Author Archives: Dennis

Master Angler Closing Ceremony Speech

The speech of Queen Isabella at the start of the closing ceremony of the Royal Master Angler Competition on Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262:

Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather, Prince Amrand, passed away. All who knew him, knew that he was an avid fishermen. He founded the Kingsport Angler’s Association, a club of fishing enthusiasts from all walks of life. From the most exalted of nobility, to the lowliest commoner; all found a kinship in their love for fishing, and all held proficiency in angling to be the highest achievable goal.

The Kingsport Angler’s Association ceased to be after my grandfather passed away. One year later, my grandmother, Queen Marrianne, decided there was no better way to honour my grandfather than to hold this competition in his memory. The angler’s association was reborn, and I am proud to say that after all these years, it is still going strong, and still sees fierce competition.

This year started off with thirty-one teams, each vying for the title of master angler, and the prizes for the best catches. The goal was to catch and present the heaviest of the lightning eel, from the rivers in Eastmarsh, the Ghost Fin Albacore, found along the treacherous Darkshore of Southernhay, and the hardy Rockplate Catfish, only found in the icy streams of Ard Thoradun. Whoever can present them and have the highest combined weight, will win this year’s title!

The catches will be judged by the master of the angler’s association. Present your catches, and may the gods look upon your teams in favour.

A Sudden Change in Direction

Previously, Quentin had visited the shop of Célestes Deschamps, a supposedly well connected wine importer from Beauclair in order to find out more information on the motives behind the delegation being sent from Sanségal, only to find that the true power broker was Célestes assistant, a halfling named Pip. She managed to share the tale of legendary progenitor of house Morvrayne and how it relates to Quentin’s betrothal to Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter, something Quentin had no recollection of at all.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in high sanction, Night of Cerulean Eyes)

Silence fell across the wine shop after Quentin angrily claimed Highlord Gaulthier had no daughter. Pip looked towards Emrys, waiting to see how this would play out, and Célestes played with her wine glass coyly but seemed to miss what was going on. Emrys recalled the encounter the heroes had with the Sisters of the Grove back in Blackbough, and the tributes that everyone had made. He had a hard time convincing Quentin that only his tribute had been accepted and that in giving up the handkerchief he had been wearing around his wrist, he had inadvertently also given up his memory of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter, his betrothed, Gwenaëlle.

Growing ever more frustrated, even when demanding to know the name of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter he can’t hear her name, and for a moment he believes that Emrys and Pip are playing a cruel joke on him. He was reprimanded by Pip for raising his voice in anger and frustration and told that he forgot that he was a guest in her establishment. Quentin reminded her, in turn, that she forgot that she was addressing a member of the peerage of Le Royaume de Beauclair, at which point she disinvited him, warning him not to make deals with “relicts from the past.”

Quentin left, fuming. Emrys followed, but as he cast a glance through the window of the wine shop, he saw that Pip was frantically putting ink to paper, drawing up a letter or recording the details of what had just happened. Quentin vented his frustration to Emrys about Pip’s unwillingness to say the name of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter. Emrys tried to explain that she did, and that there was a nefarious magic that was preventing Quentin from hearing the name altogether. Emrys also voiced his concern that Gwenaëlle might be part of the delegation making its way to Kingsport.

Meanwhile, Neamhan had accepted Lauryn’s invitation to liven up the balcony of the church room at the Careless Wanderer. She went all over the city, transfigured in the shape of a magpie, trying to find flowers that she could use. Eventually she stole some flowers from a windowsill and brought them back to the Careless Wanderer. As she landed on the balcony she saw that Ser Liam was packing the last of his belongings into a large duffel bag and locking up the room. She eventually transfigured back to her normal form and went ahead to plant the flowers, using her druidic magic to encourage them to root and grow. And boy did they ever!

Neamhan then went inside to convince Lauryn to come and take a look at what she had achieved. Lauryn was behind the bar, having a heated conversation with Durham. They were obviously in disagreement about something that Durham had proposed to do, but it was unclear what the conflict was about. Lauryn joined Neamhan to look at the balcony and was flabbergasted at how quickly Neamhan had been able to produce results, though she was not fond of how wild the flowers seemed to be growing. Neamhan promised to clean it up, and Lauryn went back inside. Neamhan then spent some time communing with the flowers, requesting them to be on their best behaviour from then on.

When Quentin and Emrys returned to the Careless Wanderer, Quentin decided to spend some time by himself to get his mood under control, but not before asking both Luca and Astrid, separately, to recount what had happened with the Sisters of the Grove when the heroes were in Blackbough. The stories he received seemed confirm what Emrys had been saying and Quentin let the matter rest. When Quentin had taken his leave, Emrys provided some context to Quentin’s foul mood by explaining to the others what had happened at the wine shop.

Luca argued with Blackstar, as the staff’s hunger started to become a evermore pressing priority for it. It had been a long time since Luca struck the killing blow in one of their confrontations, and therefore it had been a long time since Blackstar had consumed a soul.

By the late morning most of the fishermen seemed to have departed the inn, and Astrid had said her warm goodbyes to a lot of them. The inn could almost be considered quiet. Durham was nowhere to be seen, and both Lauryn and Magda had dressed up to attend the closing ceremony of the fishing competition. Wojciech had been left in charge of the bar, while Ramsey continued to tend to the kitchen. As Magda went through the door, Wynn’s fever pitched voice could be heard exclaiming that he would protect over her kingdom in her absence, for which Magda thanked him, referring to him as “ser knight.” Predictably, as the door closed, Wynn’s disappearance was announced by a jingle of crystal windchimes.

Neamhan, believing that Quentin has been cursed by the Sisters of the Grove, offers to help break the curse. Quentin resists the idea initially, believing it best that she does not get involved, but eventually accepts the offer when Neamhan states that her goal is to improve the world, starting with “the most heroic and righteous person” she knows.

When it was time for the heroes to depart for Steward’s Square to attend the closing ceremony of the fishing competition, Neamhan decided to transfigure into a large raven, midnight black except for a few white feathers in one wing, matching the her white hair. She found a clever way to inform Emrys that she had transfigured and was nearby.

The square was filled with people. Few red custodians could be seen, but there were many crownsguard on watch. The main stage was decorated in all splendour, with the scarlet banners of the royal house on full display. Minor stages were set up to serve prominent noble houses.

The queen arrived in a golden carriage, flanked by knights from the Lyrian orders, each sporting their distinct, decorative armour. Other knights, representing noble houses rode in the procession, as did the heavily armoured palace guard.

When the queen reached the stage and made her entrance she was received with loud cheers from the public. The queen looked different, her blonde hair was dark and wilder, less styled. Her style of dress had changed from the frivolous eccentricities of Lyrian couture to a darker, more martial style; a black velvet dress, with decorative, metal pauldrons and a set of decorative metal studs set in the dress. Around her neck she wore a choker of three links of blood coral, fastened with a locket depicting the banner of house Valois. The heroes had seen that choker before; they had found it in the possession of Xamael after his defeat. That choker had belonged to Princess Mildred, the queen’s aunt.

Behind the queen stood Lady Annabella and Lieutenant William. Lady Annabella was wearing a similar dress to the queen, just marked in red velvet rather than black. Lieutenant William was dressed in full, military, ceremonial dress. They both looked like they were trying to maintain a neutral disposition.

When the cheers died down, the queen started her speech:

Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather, Prince Amrand, passed away. All who knew him, knew that he was an avid fishermen. He founded the Kingsport Angler’s Association, a club of fishing enthusiasts from all walks of life. From the most exalted of nobility, to the lowliest commoner; all found a kinship in their love for fishing, and all held proficiency in angling to be the highest achievable goal.

The Kingsport Angler’s Association ceased to be after my grandfather passed away. One year later, my grandmother, Queen Marrianne, decided there was no better way to honour my grandfather than to hold this competition in his memory. The angler’s association was reborn, and I am proud to say that after all these years, it is still going strong, and still sees fierce competition.

This year started off with thirty-one teams, each vying for the title of master angler, and the prizes for the best catches. The goal was to catch and present the heaviest of the lightning eel, from the rivers in Eastmarsh, the Ghost Fin Albacore, found along the treacherous Darkshore of Southernhay, and the hardy Rockplate Catfish, only found in the icy streams of Ard Thoradun. Whoever can present them and have the highest combined weight, will win this year’s title!

The catches will be judged by the master of the angler’s association. Present your catches, and may the gods look upon your teams in favour.

Halfway throughout the speech, James casually pushed his way into the middle of the heroes who were standing off to one side of the square. He had an urgent task that needed to be completed and he knew of nobody else that could do it but them.

Earlier that day, a participant in the competition by the name of Ramona, Lady of the Raft, came to James and bargained for the pickup and delivery of a young girl by the name of Luciana. In return, Ramona would hand over writing that she intercepted that talks about “a vault” containing riches. The place of pickup was Matron Myrtle’s orphanage in Grimsdown, and the drop off was the Calypso’s Song, a ship in the harbour being guarded.

James provided some context; Ramona had been banished after being locked up in the Carceratum for five years on charges of piracy. Around that time she gave birth to Luciana and left her with the father. Since her banishment, she found a loophole; anyone sponsoring a team of fishermen to enter the competition could not be denied their attendance of the closing ceremony, which she had used ever since to come to Kingsport to visit her daughter. She had returned to Kingsport this year to find that not only had the matron of the orphanage died, but also the father of the child; John Sharpe, also known as the night master, also known as Lord Jonathan Ravensbourne. With nobody familiar available to care for her daughter she wanted to take her back to the Raft.

Rather than attend a boring ceremony, the heroes decided to head to the orphanage. Brandomiir had been dispatched by James to make sure the child would be ready for the heroes, and to make contact with Coral, the halfling caregiver that the heroes had met at the orphanage before, who had inherited the place when Matron Myrtle died. The problem soon turned out to be that the ward was still under lockdown, with the crownsguard still keeping the roads in and out barricaded. And so the heroes decided to return to Lewisham and try to retrace the steps that Jeroen the Daerlanian had taken them on to get to the orphanage the first time.

The Bear

One of the most worthwhile television shows of late has been The Bear, an incredibly intense and beautiful series that follows an ensemble cast of people who try to turn a simple, neighbourhood restaurant in Chicago into a world class establishment. Central to the story is Carmine “Carmy” Berzatto, a world renowned chef who, in the wake of his brother’s suicide, inherits the restaurant together with his sister. Carmine is a complex character, and his relationship with his brother was complex too. As the show progresses, it dives into the complexities of relationships, as well as the human experience, in a beautiful way.

Despite this beauty, the show tends to be quite raw. Carmy comes from a dysfunctional and self-destructive family who bring out the best and worst in each other. When I watch en episode, I do so with a mixture of fascination, revulsion and recognition. I know all of these people because I grew up around them. Each character on the show represents someone in my family. Each event has a parallel in mine. Each triumph, each celebration, and each failure and disappointment. Each barely controlled fear and anxiety which results in a fight or argument. I recognise them all.

There is a flashback episode in season two, which shows a Christmas celebration, which features a few characters that are not on the show in the main timeline. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Carmy’s mother, and Jon Bernthal plays Carmy’s older brother. They deserve all the accolades. I both hate and love these characters, as much as I hate and love who they represent(ed) in my own life.

What a beautiful show. A beautiful, beautiful, ugly show. I get emotional just thinking about it.

Matron Myrtle’s Orphanage, Grimsdown, Kingsport

In the heart of the Grimsdown ward of Kingsport stands the orphanage run by Matron Myrtle, a kind and just woman who cares for two dozen orphans at any one time. The children are the product of poverty, war, or simply bad fortune. It is said that the matron could afford to run the orphanage by owning the property it is housed in, and by virtue of several benefactors which donate the sums of gold crowns necessary to keep the place warm and the children’s bellies full.

On the Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262, Matron Myrtle was found dead after an attack had taken place on the orphanage while the ward was under lockdown by the crownsguard. There are rumours the Steady Hand, a guild of thieves, were responsible for the attack, but the reasons are not known. Matron Myrtle’s assistant, Coral, has now taken over as matron.

Steve Jobs on Consulting

I have never found Steve Jobs to be an inspiring or inspired person, but I just came across a quote of his that I agree with.

I don’t think there is anything inherently evil in consulting, but I think that without owning something over an extended period of time, […] where one has a chance to take responsibility for one’s recommendations, where one has to see one’s recommendations through all action stages and accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes, and pick oneself off the ground and dust oneself off, one learns a fraction of what one can. Coming in and making recommendations and not owning the results, and not owning the implementation, I think is a fraction of the value, and a fraction of the opportunity to learn and get better. You do get a broad cut at companies, but it’s very thing. […] You might get a very accurate picture, but it’s only two dimensional. Without the experience of actually doing it, you never get three dimensional.