The Shield of Tau Pt. 2

September 17, 2018

“You should go back home to Lita,” Numa said. “You have a big day tomorrow.” She relaxed in her seat at the inn her family ran. She always felt safe and at home there.

“She is still doing her weekly component shopping, I think,” Jace said. “It takes forever and she knows how boring it is so she does it with her wizard friends.” He held out the bottle of Deneirian whiskey that he had been drinking from, offering a drink to Numa.

She pushed the bottle away gently and then thought better and took the bottle and set it back down out of Jace’s reach. “I’ll remind you that I’m on duty here and I can’t drink with you,” she said. “Besides, it’s unseemly enough that you are hanging out with a human. I can imagine the talk if you are seen drinking with one.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Jace said that, waving the question away with his hand. “Elves and humans are allowed to talk to one another. Besides, you’re my friend. Your family gave us shelter when the blink dogs came.”

“I remember,” Numa said with a shudder. “That guard shoved you and you and Lita through the door but that other girl didn’t make it.”

“Miza,” Jace said with a shudder. Even five years later it still felt bad saying her name. He was grateful that he had not looked back in the chaos and seen her shredded by the blink dog. It was bad enough hearing it. “The worst day ever.” As soon as he said it, it felt like an understatement.

“The silver lining is that it was the day you met Lita, right?” Numa asked.

“Of course,” Jace said. “It’s also the day that I first swung a weapon and hit an enemy.”

“Which led you to where you will be tomorrow,” Numa said. “The Grand Festival of Battle.”

“Yes,” Jace said. “Tomorrow. The Placements of the Tau. The final step toward my future. In front of the Lord of Tau himself and also everybody I have ever known.”

“You’ll do fine. Where do you think you will be assigned?” Numa asked with a smile. “Hopefully not the border.”

“I have no idea,” Jace said. “I just want to serve. I’ve always wanted to serve. The incursions have started to get worse again.”

“Do you think you might get tapped to investigate those?” Numa asked.

“I’m sure that won’t happen,” he said. “The incursions must be magical in nature and I have no aptitude for magic. I would definitely not mind protecting the city from the invaders.”

“You would be good at it,” she said. “and it would be good to stay close to Lita’s shop.”

“Those are basically the reasons I have for wanting that post,” Jace said with a laugh. “You’ve summed it up nicely.”

“The gift of speech is one of my best skills,” Numa said. “Oh! By the way, I might be able to watch some of your matches.”

“How are you going to manage that?” Jace asked with some surprise. “No offense.” The last was added in quickly.

“No,” Numa said. “I understand what you meant. My family was selected to help with the food for the event so we’re closing down our kitchen for the day.”

“Nice,” Jace said. “I will look for you in the crowd. You can stand with Lita.”

“I’d love to,” Numa said. “I so rarely see her these days since we are both so busy. But you need to go home, Jace. Sleep before your big day. Besides, we need to close for the night soon.”

“I have received your message loud and clear,” Jace said as he stood up. “I will try and spot you tomorrow.”

Numa walked him to the door with a smile. “Tomorrow,” she said. “Your destiny and my snacks.” Which earned her a laugh from Jace before she shut the door on him.

Jace walked down the street, briefly walking along a line of stones to test how drunk he was. He concluded that he was probably fine and he walked home through the cold air. He opened the door of what doubled as he and Lita’s home and her enchanting shop. He paused and sniffed and he could quickly tell that the shop was closed for the day. All he could smell were stale reagents and parchment. As he climbed the stairs to their small apartment, he could hear that Lita was home. He stepped through their front door and closed the door firmly behind himself.

“My husband,” Lita said, coming from the kitchen area. “Welcome home.”

“My wife,” Jace said with a smile. “How was your shopping?”

She shrugged. “It was routine,” she said. “It will be delivered the day after tomorrow. I’m in no hurry since I will have the shop closed tomorrow. I stopped by Marian’s to consult about an upcoming project.”

“And how did that work out?” Jace asked. He slipped his jacket off and hung it up.

“Do you really want to hear about mundane issues about my job instead of talking about your big day tomorrow?” She asked with a sly smile which drew a smile out of him. “Are you that nervous?”

“Yes,” Jace said. “I know how hard I’ve trained but I don’t know what I will face tomorrow and what I face determines much of the rest of my life.”

“Oh husband,” Lita said. “Whatever happens tomorrow, you will find a way to protect people. That is the fate you’ve chosen. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I will love you and I am proud of you.” She moved over to him and kissed him deeply. He kissed her back happily and pulled her close. When they had both had enough, at least for the time being, they broke the kiss and held hands. He looked down at his wife’s ink-stained hands and smiled. She was so smart and they had grown together so close.

“I love you, Lita,” he said with a smile.

“I love you too, Jace,” she said. “I am happy to spend eternity with you.”

“And I’m happy to spend it with you,” Jace said. “Shall we go to bed?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Lita said. “Tomorrow is going to be a full day.”

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In the Shanti Desert Pt. 2

September 15, 2018

Saara woke up slowly and she felt a bit like she had when she had fallen off a second story balcony during her second heist. She felt even worse when she contrasted that happy memory of freedom with her current predicament. She was laying on her back and she could see a stone ceiling above her. A young man who had been silent so far knelt down and pressed a hand against her shoulder and the pain lessened a bit and she felt like she could move again. She started to sit up and the young man gently pushed against her shoulder and prevented her from sitting up.

“I think he wants you to take it easy,” Arana said. “I have a feeling that he’s right. You passed out pretty hard.”

“Where are we?” Saara asked.

“After you passed out, I was able to create a magical shelter for us and we dragged you in here,” Arana said. “We’re on another plane. A sort of pocket plane.”

“Wow,” Saara said and she was genuinely impressed. She looked up into the eyes of the young man who was watching her intently. “And who are you?”

“He doesn’t actually talk,” Arana said. “We’re not even sure he can. His name is Adir and we hired him out of the Temple of the Winged Lady. He’s a great healer.” Adir nodded and smiled at that. He took her hands in his and gently helped her to sit up. Her head spun briefly but then she was alright.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” Saara said.

“As far as I can tell,” Arana said. “You held that protective spell longer than you should have and it drained a bit of your lifeforce. You have to be more careful.”

“Why are you being so nice?” Saara asked. Adir handed her a small clay cup full of liquid. She sniffed it and concluded that it was water. She took a big sip and she was proven right.

Arana shrugged. “For better or for worse, we’re on the same team now,” she said. “Also, you did kind of save our lives.”

“Where is everybody else?” Saara asked. She looked around and saw some of the group’s supplies but no camels or carts. There were a few boxes stacked near a door. There were rugs layered all over the floor and several bedrolls laid out. It was like a camp but the three of them were alone. She felt a little vulnerable all of a sudden.

“They’re out scouting for possible leads on the treasure,” Arana said. “Don’t worry, we’re safe in here. You have to have permission to enter my mansion. I’m not sure if any power on the material plane could force its way past that rule.”

Almost as if on cue, a large person pushed open the door, accompanied by wind and sand and then firmly shut the door behind themselves. Their face and much of their upper body were wrapped in cloth. Saara instinctively tried to gather her magic but it hurt so badly that her vision went dark for a moment. Adir held onto her hand to calm and steady her.

“Relax,” Arana said. “Like I said, they have to have permission and he has permission.”

“Who?” Saara managed to ask, her everything still hurting.

The man pulled the cloth wrappings away to reveal a simple red face mask. However, this caused Saara to instinctively flinch again. The Red Faces were known throughout Kofrain as the most brutal and efficient of law enforcers. They were rightly feared by the guilty and the innocent alike. The man slipped the mask off, revealing a rugged yet handsome face and a casual smile only partially obscured by facial hair.

“I am Sabri and I am the boss here,” the man said. “I bought your contract and I am sorry that we have not met until now.” He walked over and extended his hand and Saara shook it gently, she could tell he was strong. Instead of watching his face, she found that her gaze was drawn to the red mask hanging from his belt. “Ah, it is a little scary. A relic from a past life. I have changed my ways since then but the mask’s reputation is hard to pass up. It saves me so much time in negotiations especially.”

“It is nice to meet you,” Saara said. “I suppose.”

“How is your patient doing, Adir?” Sabri asked. “The workers in this room are the most versatile and useful that I currently have. We need to protect my investments.”

Adir gave Sabri a thumbs up signal but then qualified it by waving his hand in a ‘so-so’ movement which kind of made Saara nervous. Adir shot her a brief reassuring smile and a calming gesture.

“Let me guess, does she only need rest then?” Sabri asked.

Adir nodded in response.

“How many nights?” Sabri asked, his eyes narrowing.

Adir held up only one finger which made Sabri smile and nod.

“Excellent,” Sabri said. “You saved our lives and you won’t even delay our mission. Soon my men will locate the first marker that will lead us to the ruins that I found the last time I was out here. It can’t be far away now.”

“Then what?” Saara asked and Arana gave her a sharp look. Saara did not really care, she was already an indentured servant, there was not much to lose and Sabri seemed nice enough.

“Then you and my other three acquisitions help me get through the ruins to see if we can’t find any treasure,” Sabri said.

Saara nodded but then paused and counted on her fingers. “There’s only three of us here. Well, unless you’re counting yourself as an ‘acquisition’.

“There are five people in this room,” Sabri said and laughed softly when Saara looked confused. “I suppose it is safe to reveal our final participant.” He walked over to the pile of crates and pulled three keys from around his neck. He unlocked three locks on one of the crates and opened it.

“Oh, is it time for me to come out?” A voice from inside the crate said. “I was just about to fall asleep again, your accommodations were just so thoughtful.”

Media Update 9/13/18

September 13, 2018


Countdown

On a whim, I decided to watch this movie over Labor Day Weekend because it was the weekend of All-In and Dolph Ziggler is big on Raw again. For those who don’t know, “Dolph Ziggler” is the stage name of Nick Nemeth. He has been part of the World Wrestling Entertainment machine for at least a decade now. I knew that he had done some stand up comedy on the side so I wanted to see what his acting was like away from the ring. Turns out it is actually pretty good. The movie is about a rogue cop (Nemeth) who is about to be fired for being a loose cannon cop when he is drawn into an extortion plot involving a kid strapped with explosives. So this time it’s personal. Literally. He is in a race to find the boy and save him from the explosives all the while being opposed by his fellow cops and Russian criminals. Along the way, there is an action sequence and chase sequence in the backstage of a WWE show so we get great cameos from stars like The New Day, The Usos, Brock Lesnar, and Rusev. Also, the police captain is played by new Mayor of Knox County Glenn Jacobs (aka Kane) who is imposing but not the greatest actor. Oh well. Ziggler is joined by Katharine Isabelle, a tough internal affairs cop who is forced to tag along in order to save the kid. The movie is actually pretty tense and, although it is cheesy, it was a lot of fun to watch. Give it a shot and just relax and watch it.


Brick Mansions

I have previously expressed how much I like Luc Besson movies both as a writer and a director. Even his worst movies are more entertaining than most movies and he is really good at building strange and exciting worlds. This one is based on one of his earliest movies (which I have not seen) but it really captured my imagination. It has probably the most likely and believable future world that I have ever seen. The setting is called Brick Mansions, an area of Detroit that was built for newly rich citizens. However, a financial collapse happened and the area was abandoned and taken over by squatters and criminals. Eventually, Detroit just walled that neighborhood in and no longer provided it with law enforcement or emergency services. The movie is basically just a buddy cop film between Paul Walker and David Belle and an excuse to watch them engage in gunplay and parkour. In fact, David Belle’s parkour is both a plot point and a running joke. They are up against a gangster played by the RZA at his most charming. What I liked most is that everybody’s motivations in the movie make sense and they all make believable choices. It is a fun throwaway action film with a pleasant plot and I definitely recommend it.


Hitman

I never played any of the Hitman games so I am not really aware of how much plot they contain. In the movie, Timothy Oliphant plays a member of an elite group of assassins who are raised from childhood to be the best at combat. I have a few issues with the aesthetics of these “master assassins” who are all bald and have barcodes tattooed onto the back of their heads but I guess I need to take that up with the video game franchise. They did the best they could with this movie and it shows. I was prepared to just enjoy the action and hate everything else but I was wrong. One of the best decisions is how they modeled the movie on the style of Luc Besson. I definitely got some Leon vibes from the movie in the best ways. Also, casting Timothy Oliphant was a great choice as he has natural charisma that shows even when he is trying to be emotionless. Olga Kurylenko is a relative innocent whose lively demeanor draws more emotion out of Oliphant. Dougray Scott plays an Interpol agent who has been pursuing Oliphant for years and is a fun plot element. Robert Knepper plays a villainous agent who is also chasing Oliphant. It is a fun romp that is basically just an excuse for awesome gunfights and martial arts combat. I also recommend it.

Weekly Music:

Jay Rock – Win

Slipknot – Sulfur

Bebe Rexha – I’m A Mess

Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin – I Like It

Air – La Femme D’Argent

 

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Deadly Pairs”
– I started watching Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I kept watching The Good Place Season 2
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I watched more Disenchantment Season 1
– I went back and watched some Charmed episodes I had missed
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1

Taldonta Atlas Pt. 2

September 10, 2018

ContinentD

Khull
Orcs 56% Half-Orcs 25% Tieflings 10% Humans 6% Half-Elves 3%

The Kingdom of Khull is a large country full of desert and scrubland near the middle of the Emerald Continent of Taldonta. Since Orcs are almost certain to maintain a constant violent relationship with the other races on the continent, many decided to seize land inhospitable to less rugged races where they formed their own kingdom. This kingdom is undoubtedly ruled by one person, the Warchief, and everybody else is more or less on equal footing. With orcs, the strongest often rules and makes the rules so aside from the Warchief, the most brutal often keep the others in line. Their thoughts are constantly bent on war with their neighbors but it has been a long time since an actual war has taken place. Their southern neighbor is Shera which has built a tall wall all along the border to provide some relief from these vicious creatures as has The Bremid Empire. After its founding, the Kingdom of Khull opened its borders to any goblins, kobolds, tieflings, and even humans who wanted a new home. The newborn alliance worries the rest of Taldonta. The people of Khull have largely given themselves over to the darker gods and have created a religion that leans heavily on blood sacrifice.

Koshain
Humans 46% Half-Elves 14% Tieflings 12%
Elves 10% Half-Orcs 10% Dwarves 4% Halflings 3% Gnomes 1%

Koshain is a fair-sized desert nation ruled over by a King in the most fertile part of the desert, made so by magic. However, the nature of the desert nation’s isolation of urban centers means that local officials have more direct, actual authority over day to day matters. This has led to widespread abuse of power in the past. Examples include using prisoners for dangerous work, heavy taxation, harsh law enforcement, and even renting out prisoners to private interests. As a response, the criminal population is able to depict themselves as rebels. Public opinion is divided on the subject, usually along economic class lines, and the King seems to either not care or actively supports the corruption. There is a nomadic community that travels to stay separate from the government. Treasure hunting is a popular career and past time.  Another interesting tidbit is that the people of Koshain have evolved a fashion that often incorporates face paint and/or masks.  Originally, this was intended to block the harsh sun but it became a sign of status for the upper class and a way to hide identities for other lower classes.

Lavell
Dwarves 54% Goliaths 15% Humans 9% Half-Elves 7%
Elves 5% Gnomes 4% Half-Orcs 3% Halflings 2% Tieflings 1%

Lavell is mostly useless to surface dwellers. Not only is it a very mountainous region, it is also a fairly icy land as well. There are very few settlements on the surface and it is one of the few lands without an elf or human government. Instead, Lavell is ruled over by dwarves who, of course, live underground in massive cities. Because of the cold and barren climate, the other races have been welcomed into the dwarf cities where elves and humans are rarely comfortable. The citizens of the country pride themselves on being hardy and surviving what should have been an inhospitable land. There is very little trade and very little diplomacy especially since their closest neighbors have a difficult time traveling to the city entrances. Technically, Lavell has no central leader and is ruled by the leaders of the cities.

Mekar
Half-Orcs 30% Humans 23% Dwarves 20%
Half-Elves 10% Halflings 7% Elves 5% Tieflings 4% Gnomes 1%

Mekar is not really a country per se. It is a land whose borders were defined by people wanting to avoid and let alone the barbarians, druids, and monks that mostly reside there. This is a completely wild and lawless area but not in an inherently evil way like Khull. Most people who grow up in the region or move there just want to be left alone. Those who venture out of that region are usually seeking new challenges. There are a few monasteries in the mountains of Mekar and several monk traditions originated from there. Many monks issue forth from those monasteries to wander the land either cast out or to put their martial arts skills to good use. Most other residents of Mekar are largely nomadic and hard to pin down. Of course, there is usually no reason to go in and pin them down anyway.

Shera
Humans 46% Half-Elves 24% Elves 10% Dwarves 12%
Half-Orcs 5% Halflings 8% Tieflings 6% Gnomes 3%

Once known as the Kingdom of Shera, this place is mostly farmland, forest, and swamps. That is not to say that it is not civilized, it just lacks the diversity of biomes that Eloria has. Sherans are not completely unlike Elorians. The main difference has been formed by their more recent history. Years ago, the King of Shera decided to forgo all previous treaties and attacked the Kingdom of Eloria in a bid to gain all of the shipping resources of Eloria. As has been stated, that war was interrupted by Vistra’s forces and those forces killed the entire royal family of Shera. Liam III, the King of Eloria, decided not to annex Shera in the absence of their royal family. The grateful Sherans formed a Republic and they are now ruled by a council made up of the Mayors of their cities and various intellectuals. The new government reestablished treaties with all of its neighbors (except for Khull, of course) and work toward a brighter, more peaceful future.

Vedel
Humans 64% Half-Orcs 12% Half-Elves 9% Tieflings 6%
Halflings 5% Elves 3% Dwarves 2% Gnomes 1%

The people of Vedel are very superstitious and fairly resistant to outsiders which is why they erected a barrier around themselves. It is hard for a tourist to get in and it is apparently hard for tourists to get out as few have. The few that have reported on that land have reported a land of castles, put-upon villages, and a sort of gray feeling all over. A land steeped heavily in the feudal system, the people have no power and the nobles and royalty have all the power with extreme prejudice. The division between classes is also very rigid and many commoners could go their whole lives without seeing a single noble or royal. There have been rumors of vicious and exotic monsters within the walls as well.

#AndNew Pt. 1

September 8, 2018

(Non-Pro-Graps fans might need this handy glossary)

Gabriel climbed out of the cab and walked past the crowds entering the arena wearing merch from the show and saw how clearly excited they were. He paused for a moment and looked over his shoulder at the crowd and imagined they were wearing one of his shirts. He had been a pro-wrestler for five years but imagining that stardom never got old. He stepped into an alleyway so he could get around the back of the arena which is where he ran into a security guard at the door. The guy had a clipboard and a stern expression but Gabe watched as several performers he recognized got checked in and the stern face briefly gave way to a smile each time. He adjusted the duffle bag on his shoulder and headed for the door.

“Can I help you?” The guard asked.

“I’m here to, uh, perform,” Gabe said. “I’m on the card tonight.”

“Your name?” The guard asked. He looked skeptical.

“Jason Knight,” Gabe said.

The guard scanned the clipboard and then looked back at Gabe. “I meant your shoot name.”

“Oh,” Gabe said. “It’s Gabriel Thompson.”

The guard checked off something on his clipboard and nodded. “Go on in, sir. Just some friendly advice: there is a dress code.”

Gabe looked embarrassed and nodded. “Thanks for the tip,” he said. “I forgot about that. I’m new.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it inside,” the guard said. “Just get into your gear as soon as you can.”

“Thank you,” Gabe said and he stepped inside and started to walk in search for where he was supposed to go. Finally, he saw a guy standing next to a board with papers on it. A few people were starting to crowd around the board. Before he could get a look at the board, the guy waved a hand in his face.

“Hey,” the guy said. “You’re a fresh face. Are you Jason Knight?”

“Yeah,” Gabe said. “Reporting for duty.”

“The name’s Brett Cooley,” the guy said. “I’m in charge of the talent back here.”

Gabe suddenly recognized the guy. “Holy shit, yeah, I recognize you. You’re ‘Diamond’ Rick Cameron. I used to imitate the Diamond Kick in my living room when I was a kid.”

Brett smirked. “Yeah, kid,” he said. “Now everybody’s doing it like it’s a normal move. Are you here to mark out are you here to work?”

“I’m here to work,” Gabe said, pulling himself back together. “Who have I got tonight?”

Brett took a deep breath. “They told you that you were coming in as a single?”

Gabe nodded. “Yeah, they said I was keeping my gimmick.”

“Well, there’s something you need to learn quick up here in the big leagues,” Brett said. “Things change. Shit happens. You’re tagging instead.”

“Oh,” Gabe said and he took a beat to manage his expectations and bounce back. “Who am I tagging with?”

Brett pointed at the board at a sheet of paper which was obviously the booking sheet for the night. It read like a schedule and Gabe scanned the page for his name and unexpectedly found it at the very top. He had thought he would be somewhere in the middle. Then he saw the word Dark next to that match which meant that he was not even going to be on television. Again, he managed his expectations. This was made easier when he saw the name Seth Powers. He had worked in the indies once or twice with Seth and he liked him. They were going up against The Nightmares, Jimmy Cable and Freddy Lang, and that was a good thing too.

“Good luck, kid,” Brett said. “Go get dressed, you’re on first.”

“Thanks,” Gabe said and stuck out his hand for a handshake and Brett smiled and nodded as they shook hands and then Gabe was following the signs to the dressing room.

Things had been moving fast for him. He had enlisted in a wrestling school a little over five years ago. He had broken into the indies a little later and he had performed in high school gyms and indoor soccer arenas. He had paid his dues and eventually he made his way up to bigger crowds until he got invited to a tryout for the big time. The tryout had apparently gone well and here he was making his big debut. Sure, he was in a dark tag match instead of debuting on television but he was ready to continue to pay his dues and get over with the crowd. He shook off the bad vibes of the little bit of a rude awakening and mentally prepared himself to be professional.

He walked into the dressing room and set his bag down and walked around the room and shook everybody’s hand. It was just something you had to do and, in professional wrestling tradition was important. He shook hands with guys he did not recognize, people he was a fan of, and people who he had grown up idolizing. He did it all in a respectful way and tried not to mark out too much. Finally, he came upon The Nightmares and Seth huddled together with legend Ron Castle. Gabe shook their hands and then sat down.

“Good to see you, kid,” Castle said. “We were just talking about the match. What’s your finish?”

“It’s a sitout lifting double underhook facebuster,” Gabe said.

“What a mouthful,” Castle said. The Nightmares chuckled at that and Seth even grinned.

“I’ve been calling it the Knight Driver if that helps,” Gabe said with a smile. He glanced at Seth and then looked back at Castle. “Are we going over?”

“No,” Freddy said. “But I’ll sell that move like a champ. Make you look real good.”

“Thank you,” Gabe said.

“I’ll make the save,” Jimmy said. “Then we’ll move on to you getting ol’ Seth tagged in. I’ll drag you off the apron and put you in the leg slicer on the floor so you can’t get in and make the save for Freddy putting Seth in the crossface.”

“The rest of the match will be called in the ring,” Castle said. “You alright with that?”

“I can handle that,” Gabe said.

Media Update 9/6/18

September 6, 2018


Marshall

Again, I kind of have a connection to Thurgood Marshall in that I have studied and I am working in the law and he was an attorney who got his start in Maryland. In fact, he sued The University of Maryland Law School for discriminating against him by not accepting him. He went on to be a tireless crusader for the NAACP and eventually became the first person of color to get on the United States Supreme Court. This movie takes a small slice of his life, defending a black man accused of raping a white woman, and uses it to show us who he was. In the movie, he is played by Chadwick Boseman and he is confident and fast-talking, usually bowling over whoever he is talking to with force of will and superior intelligence. Josh Gad plays a Jewish insurance defense attorney who is forced to act as Marshall’s mouthpiece in court when a racist judge forbids him from speaking. The movie is made by Boseman’s perfect delivery of a confident black man having to work around a system working against him. He is a never-say-die soldier and will not stop. The chemistry between Gad (in probably his best role) and Boseman is funny, sad, infuriating, and inspiring. The movie definitely paints Marshall as a man on a mission who not only fought the good fight but also inspired others to do their best. I definitely recommend it.


Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln has always been important in my family. My youngest brother was named in part after him because he was an important figure and also probably because he was a former lawyer. I also dressed up like him and delivered the Gettysburg Address in the third grade in one of my first memories of social anxiety. Because of my affinity for the man, I know a lot about the major moments of his life. However, I did not know a lot about the events surrounding the vote on the 13th amendment to the constitution. In fact, I thought it happened after his death instead of shortly before it. The movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and they probably could not have picked a better actor for it. He gives Lincoln an air of legend and mythology but also gives him humanity. Lincoln is a great man but he also enjoys telling vulgar jokes. He is a man who is willing to make brutal calls in order to change the course of history. Sally Field is excellent as Molly, his wife, and she helps bring out the vulnerability of Lincoln and also the less good parts of his story. David Straitharn and James Spader play William Seward and William Bilbo, and they are both delightfully mischievous. Tommy Lee Jones plays legendary abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens with a mix of gravity and straight-faced humor. It was a great story about a great moment in history. I definitely recommend this one.


Jackie

The story of Jackie Kennedy is a tragic one. Thrust into the spotlight (like most First Ladies) next to the United States’ closest equivalent to royalty, she forged her own path. Then she had her husband taken from her right before her eyes in bloody fashion. This movie is the story of what happened to her in the period after the assassination of John F. Kennedy up to her interview with Life Magazine. Part of the movie is an uncomfortable and scary look at a woman basically having a nervous breakdown. The other big part of the movie is watching scenes from a fictionalized version of the interview as a game of wits between her and an unnamed interviewer. It also briefly cuts to recreations of a real television special Mrs. Kennedy hosted giving a tour of the White House and providing some spooky foreshadowing moments. Natalie Portman plays a perfect Jackie Kennedy, at once powerful, graceful, and vulnerable. She understandably often plays opposite Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy who provides an emotional but stoic contrast to her character (understandably) barely keeping it together. As I said, the movie is very uncomfortable to watch in all of the best ways. Even though I had not been born at the time, all of the iconic images that showed up were burned into mind from being a student of history. I definitely recommend this one as well but prepare yourself.

Music of the Week:
R3HAB x THRDL!FE ft. Olivia Holt – Wrong Move

Childish Gambino – Summertime Magic

Black Label Society – Trampled Down Below

LANY – The Breakup

HELLYEAH – I Don’t Care Anymore

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Biopics: Legendary Americans”
– I watched more The Good Place Season 2
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I watched the All In pay per view
– I watched more Disenchantment Season 1

Taldonta Atlas Pt. 1

September 3, 2018

ContinentD

Alscines
Half-Elves 50% Humans 20% Elves 10% Gnomes 10%
Dwarves 4% Halflings 3% Tieflings 2% Half-Orcs 1%

Alscines is ruled over by the Queen Cahlanas. Long ago, the great elven and human families of Alscines came together in a lasting and genuine bond of togetherness. As a result, the rulers of Alscines have often been half-elves and there is a significant half-elven population. Not all of the rulers have been half-elves but many of them. The country is also the home of the only gnome city at the base of Mount Eagle. The populace has a very magical bloodline in general because of the mixing of human and elven bloodlines. There are many empty plains in the country that are not explored because they appear empty. Most of the country is more concerned with the urban centers and the farms that surround them than an empty land of little to no worth. Put there, somewhere in the plains, is the vault of the true King of Crows, a powerful necromancer who was felled centuries earlier.

The Bremid Empire
Elves 50% Half-Elves 20% Dwarves 13% Humans 11%
Halflings 3% Gnomes 2% Tieflings 1% Half-Orcs 0%

The Bremid Empire has the largest concentration of elves on the continent of Taldonta. It has been ruled by an emperor (always an elf) for centuries. Before that, it was a loose conglomeration of principalities. One of these began to conquer the others and an empire was forged. Underneath this empire are the large Dwarf cities Angal and Lehnar. Much of the architecture and defenses of the Empire were inspired by the synergy between the two cultures and their alliance. The current emperor, Thal Karnar, is content with the Empire’s holdings and is content with taking potshots at Khull for entertainment and shows of power. The Empire is ruled by the iron fist of the emperor and his wishes are carried out by his governors and his legions. By law, the other races are not supposed to be treated as inferior to elves but in practice, elves have been in power too long for anything to change now. Still, anybody can have a happy life in the Empire as long as they follow the rules.

Callas
Humans 46% Half-Elves 17% Dwarves 13%
Elves 10% Tieflings 7% Halflings 3% Gnomes 2% Half-Orcs 2%

Callas is a destination for the very religious people of the continent. The culture of the land puts divine magic over arcane magic. In many areas of Callas, arcane magic is actually frowned upon and in the capital, it is actually outlawed. The biggest temples on the continent exist in the capital but mostly to the main pantheon. The Temple of the Three Suns is the biggest of them. Smaller temples are plentiful through the rest of the countryside and in the middle of a forest is one of the few temples dedicated to the Goddess of the Hunt. There is also a sort of safe haven for tieflings near the western coast where tieflings can go to be safe. It is one of three cultures guided mostly by elves and half-elves as they seek to teach the younger races about the gods. The government is ruled by a rotating priest figurehead for a religious council. This council is inclusive of representatives of all established religions except, of course, those who worship the evil gods.

Deneia
Humans 46% Half-Elves 14% Tieflings 12%
Elves 10% Half-Orcs 10% Dwarves 4% Halflings 3% Gnomes 1%

The land of Deneia is a land of lakes and rivers and because of that, it is a place of mostly swamps and forests. It is a very green land that is difficult to travel through because of the various bodies of water that must be crossed or avoided. There are very few large settlements in the center of Deneia. Most of the larger settlements are nearer the borders to enable trade with their neighbors and they have plenty of unique agriculture to trade. The royal court of Deneia figuratively and sometimes literally floats. The royal family of Deneia is notoriously paranoid and therefore moves their headquarters weekly to prevent being caught unawares by potential enemies or other undesirables. Part of the reason for this is that the royal family’s bloodline became Tieflings centuries ago. Some bad experiences set off long years of obsessions with protection.

Eloria
Humans 46% Half-Elves 24% Elves 10% Dwarves 12%
Half-Orcs 5% Halflings 8% Tieflings 6% Gnomes 3%

Sitting on a huge peninsula at the base of the so-called Emerald Continent of Taldonta, Eloria is a jewel nearly surrounded by the Calm Sea. For centuries, it has been ruled by the royal family in an unbroken chain since Galen I led the armies in the First Great War, defeating the evil, Vistra, and his Orc/Fiend alliance. This victory caused the formerly loosely allied districts to forge themselves into a new nation under the heroes of that war. The people crowned Galen and he laid down his sword in order to lead and protect his people. The crown was passed down the line from King to Queen to King and so on. Now it adorns the head of the current King, Liam III. He is supported by his wife Gianna, his heir Ariana, and twin princes Galen and Bram and Princess Cora. The Kingdom of Eloria is divided into six districts that surround the capital where the royal residence is. The land was divided into districts by land type and each is locally managed by a noble house, supported by lesser noble houses. The King has full say but cannot micromanage and a lot of trust is placed in the nobles and the people to maintain both efficiency and harmony.

Gosha
Elves 40% Half-Elves 25% Humans 20% Dwarves 5%
Halflings 4% Gnomes 3% Half-Orcs 2% Tieflings 1%

If you did not know better, you would think that Gosha was an uninhabited forest island. However, it is because the people on the island do not really believe in development or showing their faces. A largely druidic and simple living society, they are more in tune with nature and thus shun urban living. This also means that it is a greater hot spot for exposure to the feywild. The country is sometimes a destination for druid and ranger coming of age ceremonies. In exchange for being left alone, the druids of Gosha provide the rest of the continent with their fine wood from fallen and dead trees. That wood is used in some of the finest crafted objects, weapons, and boats across the continent.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 3

September 1, 2018

WILPW

9 – Favorite Entrance

It might be cheesy and it might sound a little like a cop out but I have to choose the entrance for “Dashing” Cody Rhodes from years ago. Until he was Dashing, Cody had not shown much of the spark he would show later (and currently). He was like a Create A Wrestler in one of WWE’s video games but everything set on “default”. As he evolved, he started to develop more character and sure the character has been done before and since. He was the arrogant pretty boy who went berzerk when somebody so much as brushed up against his face. It eventually led to one of his best gimmicks in the WWE. First, the song “Smoke and Mirrors” was about how he was the real deal and his opponents were nothing but an illusion. The song is catchy as heck but it also kind of annoyed me at the time because it was just infused with his as yet undeserved arrogance. However, the reason why this entrance leaped to mind as my favorite entrance is that it used the screens at the top of the ramp in ways that few other performers have been able to do. He pauses next to one of the lower panels and a mirror appears and his face is projected live to the crowd as he admires himself. The crowd hated him for it (but a lot of us secretly loved it). There have been so many opportunities to use those lower panels to greater effect but they constantly pass it up. I would love to have that explained to me.

Runner-up: It has to be The Undertaker. Granted, this is only probably the runner-up only because I have been exposed to him for so long and the edge has worn off a bit. However, when that gong hits and he walks out slow and methodical, I still get chills. His music has always been a perfect reflection of his character. He also consistently had the best special effects for his entrances because he is a legend. It is hard to pick just which entrance of his is my favorite. I have a special place in my heart for his entrance at the 1998 King of the Ring. (Which, I could not find on YouTube unfortunately but the one above is from the same time period.)

10 – Favorite Entrance Music

Again, as a matter of personal preference, I am going to pick probably an unpopular choice. I pick Dolph Ziggler’s “Here to Show the World” entrance music. I was recently watching a pay per view from eight years ago and Dolph had not settled on his current music. However, eventually, he picked the current song by Downstait (the same band that did the Miz’ theme). The music is so high energy and, whether he is a babyface or a heel, it always fits his particular brand of arrogance. I have been listening to it lately to fire myself up for the gym and tabletop sessions and I have absolutely fallen in love with the lyrics. “If you ever doubted me, you don’t have a clue.” “Go check the scores again, I come out a perfect 10” And then there is the messy breakdown two-thirds in. It may sound ridiculous but I never seem to get tired of this song. It does not hurt that I have often been on the Dolph Ziggler bandwagon as he is a great worker and a great character. Currently, the WWE is adding a record scratch sound to the beginning of it and each time I hear it I cannot decide if I love it or hate it but it definitely is getting a reaction from me.

Runner-up: I have to go with Shawn Michaels theme “Sexy Boy”. This was a song that at one point I listened to on loop but with headphones on. I did not want anybody at school or my family to know how much I liked a song called “Sexy Boy”. However, now that I have grown and evolved a bit, I will freely admit that I still love this song. While the lyrics are not all that clever, they tell the exact story that the Heartbreak Kid always wanted to tell since he first became a singles star. It was absolutely an excellent choice to have Shawn himself sing the song. It is definitely touched off by an awesome beat and dynamite cheesy guitar riffs (and screaming girl sounds). Unfortunately, it was things like these that drove the homophobic crowds of 1996 – 1998 crazy.

11 – Favorite Match of All Time

Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T vs. Kane
Ellimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002.

I am a big fan of elimination-style matches mostly because it allows performers to get plenty of finishers in without ending the match right away. The tension of a match is seeing the drama and the damage unfold while waiting to see what the finish is going to be. In the Elimination Chamber match, there are five finishes so it’s a bit like Christmas for me. For those that do not know, the rules of the match are this: Two people start in the ring, surrounded by a metal cage. Built into that cage are four pods into which four other competitors go in. Periodically, those pods are opened and a new person enters the match. If somebody gets pinned or submits, they are eliminated from the match. This keeps going until there is only one person left. Anyway, this match blew my mind when it happened. The match just flows so well. The match has both Shawn Michaels and Triple H who had such great chemistry whether they were teaming up or fighting each other. Jericho always made anybody look good. Kane may have never been the greatest wrestler but he definitely always knew how to tell a story. This is probably my favorite Booker T match of all time. Finally, Rob Van Dam provides the crazy, extreme moments which are just great seasoning on an already great meal. There are so many false finishes and fun story elements that I was on the edge of my seat until the end.

Runner-up:

Mankind vs. the Rock
Raw – January 4, 1999

I have posted about this match before as it was filmed on my birthday the year before and it is a very famous match. As I have written about on multiple occasions, I am a big Mick Foley fan. At this point in his career, the character of Mankind had kind of morphed into a tough but lovable muppet. Meanwhile, the Rock was at the height of his powers as an arrogant but entertaining heel. The story of the match was that The Rock and the McMahon family had screwed Mankind out of winning his first heavyweight title. So Mankind forced The Rock into an impromptu title match in the main event of Monday Night Raw. The match was no technical masterpiece but it was definitely enjoyable to watch. First, the chemistry between Foley and The Rock was always hard to beat. Second, at ringside was D-Generation X 2.0 and The Corporation, two of the most fun factions of that time period. Also, there’s probably the biggest cheer that Steve Austin ever got in his career. It has a feel of something that should not have happened but it does and it felt so good.

Media Update 8/30/18

August 30, 2018


Attack the Block

I had vaguely heard of this movie but I had not really heard much of what it was. When I found out that it was the first movie starring John Boyega, I was definitely intrigued. It is kind of sad that there was not much information because I had this movie pegged completely wrong. I thought it was a comedy/science-fiction movie but that was not what this one was. The best way to explain this movie is that the writer/director saw Signs and wondered what would happen if the same thing happened in South London. Joe Cornish was inspired by the low budget debuts of Spielberg and Cameron and wanted to create something equally raw. He succeeded. Basically, this is what would happen if alien monsters invaded the projects and ended up in a survival of the fittest conflict with a bunch of young street punks. John Boyega is so powerful in this movie that it is easy to see why everybody in Hollywood wants to cast him in things currently. At the same time he has the toughness of a criminal and the vulnerability of a teenager. He is joined by a cast of relative unknowns who are absolutely perfect for their roles. The only other person I recognized was Nick Frost who had a smaller, understated comic relief role that did not take away from the seriousness and the horror of the rest of the film. The design of the aliens was wonderfully simple and impactful and horrifying in a sort of Jaws kind of way. As the movie went on, I was absolutely terrified for the characters in the movie in all the best ways. When the credits started, I found myself letting out a breath I did not know I had been holding. I definitely recommend this one.


Oceans 8

When they announced Oceans 8 as a “female Oceans 11” I was skeptical. I was not sure why the movie had to be either a reboot or continuation of the previous franchise instead of just being a thing by itself. When I saw the first poster, I was intrigued by the cast. The movie stars Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, Danny’s sister. As usual, she is super charming and fun and she is probably at the top of her game in this movie. She is joined by a stellar cast who each add something interesting to the ensemble. We have Cate Blanchett who is a combination of regal and biker attitude which I really enjoyed. Rihanna plays a really sassy hacker who steals a lot of scenes. Mindy Kaling was not somebody I expected in a heist movie but she brings a good bit of comedy into her role. I was also surprised by the addition of Sarah Paulson who ended up carrying a lot of scenes as the kind of straight woman of the group. For once Helena Bonham Carter did not overact and that made her even more funny. Anne Hathaway killed it as a spoiled Hollywood actress and was actually probably the highlight of the movie. With this movie they seemed to make a continuation of the previous franchise while also doing their own thing. It did not rely on all of the tropes of the previous trilogy and almost none of that cast appeared. I was surprised at how good this was and I definitely recommend it.


Voltron: Legendary Defender

I watched quite a bit of the original Voltron cartoon series. It was during a time when television animation was cheaply done and was mainly done to sell toys. Like many cartoons of its time, it was formulaic and always delivered an ending where the good guys win. Flash forward a few decades when I hear that there is a new series and it is pretty good. Fast forward a little more to present day and a friend who I trust says the show is good and I figure it is time to check it out. I am glad I did. They basically took everything that was good from the show (robot lions becoming a big robot, action, color-coordination) and just added a whole lot more to like. The animation is, of course, a lot better with characters allowed to be more expressive. The action is way more exciting now that animation has improved and anime has been an inspiration for decades. Each of the five “paladins” have been given more character and they are each given different abilities to make them more interesting. On top of that, the alien characters are allowed to be more alien. Also, the princess is allowed to have a real personality instead of being “girl also there”. Also also, the robot lions are now given more personality of their own through their movement. There are also actual character arcs and plot arcs from episode to episode other than “we have to defeat the big bad”. It makes each episode more special and it feels less like treading water each episode. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Panic! At The Disco: High Hopes

Future – 31 DAYS

From Ashes To New – Broken

OneRepublic – Connection

Ariana Grande – God is a woman

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “All Together Now”
– I watched more Disenchantment Season 1
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 2
– I watched more Game Grumps and Barry Kramer on YouTube
– I have picked up Critical Role again

The Great Seer

August 27, 2018

“That is the gnome delegation from Mt. Eagle,” Aara said. “They are here for the yearly trade negotiations.” She was pointing across the market at a couple handfuls of tiny but well-dressed creatures. It was kind of hard to see them as they were flanked by city guards who were humans and half-elves and were taller by nature. The presence of the guards ensured that the crowd parted around the delegation.

“The gnome diplomats?” Calend asked. “Is Onica with them? I don’t know what she looks like.”

“The seer? I think that’s her in blue and purple with the silver wound in her braids,” Aara said. “What is your deal with fortune tellers?”

Calend was too distracted catching glimpses of the young blonde gnome walking across the market. “Huh?” He asked.

“Fortune tellers,” Aara said. “you keep spending money on them. Everytime you find a new one, you keep dumping your cut on them.”

“First, a seer is different from a fortune teller,” Calend said. “A seer is like at least another level above a fortune teller. They are very legitimate.”

“Alright, whatever,” Aara said. “Why do you keep spending money on divination?”

“I was getting to that,” Calend said. “Second, I am looking for the Vault of Crows.”

“Oh that again,” Aara said. “I thought you had given that up.”

“My mother died looking for it,” Calend said. “In one form or another, I will never give that up. I have just hit a long dry spell when it comes to information.”

“I’m pretty sure that zero information ever is a pretty long dry spell,” Aara said.

Calend rolled his eyes. “That is less than helpful,” Calend said. “Where do you think they are staying?”

“I think I heard they were staying at the Golden Hawk,” Aara said with a shrug. “It makes sense. It’s one of the fanciest places outside of the palace.”

“So they’re not in the palace for sure?” Calend asked.

“I don’t think gnomes like being confined like that when it’s not on their own terms,” Aara said. “Besides, they have both city security and their own security. If you’re thinking of trying to meet her, you might want to think again.”

“Oh come on, Aara,” Calend said. “You know I have skills. I’ll see you later, all right?”

“What? It’s market day! You promised you would help me sell today,” Aara said.

“I’ll make it up to you,” Calend said, starting to step away.

“I doubt you will,” Aara said but she looked up and he had already disappeared into the crowd.

Calend asked a few of his other contacts and he found out that the gnomes were definitely staying at the Golden Hawk. He also found out that security was pretty tight. This was confirmed when he went to the lobby and asked if he could speak to Onica. He was told that was not possible. When he insisted, he was pushed back out into the street. It always seemed to come down to the hard way but Calend had been prepared for that.

When Calend’s mother had died, his father was at a loss and Calend was constantly looking for answers. He had met one of his mother’s associates who talked things out with him. His mother had met a lot of interesting people as a searcher of history, what some people called a ‘treasure hunter’. Caron had helped teach Calend’s mother how to infiltrate tombs and dungeons and, possibly out of pity, Caron had taught Calend the same skills.  Calend had practiced and had expanded on those skills. He had never used to them to actually steal anything, but they were definitely the same skillset as a thief. He would need those skills if he was going to meet Onica.

He waited until dark and then he snuck across the rooftops as light as he could step. He made his way toward the Golden Hawk and climbed the tower. There were small balconies that far up that he could grab onto and he took it slowly. He crept up the building, peeking in windows one by one. He eventually saw her. He suddenly found himself wondering if this was a good idea but he was desperate. If he could do this without getting caught, he would be able to solve not only one of the greatest mysteries of Alscines but also he would resolve a lot of personal issues.

He slid open the window slowly and as quietly as possible. He crept into the room and then put his hand over Onica’s mouth. She instantly woke up and after some surprise, she seemed to calm down quickly.

“Please do not scream,” Calend said.

She nodded in response and Calend let her go. “You will not hurt me,” she said.

“You saw the future?” Calend asked.

“No,” she said. “But I can see it in your eyes. Also, if you wished to kill me then you would have done so while I slept. Doing it after purposefully waking me would be foolish.”

Calend felt a little foolish now that she laid it all out. “I need your sight and wisdom, Onica,” he said. “I have a great mystery to solve.”

She sighed. “There is only one problem. I am not Onica, she could not make this journey,” the now mysterious gnome said.

“What?” Calend said. “This has been a pointless risk then.”

“I am her daughter,” she said. “My name is Lewin.” There was a short pause and then. “I also inherited her gift of sight beyond sight.”

Calend’s face brightened. “Can you help me then?”

“If I help you, will you promise to leave me and my mother alone?” Lewin asked. “In my experience, desperate people make things too complicated.”

“I promise,” Calend said. “I don’t want to complicate your life.”

“Ask your question then,” Lewin said and sat up in bed.

“Where is the Vault of Crows?” Calend asked.

Lewin’s eyes went a little wide and she looked worried. “You don’t want to go there,” she said.

“I must,” Calend said. “I must finish what my mother started.”

“Very well,” Lewin said. “If I cannot dissuade you, I will attempt to find the answers you seek.” She had a pitying look on her face that made Calend look uneasy. She closed her eyes and a point of light formed over her forehead and then that light sort of opened into the image of an eye. She remained in place so long that Calend worried that she had fallen back asleep. Finally, she opened her eyes and the third eye disappeared.

“I cannot find the vault itself,” Lewin said. “Some dark art still shields it from my sight. However, I have seen the first step in your path and it will definitely give you what you need and it will help a great many people besides. It is a blessing that we found each other.”

“Wow,” Calend said. He was not sure he believed her but at this point, he was ready to take what he could get.

“Go to the settlement of Bari in Kofrain,” Lewin said. “In the Inn of the Desert Tiger, you will find an expedition into Khull. Make sure you join it.”

“Khull?” Calend asked with apprehension. That was a lawless land dominated by orcs, evil men, goblins, and all sorts of other terrible things. It was the wasteland. “Alright. And then?”

“If you follow that path then I am confident you will make the decisions that lead to what you seek,” Lewin said. “But go now, there is a trade caravan leaving in a few hours that will get you to Bari on time.”

“Thank you,” Calend said. “If this works, I will remember you fondly forever.” Lewin just smiled and nodded and rubbed her eyes and Calend got the message and slipped back out of the window.


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