Ashford Grows & Looking Ahead

For the last couple months, I have been expanding both most of the Ashford vignettes and the world itself.  In the process, I’ve written several additional vignettes set in the broader world.  These aren’t typed yet.

Next week (the week of the 3rd), I plan to begin posting those vignettes on, probably, Fridays.  They’ll interweave with the Ashford ones.  I’ll still tag them Ashford, even though they don’t take place at that specific site.

Also, we’re less than 2 weeks from the Origins Game Fair–June 12th-16th.  I plan on spending two days there with my son and a half day alone, with accompanying photos and write-ups of the games we demo (probably a lot from Iello, Calliope, and SJGames, though I also want to his Asmodee N.A. and a few others).  Plus, Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon are the author Guests of Honor this year.

Ashford Vignette #7 (2019)

“Mr. Mulroy?”

“Yes, Master Adhikari?”

“Why are there green tentacles in your circle?  You are supposed to be summoning cadhari.  Ms. Lu, are cadhari tentacular?”

“No, Master Adhikari.  They are furry.”

“Precisely.  Please focus, Mr. Mulroy.  A miscast summoning can be the difference between usefulness and disaster.  Dismiss it, start again.  And redraw the tenth sigil clockwise on your containment circle before something escapes, please.”

Master Yahye Adhikari nodded as the young man began a simple banishment-dismissal.  The focus was adequate and the choice appropriate, he thought.  Summoning was not Mulroy’s forte.  From the lounge scuttle, he would be better served focusing on his conjuration; it seemed he had a gift for that branch of magic, particularly manipulating space.

He waited long enough to ensure that the problem sigil was redrawn precisely before leaving the student.  His progress around the room, deceptively slow and casual, continued.

The next few circles and summonings were, he decided, fair.  Not spectacular or efficient, but good enough to prevent escapes and to call up the correct kind of creature.  He was told that many students found his silent perambulations and tendency to loom over their shoulders to be distracting.  If they couldn’t handle that little stress, they would never be able to summon outside the classroom with the world’s many distractions, he argued.

“Excellent, Ms. Lu.  Perfectly executed containment and protective circles, exact sigils.  And a green furred cadhari.  Rare and difficult.  Exemplary.”

“Thank you, Master Adhikari.”

Ashford Vignette #6 (2019)

“Shh.  Stay back,” Kendra Moran hissed.  Following her own command, she flattened herself against the corridor wall.

From the shadows, she watched until the figure in brown cassock-inspired robes disappeared around a corner.  Then she motioned her partners, cautiously, forward.

Once the third passed, she slid across the hall a few feet behind.  The fourth floor of Ashford was generally ignored and left alone, technically off-limits to students.  But, occasionally, someone from the staff would explore or sweep the floor, to see if it could be opened up or something.

Her compatriots in the Black Rose had already discovered the only important thing: three routes to doors.  The first opened in Bangkok, the second in Accra.  All three were relatively safe.  She and her team were returning from Denver with four packed knapsacks of contraband.  The sales arm of the cabal would quietly sell the contents for twice their outside value, easily.

Kendra paused and looked back over her shoulder.

The others kept on, making barely a whisper.

Beneath the soft susurrus of their steps, her sharp ears detected . . . heavier steps.  More than a couple feet.  Closing in their direction.

Either brown robed, patrolling staff or, worse, denizens of the largely unexplored floor.


The smuggling trip had been going too smoothly.

Kendra spun with a mustelid grace and trotted after her companions, knapsack bouncing against her back.

Abandoning silence, she ordered, “Run!” once she caught up.

No questions, they were veterans, the others instantly broke into a ground eating trot toward the nearest Rose secured stairs.

Ashford Vignette #5 (2019)

Olivia sighed and looked up from the paper she had been writing on.  There were only so many ways to say “nothing happened”, but she had a thousand words to write on the effect of witch trials in medieval Europe.  The only problem was that there weren’t many, and the few that did happen had no impact she could see.  Now, the Renaissance or Enlightenment witch burnings, that she could write a book on.

As she looked around the cavernous library from her post at the desk, a young man walked up.

“Hi, where are the rest . . .”

“Turn left, follow the restroom sign.”

Since she had started working in the library, that was the most asked question.  Despite the large sign, posted two feet away at eye level, that said “Restrooms”.

Could be worse, though, she thought, returning to her paper.  At least it was quiet and she could get some homework done.  Her friend Chen had gotten a job cleaning the alchemy labs.

She shuddered a little.

The main library, massive as it was, was so much better.

“Excuse me . . .”

Olivia looked up again to see another student, about her own age.

“How can I help you?”

“I’m looking for the section on blood magic . . .”

Olivia nodded, “You want the first floor library.  Near Master Caraccilo’s office, three halls down from the dining hall.  They have all the enhancer texts.”

The other woman turned and scurried out of the library, but not before Olivia caught her harried expression.

Not even a thanks, she thought.  Probably an assignment due tomorrow.

Thinking of which, she heaved another sigh and returned to her own homework.

Imposter Syndrome

Looking at my life, I am: an Eagle Scout, a PhD, a published author, and a 2nd kyu aikidoka (who has helped many who have bypassed me in rank, up to nidan). I have completed three “50 Miler” trips in Scouting—two in canoes, one on foot. I have traveled to four countries on three continents. I have presented papers to some praise at more than a few conferences.

Still, I feel like I have no clue what I am doing in teaching, writing, tutoring, and aikido (and life in general). Even when I say, or more commonly write, “I’m damn good at my job”, it feels like bravado in some ways. Secretly hollow. Like someday, someone will figure out I have no idea what I’m doing and all the above accomplishments will be empty.

It is always a strange feeling when someone “likes” something I’ve written. Or cites something I published. Or says I have been a great tutor-instructor-mentor.

I always wonder if they mean it, or if they just don’t know I’m winging it.

I’ve never done well with praise, usually deflecting or minimizing it. I was praised a reasonable amount by family, mentors, and grad school advisors, but not overly so, I think. I don’t think it’s overpraise or under-praise.

So, I’ve wondered off and on for years about Imposter Syndrome and its causes.

My first thought is that it may be an introvert-dominant thing. I say “introvert-dominant” because I don’t think anyone is 100% intro-/extrovert, rather that we’re all a mix of both. Most, if not all, of the imposter syndrome sufferers I know are introvert-dominant. But, that could also be an effect of my population sample (mostly English PhDs/MAs, with a couple in other fields, but all with advanced degrees in arts, humanities, and social sciences).

The degree thing could be an element too, I think. At the Masters level and above, I’ve found people become acutely aware of how little they actually know. The more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to learn out there. Yet, in grad school we’re taught (directly & indirectly) to project confidence, particularly those of us who taught or presented at conferences. Maybe knowing that confidence is a facade, an act, contributes to the sense of being an imposter.

The knowledge and learning side, I think, enhance a nagging feeling that we could be doing things better. There’s that constant, conscious or subconscious, knowledge that there is always room for improvement. There’s always more to learn, more to know.

For myself, there is also knowing that even as I exceeded quantitative measures at work (ex. library shelving quantity & accuracy, inventory control objectives, also quantity & accuracy), I have always held back. Even holding back and not being my most efficient and effective, I have always exceeded the expectations and metrics set by supervisors. That may also factor into a bit of my own imposter syndrome.

I’m not sure if any of this helps me deal with the issue myself. But, writing always helps get thoughts out of my head and organized. So, there’s that at least.

Ashford Vignette #4 (2019)

As bars went, Elysium was a depressing hive of villainy and scum.  Long association led Samuel Morris, Sam, to conclude that not all, or even most, of the scum and villains were truly either.  There was something else going on beneath the façade of crookedness.  And he didn’t just mean the gambling in the basement, or the rumored fights that supposedly drew heavy bettors.

Elysium was still the best place for people in his line of work to find, well, work.

There would always be people who needed or wanted information or things other people had, or to end the lives of rivals.  Elysium was the place to find specialists in achieving those goals.

Sam took interest when the bartender, a young rat hamr in her rat-man shape, nodded another patron his way.

Grey suit, not expensive, probably off a rack.  The guy looked uncomfortable as he strode to Sam’s table.  Not nervous, but like he was used to wearing better, probably tailored, clothes.

Same waved a hand to an empty seat.

“Mr. Grey?  Please, sit.  No one will stab you while we talk business.”

The man folded into a chair and rested his hands on the table.

“There is a book I need . . .”

“. . . and it is in someone else’s possession, someone who won’t sell?”

“Yes.  I would like to hire you to acquire it . . . and . . . if something, permanent, should happen, accidentally, to the owner, in the process, I would certainly understand and compensate you for the trouble.”

Probably an ex-partner/lover/spouse, soon to be ex-, or family, Sam thought.  That was the real job.  The book didn’t matter.  It was cover should anyone investigate.  Mr. Grey might even try to screw him too, ensure someone spotted him or tried to catch him on-site.

“One hundred k, Mr. Grey, with 70% paid in advance, the rest on successful completion.  Non-refundable.  Two week time frame, assuming nothing too unusual.  Who is the owner?”

Grey said a name.


“Three weeks.”


As Grey left, Sam nodded to himself, the client was definitely going to try to screw him.  He’d agreed to the price, and exorbitant advance percentage, far too quickly.