Cimmerian Timeline Part 8

Previous: Cimmerian Timeline Part 7

1042BCE: Numerous clerics and magicians studied the intricacies of Hades’s Resurrection Pact with the mortals of Cimmeria. These necromantic scholars formed an enclave for research beneath the Terror Mountains in the north between the Jenarild River and the Curving Stream. This settlement came to be known as Crux.

1035BCE: Seeking to gain more power to assault Colchis with, Hades sent an emissary to Crux. His messenger took the form of a three-headed bodak called the Antenator. The creature gave the people of Crux a set of standard practices for bringing the dead back to life and controlling them, either with their souls or as soulless husks to do the bidding of their necromancer master.

1034BCE: The Antenator created the Silver Tower at the center of Crux and took up residence there. His persisting influence emanated from the Tower keeping the numerous undead of the city easily controlled by the city’s living residents. While the Antenator occasionally addressed the people of Crux, approaching him was now impossible. Entrance into the Tower required passing a series of insurmountable trials.
At the same time that the Silver Tower rose, Vecna, the powerful lich, arrived in Crux. She set up her alchemy and spell shop at the Tower’s base and began her own research on death magic.

1030BCE: The Conclave setup a trading post with the Elves of Valor Forest. The post grew to become the town of Shalemstead.

1011BCE: A prominent Human leader of the Conclave, Tisaphernes, was murdered by an Orc slave of his. Anti-Orc sentiment increased among the Humans in the Conclave.
A solar eclipse occurred and Hades attacked Colchis once again. Aeëtes inscribed explosive glyphs throughout the city that would only activate when one of Hades’s creatures passed by. These glyphs, along with a well-trained corps of archers, ended the threat during the solar eclipse.

1000BCE: After multiple raids into the Orcish settlements, the Humans of the Conclave organized a large scale expedition. The Halflings  refused to participate. The split thwarted the expedition before it could reach the Orcish lands in the east due to a poorly maintained supply chain. The Humans returned in humiliation.

976BCE: Sadroston died at an advanced age. Thousands mourned the great hero’s passing. Sadroston’s descendants would carry on their forebear’s legacy. Others rejoiced in silence and began to plot.

975BCE: The dragons of Cimmeria attended the Draconic Convocation. The direct descendants of Echidna and Typhon were present. The red dragon couple, Invernix and Sartoria. The blue dragon couple, Bavastatner and Renvesharhialisv. The black dragon brothers, Kovan’rorshac and Pithwatolzar. The green dragon sisters, Cordax and Hashterainon. The white dragon couple, Shivara and Tikanile. The gold dragon siblings, Agohimano and Hontalawi. The silver dragon twins, Jimarohzaj and Falron. The bronze dragon twins, Rilopenaril and Langudina. The brass dragons, Hazorshrakan and her father Forsoman. The copper dragons, Thaitonzao and his mother Blathorwa. All were present.
The dragons agreed to conquer all of Cimmeria and split the provinces of the realm among themselves. They were the strongest beings in the Olympians’ new creation. Why not take control? Each pair of dragons would rule a region of Cimmeria and could do what they saw fit with the land and people of that region. The dragons took wing and set about subjugating the different people of Cimmeria.

973BCE: Within two years the dragons subjugated all mortals of Cimmeria.  Red Invernix and Sartoria took the Northern Terror Mountains around Horror Peak. Blue Bavastatner and Renvesharhialisv took the Shacklack Desert. Black Kovan’rorshac and Pithwatolzar took the land that would eventually be called Danar’s Swamp. Green Cordax and Hashterainon took the Dry Woods that would eventually be called Bigby’s Forest. White Shivara and Tikanile took the Western Terror Mountains around Doom Peak. Gold Agohimano and Hontalawi took the Caspian Coast. Silver Jimarohzaj and Falron took the Eastern Terror Mountains around Fear Peak. Bronze Rilopenaril and Langudina took Apollo’s Plains. Brass Hazorshrakan and Forsoman took the Orc Lands in the east. Copper Thaitonzao and Blathorwa took all the lands between the Black River and the Great Divide.
The Olympians sat and did nothing to help their mortal subjects. The new turn of events amused them. They watched, curious what would happen next to this new world of dragons and mortals.

970BCE: The dragons declared a new set of laws in effect throughout Cimmeria. These laws set up dragons and their progeny as the aristocracy of the land with all others being second-class citizens. Additionally, the new laws forbade mortals from forming large armed groups without approval from their dragon lord. During their initial conquest the dragons had learned to respect the threat an army posed. They sought to prevent any such danger from arising ever again.

-GoCorral

Next: Cimmerian Timeline Part 9

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Crux

Crux

Crux is on the east side of the Jenarild River nestled in the mountains. The surrounding land mass between the Jenarild and the Curving Stream has almost no living animals on it. Due to the lack of herbivores the plants have grown to great heights except around the city where the plant life is held back. This is due to the necromantic nature of Crux.

Crux has a population of about 11,000 living people. The rest of the population is undead. The workforce for the city is Skeletons and  Zombies for menial tasks and Ghouls and Wights for tasks that require intelligence. Almost all the people in the city have the ability to turn or rebuke undead from one class or another. This power is necessary to make an unliving servant do your bidding, unless it is intelligent and not already under orders from somebody else. A quirk of the city is that positive energy will allow control of undead in Crux instead of destroying them.

This city is made possible by the silver tower at its center. Inside at the top of the tower is a three-headed Bodak, known as the Antenator. The Antenator imposes his will upon all undead in the city to serve living people if the living people can call upon the power of Hades. Intelligent undead are affected by this to, but can resist it if they have an extremely strong willpower.

In some sense this is Hades’ city on the real world. All the intelligent undead must swear an oath to serve Hades or risk him collecting their souls for his kingdom. He hates losing any subjects unless they continue to serve him in the Material Plane. Any knowledge about rituals related to death can be easily found in the city, but not demon lore.

The buildings in the city get progressively higher as they go away from the city wall until they reach the silver tower at the center of town. It is more than five hundred feet high and reinforced with adamantine and alchemical silver. Anyone may enter the tower in an attempt to reach the top where the Antenator resides. It is said that the Bodak will answer a single inquiry or attack anyone who reaches the top based on that person’s intentions. Most wish to ask it a question about a dark ritual that cannot be found in any book, but some go to try to kill it. The many challenges on the way up have stopped everybody so far.

The Bank of Lamentation is found in Crux. It is a bank staffed entirely by Vampires. They protect the valuables put inside without question no matter what they are and collect their fees in blood or in a percentage of what is stored. The bank is guarded during the day by golems imported from Crafterton and is only open at night for withdrawals or deposits. The bank does not offer loans unless you are willing to put up souls for collateral.

There is a potion shop in the city of Crux run by the venerable lich, Vectra. Not much is know about this old specimen, but she seems to know everything about anybody who walks into her shop. It is said that she does not belong to Hades, but to herself. She is missing her left hand and eye probably from before her, “death,” or she has used them as her phylacteries. Every potion imaginable is available in the shop including some rarities from the Factory of Ideals in Crafterton. An amazing destructive spell is also sold in Vectra’s shop. It is rumored that the spell ends all life within a three mile radius of its casting. She sells the scroll of this spell to countries, kings, and other powerful people, and is willing to do a demonstration casting on the land outside of Crux for any who seems capable of paying her. The countries that are known to possess this spell are Xoria, Persia, India, and Ethiopia. None of these countries plans on invading the others.

In recent history the city of Crux has begun to move southwest. Undead work tireless, day and night, to pick entire buildings up, move them a few hundred feet southwest, then go back to bring forward another building. Rumor says that Crux will enter the Second Alliance War, but it is not yet know which side they will fight on.

-GoCorral

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

People should post books they read on Instagram instead of food they eat.
People should post books they read on Instagram instead of food they eat.

I finished reading a book called The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro that my step-mom had gotten me. I’m going to be delivering some spoilers about the book in this post, so be forewarned. If you’re interested in Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing or King Arthur stuff I’d recommend you finish the book on your own before reading this post.

The book is set a generation or so after King Arthur, when all his knights are getting old or dead.

The book follows the journey of a married couple, Axl and Beatrice, who are traveling to their son’s village.

A mist covers England clouding people’s memories. People forget things after the simplest of distractions. Old memories are difficult or impossible to recall. And the problem affects everyone.

The memory mist springs from a dragon and it becomes the quest of Axl, Beatrice, and a few people they meet on their journey to slay the dragon.

The dragon slaying is all fine and good and I loved reading those parts. It may not be a traditional King Arthur tale, but I love reading new takes on old things and it hit a home run in being a King Arthur story.

What bothered me about the book is what has bothered me about a lot of books, the ending is sad.

I remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was in high school. I asked him, “Why do modern stories have bad endings? Ancient stories always have the good guys killing the bad guys and everyone living happily ever after. Like King Arthur.”

My dad said something along the lines of, “Modern stories have bad endings because they’re more real. Fairy tales like King Arthur are fine for kids, but grownups like stories that are real, that they can relate to. It’s cathartic.”

That answer was good enough for me back then, but I’ve done some more thinking on it since.

First, bad endings are not solely the province of modern stories. Oedipus Rex is a perfect example of an ancient story with a horrible ending. Romeo and Juliet is based off the Greek myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. The Iliad has a powerful ending, but no one really gets what they want. Hector is still dead and Achilles still feels empty.

The second thing I realized is that it isn’t so much the sadness that makes stories feel real. You can’t just have something bad happen to someone and expect people to start feeling empathy for that character.

No. What makes stories real is having characters on both sides of a conflict who could both be described as good.

The Greek myths are perfect examples once again. Achilles is the hero of the Iliad, but so is Hector. They’re both great admirable people (at least to the Greeks. I don’t think someone with the epithet, “the Mankiller,” would be very popular today),

They’re both heroes in the story, but they have antithetical goals. One must die for the story to reach resolution. And that’s what makes it sad.

The conflict doesn’t always need to end in death and the characters don’t always need to be diametrically opposed, but ultimately the “villain” of an adult story must have real motivations for what they are doing. And most real motivations are fundamentally good. People do things to help themselves or the people they care about, not because they want to hurt other people (sadists are exempt).

An easier separation between what I’ve called good and bad endings in the past would be children’s stories and adult stories.

Stories need to be simplified for children which can mean having a villain who is just villainous for no good reason (Jafar, The Star Wars Emperor, Mordred from King Arthur, etc.).

But back to The Buried Giant!

Early on in the book Axl and Beatrice encounter a woman who tells them about a mysterious island that is clearly some sort of allegory for Heaven.

It’s said that you can live on the island and never see the other people living there.

Only a couple that is truly in love will be able to interact with each other on the island.

A couple’s truly in love status is tested by the boatman who brings people to the island. He asks couples a series of individual questions before permitting them to travel together.

The woman that Axl and Beatrice meet describes that happening to her and her husband. They answered the questions and then the boatman said the water was too rough to bring them to the island at the same time.

Thinking she would get to see her husband on the next boat, she said, “Fine,” and her husband went first.

When the boatman came back he informed the wife that she had failed the questions and that she would not be seeing her husband on the island. She left in a rage and wandered England before eventually telling her story to Axl and Beatrice.

Our protagonist couple talk about the island constantly. They are concerned that they won’t be able to answer questions about their love for each other if the dragon’s memory mist prevents them from remembering why they originally fell in love.

In the final chapter of the book they talk to the boatman. The boatman talks to Beatrice first and then to Axl. We only hear Axl’s conversation.

The boatman is very casual and brings up a fight that Axl had with Beatrice once. Axl explains the fight, but is suspicious that he and Beatrice will be denied joint entrance to “Island Heaven” if he tells the whle truth (the reader never learns the whole truth).

The boatman agrees to take them both to the island. Axl hops in the boat with Beatrice.

And then the boatman says, “I can’t take you both at the same time. The weather is too bad.”

Axl’s face darkens. He knows he failed the questions, but he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his wife. He stays in the boat.

Beatrice tells Axl she’ll be fine. They can just meet when the boatman brings the next boat.

Not wanting to upset his wife, Axl gets out of the boat and trudges towards shore.

And the book freaking ends there.

I understand that sad endings are sometimes more realistic, but this felt more like the author screwing with me.

Couldn’t they have been allowed to go together? Couldn’t we have learned a few more specifics about what Axl and Beatrice fought about long ago?

Nope! Ishiguro does the smart thing. If you have questions that don’t need answering in a story, then don’t answer them. People will come up with their own answers and those will always satisfy the readers more than anything you can come up with.

So does the boatman come back and take Axl to be with Beatrice? It’s possible, but my own answer to that question was, “No.”

And that’s a sad ending.

-GoCorral

My D&D Campaign: Cimmeria

I gave a brief description of my D&D campaign world previously, but have written nothing on it since.

I got involved in the Gurutama posts and I felt that writing about two different D&D worlds might get confusing.

The result is that there’s very little on the blog about what I actually do in my biggest hobby and that frankly seems a little stupid.

There are other reasons why I avoided describing my current D&D sessions besides the confusion between Cimmeria, the campaign world I use now, and Gurutama, the campaign world I’m building.

First, I’m not always the DM for my group. Sometimes my best friend DMs a campaign based in the Aegean where the other players and I oppose an evil conspiracy.

Should I be writing about those sessions here as well? Bringing a third campaign world in? Its already a little difficult for some of the other players to keep track of what’s happening in each campaign. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t playing and taking notes on this stuff like we are.

Second, there is an immense amount of existing information for Cimmeria that makes it a little difficult to describe the sessions to a newcomer.

For example, there is an NPC called Astyanax in Cimmeria. He is a prominent member of the Alliance opposing the evil guys.

I say Astyanax and the players all know what I’m talking about because they’ve interacted with him in the past and with his father, Hector.

There’s a mythical parallel to Astyanax as well. The mythical Hector was the greatest hero of Troy who died defending his city. After Troy was conquered, the Greeks killed the mythical Astyanax.

The Hector in my campaign died just like his namesake, but Astyanax lived on. He is now the greatest defender of his city in his father’s place. He might end up dying like his father did as well.

So imagine that level of explanation for not only the people, but the places and objects in my campaign. Everything has a history and I try to DM in a way that makes that history relevant.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to write stuff here about Cimmeria, but I’ve got explain in a way that anybody can understand the topic.

Not really different than how anything should be written when you think about it.

-Mister Ed

In Time Movie Review

I watched the movie In Time the other night. The movie stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy.

I was not satisfied with the movie based on what I’d seen in the trailers.

The premise of the movie is that in the near future all medical problems have been eliminated.

Additionally, now that people are effectively immortal there isn’t really any reason to use any normal currency because eventually anybody will accumulate an infinite amount.

Instead of spending money, people spend time. Time is the remaining years, weeks, days, minutes, and seconds in someone’s life.

When someone turns twenty five their clock begins. You an see the clock on Timberlake’s arm in the above poster. When someone’s clock runs out that person suffers an instantly fatal heart attack.

The clock starts with a year on it. Time is spent on everything, coffee, taxi rides, movies. Everything.

And all income is in the form of time. If you work for a day at a factory then maybe you earn two days of time. One day to buy stuff with and one day to live with.

The movie villains are the rich who hoard time in order to live forever. The rich drive prices up in the ghetto to steal time from the poor because “not everyone can live forever.”

The movie heroes, Timberlake and Seyfried, fight back by stealing the hoarded time from rich banks where time is stored physically somehow and redistributing it to the poor. Surprisingly the movie never mentions the name of Robin Hood.

Giving time to the poor is somehow supposed to make them realize that the system is killing them, but the epilogue shows only that the poor are happy frivolously spending their money on vacations. The rich don’t lose power and the poor don’t gain any. What was the point if the poor waste their money on a week of pleasure?

There’s other problems with the currency system that are never explained.

Theoretically the only time that exists in the system is one year for each person when they turn 25. The average age would be around 25 because most of that time is spent on food, rent, clothes, etc.

Where is all the extra time coming from? Are there power plants that produce time? Or is the rich oligarchy just minting time and using it to pay their workers?

The rich are right in a sense. If everyone lived forever then the world would be overpopulated, but is the rich effectively murdering the poor really the plan that was landed on?

Why not use a traditional currency and set everyone’s clocks to one hundred years? Then people still have long lives with predictable deaths and the economy has a natural development instead of being controlled by some strange merchant dictatorship.

Plus, the script was clunky and the acting was bad. I’ve seen good acting from all these actors though, so I’m tempted to blame the director. The director, Andrew Niccol, also wrote the script, so really all the blame lies at his feet.

Niccol’s other movies are really good though. I’d recommend checking out Gattaca which has a similar premise and The Terminal.

As for In Time, it had a cool premise, but failed to make that premise compelling or interesting outside of the trailer. The other parts of the movie weren’t so hot either. I’d avoid it unless you’re dying for people to talk about wealth in amounts of years instead of thousands of dollars.

-Mister Ed

Will and Testament

My wife and I met with a lawyer this morning to draft a last will and testament.

Most people our age don’t have wills. Nobody plans on dying, but that’s even truer for people in their early 20’s.

Most people my age don’t have a lot of assets to dispense upon their deaths either.

I do because I inherited some money from my mother when she died a few years ago. From a certain point of view its a second will for her.

Our idea for the will is pretty simple. If one of us dies, that person’s property goes to the other marriage partner.

If we both die, our estate is split between our parents.

If our parents are dead it’s split between our siblings.

I’d be shocked if the followup to that happened, but if both of us, all of our parents, and all of our siblings were dead then our estate would be split between our aunts and uncles.

We hadn’t planned that last one out, but the attorney we spoke with said it was the default law. We figured we’d go with that.

We’d previously talked about donating to charity if our siblings couldn’t receive the money. We still might go back to that as well.

For now, the attorney gave us a questionnaire to draft a health care directive.

A health care directive is a piece of paper with instructions for your medical care if you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to describe your own wishes for your medical care.

So stuff like, “Would you want to be on life support if you are in a coma?”

Or, “Would you want if you were in a permanent vegetative state?”

“Would you like to be cremated, buried, or something else?” (Taxidermied is not one of the listed options)

“Would you like to donate your organs?” (You should)

“If you are donating organs, which ones are okay to donate? All of them or just a few of them?”

So we’ve got to go over all of that stuff and then get back to the attorney at a different time.

It feels like a nice adult thing to do with my wife, but its also depressing.

Part of it is exciting to be planning something so important with her.

I’m not bummed out so much about my own death or her death when we talk about the will. Those both still feel far enough away that I can act like I’m immortal.

It just gets me thinking about my mother’s and my sister’s deaths a lot. My wife feels the same way about it too.

-Mister Ed

Rice Husks and Video Games

I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.
I was dehusking some rice seeds today in order to sterilize them.

Rice seeds grow with a husk around them. After the husk is removed they look like the rice you buy in a store.

Sometimes the seeds from a particular strain don’t grow right.

The lack of growth often happens because a fungus infected the seed from the start.

The fungus is removed by washing the seed.

The husk needs to be removed first to ensure the seed is fully cleaned, just like you have to take off all of your clothes to ensure your body is fully cleaned when you shower or bathe.

While I was washing the seeds in diluted bleach I talked with one of my friends in the lab about streaming Hearthstone.

The oldest member of the lab besides the professor (I sometimes call him the lab fossil) overheard us and was curious about what streaming was.

We described it to him and he was a little surprised that people would want to watch others play video games.

He’s seen his son play first person shooter (FPS) games and he dislikes them, but not for the usual reasons.

The lab fossil dislikes FPS games because they don’t match reality.

He feels they teach people that if you die/fail you can just get a do-over where you try again.

The real world and the real battlefield doesn’t work that way. If you die in real life, you’re dead.

You can’t respawn, you can’t start over from the beginning. It’s over.

He told us about when he was in the army for two years.

All the time they would do drills and the drills were about staying alive.

Not about shooting and killing others no matter the consequences to yourself like in FPS games.

One of the first things the lab fossil learned is that if you hear gunfire, you should immediately drop to the ground (something people in gang neighborhoods already know).

He told us that the way you survive a battle is by finding cover, not shooting your gun.

He said bullets are heavy, you don’t want to waste them, you might need them later to survive.

My past experience with army veterans is that they never want to talk about their experiences.

Out of respect, I’ve never asked them to recall memories that might be painful for them.

This was one of the first times I actually got to talk about war with a soldier, even if he’d never been actively deployed.

It was a good learning experience.

-Mister Ed