Monday, January 3, 2011

Writing as a Process, Maritime Culture

I was recently at the local Goodwill, and while i was there, I found a book. The Traveler's Guide to Fantasyland. It is an alphabetical listing off every overused gimmick and cliche of the fantasy genre, from glowing swords, to mystical elves, to the official management terms for evil minions of the Dark Lord. As I read and laughed through this book, I compared each entry to what I have written so far in my own attempt at the great fantasy novel. For the most part, the comparisons were favorable in my favor. There were a few things that stung, and have prompted me to do so major revisions, now that the creative sap has started rising again. The dream sequences are going to be totally trashed as a series. I will keep one or two, but they will generally be just the kind of nightmares you might have after surviving a massacre, rather than the prophetic sort. I will need to investigate another medium of expressing what i was going to convey there.

A friend and coworker (That would be you, Carla) gave me a few books to read. These showcased life on a set of small islands in the English Channel, complete with mucking about in tiny boats moving from island to island. This dovetailed with the Fantasyland Guide to cliched maritime cultures (all fat, untrustworthy merchants, if not actively involved with the evil powers, then dominated by greed, sloth, and envy). It made me realize how little effort I have put into the standing maritime power of the novel. Lacking rival maritime nations, they are not going to have large military warships, and they arent going to all be overweight merchant aristrocrats.

So, I did some reading on Wikipedia, and a few other resources (a questionable use of vacation time, that) and after wandering off into the Hanseatic league, whaling, the SeaSheperds, and the Potomac history, i came back to my proverbial home. The culture in question, the Glennish, arrived in the area in a flotilla of small ships. They were escapees and refugees from a larger culture that has since collapsed, and vastly retreated, leaving the dark haired, raven loving Glennish behind. They have settled a large coastal area, as well as several hundred scattered small islands. Most of these islands are only a few square miles in size, many even less than that. A few are quite far out in the sea, but are not horribly important.

Industry is a question, since Fantasyland has no discernable economy, other than bales sitting on wharfs. The Glennish have two principle economic activities, fishing and trading. With so many islands and a warm sea, fishing is good. This is a seasonal thing, as the winter brings a different oceanic current, and the shoals of fish leave for warmer waters. This brings the large whales into the islands for wintering and calfing. Now these arent the kind of whales that need conservation, these are large toothed whales that are more than capable of sinking ships and devouring crews. Those who whale are heralded as brave and stupid, but thanked when they bing in a hold of whale meat, no matter how bad it tastes. A person can only eat so much salted cod!

The trade aspect comes from their large number of small and medium sized ships. They ply up and down rivers, buying low and selling high. This is usually food goods close to their islands, potatoes and cattle, and that sort of thing. But over longer distances, spices, wine, oils, and other goods are more dominant, along with long preserved salt cod and other long duration food goods. Salted cod is a rare delicacy when the ocean is weeks away on foot, but everyone is no longer impressed by the dry aged beef. What, steak again?

This has built their nascent empire. The ships are getting larger to go farther and carry larger loads, and local trade is taking a back seat to long distance trade. The dreams of empire are growing, who else has the power or skill to master the oceans, and they have profitted greatly from selling everything from slaves to ogre rum, and everything in between.

Like New England, or the Chesapeake, the ocean and sealife provide for the Glennish. Cooked fish is commonplace in the market, ships and netmakers are common as fleas in a doglot. The trade ships are large, enclosed with square rigging, and some carry a few marines to fight the uncommon pirate ship. Sometimes these ships, in lean times, make take a touch of piracy of their own.

Another aspect, during the previous war, I repeatedly go back to the devastation caused not just by the war, but by the famine, disease, and banditry that followed after the end of conflict. The Glennish won the war, but not without their own suffering, which is all to easy for even the writer to overlook (they are technically the bad guys). While they were not touched by disease and famine as much (they had long been exposed to many of these foreign people before and the sea doesnt need to be planted and harvested) they were deeply afflicted by piracy. Many evacuees had poor island refuges from the war. To keep up what they needed, they had to turn to raiding each other, and the merchant ships bringing goods and supplies to the beleaguered city. This caused quite a few skirmishes on the water, and telling pirate from fisherman was often just a matter of opportunity.

Now, the Glennish are resurgent. Their fleets are active again, and a generation has passed since the war. The place feels vibrant and strong even with the lingering ghosts of death and war. Trade is up, and the ships can carry soldiers to foreign shores, and each battle claims a new city for the Glennish, a new port for their ships, a new stronghold for their dream of empire. It will not be long before their muscle is flexed, and their eyes turn from the disinterested islands and coast, but to the rich interior of the continent. All of the great empires of the past have been terrestrial, and soon the men of the sea will follow that lead.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Arcology, part 1

The Arcology is a somewhat uncommon trope of science fiction, a massive building that encloses an entire community. These tend to be dystopian affairs with despot police controls and flickering lights and that whole decay is inevitable theme. I investigated deeper into the lore of the arcology.

Arcology is a portmanteau of Architecture and Ecology. The basic concept is very green, and came about back in the 50s by a man named Paolo Soleri. Urban sprawl consumes a massive amount of space, and requires an expensive and extensive infrastructure to support. The arcology is a communal building that while it is a massive building, it sits on a much smaller footprint than a comparative amount of sprawl. Ideally the structure recycles its water, and uses alternative power such as solar and wind power. It is almost entirely self sufficient. This is in theory, in practice there come two major problems. The ability to provide electricity and food are current major limitations of the arcology concept.

There is a Green Tower, an arcology devoted entirely to vertical farming. This solves the food production problem, but it creates a problem. The Green Tower is even less efficient in power use, as water for irrigation is heavy, and the recycling system seems to need to be larger and more robust.

The Future?
Speculative fiction provides answers for the power problem. On the 'Five minutes in the Future' scenario, the arcology can be built above a nuclear reactor. Of course, then follows the knee-jerk of "What if it explodes?" and "Mutants?" What most people know about nuclear power is based on television and movies (the writers of which all suffer from NucleoPhobia). Nuclear reactors are safer than most people think (they dont randomly explode, nor is it as difficult to shut one down as depicted in the movies). Bank vaults survived the nuclear blasts in Japan, a structure designed to house a nuke plant would be able to survive a similar explosion (which wouldn't happen because a nuclear reactor has as much in common with a nuclear bomb as a car has with a regular bomb). On a side note, Chernobyl (18 out of 20 locals don't know what Chernobyl was) was a steam explosion at a reactor site that was still under construction.

Then there are the more fanciful realms of fusion reactors, plasma reactors, and all sorts of other ultra high tech devices. These devices in fiction tend to have the exact same problems as nuclear reactors, they like the explode in massive explosions of explodium. The end effect is the same, ample amounts of power sitting on top of a potential bomb.

Once the power problem is solved, fixing the food problem is easy. As urban sprawl and suburbia is hollowed out made obsolete by the arcology, more and more land now occupied by strip malls and warehousing yards, and manufacturing centers and mega-churches is left vacant. This vacant land is now available for agriculture. Marginal agricultural land is no longer required for food production, and more land is able to go back to nature, or be used for something else.

Tone and Theme
There are generally two prevailing themes that occur with arcologies (domed cities, space habitats, and any other large communal structures) brilliant shiny utopia or a demoralized police state. While these are certainly viable, they only constitute two extreme examples. It is rather like saying that there are only two kinds of cities, crime ridden Gothams and quaintly rural Smallvilles.

Hope and Chrome
The future is shiny, and the arcologies stand like great monuments of Yes We Can! Insert flying cars and future retro silver lamé dresses and Gene Roddenberry miniskirts. These scenarios tend to ignore the more nitty gritty aspects of logistics, maintenance, and economics.

Flickering Lights and Cockroaches
The corridors are littered with debris, the lights flicker, and if the police do show up, they are coming to kick your ass, not to register a complaint. Insert arco-gangs, black marketeering, and bad techno soundtracks. This opposite scenario is the universal No We Cant!

Shades of Gray
The future and the arcology are not going to be perfect, but considering the time and resources that go into their construction and maintenance, they are not likely to fall into social decay. Most of the arcologies are going to be more middle of the road, some are nicer than others, others are more successful that these, and so on. Some will have reputations, much like Vegas or LA, or any other major city that has a defined character.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Zombie Strain

The Zombie Strain, as the infection was most commonly known, was actually identified as PrP-1174, a prion.
The first instance of the Zombie Strain, henceforth refered to as PrP-1174 is in December 2011 at the Koch Research Center. The Center operated as a research and development lab for the BioPharma Conglomeration. Most readers will remember BPC as the cause of the near extinction of humanity, but as this document strives to maintain a continuous record, no assumptions will be made. BPC operated the Koch RC as its primary facility for studying viral infections, with the study of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease being a focal point. Multiple sources have cited that PrP-1174 was a bioterror weapon, or a mutation of CJD. Both are incorrect. The cause of PrP-1174 was at heart, a pure accident.

Signs and Symptoms
Stage 1
  • No Symptoms
Stage 2
  • Confusion
  • Dementia
  • Drastic changes in apetite
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Severe headache
Stage 3
  • Fever
  • Delerium
  • Homicidal behavior
  • Stress Atavism
  • Uncontrolled Anger
  • Uncontrolled Hunger
  • Uncontrolled Sexual Urges
The point of initial infection is still unknown, but by studying the concentration of outbreaks of 'Zombie fever' surrounding the Koch RC, it can be determined as said location. The prion has been found to be transmissiable through contact with bodily fluids, the main vectors being blood born and sexually contracted. The incubation period for PrP-1174 is variable. The fastest recorded onset was 45 days, the longest 2 years. An average balances out at the 16 month marker.

Stage one progression is the longest, meaning most victims of PrP-1174 do not know they are infected for most of the illness. During this period, they are carriers of the disease and can pass it to loved ones and children. Following the path of infection, this happened, and the disease moved into the food supply as well as into the public health system. The robust prion survived in tainted blood supplies, undercooked meat, was passed to medical personel attending vehicle accidents, and was passed sexually throughout the world.

Stage two progression has a general duration of two weeks. The victim will slowly become confused, and will generally believe they are suffering from migraines. It was found that during this time, the immune system would be compromised, and stage two usually coincided with another disease. There is some speculation that stage two is actually triggered by a secondary infection, but there is not enough laboratory evidence to support this theory at this time. While the PrP-1174 disease was in its first wave, most spectators considered the victims of the disease to be suffering from 'Crazy Flu' or 'Brain Colds'. Most did not know that if they had not already been infected for months themselves, they had very recently been exposed.

Stage three is the most violent and disturbing disease ever recorded. The victims of the disease become zombie like. Victims demonstrated a near complete loss of pain sensation, their behavior became very erratic and violent. Most victims became incapable of speaking, reading, or responding thoughfully to any sort of stimulus. Lacking stimulus, the victims would wander about with no apparent direction. Provided stimulus, they would investigate. Items of strong personal value would hold their attention, such as photos of children, favorite toys, or favorite music. The presence of a living creature provoked varigated responces. Most animals were either ignored, or were attacked and attempted to be consumed. The presence of a human not in stage two or higher provoked a much more disturbing responce. Victims of the opposite sex would be attacked and violently molested, and then mauled and eaten.

PrP-1174 and the Brain
PrP-1174 builds up in nerve tissue, with the brain being the obvious focal point. There are few tests that can easily detect PrP-1174 that do not involve taking a slice out of the victim's brain. Blood and saliva tests are still being developed. Once a trigger is received, the prion goes into high gear. Previously, the prion would be replicating itself at a slow rate, saturating the nerves, brain, and spinal cord. Now, the prion starts causing auto-immune responces and creating spongiform encephalopathy. The brain tissue is disrupted, creating holes in the cerebrum. Victims of advanced PrP-1174 have vacuoles large enough to be seen with the naked eye.
The concentration of vacuoles in certain parts of the brain cause aversion to light, as well as eroding the psyche, memory, and ethical and moral behaviours. The end result is a living organism that is in extreme disorder, it has a constant urge to eat no matter how much it has consumed, as a biological urge to reproduce, no matter the consequences.

This behaviour and the lack of understanding of PrP-1174 is believed to have been one of the reasons that the disease spread as fast as it did and was as devastating as it was.

Secondary Infection
We had all seen the various zombie movies growing up, once bitten, in a matter of minutes or hours you would be one of the shamblers. We barricaded, we defended ourselves, but we were shocked when people bitten by the infected instead of turning into shamblers... got better. There were a lot of people who after being bitten, or seeing someone bitten ended it with a bullet. It was pushed very quickly that there was no need to shoot someone bitten, or to shoot yourself if bitten.

They were wrong, damn them, they were wrong. The first wave was over, most of the eggheads who made it were dead, or were wandering around downtown trying to fuck or eat anything that moved. SWAT and the national guard was cleaning them out. We were happy, the shit was over. Then, people who were bit started turning sick as shit. They didn't linger through the crazy flu, they were normal one night, had a headache or a migraine, or felt horny and hungry. The next morning they would be sitting on you eating your nose.

So many people had scattered after the first wave. The government tried to keep track of them, but there were too many. The second wave hit countries all over the world. Everything really started falling apart then. I don't remember how many waves they said there were. I remember listening to a Free Radio Broadcast coming out of NYC talking about the 8th Wave of infection. Those guys were brave, stupid as a sack of hammers, but brave.

The Night the Lights Went Out
Records indicate that March 1st 2013 was the last day of the world as it was known. This corresponds with a major earthquake in California that disrupted power grids and effectively shut down the internet. Satellites were still and remain functional, but groundside servers were dead, and there were not enough technicians left to get the power back on. The power grid across North America failed, plunging that continent into a night of Zombies.

By this point in time, with the European nations battling their own waves of infection and America effectively out of action, there was nothing to slow the spread of PrP-1174 across South America, Africa, and the East. South America and Africa were especially devastated. South American population densities and climate allowed for rapid spread of the disease, and a shortened incubation period. In Africa the only thing that spread faster than the Zombie Strain was the belief that killing a 'zombie' and eating their brain would render the eater immune to the disease. This horrific practice would later spread across the middle east and into Asia. China was among the last nations to fall to the ravages of the disease, but not before killing a large percentage of its population in preventative purges and quarantine camps.

The Tortoise and the Hare
We expected the Zombie disease to be fast, but if it had been as fast as in the movies it would have been containable. Cities could have been quarantined, hell dropping nukes would have solved the problem. There is no cure for the Zombie Strain. You get it, you are going to be dead 2 years tops.
Instead it was slow. Half of the victims had it a year before they knew anything. By then, they had given it to their spouses, their children, their coworkers... Then, Secondary infections hit, and the old humanity died. Lazy, fat, self-indulgent, over-stimulated, it died. 

The factories that make processed food are still there, and the nuke plants and the tanks, and the bombers and the missiles, its all still there. But the technicians and the pilots and the maintenance workers, the people who know how to run them are gone. If you want food, you hunt for it, or you grow it. If you have a skill, you are important. I remember in the years after the end, there were people with MBAs, important people in the old world who almost starved because they couldnt do anything that didnt involve a calculator or a cellphone. 

If you can turn a wrench, or know how to run a farm, or make clothing, you're set.

Life after Zombies
PrP-1174 isnt gone, and there are still zombies out there. It only takes one person to bring the infection in and take out an entire enclave or community. But that isnt the problem now. People aren't having kids. Some don't want to bring children into a world that is lit by candles and electric windmills. Most are afraid. Some are afraid that everyone else is infected and a few minutes of lust and they will be infected too. Some think they are infected, and dont want to spread the disease. The hypochondriacs are the most problematic. Every headache, every moment of confusion, every moment of arousal could be the Zombie Strain rearing its head.

The worst part, sometimes it is.

The Great Demon of the Ocean

It is unwise to speak the name of the Great Demon of the Ocean if you are close enough to the sea to smell the salt in the air. It is inviting disaster to speak it’s name when you are on the ocean itself.
The So-Called Great Demon of the Ocean
There are a great number of evils in this spiritually alive world. Many of these are called demons, devils, imps, and a variety of other monikers. The oceans, with their vast size and unknowable depths have traditionally a greater number of negative beings attached to them. These lesser demons are often known by their geographical domain, such as the Seven jawed demon of the Sargasso, or by their regular appearance such as Lharfu the wave-rider. These demons, regardless of their influence, power, or deeds are all relegated to an ancillary status to one specific demon; Ma-O. Some scholars and seasalts would scold me like a child for writing the name of the Great Demon of the Ocean, many going so far as to make warding gestures against their bodies. I find this level of superstition to be fascinating as the demon Ma-O rarely makes appearances more than once every 1000 or so years, and has no organized worship outside of a few widespread and disjoined death cults.
Joachim, Scholar-Upon-Return
Excerpt from the diaries of Siobhan, sailor of the Kestral-Angel
Spring 45, Year of our Blessing 3210…The Kestral-Angel has made good time, which is a boon. Our supplies of everything are thin to threadbare. The winds have tossed us six directions to the pole star and the navigator says he doesn’t know where we are. Weather-eye says there will be bad storms for the week ahead, but the winged scouts have found an island, shelter. Maybe a chance to forage some provisions

Spring 47, Year of our Blessing 3210…The island is a boon, as the storms are violent beyond the ken of even a seasoned sailor as the captain. We are battered even in the harbor. The seas are filled with rage, and with a spyglass we can sight things beyond the barrier island. Tentacles writhe in the water, each looking a cable-length long, and as big round as a bull. It should give me enough fright alone to have seen such a creature. The bosun called it Kraken, and said while rare, such giants were kings of the sea as sure as his Eminence is king of the land. I said it should, but in the storm I saw something more, something I cannot explain and cannot yet put to paper.

Spring 53, Year of our Blessing 3210…I am plagued by nightmares. The storms have abated and upon the shore was washed the corpse of the Kraken. It’s body, as long as our ship three times over was rent and broken like a child’s plaything. In my sleep I see the form of it’s destroyer. Six pillars rising from the ocean, shrouded in mist and rain. They rise too high for me to see their tops, but I know what is there, each is capped with a head, loathsome and evil. It looked at me, it sighted me through the rain and the squall and looked through the spyglass and into my own eye. I am glad is was raining as none of the other crew were wise to the fact that my bladder was released such was my fright. Until my final day, I will recall those cold eyes burning into my soul, shining with an undescribable color.
Siobhan, along with five other sailors all committed suicide before the badly damaged and severely battered Kestral-Angel returned to a safe port.

The Dark Lord of the Ocean
Here are recorded the words of Irna, Sea-Witch and devoted of the Great Demon of the Ocean
The oceans are deep, filled with cold and darkness. This is not a place for the gods of men, not the golden haired ever-youthful god of the harvest or the whore goddesses of sex and lust. The oceans are among the most ancient of places, the domain of the elder gods. Some people, intent upon their divine superiority, call the elder gods demons and devils. What is good and what is evil to a being who predates life and death, the sun, moon, and stars? Ma-O, blessed is his name is the Dark Lord and God of the Oceans. The black depths are his home, the storms and the sharks are his minions. He cares not for the whey-like faith of men. He cares nothing for churches or congregations muttering prayers and begging while offering a pittance for his favor. His is an old god.

Call me a fool if you wish, I do worship Ma-O, blessed is his name and countenance. I do not bow my head, I scream his name into the face of his storms, I dance naked in the surf while it threatens to pull out to a watery death of dash me against the stones for a bloody end. I have slit the throats of lovers and dumped them into the water, I have drowned my own young, holding them in the brine until their eyes became glassy and their bodies limp in the surf. I offered the Dark One my own life, casting myself into the deepest water I could find. I drowned. Oddly enough I did not awake in your pretty idea of personal hell, I awoke on the beach, alive. I could feel his power within me. It was like laying with a man and finding him endowed as a horse. Ma-O’s might filled me so that I was fearful that my body would burst, pain made me cry out and weep. But I live and I serve my God of the Deep, the one you so foolishly call a demon.

Primordials and Gods
Ma-O, the Great Demon of the Ocean is a Primordial God, one of the elder and alien beings that was largely responsible for the creation of the world. These elder gods are vastly removed from the realm of humanity and care nothing for the trials of mortals. Most of the Primordial beings have fallen into two major camps, those who have transcended and those who have been slain. The transcendant elder gods have given up their old mantles and have become alien gods of unknown power. They are also so far away from the level of humanity that they have no sway over man. Those elder gods who have been slain in truth are the demons and devils whose essence is trapped in the negative realms called commonly Hell. In fact, it is the death of a being that predates the concept of Death that created these hellish realms. Each greater Hell realm is the fortress-mausoleum-prison of a slain primordial. Ma-O and a few others remain menaces to the world as they have neither given up their ancient dominions, nor have they been overcome and slain or imprisoned by man, god, or elder being.

The Great Demon of the Ocean Reborn
Ma-O is the strongest and most powerful demon of the oceans. Thankfully for mankind, his interests and conflicts are not often with the land, but with the other greater denizens of the oceans, including other demons, powerful anima-gods, and most commonly, elemental lords. Ma-O’s greatest rivalries are with the Elemental God-Kings of Magma and fire whose fortresses are underwater volcanoes and boiling abysses. Second to these are the tectonic Emperor-elementals that hold up the continents and the islands. Ma-O would most like to see the world swallowed up by the oceans, so that dry land and flame alike were both quenched.

Servants and Slaves
Ma-O is served by a great many beings of the deep ocean. His most ardent minions are Shark-Demons and infernally minded Kraken and leviathans. While Ma-O doesn’t have a unified following, he does have several dozen small cults that worship him. These are the frightening types of cults as most are almost completely secret. They are also disturbing in the acts of evil that they will commit to honor their patron. The clerics of Ma-O are rare in the extreme, but those few that are, are always female and often insanely potent. These Sea-Witches can command storms, summon sea serpents, cause the dead to rise from the waves, and in one case, raise entire ships with undead crews from the oceans. A sea-witch can with a mark of ash, blood, and salt, make someone a slave to Ma-O, forced to do the bidding of the elder god or his servant the sea-witch.
Northron Sea, 7 degrees north of Vapori Island, heading N-NW.
The Kimi is heading out into the Northron, out into the gray wastes north northwest of Vapori island. Even the locals don’t travel this far out hunting for the whales. The wind is stiff and cold, and some of the ropes have snapped for ice and wind. But the sun is shining, and we are not alone. For a time, a school of dolphins rode out bow wave, dancing in the water. Some of the men fancied harpooning one for dinner but the captain, bless his boots, convinced them otherwise. The dolphins stayed with us for two days. There was a spot of storming, and it calmed. We found something wondrous then.

Dearest, there are unicorns that swim in the seas. They look akin to dolphins but they are larger, and from their head they have a spiraling horn almost a fathom long. We laughed and hooted at the creatures and in turn they whistled at us and sent up plumes of mist from their blowholes. All the while we never saw sight of a decent whale to take with the spears and the longboat. For lack of harpooning, we dropped the nets and trawled the cold waters. By the time we returned to Narva, the Kimi’s holds were stuffed with sea cod the size of a man.
A Light in the Dark
Not all is darkness and doom, there are forces that have for ages balanced the might of Ma-O. Otherwise, the Great Demon of the Ocean would have long ago brought the ruin of the land and quenching of all flames. The Anima-Gods of the Whales and the Wise creatures of the sea have always stood against Ma-O and his deep and cold blooded ways. The chief and foremost of his opponents is Ithy-Ra, the Sun Dolphin and the Laughing Wave. This patron of islanders, joy and fertility is a great foe of Ma-O and his main warriors, the shark-spirits.

Second, but not certainly any less potent is Rorqual the Ice Singer, Sheppard of the Ice Floes and Cold Seas. As the unicorn of the seas, the narwhal whale ventures deep into the war to destroy the unnamed beasts and horrors that come creeping up from the depths; strange sightless fish, monstrosities that are all jaws and little body and things stranger.

The largest and most potent of the Anima-Whales is the ancient Physeter, the cachalot whale. Greater in size than all but the most grand and massive of ships, this whale god is the slayer of Krakens, and his appearance is enough to send a shoal of shark-kin warriors fleeing for their cold and empty lives.
Recollections of a Sea-Priestess, Marylenna of Cote Tora
I remember one day, when I was still very young to the spirits of the sea, and while I swam with a dolphin, I asked of it, Is not man the most wicked of creatures? I was very proud of my gifts, and scornful of the other folk who lived off of the sea but did not share my reverence for it. Dolphin spoke to me, telling me I was foolish and did not know wickedness, for even men have the potential to be good, and most have goodness in their hearts even if their eyes are closed and the deeds of the hands ignorant. So I asked again, the shark, he must be the most wicked of creatures for all he does is kill and swim in blood and eat. Again Dolphin laughed and called me foolish. Shark is as shark is. And shark is a cunning hunter, and most sharks only take the weak and the old, the sick and injured, keeping the others strong and healthy. This is the way of the ocean. Just as man, there are wicked sharks who do kill not for food, but to just swim in the blood and for the lust of murder and death

Dolphin showed me what the face of wickedness was. In my mind’s eye I saw a silent storm, it’s force greater than the cyclones that come out of the tropical seas. In the center there was a beast, it was made of roaring water and hatred, a dozen necks rising from the water. Each was huge and I felt faint with fright. Some of the necks would fatten, and split in half obscenely to create two entirely new necks. Wicked and evil heads sat atop the roaring waterspouts, each jaw opening, howling obscenities into the heavens. I was afraid even as one head turned and bit off another and absorbed it’s shrinking pillar of a neck into itself. Rage, hatred, all boiling at a frantic pace. And it radiated malice and anger, and hatred and feeling for which humans cannot experience and thus cannot name.

Dolphin took me to the shore then. I wept, knowing that such a thing could exist in a world of bright corals and happy fish. Even shark seemed kindly in the face of such a thing. It was nearly a week before I entered the water again, and it was not without a taint of fear.
Roleplaying Notes
Ma-O is the great demon of the ocean, an idea that Cheka took and made into a submission about three years ago. Seeing the Oceanic quest, I felt inspired to write up Ma-O as I envisioned the great demon of the ocean. As the great demon of the ocean (really all oceans) Ma-O is the fear of the unknown depths and all the horrors from the harmless angler fish which looks gruesome and horrific to the below freezing waters that can kill with only a few minutes exposure. Most of all, Ma-O is the hatred of the storms that come on the ocean, unimpeded by natural terrain like mountains or forests.

Most sane games will never see a group of NPCs facing Ma-O in battle. I envisioned Ma-O almost as irresistible as the elements themselves or the changing of the seasons. Most of the time, the Great Demon of the Ocean rarely notices the goings on of human nations let alone a few upstart heroes. But what would be more heroic that facing a nigh invincible demon-god from flooding and destroying a nation, hunting down and slaying a cell of Drowned Cultists, or finding relics of the past and hints that Ma-O comes like a Biblical plague and it is up to the PCs to figure out what or who has drawn the seething hatred of the demon god of water.


I shouldn't be wasting your time with such simple tales, every mouse worth his whiskers knows about Cinderpaws and how she stole the first ember from the Holy Mountain of Fireheart. I should tell you a better story, one of the Cracker Thief, or Featherfoot, the mouse who flew...  No? You want to hear about Cinderpaws? Very well then...
In the Kingdom of Mice

Cinderpaws is a tale/NPC that draws from the material presented in the Shrew-Haters, namely the Kingdom of Mus. I hope that you will enjoy this character and tale as much as I will enjoy writing it. Thank you.

Cinderpaws was not like the other mice of her warren. Now don't go asking me what warren she came from. If you ask enough, there is someone to claim that she came from almost any of the warrens, some that hadn't even been dug out during her time. But it is agreed among those of long grey whiskers that she came from one of the highland warrens, not too far from the Gates of the World Above. 

In those days, there was not yet a Mus, and the Pax Rodentia had not yet been created. In those days, the warrens stood alone, and their members hunted far and wide, and often warred with other warrens, as well as with the dens of rats and the green skinned Frog Lords who dwell in the sea beyond the Gates of the World above. Cinderpaws lived in one of these warrens, some claim one dug deep into the roots of the great tower Oak. From there, the hunting and gathering parties would dare to venture into the land of the gods. 

Yes, Cinderpaws was such a hunter, traveling beyond the gates and risking her life and tail for what treasures could be found there. The gods are fickle, they dole out their gifts to us, but their great stores are protected by their servants, the cats. So long ago did this happen that not even the nigh immortal Cat Lords remember it during their lifetimes.

Yes, I do apologize, I am wandering about instead of telling the story. It is something that happens once your youth leaves you and the white starts creeping from your nose towards your tail. Remember that, when your fur starts to loose it's color.

Cinderpaws ventured many times into the land of the Gods, where the gods dwell in great square moutains. She would seek out the dark places where fire was tamed by the gods and bent to their wills. She would return, her coat would be thick with ash and her paws grimy with soot. Yet she always returned with empty paws. Some called upon her to no longer waste her time in the land of the Gods if she could bring back no treasures. There were better things for a find looking lady to be doing if she could do no better. She did not listen to their cold advice, but continued to seek out holy fire.
It was near her middle days when she made the arduous trek north, to the Holy Mountain of Fireheart, the dwelling place of imperishable flame. She dared challenge the domain of the elder guardian of Fireheart, the now passed into darkness Cat Lord Claws of Iron. She evaded his emerald gaze, and passed his sentry and through great daring and great luck found the hidden passage into Fireheart.

There she found a small commune of mice. These mice were unlike us, for they had dwelled only in the presence of the Gods and knew not of war with rats and frog-lords. They knew to hide from the god's servants and seek not audience with the great and mighty gods. The gods are fickle and to them we are low. The wise mystics taught Cinderpaws about Fireheart and the hidden paths in and out of the Holy Mountain. In exchange, she taught them of the warrens below the Gates of the World Above.

The Holy Mountain of Fireheart
Fireheart is the forge of a blacksmith. Rather than letting the fire go out completely, a small flame is kept burning in the forge. The mystics have lived for generations in the blacksmithy and have spent their lives not hunting and fighting, but enjoying warmth year round and constant supplies of food dropped from tables and unattended meals.

The mystics told Cinderpaws where to find a suitable vessel, a dimpled silver chalice, to carry a piece of imperishable flame back to her kindred. Cinderpaws faced no small task. She left Fireheart and followed the Winding Road to perhaps the most dangerous of the Gods. This god, for we are to humble to name a being who we cannot see beyond the mountains of their feet, is the patron of the Cat Lords, and provides them with the white ambrosia and their vast dens in the Land of the Gods. No fewer than six great Furred Lords called this God their own and dwelled within the mountain of the God.
She crept past their guard, her scent hidden by ash and soot. She slunk into the lair of Mallorg Scourge of the Winds and Destroyer of Dragons and whispered into his sleeping ear. The ancient and mighty Cat Lord was roused by her words, thinking them his own thoughts. Mallorg did leave in a great lust and set upon the other Cat Lords for their imagined transgressions. 

While the Cat Lords did battle among themselves, Cinderpaws found the treasure trove of the God of the Cat Lords, and found long spears of metal, some straight and others wickedly curved like talons. She found strange holy discs of wood and bone, each with holes passed through it. She laid these treasures behind, each enough to make her worthy in the eyes of her warren mates. But she did not challenge the divine for the approval of her peers. She had a passion and a dream. She dug until she found the Silver Chalice. 

Cinderpaws fled as if the God of the Cats were fast on her tail, which is precisely who was chasing her. She ran as fast as she could, never releasing the Chalice even as the God smote her with a storm of hard branches, and swept her off out of the Mountain of the God. She escaped, bruised and winded, and scared beyond her wits, but never did she forget her prize.

The Holy Mountain of the God of the Cat-Lords
The God of the Cat-Lords is the resident old Crazy Cat woman. She has many cats, some of questionable health. She makes ends meet by doing a good deal of sewing and needlework. Her knick-knack basket is full of sewing needles, buttons, and Cinderpaws prize, a thimble.

Cinderpaws returned to Fireheart, but so long was she gone that the mystics had given her up for dead. It was their great surprise that she not only returned alive, but that she also returned with the Silver Chalice. The mystics took the vessel and filled it partly with sand so that the flame would not consume the vessel with it's divine power. Then, the eldest of the mystics, Ashmantle took the vessel to the very heart of Fireheart, and with blind eyes directed Cinderpaws on how to gather the flame into the vessel. She was filled with fear, and terrible pain as she gathered the holy flame into the vessel.

The mystics soothed her injuries and it was then that she was truly named Cinderpaws, for she carried flames that had almost turned her shapely paws to blackened cinders. Ashmantle blessed her, marking her cheek with a black pawmark. She was then blessed by the other mystics before setting out for home.

What must be remembered is that even the Gods fear the power of fire, and take great care even when they have tamed it. Fire can never be mastered, it can only be charmed, entertained, tamed. Never mastered. Cinderpaws was face to face with this power, and even looking into the Silver Chalice was dangerous. She did look, and she lost half of her whiskers in the looking. She bore the vessel onward. It is told that during her travel back to the Warren under the Oak the Imperishable Flame spoke secrets unto her, secrets of wrath and destruction, but also secrets of making things and metal and prosperity.

The Elders of the Warren under the Oak were amazed, for they had long decided that Cinderpaws was dead, some claimed she was taken by Night's Deadly Wing, others said she was food in the belly of a Grass Dragon, or the sorry battered plaything and snack for the Cat Lords. She knelt before the Elders and poured out the Silver Chalice. The Imperishable Flame danced and the Elders in turn bowed to Cinderpaws, for she had done what was considered impossible, she had tamed fire and stolen it from the very domain of the gods.

The fire that warms the hearts of our Warrens, from the Valkervold to Galifas, and all of the Thistlebarren Warrens and even the Sepulchre of Soaring Bones spring from that first flame stolen in the Silver Chalice.

Remember when someone tells you that you cannot, that you are not enough for the task at hand, remember that Cinderpaws was also considered a failure until she made our greatest discovery. Now, run along to bed, it's getting late.

The New Earth Power Blocs

This is some preliminary material for a moderately futuristic setting that draws on Battletech, Gundam SEED, and assorted military fiction.

The Atlantic Federation
The Atlantic Federation is largely considered the largest and most potent of the 3 world power blocs. The Federation formed from the former United States of America, Canada, several Caribbean island nations, as well as Iceland, Greenland, and nominal membership of Great Britain, France, and Germany. The core technology of the Federation is the Arc Reactor, a sustained nuclear fusion engine. While the rest of the world shuddered through the death of the Petroleum Age, the Federation flourished with the advent of the Arc Reactor. Cities were increasingly powered by Colossus type reactors, while smaller vehicles were powered by batteries, or by increasingly smaller arc reactors. This gave the Federation a huge lead while the other power blocs were forming. The Federation also has built a large number of space stations and habitats removed from the nitty gritty of life on the mudball Earth. Materials and shuttles are launched not by rockets, but by high speed, and transit class mass drivers.

The Federation is not a sole power, going it alone. While the three blocs formed, they did not claim every nation or corner of the earth. Several smaller multi-national powers joined up. Some did this out of pragmatism, while others did so out of fear of being devoured by one of the three powers. The Atlantic Federation has since forged alliances with some of these powers. Its strongest allies include the Kingdom of Scandinavia, the South African Commonwealth, and the super-nation of Amazonia, which composes the northern half of South America (Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, and a few other small nations on the coast)

The Federation has three main enemies, the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Zodiac Alliance of Space Nationalities, and internal pro-nationalist anarchists and terrorists. The ACPS is the Federation's principle rival in the international stage, rivaling it for resources, technology, and military power. The Zodiac Alliance is formed from a dozen habitats and space stations, each discarding their original names in favor of a Zodiac based nomenclature. Gagarin Habitat became the Leo Habitat, and the Aegis Interstellar Factory Station became Scorpio and so on and so forth. The Alliance is weak in terms of military power and population, but it has advanced tech, and has the ultimate high ground. Enemies of the alliance generally cannot depend on their satellites surviving long periods of time. Currently the Federation is at tenuous peace with the above groups. The last group is an amalgam of splinter sects, fundamentalist groups, and nationalists who opposed their nations becoming members of the Atlantic Federation. The strongest points of resistance are in the former nations of America, Ireland, and France, despite the latter's lack of full member status.

The Federation Military
The Federation Military was the first to deploy the battlemech. Powered by an Arc reactor, wrapped in armor tougher than a tank and sporting more firepower, the mech was a fundamental shift in combat philosophy. Old opponents of the mech stated such a machine would be ponderous, mechanically unfeasible, and easy to kill in a battlefield. The first generation of mecha did largely fit this description, but had a large psychological advantage in battle. The second generation of mecha were greatly improved in performance, and improved electronics warfare systems quickly brought the mech up to par for combat.   

More to come, time for work

The First Blog

So it would seem that I am behind the ball on this blogging idea. After some prodding by a fellow writer, I have set up this blog. I feel so 90s!

The basic idea is to share the ideas that bubble up from the back of my mind in a public forum, rather than just annoy a few of my friends with them.

For the next few days, I will be getting used to the way this thing works. Once that is figured out, Mwahahaha, the madness will begin