The Between (pt. 1; 2017)

(Just a little 1900 word short story I finally typed up.  This is essentially a first draft, so feedback is very welcome.  I’ll post in three segments, but will also include a PDF version for those who’d like the whole thing in one sitting.)


“What’s the strangest thing I ever saw in the Between?  Well, that’s a tough one.  I’ve been exploring the Between for a long time now, and I’m not talking about the safe places like the Goblin Market or the Mirror Roads and Shadow Paths,” the man said, leaning back in his chair, feet resting on the fieldstone hearth.

He nodded at the back of the room when someone muttered.

“I know, people disappear on the roads and paths, but only the dumb ones who don’t stay on the trail,” he shook his head, salt and pepper strands flicking across his shoulders.  “Anyway.  The strangest thing in the Between . . . mind, I haven’t seen all that much of that place, even after more years than I want to count.”

His fingers danced absently along a staff, once white but now greyed and smooth with age and use.  It had been polished by decades of oil and sweat such that it gleamed in the lights of the fire and the globes set in the ceiling.  The man, the wizard, stared up at the plastered ceiling, seeming to forget the dozen young wizards who sat around him.

He glanced out the window, over the sun setting behind the skyscrapers that formed the city skyline.  An airplane drifted lazily by, leaving a trail of vapor behind.

Finally, he nodded, just as the youngest in his audience, a teenager, shifted to leave.

“Years ago, maybe ten, twelve.  That’s when I saw it.  I was on loan to the Shan Tzu Institute, in Hong Kong, at the time.  They’d been . . . well, it doesn’t matter why.  The important thing is that they’d called for aid from other schools around the world to confirm and explore part of the Between they’d discovered.  So, I went and met up with about half a dozen others, all masters of wizardry and the Between, probably four centuries of experience on that plane between all of us.”

. . . . . . . . . .

We were gathered in the Institute’s largest training room.  A couple of the locals explained the process they’d used and described the realm they believed they had discovered.

Of course, getting to the same place in the Between, even if you start in the exact same spot on Earth, is a problem and not guaranteed.  But, the local experts had some success by tweaking the usual spells.  Really not my area, too theoretical.

Anyway, they described the place to us . . .

. . . I should probably explain that, huh?

There was me, obviously.  Oifa McLean from Glasgow, she had a few decades exploring back then.  Fuaad Osman from Cairo, he had the theory background to check the locals.  Emiko, she never gave a family name I think, from Sapporo, she’s got a couple decades on me, easily the most experienced of the group.  And Carl Trinh out of Adelaide, young kid, but hell of a reputation.

So, where was I?

Right.

They described the place as a sort of idyllic wilderness.  Moderate climate, meadows, streams, and woods, that sort of thing.

I figured it could’ve been some remote part of the Werwood or maybe Shangri-La.  There’s parts of the valley that haven’t been fully explored yet, they say.

But, Paul, our liaison Paul Zhou, swore they’d checked for signs of settlement and magic, ruling out Shangri-La.  And no one’s reported an open space of meadow as large as he claimed in the Werwood.

Testing

Just testing.

I updated to WordPress app on the 12th.  The last post it’s showing for blogs I follow is the 13th.  If I log in via a browser, I see 19+ posts since then, but not in the app.

So, testing to see if my own post appears.

Until Next Week . . . U2

No update last week due to our 17th anniversary & some craziness.

No writing update this week because we spent the week planning and dealing with logistics to see the last show of the first North American leg of U2’s The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour (along with approximately 70,000 other people).

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(About 90 minutes before the opening act)
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(U2 starting off, “New Year’s Day”)

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(Moving to the main stage to start the Joshua Tree portion of the show)

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men

“I think ‘normal’ is a guy being able to interact with a woman comfortably, regardless of what she’s wearing, without waging a battle for his soul.”

This, this, so many times this.

ezer

jakob-owens-235352

It’s summer! Time for all the the ladies to start posting articles about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility to prevent a man from lusting and all the gentlemen to start posting comments about why it’s not a woman’s responsibility, but she sure can help.

I’ve been encouraged to see the pushback, by women, even women in more conservative circles, against the toxic idea that a woman’s clothing choices can cause men to stumble.

But this pushback gets halted when a guy stands up and comfortably announces that while this personal responsibility thing all sounds great, the reality is that normal, healthy guys like him struggle, so women should still cover up. And the ladies go a little silent, unable to argue with this universal battle against sexual temptation that women never face.

The pushback against purity culture dies right then and there, because no woman wants to challenge…

View original post 762 more words

Origins Game Fair 2017

This past week was the Origins Game Fair, which I spent several hours attending.  Over the course of six hours Friday and a couple hours Saturday, I ended up demo-ing or otherwise playing about a dozen board games, most with my son.  I also wandered around the Exhibitor Hall Saturday, checking out artists and game companies, seeing Timothy Zahn & Jean Rabe, and chatting a bit with Sheryl Nantus, Donald J. Bingle, and Margaret Weis’s table minion.  Also talked a bit with wonderful artist, David Lee Pancake.

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So, without further ado . . .

Menu Masters (Calliope)

A fun game in which each player is a chef with a number of kitchen minions.  The goal is to complete three menus (when one player completes three, the others have one turn to finish with the ingredients they have on hand).  Each player has two secret menus and all players can work from three public menus.  The goal is to combine the most high quality ingredients (as noted by stars on each ingredient).  Minions can be sent to the stores—produce, butcher, bakery—to purchase ingredients or to “own” the store for the round (to get more money).  Had a blast playing and trying to balance the elements and strategies of the game.

Wordoku (Calliope)

Combination Boggle and Sudoku with a few tweaks.  Neither of us enjoyed this one as much as the others.  Personally, I’d rather stick to Scrabble or Upwords.

Running with the Bulls (Calliope)

Described by the company as board game plinko, that’s a pretty apt description.  Players all start with a number of dice randomly assigned to five starting points where they are chased by randomly placed “bull” dice.  Each player has a number of cards they can use to affect the outcome of the run, remove runners, change directions, and modify bulls.  The locations at the end of the run also affect points.  More enjoyable now than when we played last year in the pre-production version since they seem to have ironed out the kinks.

Ugh (Calliope)

Simple, fun card game in which the goal is to build sets of three—person, home, pet—with a caveman theme while avoiding the, truly evil, “Ugh” cards.  Artwork on the cards is done by John Kovalic, of Dork Tower & Munchkin fame, with his typical sense of humor.  The difference in scoring is what sets this one apart.  The point scores for each card in a set are multiplied, then the sets are added.  So, a set of Person 3, Home 4, and Pet 2 = 24 points (3 x 4 x 2).

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Captain Silver (Queen Games)

A bag draw game that went well with a young child.  Each player has a ship and a bag of pirate items.  Most of the board is four rows with pirate item icons.  Items are drawn from the bag and placed on the board, if they fit the next space on a row.  If not, they go on the island at the end.  Once one row is complete, the play shifts.  Players either get to move their ships or are given gold based on which item spaces they managed to cover in each row.  Moving the ship gives additional treasure and points.  Items left on the island remove points.

Wendigo (Iello)

Somewhat fun game for kids.  The tokens represent campers with one player chosen as the wendigo and the others as scout masters.  During the night phase, the scout masters close their eyes while the wendigo replaces a camper.  During the day phase, the scout masters try to find the wendigo (one guess per player per day phase).  The next night phase, the wendigo gets to remove a camper from the board and play continues until either the wendigo is caught or six rounds have passed.

Sheriff of Nottingham (Arcane Wonders)

Fun deception style game in which players take turns as the titular Sheriff.  The non-Sheriff players then try to smuggle legal and illegal goods into town, potentially bribing the Sheriff not to search their cart or to ignore them and search another player.  Each player places a stated number of cards in a pouch (cannot lie about the number) and states what goods they are, ex. 3 chickens (can lie about this part).  Penalties apply for being caught lying, and for falsely accusing a player of lying.  Reminds me of a board game version of the old card game BS (aka Cheat or “I Doubt It”).

Barenpark (Mayfair)

Rather fun spacial awareness game in which players attempt to construct the best bear park.  The best description I came up with is a board game version of Tetris because the goal is to fill four cards with different shaped pieces.  The game rewards fast building, as most of the pieces and the bear statues that one acquires for finishing a board, are awarded in decreasing point values (e.g. first player to get a bear statue gets 16 points, second gets 15, third 14, etc.).

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Costa Rica (Mayfair)

Tile flipping game in which players send out six expeditions each from different starting points (all players start at the same six points).  Most of the strategy depends on willingness to weigh benefit-risk ratios of continuing the expedition versus taking tiles versus passing in the hopes of taking more tiles.  Enjoyed by both myself and a six year old, the game play mechanics are straightforward and the game is fairly quick to play.

Saboteurs (Mayfair)

Another fun deception game in which most of the players are constructing a mine to find the gold (one of three cards, the other two are useless).  Players cooperate to get from the mine entrance to the gold.  However, there are players who secretly want to gold to remain where it is and the other players to fail.  These saboteurs can break mining equipment, redirect tunnels, cause cave ins to remove tunnel sections, and look at the target cards to lie to the other players about which is the gold.

Oh My Goods (Mayfair)

Played this resource building game last year, but played it again this year to give it another chance.  Unfortunately, I still think it is needlessly complex and clunky in its mechanics.  Most of the players I demo-ed with (all veteran board gamers) became quickly confused about turn segments and resource counting as well as card data.

Ciúb (AMIGO via Mayfair)

Another that seemed to be an interesting concept, but needlessly convoluted.  A dice gathering game with the intent to finding the right dice combination to cast a given spell card (and collect the card for points).  The over-complexity could have been on the end of the demo-instructor and the fact that we were checking it out right before lunch.  If Mayfair’s still demoing it next year, I may try it out on my own again, to give it a second chance.

Shadow Earth (VI) (2017)

Salmagundi: A heterogeneous mixture

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Welcome to Salmagundi, crossroads of the multiverse.  If you can’t find it here for sale, it doesn’t exist.  All worlds, all realms meet here.

—Garvindis the Great, self-proclaimed master of tourism, Salmagundi

 

Beyond these doors, two things will happen.  First, you will take an oath to defend Salmagundi and its laws with your life.  This oath is taken before all the gods, so do not take it lightly.  If you feel the slightest doubt about devoting your life to the Order, turn away now.

<pause to let people leave>

Second, you will approach Chaplain Thurian and draw a stone from her bag.  This stone will guide your training.  Each has one of four divine sigils.  Among civilians, they say magic has many branches.  We don’t have that luxury.  We only care about: communicators, healers, scryers, and warriors.  The gods will tell us your talents and place through the stones.

—Marec Hassan, Training Director, Bronze Guard, Salmagundi


 

Many centuries ago, visitors arrived from a distant land.  They were dismayed by the rule of the dragon lords.  Thus, they taught the secrets of sorcery to those outside the Magisterium, including knowledge the dragon lords forbid.  In time, the sorcerers trained by the strangers built three towers to which they anchored powerful spells that enclosed and shielded the land.  This became a haven for the people under the reign to a family chosen by the sorcerers, who knew they would be too busy to govern.  The new land attracted priests worshiping the gods of the First Men, hunted by the dragon lords.  the gods granted knowledge of the divine language to their priests, who sanctified the ruling family and supported the sorcerers’ efforts.

—from The Chronicle of Thyure, Dragonland

Shadow Earth (V) (2017)

Welcome to Paradise . . . Resort at the St. Kadesh Islands.  It is a magical place, unlike Tahiti.  Your every wish is our command, simply say the word.  Please follow the dock to the left and inform the attendants as to which island is your destination.

—Padma Hamdan, Paradise Resort

 

The St. Kadesh Islands are an anomaly.  They are not unique in this, but we have no information on them and attempts to scry the location continually fail.  Attempts to so much as locate the islands have been unsuccessful.  However, we are certain they exist, through significant anecdotal evidence.  Similar fruitless searches in the past, for other sites, have indicated the presence of powerful magical devices or beings.  Current recommendation is to take a hands off approach, but passively monitor any information that comes to our attention.

—Septimus Gottwald, intelligence report to the Demjan Chantry elders, NYC