Author Archives: Dennis

BJJ and Fifteen Months of Lockdown

I haven’t been doing BJJ for such a long time now that I’ve got hair on my knees again. I sometimes wonder just how much skill I have lost (if I had any to begin with). I have maintained that I will only consider going back under the right conditions, which at the moment should include Joasia being vaccinated and the situation looking a little less miserable (delta variant infections are on the rise). In the meantime I wonder whether I even know how to do a proper bow-and-arrow choke anymore.

Confronting Xamael the Defiler

Previously, the heroes managed to fight their way past the undead lizardfolk who were guarding the entrance to the deeper part of the ziggurat. There, they found a wide hallway which circled a large central hall with balconies looking down on it. On these balconies they found active magical crystals which seemed to be responsible for Kalauranthalasis being enslaved. And so the heroes decided to see whether they could disable the crystals and free the enormous, terrifying wyrm.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

After Luca had failed to remove the red crystal from its socle using a spectral hand and James had taken a shot at it with his bow only to have the ricocheting arrow warn whoever was in the central hall of their presence. “Rise, Kalauranthalasis,” they heard the honey-voiced man say.

James decided to scout along the north-side of the circular corridor and made it all the way to the western end, passing several balconies, each with a different coloured crystal charged with potent magical energy. He found another doorway in the western end of the outer wall, revealing a spacious room with a lit brazier against the back wall, sending sandalwood scented smoke into the air. A corridor lead north to a set of stairs that lead down into the central hall. James decided to hide and bide his time.

Meanwhile, Emrys and Luca frantically experimented with different spells on the different crystals on the eastern side of the circular corridor, slowly moving south. Luca had found that each crystal represented one of the eight different schools of magic, and using his hypothesis of using the magic of the opposing school on the crystal managed to disable the crystals and seemingly weakening the hold that the honey-voiced man had over Kalauranthalasis. The problem was that it was slow going and that each crystal required experimenting to find out which school of magic it represented.

While exploring further south, Emrys overheard commotion in the southern part of the circular corridor and when he went to investigate he was baffled to find two assassins of the Dark Queen opposed by lady Asha. She was unclothed, but seemed to have no trouble in dispatching the assassins. Before Emrys could ask her a question, she urged him to hurry down into the central hall. She said she needed to get into the vault and showed the vault key that she had showed the heroes in Eastray. She was furious with Kalauranthalasis for putting their hatchery at risk, and forged ahead towards the central hall by vaulting over the edge of the balcony, disappearing out of sight, and promptly reappearing as an enormous dragon, even larger and more fierce than Kalauranthalasis.

Azsharastrasza immediately engaged Kalauranthalasis who was still enslaved by the constellation of crystals. Occasionally, the large wyrm was able to temporarily free itself from the enslavement, but it would never last long before Xamael would put the wyrm back under his control.

For indeed, the source of the honeyed voice was a man with ashen grey skin, dressed in strange, leather vestments which reminded the heroes of the foreboding outfits of the priests of the Raven Queen. He was tall and poised and wielded a wicked whip and powerful magic. At one moment, Emrys and Luca were the target of a roaring ball of fire which exploded as they were attempting to disable one of the crystals on a balcony. It was at that time that they reconsidered disabling any more of the crystals as they were dangerously exposed while doing so.

Kalauranthalasis had been weakened from his enslavement and, while fierce, was no match to the fury of Azsharastrasza. While the dragons trashed around, the heroes engaged the dark priest, who proved to a tricky opponent. At one point Kalauranthalasis breathed in and unleashed a noxious stream of poisonous vapour which washed over the heroes’ position, burning their lungs and stringing their eyes. Astrid was battered and went down, only to be revived by Azsharastrasza’s occasional healing magic, which kept the heroes in the fight.

Eventually, Kalauranthalasis fell, and Xamael was left to contend with the heroes. Azsharastrasza charged at him but got caught in a magical trap which stunned her. Xamael was wounded and was bleeding from several open wounds, and shortly after fell against the onslaught from the heroes. His body was raised in the air, as if tethered by an invisible thread extending up from his chest and the blood that was pouring freely from his wounds exploded outward and for a moment hovered suspended in the air, before rocketing back towards his body. First one drop, then another, and another; each impacting his body with tremendous force, bruising him even further.

Xamael fell to the ground when all the blood had collided into him, doubled over and started to convulse, sprouting skeletal wings from both his shoulder blades, which quickly grew into leather wings resembling that of a bat. He swelled up and grew. Horns pushed from his forehead and rapidly grew from his skull as plates of armour pushed outward through his skin to protect his body, bruised purple from the horrifying transformation. When all was said and done, a transformed Xamael stood before them. No longer Xamael the Defiler, but instead Xamael the Dreadlord, his whip now scintillating with arcs lightning.

 

It’s a Meijer Thing

Years ago, Eva sent me a t-shirt that said “It’s a Meijer Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand”, which was brilliant, for obvious reasons. It was something like this one:

And today I came across an even better one which reads; “I Can’t Keep Calm, I’m a Meijer”, which is fantastic!

Dutch

9 June – Dutch Feast

John Camden Hotten was one of the first and best lexicogaphers of slang. He gathered and documented what he himself described as “that evanescent, vulgar language, ever changing with fashion and taste… spoken by persons in every grade of life, rich and poor, honest and dishonest”. One result of his indefatigable quest for the language of “fast, high and low life” was the publication, in 1859, of A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. On the day Hotten died in 1873 (of brain fever, or a surfeit of pork chops, depending on which historian you ask) he was still revising his work.

Among the back slang and rhyming slang, and the patter from sailors and shopkeepers, are such expressions as a “Dutch uncle”, defined by the author as “a person often introduced in conversation, but exceedingly difficult to describe”. A “Dutch concert”  is one in which “each performer plays a different tune”, and “Dutch consolation” is simply “Thank God it’s no worse”.

These less well-known Dutch formulae sit alongside those that have endured to this day; “Dutch courage”, namely false courage garnered through drinking; “double Dutch”, i.e. gibberish; and “going Dutch”, where everyone splits the bill and thus risks the suggestion of miserliness. But why Dutch?

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch and British were at loggerheads. Both sought maritime superiority, and not least the control of the sea routes that carried exotic cargo from the rich Spice Islands of the East Indies. The result of such vying for supremacy was three naval wars between the years 1652 and 1674. On 9 June 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway, sank multiple British ships, and blockaded the Thames. The ensuing bitterness on the part of the British resulted in “Dutch” becoming synonymous with such unappealing qualities as cowardice and stinginess.

Today, even while most prejudice towards our friends in the Netherlands has long since vanished, a couple of contemporary examples might occasionally feel useful. A “Dtuch reckoning” is a bill that is presented without any detail and which only gets bigger if you question it, while a “Dutch feast” is one at which the host “gets drunk before the guests”.

Word Perfect, Etymological Entertainment for Every Day of the Year by Susie Dent

The Hall of the Senhadrim

Previously, the heroes had made their way through the Senhadrim quarters while descending down the ziggurat in search of Xamael who had crossed and blackmailed the good sisters by stealing Memra’s sight. Returning Memra’s sight would be rewarded by the good sisters in the heroes’ quest to defeat the ward on the cursed khazra’s head which was laying waste to the queen’s health, and potentially threatening all of Kingsport.

Second Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The heroes were still hard at work in trying to defeat the lizardfolk zombies which had awakened from the interment inside the clay urns which were standing all around the spiralling room. At the bottom of that room was the portal leading from the Senhadrim quarters to the Senhadrim hall. The zombies had awoken when the heroes had managed to find a discarded statuette, which, combined with one of the lyrium crystals they carried on them, had proven to be the key which unlocked the portal.

With the help of the mercurial magics at Emrys’ disposal, the heroes had defeated many of the tenacious zombies already. Their momentum had slowed considerably with the disappearance of Emrys, who had been teleported away from the material plane and into the Ethereal Mist; the realm in between realms.

Astrid was spent and Quentin was wounded. James had spent many arrows and Luca had expended a lot of his magical power. On top of that, everyone was tired. Astrid and Quentin stood shoulder to shoulder, while Luca picked another star off of Atilesceon’s robes and hurled it at one of the zombies. The star transformed into several magical bolts of raw energy. Meanwhile, James was using his mobility to keep the zombies occupied while simultaneously taking shots at them with with Isalien’s bow.

When Astrid was overwhelmed and lost consciousness, it looked as if the heroes might be overrun, but the heroes kept repelling the zombies, and even Astrid miraculously regained consciousness and got back to her feet. Luca gave her one of the last two remaining health potions he had, but she held onto it. Luca also became desperate enough to use one of the lyrium crystals he still carried on him in order to fuel one of his spells. Soon after the last of the zombies fell beneath sword and arrow and calm returned. It wasn’t long until with a startle, Emrys also returned from the Ethereal Mist.

Emrys told tales of the mist and about the titanic creatures he had seen there. It reminded him of the space where the Crimson Tower had stood when the heroes first ascended it, before jumping through the collapsing portal and into Atilesceon’s nightmare realm. Emrys explained that sometimes the potency of the magic inside of him got out of control and did wonderous and unexpected things. James suggested that Emrys stay well away from the rest of the group if Emrys was to continue using his magic.

According to Luca it was late in the evening and it would be best to take rest. A safe corner in the spiralling room was hastily converted into a small camp where the heroes took rest. There was some debate about how long the rest would be, and despite James’ objections, it was decided that a proper, long rest would give people a chance to recover from the previous fight. Quentin briefly communed with Róisín and conjured up several berries which spawned from the scabbard of the blade which nourished Astrid back to some health.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

It was five days until the day that doctor Arkenward thought he could keep the curse on the queen at bay. The heroes had gotten some rest, and had found that none had come into the spiral room, or had come from the open portal. All of this felt incredibly suspicious and unlikely, but the heroes decided to continue on and go through the portal.

On the other side of the portal was a room with two corridors which lead away. There were two braziers with curious and intricately script carved in the metal surface. Embers were glowing inside of the braziers, and smoke trickled up and along the ceiling of the room and filled the room with the soft fragrance of sandalwood. Despite the curious nature of the braziers, Luca assured the heroes that there was nothing to be concerned about.

The room beyond seemed to have been the scene of some heavy battle, evident by the broken tiles on the floor and the faint traces of dried blood which seemed to be heading to one of the two corridors before fading away. James reckoned the blood dried up about half a day before.

It was agreed that James would scout ahead and the rest would trail behind. James found that the corridor lead to what turned out to be a wide halfway which circled a large central hall. James explored the circular hallway about halfway, discovering a small number of larger rooms along the outer wall, and a large number of doorways along the inner wall which lead to balconies that overlooked an enormous, cavernous hall. The inner wall was decorated with intricate carvings which James recognised as very well preserved Senhadrim murals.

In the centre of each of the balconies stood an elaborately crafted metal pillar, standing over six and a half foot in height. There was something elven about their design. Each was topped with a huge, glowing crystal, held by delicate metal prongs, gently cradling the crystal like a child would be cradled in their mother’s arms. Little tendrils of energy crawled over the crystals; each was pregnant with magical potentiality. Each of the crystals had a different colour.

Across the dark expanse between the balconies, the soft, coloured glow of each of the eight different crystals could be seen. Luca and Emrys went to investigate one of the crystals, which appeared to be red in colour. When the stepped out onto the balcony they were acutely aware that there was something in the darkness below as they could hear the rhythmic breathing of something very large. As they peered over the rim of the balcony they could the enormous form of a green serpent laying on the stone ground below, curled up like an armadillo. They were immediately filled with a sense of unnatural dread. Every instinct they possessed commanded them to run away; back to the surface; back to Kingsport; back to the Riverlands; back to the Elder Foothills; back into the arms of their mothers so that she may shield them from the dangers that lurked in the forgotten halls at the bottom of murky lakes in the centre of a swamp which was clearly forsaken by all the gods.

The two retreated immediately and told the others of the dragon laying at the heart of the hall. Quentin was curious to see a dragon, having only heard about heroic tales of cavaliers and knights vanquishing them. He was fortunate enough that his eyes couldn’t penetrate the darkness and he never laid witness to the dragon. As he peered into the darkness he did hear a voice. He concentrated on the voice and heard it hold a sermon of sorts, about Asmodeus, the dark angel, and the Pact Primeval. It was enough time for Emrys and Luca to regain their courage, and Luca used that opportunity to get Quentin back from the balcony. As he did so he, too, heard the tail end of the sermon, and the words were very familiar to him; he had read them in Kalina’s prayer book.

Blackstar furiously protested the sermon, exclaiming that the nature of devils was to corrupt souls so that they may fuel their fight against demons. Blackstar was reaping souls in order to prevent souls from falling into their hands. Some of Luca’s dialogue with Blackstar escaped his lips and alerted Quentin who wanted to understand more, but it wasn’t the time to get into it.

The heroes decided it was imperative that they understood what these pillars were, as they believed it might be responsible for the enslavement of Kalauranthalasis. If they could free the wyrm, they might have an ally in the fight against Xamael the Defiler. Luca prepared a ritual of identification, which he had used several times to divine the nature of some of the magical items that the heroes had found. Using an owl feather to mix a crushed pearl into some of James’ potent alcohol, he drank the liquid down and discovered that each of the pillars were connected and meant to act like a beacon. However, their power had been corrupted and changed to act like a soul trap; not unlike Lauriel’s earrings of whispers which Luca and James often used to communicate over long distances; that too had the ability to trap a person’s soul.

Luca conjured up a spectral hand and at a distance attempt to take the red crystal from its socle. Unfortunately, the moment the hand came into contact with the magical energy it was dispersed. At this point, James loosed an arrow at the crystal, hoping to knock it off the socle, instead. The arrow hit the crystal but was deflected off one of its facets and went flying into the darkness beyond. At that point the heroes heard the strong, honeyed voice that was holding the sermon say; “Kalauranthalasis, it is time for you to awaken,” and they heard the wyrm stir.