Yes, a bit of drama and waxing (whining?) philosophical as well. 😯
I haven’t been writing much recently due to NOISY new upstairs neighbors. The joys of apartment living after moving. This isn’t the standard ‘plays music or the TV too loud’ situation either. These people have two fairly large dogs, and instead of walking and exercising them, they just throw a ball around the apartment and let them chase it and fight over it. We’re talking as late as 3am also.
The problem is it sounds something like this at about 60 MPH:
OR, maybe this:
Worse is that the police (we’ve had them out 5 times in two weeks) and apartment management won’t do anything about it. The police need to hear it themselves they claim and the apartment managers want recorded evidence.
Recorded evidence sounds reasonable enough on the surface, except that cell phones don’t record well at any kind of distance, AND do have limited background noise reduction as well. That last part reduces the bass of the ‘thumpity thump’ as they run around up there. Net result, we have to have the apartment dead silent and be on a step ladder with the phone up to the ceiling to get a good recording.
These sociopath upstairs neighbors have gotten more passive aggressive in their games too. After the first few times calling the police about LATE night dog noise, the neighbors started playing stop start games with the noise. They’d make all manner of racket for 10 minutes or so, stop for 30ish minutes and then start again, etc… Enough so that they think we’ll look like idiots when the police show up and hear nothing. They know exactly what they’re doing and don’t care, which is what infuriates me.
We haven’t been able to sleep, we can’t do anything in the house for fear the noise might interfere with a potential recording… It’s left me in a sleep deprived, FOUL mood which is why I haven’t written much here. Readers don’t need toxic poop. Never mind it’s killed my creativity also.
Soooo, since being civilized hasn’t worked, getting angry hasn’t worked and expecting the system to work hasn’t worked… We’re left with getting… creative.
Life would be so much simpler if I was truly evil. Key their car, slash their tires, use an ultrasonic tormentor to harass their dogs, etc…
Instead, I’m left with outmaneuvering them. That means ordering better sound recording equipment (including a shotgun microphone) and going total silent on reporting here so that they think they can get away with more. It’s worked too, they’re already falling back into old habits. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of evidence to break our lease and potentially sue.
In the mean time though, we’re left having to sleep with shooting range foam ear plugs in to get any kind of decent night’s sleep, and I have to TRY to write wearing gun mufflers to block the racket.
The LIFE Part; AKA I’m Always Angry
This problem just seems to be so symptomatic of life anymore, and my entire life on a personal level. I *should* be in a good place after escaping the constant late night criminal activity in our old neighborhood. Instead, I’m left with nearly as bad a situation because self-absorbed, selfish and lazy neighbors can’t be bothered with properly exercising their dogs, or having ANY consideration for their neighbors.
How much of life would be SO much better if people simply had a little (un)common courtesy and thought of others? Put the shopping cart in the cart corral, throw your trash IN the dumpster not all around it (yes, that’s an issue here also), actually park the damned car BETWEEN the lines, not straddling them and taking up two spaces, move over to a slower lane if somebody is approaching faster, cut the damned noise out after 9pm and think about your neighbors, etc…
I could go on and on. It’s a narcissism that reaches all the way up to how people discuss social and political issues. Me, me, me… I’m right, you’re wrong, in your face… Why do so many people hate Trump? It’s like looking in a mirror, only HE is a successful ass and they’re just asses.
As somebody who has always been one to TRY to do the right thing and think about how my actions impact others, AND always seeming to end up getting screwed because of it, I’m REALLY getting fed up with it too
Yes, that’s an apropos video too because these folks made me wish I could get away with some Hulk type responses:
That scene resonated with so many people because too many of us have had at least one smug ass in our lives that deserved what Loki got.
Reality though; if you’re a decent person, you know that accomplishes nothing in the long run. Same with the aforementioned keying a car, slashing tires, etc… All it does is add to the misery in the world. That coming from a HUGE believer in the right to self-defense as well.
So where’s my rant leading? I’m just wondering where the justice is in the world anymore. I’ve been thwarted at seemingly every turn in my life. Is the ability to even get a good night’s sleep so much to ask from life and the universe? Hell, I’d love the opportunity to get ahead in life too and not have to worry about being old and broke. No handouts; just the chance to honestly earn and achieve something myself without some immoral, self-centered prick sabotaging it.
For all you self-improvement types, I get the whole expectations thing too. From a psychological or metaphysical perspective, there’s a truth to we get what we expect. Like energies attract, your subconscious will lead you in the direction you expect, etc…
That doesn’t make it any easier to get ahead though when so many people out there expect it’s their God-given right to get ahead at your expense. It’s alot easier to destroy than create too.
Improvise, adapt and overcome? Been there, tried that. The more creative I try to get, the more life turns up the screws.
Yeah, the burnout is showing. That’s what happens when you’ve been up all night and it’s 4:30am. It’d just be really nice to start seeing the jerks of the world get what’s coming while the good people get or stay ahead (and I know there are successful good people out there too).
First world problems? Probably. It shouldn’t be that damned much to expect a decent night’s sleep on the edge of small town America though, nor should anyone have to deal with “too bad, you have 8 more months on that 6 month lease though” in response to it.
I’ve purposely avoided commenting on this for a while. Primarily because I know how reporters frequently cherry pick facts to spin stories. Breonna Taylor’s case seems very straight forward however. That being the case, even as the child of a cop, I’m shocked and disappointed by the grand jury verdict earlier today.
All that said, let me give MY analysis based on what’s been disclosed in the media thus far.
The BIG problem I see here is one of policy and procedure, even more than the actions of the individual officers.
First, let me state I have ZERO problem with no knock warrants for known dangerous fugitives and drug dealers. Knocking in those instances will allow suspects to arms themselves and flush drugs or destroy evidence.
Where I *DO* have a problem however is the way that policy was (in my opinion) abused here. They were raiding Breonna Taylor’s house based on guilt by association with the only disclosed evidence being she knew a drug dealer; an ex of all things if I recall correctly. That alone makes a no-knock warrant questionable at best.
Even worse, they kicked in the door to the apartment at zero-dark thirty when ANY sane person is going to assume it’s a home invasion. *I* would have come out gun drawn also in the same situation. The police compounded this problem by not wearing uniforms NOR immediately identifying themselves as police. This all but guaranteed gun play was going to happen. Other than not identifying themselves immediately, this ALL appears to have been standard policy for the department.
I understand the need to keep officers safe, and to increase the odds of catching bad guys off-guard. Somewhere there has to be a balance with the public’s and suspect’s safety taken into account as well. No midnight raids, no out of uniform crap, and certainly no failure to identify. All three of those led the situation to a violent conclusion.
Now with the individual officers… Let’s take the EASY one first. The only one to get charged with anything was the idiot that fired blindly through a window that had blinds or curtains up. He had ZERO idea who he was shooting at, or where those rounds were going to end up. COMPLETELY inexcusable.
One of the first safety rules taught to all gun owners is to ALWAYS know exactly what you’re shooting at and where that bullet is going to go or could end up. Again, since the view through the window was obstructed, he had NO idea where his shots were going, or who/what they might hit. This was NOT a war zone. Tear gas or a flash bang might have been justified but NOT gunfire.
The other officers who were NOT charged… I have a harder time with. Murder requires deliberate intent to kill, and I don’t think that was there.
Manslaughter and some sort of negligence or dereliction of duty based on the lack of uniforms and failure to identify as law enforcement certainly might be appropriate. Technically, they did their job by the book per reports, with the exception of the failure to identify. It was the department’s policy that set up an inevitable shootout between a citizen reacting to a perceived home invasion and police trying to serve a search warrant in the wee hours of the morning.
What I *do* know is that things need to change on a variety of fronts. Policy needs to be written in a way that balances officer safety with public safety. Officer training needs to be better also. This kind of incident is killing morale in police departments all over the country and causing truly good cops to quit the force in droves.
What these incidents are doing to public trust, especially among the black community is just as bad and I think goes without saying at this point.
Protesters really need to check themselves as well however. Shooting cops, setting fires, looting and vandalism are all only making the situation worse, and turns public sympathy against the cause. All these riots really accomplish is driving all the businesses out of the communities that are protesting.
Who does THAT help?
Lastly, I have to call BS on the media as well. I do NOT know if anything was left out of Breonna Taylor’s story. It appears not. However, there have been multiple incidents where the facts were clearly cherry picked to escalate the situation and increase ratings. I saw it first hand with the Stephon Clark case in Sacramento when I lived there. We got more of the story than the national news. That was a case of a poor, mentally ill or at least severely distraught young man putting himself and police in a situation where it looked like he was pulling a weapon but it was far too dark to see. It was a tragedy, but NOT an execution by any means.
Yes, a little more humor there as I try not to go full on redhead on our obscenely noisy upstairs neighbors. Either way, I’ve been neglecting the food posts portion of the blog here for a while so… It’s time for Monte Cristo sandwiches. If you’ve never heard of them, don’t worry. It’s an American thing and a spin on a French croque-monsieur.
Simply put, you egg wash some bread, pile on layers of ham, turkey and cheese (swiss in the standard version), and then cook the Monte Cristo in a pan to toast the bread, warm the meat and melt the cheese. Click on the link there to see what AllRecipe.com’s tasty looking version looks like. Mine turned out fairly close, and isn’t bad for a first try:
I went a little crazy on mine, using brioche bread, garlic aioli, and chipotle gouda and smoked cheddar cheese. Brioche may not be the best bread for such a creation. Given how soft it already is, it doesn’t hold up to the egg wash well. BUT overall I’d call this one a success with room for improvement. 🙂
Yes, another giant corporate merger that never should have happened as we move more towards a cyberpunk future where massive corporations truly hold all the power.
Microsoft already has a virtual monopoly on operating systems with the only real alternatives being Apple (which is still largely home use) or Linux. And they do solidly have a lock on the office productivity market via M$ Office. There’s Libre Office you say? Yeah, try interviewing for a job and telling them that you don’t have Office certifications but you know Libre Office inside and out.
OK; this is absorbing a (fairly large) gaming company, so what’s it matter in the grand scheme of things?
If all you care about is how much money Microsoft can make you as an investor, it’s a good thing. Microsoft just put ZeniMax Media, Bethesda Softworks, and all their subsidiary game studios on the payroll making games for their X-Box systems (and only that). Those subsidiaries include Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. Among the game franchises that come with them are Skyrim and the rest of The Elder Scrolls series, Fallout, Doom, Dishonored, Prey, Wolfenstein, Quake, and Bethesda’s upcoming space RPG, Starfield. In short, some of the biggest franchises in gaming.
As a consumer, there’s now less competition in the market, and less incentive for any of the above franchises to be as innovative as they once were. Less competition equals higher prices and lower quality, almost without exception.
As a gamer, one of the things that Bethesda in particular has been known for is the ability to create modified files “Mods” that add content to a game or change gameplay for certain aspects of the game. Microsoft already treats all their products like cash cows. The price of Office is obscene, as a prime example. Doubly so since the program suite hasn’t changed in a meaningful way in 20 years.
Bethesda has already tried to monetize it’s modding community twice also, and Microsoft will likely (in my opinion) push those attempts even farther until they are making money off of people who create projects and share them with the community strictly for love of the game.
That’s IF they don’t try to shut down the modding community altogether via suspending the availability of the “developer’s tools” used to make them. This is a move I’d expect to see more from Disney, who keeps a paranoid grip on all their trademarks. It’s why there’s never been a Marvel game where you could create your own character.
Microsoft is still a giant, unthinking corporation though, and could very well make the same move citing the creation of adult content for some of the games as unwholesome and against it’s corporate values, yadda yadda. Bethesda thus far had left that subject as “We disapprove and that’s not what we released the tools for”. We’ll see if Microsoft forces Seattle values on it’s new acquisitions.
Either way, to me this feels like the same situation with Disney not wanting to deal with competition and being pissy that Marvel had previously licensed the rights to the X-Men and other characters to Fox Movies. When they couldn’t buy the rights back, they did a hostile takeover of Fox Movies. Why should Microsoft negotiate licenses from gaming companies for X-Box titles when they can just gobble up the companies and make sure those same games never get released for their competition’s systems?
Mark my words folks, these mergers are NOT good for the public nor small businesses at all! If you want to avoid a future where world is controlled by a dozen mega-conglomerates and small business is all but extinct, you’d better start standing up to it now.
Who would have thought that eight decades after he punched his first ever villain squarely on the jaw that we’d still be celebrating this dark, surly, emotionally lost and solitary individual whom, upon watching his parents gunned down before his innocent young eyes, thought that the best course of action for that loathsome act would be to dress up as a giant bat and ruthlessly hunt down and mercilessly beat up a plethora of crazily costumed criminals, yet here we are… thankfully!
Batman made his first astonishing appearance in the 1939 issue of Detective Comics #27 courtesy of his compelling creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Batsy has been punching and kicking his way through the DC Universe ever since, and yet, over eight decades later the character still feels as fresh and exciting as he did all those decades ago. I have personally been a fan of the big…
This will end up being a prelude to a post I had already planned on doing about finally getting out on the town on Tuesday night; coming soon (like later tonight).
However, I once again saw a story, (this time a blog post), exploiting the whole situation with COVID-19. While I frequently call BS on the Far Left, (because they have a much wider voice / reach), I’ll certainly pick on the Right also when they’re wrong. Such is the case here. The blog post talked about how Nashville had monkeyed with COVID statistics and used that as an excuse to implement “Dracnoian Business Closure Edicts”.
The trouble here is that I just was there two days ago. We went to go grab a pizza on Broadway; Nashville’s version of Music Row, and then try a milkshake place that was shown on the Food Network’s ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’.
Truth? Everything was open. Every joint on the strip had live music, social distancing was actually at a bare minimum, and I saw next to nothing closed. The Ryman Auditorium was open, etc… The only thing I really saw closed at all was the civic center. We parked near there since it was the one parking spot we knew, and walked a good mile or so. We passed the hockey arena and the Country Music Hall of Fame along the way too.
In fact, I was actually a little annoyed at the number of people walking around without masks at all. Police were out also but not enforcing the masks in public rule.
For those who haven’t read my previous posts, I’m very middle of the road on COVID-19. It CAN be quite dangerous but often isn’t, and it’s spread about twice as much as a bad flu season. I advocate using a mask in public, a little common sense, and NOT listening to the hysteria on BOTH sides of the issue. It is NOT the end of civilization, nor is it a completely fake story drummed up to scare people. It sickens me also that people on both sides of this mess are trying to exploit it for personal and political gain.
And both sides wonder why the public doesn’t trust anything they say on the issue, or anything else.
They want MY trust, they’re going to have to earn it via accurately informing, NOT manipulation and fear mongering.
This is actually two shorter stories from my days playing Conan: Exiles. It’s a survival game set in Conan’s Hyborian Age of roughly 10,000 BC. Tyche, the protagonist was exiled from her homeland of Aquilonia for following Derketo, a goddess of life, death and fertility worshiped in Stygia (and elsewhere). Initially, she was conscripted into the army as a scout but her commander later framed her for other crimes and tied them to her still following Derketo instead of the Aquillonian god Mitra.
At that point she was banished to a forsaken land near Stygia known as the Exiled Lands. The area is surrounded by a magical force field and a dark corruption taints the land as well.
Tyche managed to thrive however. She gathered followers, collected slaves and even built a temple to Derketo, and met other priestesses exiled there as well. At the time of the story, Tyche had recently finished repelling an attack on her temple by fanatical followers of Set called the Djeret, and had returned to exploring the area’s ancient ruins for a means of escape. Hopefully that removes any remaining “White Room Syndrome” after trying to rework the story for non-players.
Tyche approached her lovingly crafted temple to Derketo with a weary pace. The young, curvaceous Aquilonian exile paused to admire it’s craftsmanship. The building was as grand as any seen outside of a major capital and featured intricate ancient Greek-like Aquilonian design in spite of Derketo being largely considered a Stygian goddess. Tyche was proud of her efforts, and those of her followers and thralls in building it
Tyche pushed open the heavy hardwood doors and entered the temple after a long journey through the Unnamed City’s ruins. Her research there had been invaluable, but the battles against the undead and giant “dragons” had left her exhausted, and a bit the worse for wear. She looked up as she crossed the threshold and saw bodies strewn about the temple floor; her dancers and assistant priestess all dead with their throats cut.
Tyche dropped the large sack she had slung over her shoulder, momentarily stunned in disbelief.
“No…” was all she could say before taking her spear in both hands and sprinting up the stairs to the upper levels. The scene was similar on the artisan’s working level on the second floor. Some of them were missing however. Tyche wondered if they were killed elsewhere, fled, or part of whatever conspiracy caused this.
Tyche ran up to the next level, where all her research was kept. There, perched on the middle of the painstaking recreation of the mystical map room that Tyche had built, was the Setite assassin Nefu’ani that Tyche had recently beaten and enslaved, and Tyche’s favored thrall Ciona. Ciona was bound and gagged with cuts and bruises all over her tall, muscular yet feminine body. Around Ciona were multiple explosives, which Nefu’ani was tinkering with.
“Oh good, you’ve come home to die with your accursed temple.” Nefu’ani said with a vemonous tone and a sadistic smirk.
“DUST!” Tyche screamed. “I will kill you for this disobedience.” “Slowly… and… painfully”.
“I am Dust no more.” Nefu’ani snapped glibly. “I admit to my shame that you had broken me utterly, but glorious Set restored my will and has shown me the path to redemption. I will carry your shameful label of Dust never again.”
“Your ‘redemption’ will be nothing more than joining your lover’s fool corpse on the roof as food for the crows.” Tyche snapped bitterly.
“We will see who lays bloodied at whose feet.” Nefu’ani snarled.
So saying, Nefu’ani flung her dagger at Tyche; a perfect throw heading straight for her center line. Tyche dropped her spear, and caught the dagger, clapping her hands together and catching it by the flats of the blade.
Nefu’ani snarled and charged in, Khopesh overhead ready to strike. Before she could get close however, Tyche rolled her foot across the top of the spear on the ground, it’s momentum rolling it onto the top of Tyche’s foot. She promptly kicked it upwards into her left hand and thrust it into Nefu’ani’s abdomen.
Nefu’ani immediately was stopped dead in her tracks as she was impaled on the spear. The Khopesh fell from her hand and she coughed up a bit of blood as she struggled to speak.
Tyche stared murderously at her. Releasing the spear, she spun around and brought the dagger, now in her right hand, across Nefu’ani’s throat. “No more words for you.” Tyche snarled, kicking Nefu’ani backwards onto her back.
Tyche ran over to Ciona and cut her bonds, then pulled her close and held her. “It’s over my pet.” Tyche whispered. “Nobody will ever hurt you again, I promise.”
Tyche helped Ciona slowly to her feet, and they began walking slowly towards the stairs leading downward. Tyche draped one of Ciona’s arms over her own shoulder, and wrapped an arm around Ciona’s waist to support the woman.
They got half way to the stairway, and Tyche paused, looking back. The map room had been a bit of a risky gamble, given the way it’s magical energy, affected the environment of the Exiled Lands. She had strictly forbidden it’s use by anyone. It was strictly intended as a research project; an opportunity to study and find a way to overcome the dark corruptions that had taken over such devices, and the land itself. Knowledge was power; that had always been her guiding belief.
Tyche glanced over at the explosives around the room. Nefu’ani had placed them well. If they had been ignited, they would have destroyed all the key structural supports and brought the entire temple down
“I’ll have to disassemble those quickly”, Tyche muttered. “First, I’m going to take care of you though.” Tyche said to Ciona with a warm smile before giving her a soft kiss on the forehead.
They started walking again but both saw a strange light from behind them. They turned to see the explosives bathed in an eerie lavender light, and the fuses, now somehow much shorter, ignite.
“NO!” Tyche screamed.
“RUN MISTRESS!”, Ciona screamed, pushing Tyche down the stairs. Tyche tumbled head over heel until she hit the landing at the corner of the temple.
Before she could do anything, there was a deafening roar, then everything went black.
Tyche began to slowly regain consciousness and moaned loudly. She hurt everywhere, and felt as if she was being crushed. Her ears were ringing and she couldn’t hear anything.
“Ciona!” she cried out. “Where are you?”
Tyche’s vision came back into focus and she could see she was pinned beneath two large pieces of stone rubble. She struggled to move the large chunk of stone on her chest. It wouldn’t budge in the slightest. Tyche closed her eyes and focused. Her entire body began to glow with spiritual energy and she pushed the large block off of her. Exhausted by the effort, she collapsed back against the pile of rubble.
Amplifying her strength that way, particularly to that degree, was extremely draining and something she could only do for very brief periods of time. Still, once again, her training had saved her life.
After a minute or so, Tyche had caught her breath. She sat up and looked at the slab of stone pinning her legs. She tried to squirm out from underneath it, which only resulted in an agonizing shooting pain racing up her left leg.
Broken, gods damned it, she cursed to herself.
Tyche tried to lift the stone but couldn’t get good leverage on it. It was barely one quarter the size of the larger stone, but she was in bad shape. She found the remains of a building timber barely within reach. After a few moments of fighting to reach it, she got a grip on it and wedged it under the stone on her legs. It took a few tries, but Tyche finally got it positioned correctly and used it as a lever to lift the stone enough to slide out from underneath it.
She tried to stagger to her feet but her left leg was badly broken and unwilling to support any weight. Tyche estimated that she had a few broken ribs as well, judging from her shortness of breath and the stabbing pain in her right side. She was covered in bruises and lacerations as well, and still wasn’t able to hear anything beyond the ringing in her ears.
She crawled around the rubble, getting more cut up by the jagged marble remnants. Eventually she found a couple of pieces of wood and the remains of a banner. She used them to make a splint for her left leg, and then wrapped her ribs with the remaining portion of the banner.
Propping herself up on a branch that she used as a makeshift crutch, Tyche began scrambling about the rubble as best she could, searching for Ciona. She called out for her repeatedly, desperately scanning the rubble for any signs of movement. After two hours of searching and fighting through the pain, all Tyche found was Nefu’ani’s battered body, lying near the center of the temple’s remains, and, oddly enough, the severed head of the statue of Derketo from the temple’s altar.
Tyche let out a long stream of obscenities as tears rolled down her cheeks. She used her good leg to kick Nefu’ani’s corpse repeatedly.
The eyes of the severed head of Derketo’s statue began to glow in the same eerie lavender color that Tyche has seen earlier.
*Next time, perhaps you’ll learn to show my enemies no mercy, a booming female voice said in Tyche’s head.* It was the same domineering female voice that Tyche had heard when she was crucified and left here to die.
“You!” “You did this?!?” Tyche demanded. “How could you?!?” “For a decade I’ve been your most loyal servant!”
*YOU will not question nor make demands of me, foolish child, Derketo snapped. You have a great purpose among my children, but you are still weak and flawed… You need to be properly tempered like any steel, lest you become brittle and useless.*
“So I’m just some tool to you?” Tyche snarled defiantly. “I’ve given you everything and it’s still not enough!” “You took Amoli from me, my love and teacher… drove her who knows where, IF she’s even still alive.” “My family denounced me, as did the Priests of Mitra.” “Even after they beat me for days and scarred my back, I wouldn’t renounce you.” “When I was forced into the Aquilonian military as punishment, I used every art that was unveiled to me to be the best scout in the army and quietly spread your word.” “Instead of being rewarding my efforts, you took a husband away from me, and had me left here by my own people, betrayed to die.”
SILENCE! Derketo commanded. You have a temple to rebuild and work to do.
“I WILL NOT BE SILENT!” Tyche screamed as tears of rage flowed down her face. She hadn’t cried once since she was a child. Even when Amoli was driven from Shamar, Tyche had stayed strong. “I built your damned temple as you commanded.” “I made it a monument to your glory.” “My thanks was to be forced to defend the temple alone against overwhelming odds, with NO help from you.”
“I was violated for hours before exhausting and overcoming them, all because you were offended that I let one of them touch your damnable altar during their attack?!?” “Now you ruined everything I built in your name, took the one last thing I treasured in this world, and expect me to just obediently put it back together for you??” “GO TO GEHENNA!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
She pulled the amulet of Derketo from her neck, breaking the chain, and flung it at the statue head. Afterwards, she let out a primal scream at the top of her lungs and fired a bolt of magical energy from her hand at the statue head, shattering it.
Tyche sobbed uncontrollably and began staggering Northward…
One quick note here; the story was created to explain dismantling Tyche’s temple in the game. While it was a masterpiece, there were building issues in the game that would cause server instability and we all had to trim the construction WAY back. Because, you know… why fix bugs when you can make the players suffer instead? Kinda like the issues around the California fires. Thanks FunCom, LOL.
This next piece happens a few weeks later. Tyche has moved northwards in the Exiled lands and built a small cabin in the woods there. The other characters discussed are fellow Priestesses of Derketo. Salome is also Ember and the Storm Caller (both nicknames for her).
Tyche sat on the edge of her bed, absently sipping a mug of mead while staring into the nearby fireplace. Darkness was beginning to fall outside the small stone cabin she’d managed to construct herself in the Northern wilderness. The work had been difficult with her broken leg and ribs, but she managed. The fog had hidden her work for days as well.
She’d originally imagined herself alone in the area. Scouting the area proved otherwise and had turned up a logging camp a moderate distance away. Tyche discovered it was run by the mysterious stranger that had left the large donation of materials for the temple. Watching him, she thought the donations were odd now, since he didn’t seem particularly religious. She settled on the belief he was simply being helpful regardless of his personal beliefs.
She wasn’t certain if he’d seen her scouting either. Her splint made her movement annoyingly awkward and clumsy. She was fairly certain he’d found her cabin. Thus far however, he’d respected her privacy, for which she was grateful.
Outside, the wind was picking up. Tyche shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around her.
Amazing how quickly I lost my tolerance for colder weather, living in that heat, Tyche mused silently. She looked out the small window. I wonder if another rainstorm is coming… Probably not. The air is always more humid when rain is imminent.
Tyche noticed a slight gleam of light, perhaps from a shielded lantern, and heard light footsteps on the steps.
If they’re raiders, they’re certainly careless ones, Tyche thought. She started to reach for her axe, on the wall mounted weapon rack behind her. No wait… I only hear two sets of footsteps, Tyche thought as she listened carefully. Both walking awkwardly and one using a walking stick of some sort. Lost travelers perhaps. Grabbing her makeshift crutch in the other hand, she fought her way to her feet and hobbled to the door just as there was a knock at it.
Tyche removed the bar on the door and put it next to the door. She undid the latch and opened it door a crack. On the porch were two women wrapped in cloaks against the evening chill. Their faces were partially obscured by the hoods of their cloaks, but the one closest looked young; perhaps Tyche’s age. She was clearly the worse for wear from whatever journey she was on though. Her stance indicated both injury and fatigue.
Behind her, an elderly woman with darker skin was leaning on a walking stick. The woman looked almost ancient, aside from her actual eyes, which held an odd youthfulness yet deep wisdom at the same time.
Unbeknownst to Tyche, at this point a sphere of magical energy had appeared in the center chamber of New Amaranth’s temple, giving the sisters there a view of what was transpiring.
“Can I help you?” Tyche asked with a hint of suspicion. “You must be lost to be so far in the wilderness this late in the evening.”
“Mistress… Is… is it really you?” came a hauntingly familiar voice from beneath the hood of the first cloak.
Tyche’s eyes went wide and her heart jumped a beat. The dagger she had in her left hand hidden behind the door fell from her hand.
“C… Ciona?” Tyche asked, her voice trembling.
The hooded figure nodded weakly, light glinting off of tears under her hood.
Tyche slowly opened the door the rest of the way and slowly reached out, pulling the woman’s hood back. Ciona smiled weakly back at Tyche as the hood came off.
“H… how…” Tyche stammered, her eyes tearing up.
Ciona stood there, her jaw trembling and uncertain what to say. Her eyes desperately searched Tyche’s face for some sign of approval.
“I thought you were dead.” Tyche exclaimed, throwing her arms around Ciona and hugging her tightly. “I missed you terribly.”
Ciona let out an audible sigh of relief and held Tyche tightly.
After a couple of moments, they felt eyes on them and broke them embrace. Both of them quickly remembering the old woman who was traveling with Ciona.
“She… brought me to you, mistress.” Ciona said humbly.
Tyche was uncertain what to make of all of this. She managed to stammer a “thank you”, then glanced at both of them. “You must both be cold and tired.” “Please, come inside.” Tyche scanned the twilight shrouded landscape cautiously. “These woods can be dangerous at night.”
Tyche ushered the two in and then shut and barred the door behind them. “We’ll be safe enough now…” Tyche said with a hint of a smile. She glanced at the old woman, who had made herself at home, moving a stool to the edge of the fireplace removing her cloak and sitting down near the fire.
The old woman chuckled. “I’ve been around a long time, deary.” She remarked casually. “I doubt I travel in circles as exciting as yours however.” She motioned to Tyche’s broken leg and the bandages around her waist. “Woods… didn’t seem THAT dangerous…” she added.
Tyche sighed and turned her attention to Ciona, caressing her shoulders. “Long story.” Tyche said in an abrupt tone. “…Ancient history too.”
Tyche kissed Ciona on the cheek and sat her down in front of the fire then draped a blanket over her shoulders and gave Ciona the tankard of mead that she had been nursing prior to their arrival. Ciona, nuzzled Tyche’s cheek during the kiss and then watched the exchange between the two women uneasily.
“Not so ancient that those injuries have healed.” The old woman observed. “…or the scars on the inside, judging from the tone of your voice.”
“What would you know about it?” Tyche snapped defensively.
“You learn a great deal about the human heart when you’ve been around as long as I have.” The old woman replied with a knowing smile. “I could see some of that pain disappear when you saw her, for example.” The old woman said, gesturing to Ciona. In the meantime, Ciona had fallen asleep sitting there in front of the fire and was slightly slumped over.
Tyche lowered Ciona onto her back and put a pillow under her head, then made sure she was covered.
“I didn’t see enough disappear to believe you’re truly in love with her either.” The old woman said pointedly. “You care for her, feel responsible for her… but you’re not in love with her.” The old woman paused a moment, as if letting that observation sink in. “She worships you however.” she continued. “If you’ll permit an old woman, that doesn’t seem fair or healthy to either of you.”
Tyche paused. She was tempted momentarily to lash out and tell the woman to mind her own business. Perhaps it was the lack of human contact for over a week, perhaps it was the turmoil over seeing Ciona alive again… Tyche felt the need to unburden herself though.
“I…” she paused for several moments. “When I first saw Ciona, she was strong, vibrant, breathtaking…” Tyche began. “I acted selfishly and captured her and broke her.” “It was amazing at first.” “I had come to rely on her for things also.” Tyche paused again and let out a pained sigh. “She’s not the same though.” “Her spirit is broken and she’s so full of self-doubt and neediness.” “She’s dying inside, I can’t give her what she truly needs, and yet I feel responsible for her.”
“Sounds like you need to make adjustments to your relationship then, deary.” the old woman replied.
“An interesting euphemism for ending it and being alone in the world again.” Tyche said dejectedly.
“Youngsters…” so full of determination but so lacking in vison.” The old woman chuckled. “Adjust doesn’t mean end, child.” she continued. “You should look for an option that allows you to have your companionship, and gives her enough freedom to regain her inner strength.”
Tyche nodded understandingly. “Yes… you’re right.” “If only it were so simple to figure out how exactly to do that.”
The elderly woman snickered slightly. “I’m sure you’ll manage.” I doubt you want some old woman telling you how to live your life anyway, hmmm?”
Tyche nodded slowly, lost in thought. “Yeah… that hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past.”
The old woman nodded. “That…” she pointed at Tyche’s leg, “how that happened, hmm?”
Tyche paused and then poured a cup of tea for the old woman. “Here… you must be cold and thirsty after your journey.”
“Thank you, dear.” The woman replied, sipping on the tea. “That doesn’t answer the question though.”
“I… really don’t want to talk about it.” Tyche replied, trying not to sound too rude. She glanced over at the sleeping Ciona. “Where did you find her?” Tyche asked, trying to change the subject.
“Out near an obelisk at the far end of these accursed lands.” The old woman replied absently. “She was unconscious and covered with cuts and burns.”
“An obelisk…” Tyche mused. “It must have been the map room.” She sighed. “I thought I had it locked down.” She looked at the old woman. “I’m grateful you found her and brought her back to me though.”
“Hmph…” the old woman grumbled. “Playing with map rooms, were you?” “Dangerous, those things are.” “They’re corrupted with dark magicks and feed the darkness upon this land.”
“So I’ve been told.” Tyche replied flatly. “I was trying to find a way to either remove the corruption and make them safe again, or somehow turn them against the darkness.”
The old woman chuckled. “Ambitious one, aren’t you?” “Much like the storm caller, in your own way.” She sighed. “Still, there’s little chance of accomplishing what you seek, at least without the five artifacts that are required to unlock the bracelets.” “It’s all connected, child.”
“A fresh set of eyes never hurts.” Tyche replied. “At least as long as I’m cautious.”
The old woman laughed this time. “Cautious eh?” “Yet you talk about weaponizing the matrix against the darkness.” “Are you indeed like the storm caller?” “Would you destroy this land and every living thing within it to destroy the darkness?”
“If I was left with no other option, and doing so meant saving far more lives than it cost, yes… as a last resort, I would.” Tyche replied matter-of-factly.
“Coldly pragmatic, and ambitious.” The old woman remarked. “Quite a bit in common in deed.” “Yet both of you never consider that you may not see all that you need in order to make proper choices.”
“I’m human, I don’t pretend otherwise.” Tyche replied, a bit defensive at this point. “I try to be thorough in my analysis of situations however.”
The old woman nodded thoughtfully. “Unlike the storm caller, hmm?” “Too convinced of her infallibility and knowledge, that one…”
“You presume to know an awful lot about us.” Tcyhe replied.
“As said my dear, I’ve been around these lands a long, long time…” the old woman replied. “Long before Thoth Amon began his unholy work here.”
“If you’ve been spying that long, you should be slower to judge Ember.” Tyche said defensively. “She’s been through a tremendous amount…” “I don’t condone all she’s done, but I understand the whys, and the pain that’s colored her decisions.”
“When decisions have the consequences that hers can have, one must be careful to make sure to set aside their biases and explore all options.” The old woman retorted.
“Yes, it’s all so easy…” Tyche said with a bit of contempt. “Just think more, oh and trust to the gods to look out for us as well.” Tyche let out a derisive snort. “They always answer our prayers and protect us.”
“It’s sometimes a wonder the gods answer prayers at all when people carry such attitudes so often.” The old woman said in a slightly derisive tone.
“By all means, enlighten me on the nature of faith then.” Tyche replied bitterly.
“You want the opinion of an old woman after refusing to listen to your god, eh?” the old woman chuckled amusedly at the perceived irony. “Very well, listen and I will tell you what an old woman has learned over many years:”
“Think of the relationship between the gods and mortals as akin to parent and child.” The old woman continued gently. “They can tell you what to do when your faith is young, and hope you follow.” “At some point however, a child has to grow, to learn to walk on their own.” “As a follower, you are most useful and grow the most as a being, when you can walk without one of them holding your hand.” “Yes, that means sometimes watching you fall, skin your knee and suffer the consequences of your actions.” “Such is the nature of growth, and the universe however.” “If actions had no consequences, mortals would run amok, and gods would spend all their time cleaning up the results of those actions.” “It would be a downward spiral of entropy and chaos.”
“Even if gods wanted that path… their power is vast, but not unlimited.” The old woman continued. “They still do what they can to mitigate the consequences of mortals’ actions, such as with the temple’s destruction.” “None the less, much of what you blame on the gods is, in fact, man’s inhumanity to man.” “Either that or faith without works to aid the gods in aiding you.”
Tyche nodded quietly, her arms crossed in front of her. “An interesting theory.” She replied.
“I suspect we could discuss various points of your life, and discover where things might have been different were different choices made.” the old woman said in a scholarly tone. “That, perhaps is something best left for introspection however.” “Think of it as a chance to grow your ability to see things with fresh eyes.” She added with a slight smirk.
“Fresh eyes wouldn’t change the fact that my own goddess destroyed her own temple and tried to kill me in the process.
“So sure of that, are you?” the old woman replied bluntly. “Even after what I already showed you regarding your limited perceptions?” “Very well, then let me show you the folly of insisting one has absolute knowledge when they have only partially seen.”
“Again, truth is subjective when one only sees a partial picture.” The old woman said, with a slightly sterner tone. “More so when one lets their pain and biases blind them as well.” “A concept you should be very familiar with, given the people that have crossed your path since you arrived here.”
Tyche nodded slowly. It was clear she was listening but still skeptical.
“That still doesn’t explain why she destroyed her own temple” she replied. “I slaved for weeks, to the point of exhaustion and illness… all to honor her and the sacred vow I made.”
“And then you let your focus and training slip.” The old woman replied calmly. “You forgot to keep the Djeret filth under close watch, and you grew complacent.” “That aside from the fact that such a dangerous and irredeemable creature should have been slain for the greater good.”
“So, it’s MY fault she ignited those explosives?” Tyche retorted, her anger again rising.
The old woman scowled at Tyche and then waved her hand. A circle of magical energy appeared and showed Nefu’ani cutting her palm with a dagger and then bleeding a little on each bomb.
“Those explosives were enchanted with Djeret blood magic, prideful child.” The old woman said. “Your enemy wanted to make certain that even if she perished, her revenge would be complete.” “Something you would have discovered easily had you remembered your priorities.” The old woman motioned towards the sleeping Ciona with her head. “This one was in no immediate danger from her injuries.” “You should have dealt with the threat first, then tended to your play thing.”
Tyche looked down, a guilty look on her face. “I… I’ve been so lonely, I… couldn’t handle the thought of any more loss.”
“So you’ve said…” the old woman replied. “And yet you still haven’t even fully realized how she was restored to you.”
The scene continued to play, and as the fuses burned down rapidly. Suddenly they were engulfed in the lavender energy that Tyche recalled, and the fuses slowed to a crawl. Then Ciona shoved Tyche down the stairs, trying to save her. Immediately afterwards, Ciona was engulfed in the lavender energy and pulled through the map room. Then the images faded away completely.
“I… still don’t understand.” Tyche said quietly. Her tone was both humbled and sorrowful. “If she could do that much, why not just put out the bombs?”
The old woman sighed softly. “That… is the problem with mortals.” she said flatly. “No matter how much a god might do, it’s not enough.” “…Or you waiver the other way and think you have to do it all yourself either to prove yourself, or because they are uncaring.” “Again, it has to do with actions having consequences and even gods having limits to their power.”
“You’ve given me a great deal to dwell on.” Tyche said with a guilty sigh. “It certainly appears I’ve been a petulant fool.” “Derketo and the Sisterhood probably wouldn’t even want me back after my blasphemy and folly.”
“I imagine the gods are used to the short-sightedness of mortals.” The old woman replied with a slight chuckle. “Likewise, I’m certain all of your sisters have had their own struggles with faith.”
“Not Amrita.” Tyche replied pitifully. “He faith is unshakable.” “I wish I could be more like her in that regard.”
“And yet you’ve heard her say that she has difficulty communing with the dark lady.” The old woman replied. “Such acts require faith in one’s self as well.” She continued in a knowing tone.
“I’ve seen nothing to indicate any doubt there.” Tyche replied, curious.
“You never would with her though, would you?” the old woman asked knowingly.
“Beyond her admission of difficulty communicating?” “No.” Tyche replied. She’s too dedicated for that.
The old woman nodded slowly. “You are correct, and insightful… for a youngling.”
Tyche looked up thoughtfully. “You seem to know a great deal.” “What more can you tell me about Ember?” she asked.
“Hmmm, precious little that you don’t already know, child.” The old woman replied. “Much more than that, you should hear from her herself.” “She was not always as she was.” “She has allowed herself to become a woman consumed by guilt, pain and yes, even anger.” “She blames both herself and Derketo for the past and present.” “Her heart is closed off, and needs somebody to help her open it again.”
“So, you believe it’s possible to break through her shell of pain as well then…” Tyche asked. “That there is a good and caring woman beneath it?”
“It is indeed possible.” The old woman answered, placing careful accent on the last word. “There are never guarantees where mortal pride and pain is concerned however.” “But there is a strong, noble woman full of hope, determination and love deep within her.” “She just needs to believe that it’s safe for that woman to show herself to the world.”
“Now that your eyes and heart are open, perhaps I can impart some much-needed information to you and your sisters as well.” The old woman said in an almost testing tone.
“By all means, if you have such information, I’m eager to hear it.” Tyche replied earnestly.
“Very well…” the old woman replied. “Listen well.” “Your sisters and you are not here in this land by Derketo’s doing, and only minor carelessness can be blamed on you.” The old woman said. “None the less, your presence is a tool that is desperately needed here.” “The Storm Caller spoke the truth, at least as best she could see it, regarding the taint on this land.”
Tyche bit her lower lip pensively and nodded, a slight sigh escaping her.
“Your sisters seemed to instinctively know that the energy here needed balancing by compassion and love.” The old woman said. “They are on the correct path, restoring ruins and trying to aid other exiles.”
“What more must be done?” Tyche asked.
“Good, you begin to see…” the old woman replied. “The presence that taints this land is dark beyond measure and ancient even to the gods.” “Salome is correct in that it cannot be destroyed… yet”. “For the time being, it can only be contained.” “The temple, as all such buildings are, was a focus of positive spiritual energy.” “That energy helps hold the darkness at bay.”
“I think I understand…” Tyche replied.
“The nature of this land limits the ability of even the gods to act in a more direct manner.” The old woman continued. “A hasty move by even one of them could have dark consequences for this land and the world beyond.”
“But mortals can move about with less notice by this… entity” Tyche started. “…and by things such as the temple, we can create a… net of positive energy to keep this thing locked away.”
“Very good…” the old woman said. “Your insight serves you well.” “No doubt that is part of why Derketo permitted you to be matron of your own temple.” The old woman paused for a moment before continuing. “A council of gods was arranged recently.” “gods normally with no reason to ally have come together…” “Derketo, Jhebbel Sag, Mitra, and others, even Yog…” “They see the danger of this horror escaping.” “Only Crom has refused to respond to the other gods.”
“If many of the gods have allied against this threat, how can we fail?” Tyche asked.
“Because one refuses to cooperate, and actively works against us all.” The old woman replied. She paused for a moment. “Set, and his fool lacky Thoth Amon, idiotically believe they can control or ally with this evil.”
“Are they insane?” Tyche asked, shocked.
“Mad with power.” The old woman replied in a grim tone. “They believe that, failing the first two possibilities, that the evil and those allied against it will destroy each other.”
“Leaving them to pick up the pieces and rebuild the work in their image.” Tyche interjected with a sigh. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised…” “Much of the darkness across this land was caused by Set’s worship.”
“Indeed.” The old woman replied. “The key will be the temples and altars.” “Any altar, or indeed any thing built for the greater good will be used as a conduit for the gods’ combined energies to weave a web of mystical energy and repair the spiritual barriers between the mortal world and the home realm of this evil.”
“If… we can create a strong enough web of energy, then what?” Tyche asked.
“That… remains to be seen.” The old woman replied. “The results that achieves… how successful it is or isn’t, will determine what options are available at that point.” “This is not the first time the gods fought this evil.” “Last time, they were only able to seal it away in a sort of hibernation… and Set stood with them that day.”
“Doesn’t sound good for our side.” Tyche replied.
“Do not despair.” The old woman replied. “The potential of mortals is vast.” “It’s why the gods nurture mortals and try to guide their path.”
Tyche nodded slowly, trying to take all of this in.
“I don’t know what use I can be in such a situation.” Tyche lamented. “I… mean, Armita and Ember are both high priestesses.” “I’ve been a devoted follower for a decade, but was a priestess only a brief time.”
“You have knowledge equal to many who call themselves a high priestess.” The old woman replied knowingly. “Humility serves one well, but not when it crosses to martyred self-doubt.”
Tyche looked down pondering everything she’d learned and wondering how to repair what everything. After several moments of introspection, she finally had to ask. “How do you know all of this?” she asked, puzzled. She looked up, waiting for an answer, but as she did, the old woman was gone. Tyche glanced at the still barred door and then back at the empty chair. She saw something on the chair and walked over, picking it up. She held it up to the light to discover it was the amulet of Derketo that Amoli had given her over a decade ago… the same one that she’d flung at the shattered statue in the temple ruins.
Tyche let out a pained sigh and looked at Ciona, then sat down next to her and rested Ciona’s head in her lap. So much to absorb… So many angry, flawed presumptions to undo… Tyche thought. I don’t know where to begin, or how to undo it all…
Tyche sighed and began meditating while softly stroking Ciona’s hair.
Yes, for anybody who actually read instead of just hitting the like button, I wove some real life opinions on faith into that second part and craftily hid them as fiction and relating to a mythology only found in stories. I’m evil like that. 😀
I just finished reading yet another article about another celebrity identifying as this label vs that label. It’s a pair of pet peeves of mine also, sooooo time for a rant… or two mini rants.
Is the public EVER going to face the cold, hard reality that being an actor, singer or model does NOT make one a rocket scientist?
Quite the contrary in most cases. Dedication to their craft means they haven’t spent much time at all studying physics, critical thinking, etc… In fact, Brian May of Queen fame is the only legitimate rocket scientist (astrophysicist to be specific) that I know of in the category of celebrity performers.
In my observation, the less a celebrity knows, the more likely they are to loudly voice an opinion on everything too. I’d say it comes from a deep-seated psychological insecurity from knowing they contribute little to society beyond an ability to amuse and entertain. Broad generalization? Absolutely! I could cite several easy examples though, such as the entire gaggle of Kardashians, or Kyrie Irving (and Shaq).
Think for yourselves, folks. You don’t need somebody in a gated Hollywood mansion or a multi-million dollar Manhattan penthouse who travels in closed circles, and has zero clue what the real world is like telling you what’s right for you, how to think and how to live YOUR life.
On to the main rant. Need I say that this is something that makes NO sense to me. Labels are a way to categorize people and put them into a box. Liberal, Conservative, Straight, Gay, Disabled, Black, White…
OK, I get it to a degree. Our brains are designed to categorize things to make processing information easier. Let’s face reality though; everybody is unique! Racial identity, sexual orientation, religion, etc… should mean FAR less than the content of a person’s character. Said judgment about THAT should also be made only after making an effort to truly understand the other person.
A huge part of the reason our political process is completely toxic now is because people blindly apply labels they can’t even properly define, and then make gross assumptions about the people thus labeled. True on both sides, period.
Sometimes I REALLY wonder if people even think about the labels they mindlessly switch in order to feel “enlightened”. Take handicapped as a perfect example. George Carlin did a great couple of jokes about the way that term got substituted with several others such as “handicapable” and how it sounded like people were trying to BS themselves into believing the issue didn’t exist (in order to avoid facing it).
FINALLY, years back, the term “Disabled” was somehow settled upon as more enlightened and compassionate. But is it really? Handicapped, by definition, means that a person can do something but is at a disadvantage doing it. Disabled… That means it can’t be done at all.
So, which is really more compassionate and uplifting to people stuck with the condition and label?
Yes, sometimes labels are abused by unthinking members of the public. “Retarded” being a great example. By it’s proper definition, the term isn’t demeaning at all:
Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed.
I’d argue that with many of these abused labels, it’s NOT the label that needs to be changed, it’s the people misusing them. Forcing a change in labels is not going to change the condition NOR human nature.
I’m going to go WAY out on a limb here (at least as far as some will be concerned) and talk about labels in the LGBTQ community, as it seems to be a particularly contentious area regarding labels anymore.
In my opinion, the community has gotten FAR too obsessed with labels anymore. One of the things I think the gay rights movement did right years ago is that they didn’t overtly stress over most labels. In fact, if a label wasn’t completely derogatory (such as ‘fag’), they’d outright own it, and turn it around into a symbol of pride. That’s what happened with ‘gay’ and ‘queer’, for example. I believe that legitimately helped advance the cause also.
NOW, the community is not only more militant in going after others, but it’s turning in on itself too, as every little variation in sexual preference has to have a unique label. Is it really that hard to just accept that bisexuality comes in a spectrum, as a major example? Instead there’s more contention over that than I see on twitter over what qualifies somebody as a “real” writer.
The militant attitude in general there, AND displayed by other groups, isn’t helping anyone either. You can’t beat somebody into accepting you, much less liking or embracing you. That’s a process that involves mutual courtesy. Also a rant for another time.
So yeah… Is “lesbian” or “queer” any more valid than the other? I could point out that “lesbian” merely identifies a sexual orientation, where as “queer” means strange or abnormal. The real answer should be “Who Cares?” though. Again, it’s a person’s character and actions that should ultimately matter, not their gender, race, orientation, etc…
Just be a good PERSON, and the rest will fall into place.