do you hear me!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir!”, replied Pan as he tried to obey and fire straighter through his feeling of embarrassment after being chastened.

“No time for feelings,” thought Pan as he said out loud to himself: “I am brave and I am a good shot, and I will not accidentally fire an arrow and hit my Lord Faust!”

Wooossh, thunk, thunk. thunk, woosh!

Pan began again to fire arrows at the undead in a steady motion, and as he focused on his timing and his training, his accuracy began to improve.

“Lord Faust! Lord Faust! they are beginning to withdraw! you have saved us!”, cried out Pan, feeling confident and happy that his home was safe again, if only for a little while.

But Pan did not hear the reply because only a microsecond after he said those words of confidence he was, suddenly and quickly, knocked out and captured. One of the Necromancer’s minions climbed had onto the roof in silence and had then easily overcome the young man… and then slipped away…

(To be continued)

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Emotionality, Death, and Power: Conan Exiles Techo Role Playing — Sociological Observations 2 – Part 1

It has been 7 months since my last set of sociological observation notes.

In February of 2019, I listed some broad social dynamics that I routinely observe as a role-player, dynamics that I believe have a significant impact on how online RP (role-playing) culture, specifically situated around Discord, is socially constructed. You can find those sets of observations here.

In those notes, I focused on the social group that is Discord with concepts that are more oriented towards society in the techno role-playing community.  The focus of the comments that follow will be the individual Role Player, his or her emotional experiences, player character death, and how power shapes gaming experiences on selected Conan Exiles servers.

First “emotions” and “emotional experiences” — there is a term for the experience that I have almost every time my character is in a role-play where strong emotions are also in play.   That term is “emotional bleeding”.

 A Google search of the term provided the following references:

https://geekandsundry.com/coping-with-emotional-bleed-during-roleplay/

https://www.asanet.org/virtual-rituals-community-emotion-and-ritual-massive-multiplayer-online-role-playing-games

https://search.proquest.com/openview/ebf0afea3f45dd628bc4ace29ee79ecf/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2032023

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201509/video-games-impact-your-feelings-in-real-life

http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/05163.50372.pdf

Podcast: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-sbab7-877f8c

It follows that the more “skilled” and/or “experienced” role-players have more skill in separating “character emotions” from “player emotions”, and are able to control the bleed.

Although I have observed several OOC (out of character) arguments, in-game and out of game,  bleed is often effectively governed (or regulated) by server rules, peer pressure, and admin intervention.

My own experience with bleed has been painful and instructive. Painful because I have been surprised and troubled by the intensity of the emotions that I have experienced as a player.  Most, if not all, of these highly charged emotional events, have been fantasies of my own construction, based on very little information, and full of wild-eyed madness.

And so I hypothesis that any serious role-player will experience bleed as a normal phenomenological experience that all must past through and process.

Phenomenology, the study of consciousness as experienced first-person, is an excellent way to understand the player experience of emotional bleed.  I say this because, in the case of emotions felt by the player, the player most often has very little to no information about other players in real terms.  Instead what each individual player has is a composite of information about the persons they are playing with that is based on role-playing experiences, character biographies, consent sheets, and OOC interaction in-game and on Discord.

This means that emotional content is highly first person oriented and based on symbolic interpersonal relationships, past experiences with others, or some other material content that has shaped their PC (Player Character).

I sense that there are other observations to be made about the role of emotionality in techno-roleplaying communities, but bleed is the central concept.

I’ll cover death in the next post.

I am Sasur-amen, A Letter in a dungeon

A Letter with a handwritten date:

To: All the faithful who remember the Pharaoh as “Set in the moment of his power!”

From: Call me Sasur-amen. Long have I been writing down the exploits of the Warrior-Priests who gather under the banner of the Sacred Crocodile. These were great Stygian souls who defend both Faith and Pharaoh and did manifest the deific power of the Great Pharaohs of Stygia.

Naturally, the accusations against the Order can be nothing but false, given our great and abiding love for the Stygian religion.

But curse my circumstances now!!

For I do not know what will become of me… or the Order… or of what mysterious plans the Great Serpent has?

And curse my circumstances!– because I find myself condemned, and here in this dungeon beside many of the persons of Ish-mael’s company.

And so reader, I, Sasur-amen, a condemned man, soon to be exiled, leave this note behind to document the secret that my confession before the Crown (Set save me!) was false.

……I suppose this is my honor to die for such a noble cause. But I do not wish to meet my final end!– there are still many stories to tell, and wonders to archive!

Nevertheless, my will to live aside, my fate, and my faith are in the coils of the Great Serpent of the Ocean, who guides even the darkest of ships on their journeys.

BUT if I, Sasur-amen, do live, know that there will be tales of wonder written down; there will be tales of those who survive exile, and of those who live, breath, eat and make love under the eyes of the gods.

Farewell, my country,

Signed Sasur-amen of Khemi

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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Raynor the Feral, The White Tiger and the Shrine

Raynor the Nordhiemer is uncomfortable in the desert. He feels more at home in the snowy mountains of the north.

Nevertheless, there Raynor was abroad in the desert waste, standing at the bottom of a sandstone mountain bluff that must be climbed. “Baahhhh! By Ymir’s orange beard! I must climb up to light this fire ring as well!” said Raynor out loud as he started to remove his heavy armor for the climb.

“The climb to the top will be tricky,” thought Raynor, “but Alfhda requires that our shrines to Ymir stay lit.”

Once naked, Raynor removed a large sack from his pack and then placed his armor, his pack, his pipe, and a few other personal effects into the sack.  When everything was in the sack, and the bundle was secure, Raynor tied one end of a rope around the bundle and then tied the other end of the rope around his waist.

“If my memory serves me well, I know just how to grapple and climb these rocks”, thought Raynor as he looked for the right spot wherein to begin his climb upward, towards the dimming shrine.

It was just at that moment, when the sturdy old Nordhiemer was looking for grapple spots in the sandstone, when he saw the white tiger causally walking toward him.  Startled by the sight of the mighty tiger, Raynor ran toward the sack and took out his cudgel and throwing axe, which he had also placed inside it.

Now being naked and facing a white tiger in the middle of the desert was alarming to Raynor but there no time to worry or be thoughtful about it.

The tiger pounced on Raynor with a devastating growl and lunge.  Afterwards Raynor and the white tiger rolled around– fighting, clawing and biting for their lives, i.e. until Raynor got the upper hand and brought down his cudgel into the skull of the tiger with a an explosive crack.

For a moment the tiger stood stiff. Then it backed away, gave Raynor a curious look, and then fell to the ground dead. “By Ymir’s orange beard, what a mighty beast that was!” said Raynor as he placed his weapons back inside the sack and took out an aloe potion for his wounds. “It is a shame that he died here in the desert on this off chance,” he thought as he applied the aloe.

“Now for this filthy climb,” said Raynor as he went back to the business of climbing to the top of the sandstone bluff.

Raynor put his hands on the side of the great bluff and with inhuman strength pulled and climbed his way up. He didn’t seem to be bothered much by the 200 or so extra pounds of dangling armor, weapons, his pipe, and other things, which were securely bound, and dangling from the rope he had tied around his waist.

Once at the top, Raynor sat down and took out his pipe.   He then stood up and lit both the fire rings of the shrine and his pipe.

Thus, finished of his work, Raynor again sat down to rest, and as the smoke billowed around his head, he thought to himself, “Perhaps I will stay here, alone for a while, on this mountain, where I have a lovely view of things”.

“I cannot pretend that when I am on the ground the view satisfies me like it does when I am high and lifted as I am now,” continued Raynor, deep in thought.

Raynor then stood up and paced back and forth, smoking, thinking and smoking. Finally, he grunted and started climbing down.

And as he began climbing down off the mountain to the ground, he said to himself, “There is no sense in my hiding away for long, Queen Alfhda will require my assistance soon enough.”

When Raynor got the ground, he began the long jog back to Virding Hall, without a word or thought. 20190311210755_1

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