Today I’m taking kind of a cop out.
March 19, 2012
I don’t have anything to write on today. The words just won’t come to me.
So, I’ve got a couple of things for you here. First, a discussion; help me plan a good fantasy story. I’m talking about really, really high level planning. Hero saves the girl, hero gets a magic weapon, hero is a girl who saves a boy and a girl. I don’t know. Just ridiculously high level plot stuff. Then I’ll fill it in with later posts here on the Engine.
The other thing, below the fold, is a game I’ve been playing. Though the one I’m working on right now is a doozy. Here are the rules.
You give me A Name, A Gender, A Writing Genre, and Three Things You Like About Yourself.
In return, I give you a brief description of a character. Easy as pie. Check out what I’ve done so far after the jump.
Ragina was the only reason the children of Vosh Challon could sleep at night, and for that their mothers were grateful. She had done so for countless eons now, bearing the Wage of Blood her family paid generations before her, and will continue to pay generations to come. It was for this reason she long ago swore herself from love, for any child she bore would be her doom and the next inheritor of the Wage.
She was, however, never alone. The Progeny of Goshak was always by her side. While the people of Vosh Challon distrusted the Worgs, they had grown to be accepting after she had taken them into her service. Where their howls used to bring fear and terror, now they brought some measure of comfort. The Wild Men no longer come near the villages, the Ancient Ones stay within their old stone walls, afraid of the Worgs that Ragina has coaxed into the night. They speak with her voice now and when the Ancient Ones fly across the night and seek their prey, they frequently hear the howl of the Worgs and the roar of her fury close behind them no matter where they fly from.
Ragina is a grim-faced hero in the everlasting nights of Vosh Challon. The Wage of Blood keeps her moving constantly across the mountainous countryside of her home, hunting the things in the darkness that feed on the people she protects. She’s of very serious countenance though she is known to make friends in the most unlikely of places, including Torv, her mount and favorite Worg, and great grandson of the wolf-god Goshak. Despite wearing blackened mail and carrying a blood-red sword, she is one of the few comforts that the meager population of Vosh Challon can rely on. She listens to their pain and sorrow and does all she can to ease their lives in her eternal war with the horrors of the night.
Helena Anne Hisselpenny
Helena had always dreamed of owning one of these fantastic old bookstores in New England. Filled to the brim with ancient and hoary tomes of forgotten lore. Stacked high with leather and canvas clad literature stacked high and filled with wisdom and wit as old as time. She had heard of various bookshops as old as this one being attached to communities of faeries or vampires or wizards or ghosts and she had been prepared for it. Perhaps even the occasional were creature or demon-haunted sorcerer, perhaps ancient heroes steeped in folklore still walking the earth to fix some ancient evil. Old heroes seeking their ancient enemies, playing games older than humankind! Women and men of great power and wisdom who use her bookstore to meet the other players in their ancient plays!
But no, nothing quite so romantic. Instead she was saddled with an impish spirit-man of some kind who leered at her, though respected her, and had a terrible habit of scaring of customers. He constantly smoked, he drank like a fish, and steadfastly refused to tell her what he was and why he wouldn’t leave. The only reason she continued to tolerate him was his intimidating qualities on those customers who seemed dangerous or far too…fangy on some days and the fact that when she locked up at night he always seemed to sell the most expensive books that she had already finished reading and had no interest in reading again. He may also be teaching her some kind of mystical craft but she hadn’t picked up on exactly why he kept asking her obvious questions yet.
So, for now, she felt confident to sit behind the oaken desk at the front of the store, hide in her fort of books she has yet to read, and quietly do business while trying to make sense of her, for lack of a better term, roommate. He seemed chained to the store and she’s still too intrigued to give up the wonderful, wonderful books for the sake of one irritating and incandescent man.
Hominies are still sung about the greatest of heroes in the canon of the Song of Flour. Every meal is graced with stories of the infamous mercenary company, the Baker’s Dozen, Bulgur Oatslayer, his towering son Bran Oatslayer, and the grueling war that was only won through sheer grit and determination by that intrepid band.
They hail from the Basmati coast, growing up among the fields of rice and barley as well as learning the weft and weave of the waves of the ocean. The Oatslayers are a hardy people, the sons and daughters of the Spelt and Polenta families of the ancient Samp Empire. They were hale and hardy people, broad of shoulder, and rich of skin baked gold in the sun and hair of rich brown colors seemingly iced upon their heads by the gods. The Oatslayers were the greatest of these heroes, the hardiest warriors and the greatest tacticians known to the many peoples of the land of Pan’Trey. The Baker’s Dozen road across the land and righted wrongs, slayed ancient foes and rescued maids and stewards alike with ease, and were generally heroic in ways that heroes tend to be.
It was not until the forces of Gom Ettary and came against the land of Pan’Trey did the Baker’s Dozen find their first foe of true danger. At first they believed Gom to be of tangential danger, not reading the sins of what was to come. He had angled himself to take the various fiefdoms under his iron-fisted rule. It was proof-positive of the danger facing the people. Bulgur, however, was confused and despondent about what to do, constantly trapped within mazes of doubt and uncertainty. It was Bran, stout of heart and courageous of spirit, who stood upon the Plains of Dimen’s Sons and faced Gom alone. There they argued long into the night, warring with each other with words and weapons, wearing the welts and wounds of winding and weighty combat. Near the dawn, though, the battle broke and Gom fell, cosined to his fate by the the limited scope of his awareness. There, after hours upon the field, Bran had proven himself an Oatslayer and had, once again, secured the world in safety from those who sought to rend the people and crumble their nations.
Long ago, hacker wasn’t such an apt term for what security experts did. Now codewalls rose in the Chrome like wooden palisades and raiding parties like Heinrich’s bashed them apart with the digital version of fine-edged swords and axes. Some hackers liked to dress their environment up differently, to be sure, with cannons and walls or perhaps with spies and buildings full of potential targets. Everyone had their own flavors. The analogy of the old Viking raiding party, though, was most apt to the truth. Repeated small incisions in the code-base to expose foundational database flaws in construction matrices. Exploitable flaws in their walls, places where swords and axes find purchase. Places where Heinrich can claw his way into their systems and plunder the precious data that makes up his day to day existence.
Heinrich didn’t look like many of the hackers one could hire at his level of experience. He wasn’t sallow-faced or weak, he kept his head clear of his hair since it started to thin in his mid 20’s. He had a full mustache and beard but both were shot with grey now. He was taller than many, leaner than many, and of healthy build and diet. When he wasn’t Burning, running through the Chrome on a job of some kind, he wrote for a magazine for the underground. Writing about new toys, new scripts, new exploits. He wrote his own music, played a little guitar here and there, was an able storyteller as well. He sometimes got together with his nearest friends in person to do some low-fi tabletop gaming. Sometimes he would buy the latest gadget and go down to Laurissa’s house, an old friend, and have some whiskey while she marveled over the gift. She hadn’t had much of her own money since she Burned Out in the Chrome a few years ago.
The real joy, though, was running through the Chrome. His subroutines filled his nose with the smell of seaswell. His Chrome always had a light blue glow to everything. His tools written like weapons scrawled with runes, his injector an ancient warship with a massive dragon’s head at the tip. He crashed upon the shores of powerful enterprise servers bulging with sysops patterned like English men at arms to his eyes. With fury and ferocity he tore into their walls, he killed their bots and spiders, he clawed his way into the heart of their data stores and escaped with chests of trade secrets and documents about countless corporate policies and procedures. Hidden programs, secret plans. He sold these as fast as possible, to whoever would pay the highest price, because the bastards would pay to what they did to Laurissa. They would wish that they had destroyed his mind instead of hers back then, in the Chrome.
So the stories go that ol Penelope was born to two inquisitive youngsters out west a long time ago and she grew up with the dirt and grass between her toes. She never knew or cared much for the presence of people at the farm, nor when she went into the city with her parents, preferring greatly the companionship of numerous dime novels and penny dreadfuls, learning the ways and means of characters from myth and legend, fact and fancy. She’d dress as them and wander the yard, speaking in all manner of voices and telling all manner of stories to herself about old heroes and villains. She did this well into her adolescence, never having time for boys or parties. Dutifully she’d do her tasks about the farm and help her parents where it was needed, then resume wandering the fields and telling her stories.
As she grew older she found value in these skill she had honed over the years alone. Where her parents had been simple farmers, and eventually her siblings became farmers to replace them, little Penelope started to wander from town to town selling their goods and doing their business but never as Penelope Ackerman. She had a special role for all parts of town, from a rough and tumble gunslinger to an old matriarch of a failing family to a young and boisterous dancing girl. She could wear the perfect mask and be someone else, always standing in the light of other people’s attention but never as herself. God forbid if anyone ever found out who she was, she’d be mortified. She found it easiest to hide herself from others by wearing the face they wanted, wearing the face they expected, and acting like what they wanted her to act like. By hopping from one stage to another with careful precision she was always able to hide her true face from any who might be curious.
While many men, and many women, fell in love with her all she left them with was a smile and her musical laughter. Some say she’s still out there to this day, going from town to town and making things a little brighter for everyone there, but you can never tell for certain. Ol’ Penelope would have to be over a hundred years old now, but if you did meet her you’d never know. She’d sidle up to you, whisper in your ear or tell you a good joke over a beer, watch a show with you, and come to know you without ever telling you about herself. Just like that, she’d be gone like a tumbleweed blown across the desert, always moving and always living somewhere between us and legend.
Elis had watched her every summer after the Doctor came two years past. They had both gone in to see him and he had prepared them for womanhood, with his talk on what would be happening and what to do. He was a kind and gentle man from the University that her town, Hollingsford, helped support through tribute and work. Such is the way of things since the old ways had died and gone away, replaced with the simple wisdom of town elders and the learned wisdom of the Doctors and Thinkers at the many Universities stretched out across what used to be America. Or so she’s told. Her little town, and the other nine that made up their county with the University, were in what used to be Alabama. Or so she’s told. But all that mattered right then, as Elis sat in her coveralls and corn hat, twisting a small twig between her lips with her hands in her pockets, was that girl dancing through the wildflowers near the edge of the barley fields.
The Doctor had told them that since the Old Ways disappeared they had to keep a strict handle on the population, if they didn’t people would starve and suffer who didn’t need to. Things were kept simple and small, everyone equal in what was asked and what was needed. Those who were sharp as tacks were taken by the Doctors and the Thinkers in their white coats to the University and trained to be one of them. They came back time to time to visit with family, tell them about what they’re studying or researching. Every child spends a few years up at the University anyhow, learning letters and numbers. Basic mechanical repair. A bit of philosophy. Quite a bit of law and politic, so that when they come of age they can discuss things with reason and foresight among the elders, so as not to make a scene or to make a fool of themselves. The reasons for the New Ways are explained, and the Lottery is explained. Since not every family can have children, since the population can’t grow too fast, those families that want children enter into the Lottery for the chance to be able. Then the Doctors come out and help the woman become fertile, help the family have a child. Sometimes the few couples that were two men or two women have children as well, and that takes more Doctors and more time, but they enter the Lottery all the same. Some say in the University they even have to enter the Lottery, even the big families of several parents who live and love each other. Everyone has to follow the rules, they say.
Right now, though, Elis only cares about her. That girl who dances in the wildflowers. She wonders what the girl smells like and feels like and tastes like. She wonders if the girl will walk the lake with her, if she’d watch the sun set and the stars rise with her. Elis had never thought these things before. She ran her hand through her hair, stopping at her braid – done up just like her Da’s – and figured it was best to learn how to court the young girl before she got too excitable. With that she rose from the tree she had been lounging on and walked ponderously back toward her little town of farmers and artisans. On her way she started to catalog all of those things that may impress the pretty girl and wondered if Da would loan her his old suit for a night.