Saturday, April 30, 2011

Story a Week 20 - Propheteering, Part 8

Well, after moving into our new house last weekend and a nice, leisurely week off of work, we come to another edition of Story a Week. This week, like the last few, is from the world of Uroth, a fictitious world that I started creating over a decade ago as part of a D&D campaign that I had been working on. I think that next week I will write something different. I love me some Fantasy, but I feel that it might be getting to be too much, for now. Anyway, I have just gotten a couple of ideas, so stay tuned for that.

In other news, this is my fiftieth blog post! I've technically had this blog for a couple of years, but I've only been regularly posting since last June or so. Fifty, or so, posts in a little less than a year is a good pace, I think. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me do in future posts or stories. If there's a genre you'd like to see me try writing in, post a comment! If there's a topic you'd like to see a regular blog post on, post a comment! I'm here not only to get my creativity on, but to share my views with you all. That's what blogging is all about.


Rixi wiped the tears from her face as she stared up at Yif. Out of the corner of her eye she could see her friends also crouching or standing near her.

She heard Cuddlington growl and begin to lunge at Yif. The wizard motioned quickly and Cuddlington stopped dead in his tracks as a Hold spell took hold of him. The wizard shook his head at the dwarf, but smiled. "I know what you just went through, dwarf, but I am not to blame for the fate of your cousin," Yif said. "The point of the experiences you each just went through was to teach you that even when you know what is coming, you can't always change the outcome."

The wizard paused and looked each of them in the eye. "If you four are the prophets that I seek, you will know that you will change the empire. That will not change."

Yif started pacing as he continued speaking. "The other point of the exercise was to try to show you that you wouldn't be where you are today without those major events in your lives unfolding the way that they did."

He stopped in front of Cuddlington and stared down at the dwarf. "If you and your cousin hadn't met those drow that day, would you have ever left Goldendelve?" The wizard waved his hand in front of the dwarf, releasing the Hold spell. Cuddlington sighed at Yif and shook his head.

Next, Yif moved to stand in front of Melbrid. "And if you'd been accepted to the wizard school? Would you have been living in Telquirk as a sorcerer?" The sorcerer timidly shook his head.

The wizard then walked over to Meentha and said, "If your village hadn't been destroyed by the Bortan Empire, would you have left it?" Meentha stared hard at Yif, but shook her head as well.

Yif nodded and finally moved in front of Rixi. "What about you? I'm sure that if your parents were still alive you'd be living in Telquirk, but would you be a street rogue or a fisherman?"

Rixi looked down at the floor rather than meet the piercing gaze of the wizard. "I don't know...but probably a fisherman."

The former Archmage of the Bortan Empire nodded again, turned and took a few steps back. "I have high hopes for your group. You're the first group to get this far." He turned back to the group and smiled once more. "Good luck on the rest of the tests."

Before any of the group could react, Yif waved his arms once and the group was teleported away. Rixi looked around and saw that they were standing in a circular chamber with some sort of gravel floor. The chamber was about fifty yards across. She looked up, but couldn't see the ceiling of the room.

Rixi turned around when she heard a scraping sound behind her. She saw an opening appear on one side of the circular room. She was about to start walking towards it when she spotted movement in the shadows.

Suddenly, six goblins darted out of those shadows and charged at the group. They were yelling, screaming and jumping as they were running.

Cuddlington growled and pulled the battle axe from his back as he charged towards the group of goblins. Meentha quickly drew her bow and started letting arrows fly. Melbrid began chanting and waving his arms about as Rixi drew her two short swords.

Three of the goblins stopped to fight the dwarf and the other three gave him a wide berth as they passed him by. Rixi moved forward to try and stop their charge and to protect Melbrid. Meentha dropped her bow and drew her scimitar and stepped up beside Rixi.

Two of the three goblins came for Rixi as the remaining one went after Meentha. Rixi started the fight in a defensive posture. She whirled and parried the seeking blades of the goblins as she fought hard to keep them from flanking her too badly.

Suddenly, several bright orbs of light struck the goblin on Rixi's left. She immediately took advantage of the situation by kicking that goblin square in the chest. The goblin fell back and Rixi turned on the remaining goblin. The goblin growled at her and swung his crude long sword at her legs. Rixi shot the goblin a smile as she jumped over his swing. The goblin obviously wasn't expecting that move as his swing put him off balance. The moment her feet hit the ground, Rixi lunged at the goblin, piercing it in the chest and neck with her twin short swords.

The goblin fell to the floor when Rixi pulled her swords out of him. Rixi turned as the other goblin was rising to his feet. The goblin was already injured and was looking for a way out of the fight. Rixi, seeing the goblin no longer had the desire to fight, indicated that it should run away.

The goblin took two steps back and turned back the way the group had come from and ran. Rixi looked around to see how the rest of the group was faring. Meentha was standing over the bleeding body of a goblin and Cuddlington was cleaning his axe on the tunic of one of the three goblins at his feet.

Cuddlington stood and turned as he heard the footfalls of the goblin running towards the doorway. He dropped the axe and quickly drew a small warhammer and expertly chucked it at the retreating goblin. The warhammer struck the unfortunate goblin square on the back and the creature fell to the ground. Casually, Cuddlington picked up his discarded axe and walked over to the goblin and finished him off with a quick blow of the axe.

Rixi watched Cuddlington's actions with horror. She ran over to Cuddlington and shouted, "Why did you kill that goblin? It was done fighting! It couldn't hurt us anymore!"

The dwarf looked back at Rixi with confusion. "I don't understand yer concern for the creature. Goblins are typically evil creatures, lass. They're entire race are enemies of dwarves everywhere. The world is a better place fer havin' one less goblin in it, I say."

Rixi took a deep breath to calm herself. Before this horrible day, if it was even still that same day anymore, she'd never even killed a humanoid. Now, she'd killed or helped to kill at least two real humanoids and several more in that strange simulation that Yif put her through.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned her head to see Meentha standing behind her. "It's been a harrd day forr you, hasn't it, Rrixi?"

The young rogue nodded at the pantheron and replied, "Yes, I was just thinking about that." She turned her head back to Cuddlington and said, "I'm sorry for snapping at you, Cuddlington."

Cuddlington smiled back at Rixi and said, "No worries, lass. I know that this ordeal has been especially tough on ye. Yer too young for all o' this mess."

Suddenly, the ground started shaking. The entire group turned as a large portion of part of the wall started rising to reveal the large form of a five headed hydra.

The creature let out several simultaneous shrieks as it spotted the group on the far side of the arena. Cuddlington chuckled and said, "And the mess just keeps gettin' bigger."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Still Alive

Just wanted to let you all know that I'm still alive! :)

We moved to our new house this past weekend, so that's what I've been busy doing. As such, I will be waiting until next week to post another Story a Week. Sorry for keeping you waiting, it's just been such a hectic week that I never found the time to write last week's story.

I promise that this week's story will be good and timely. :P

Monday, April 18, 2011

Story a Week 19 - Propheteering Part 7

Well, another late Story a Week. I had a little writer's block last week and with all of the moving preparations as well... Anyway, it's here now. It's a little long, but this part of the story is pretty good. I'm quite proud of this one.

Without further ado...


Rixi stood there staring numbly at her short swords as they dripped blood onto the dirt floor. She felt, rather than saw, someone approach her.

She glanced up and saw Meentha standing near her, a concerned look on her face. Rixi tried to smile, but she knew that her smile was weak, at best.

Meentha asked, "How arre you doing, Rrixi?"

When Meentha said her name, Rixi's smile grew. "I like the way you say my name," she said. "It sounds more exotic."

"Arre you okay?" Meentha asked again.

Rixi's smile diminished a little, but she nodded. "I've never killed, nor helped to kill, another humanoid before," she said.

Meentha nodded. "I thought as much," she said. "Do not worrry yourrself, little one. Minotaurrs are notorriously evil crreaturres. The worrld is a betterr place with the death of this one."

Rixi nodded. "I guess so..." she started to say.

Cuddlington interrupted their conversation by saying, "Lasses, ye all ready to move on?"

Rixi nodded to Cuddlington and he waved them over. Meentha started walking over, but Rixi put her hand on the pantheron's arm. Meentha looked a question at her, and Rixi said, "Thanks."

Meentha smiled and nodded back. When the four of them were all standing together, the dwarf nodded to Melbrid. The sorcerer mumbled some mystical words and waved the wand over their heads. Rixi closed her eyes.

When she opened her eyes she was confused to find herself standing in the town square of Telquirk. She quickly glanced around and noticed a few subtle differences in the town. A couple of the shops had the wrong signs on them and there were a lot more ships in the harbor.

Rixi walked around town in a daze. The town was busier than she remembered. She wandered down to the wharf. Suddenly she stopped short.

She recognized one of the boats docked on the pier. She also recognized two of the people on the deck. "Mommy? Daddy?" she whispered.

She saw that the crew was preparing to push off. Frantically, she ran down the pier shouting, "Stop! Wait!"

Her parents turned toward her when they heard her shouting. They looked puzzled as they walked down the gangplank onto the pier. Rixi stopped in front of them, out of breath.

Rixi's mother said, "Rixi, dear, what's wrong?"

Rixi took a moment to catch her breath and said, sobbing, "I don't understand, how can you be here?"

Rixi's parents looked at each other and shrugged. Her mother said, "I don't understand you, dear. Calm down now, honey, and tell us what's wrong."

Rixi looked about the pier for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. She recognized more and more of the ships there as some of the ones that were lost in the past ten years. Understanding dawned on her. Her parents weren't back; Rixi had been transported to the past somehow.

She looked at her parents again with concern on her face. There could only be one reason why she was transported to the past with her parents there. "Don't go," she said, "I have a bad feeling about it."

Rixi's parents smiled down at her. Her father said, "You know, Losa, we could use another deck hand since Maveri is too sick to sail with us."

Her mother, Losa, replied with a smile, "I think you're right, Luvar. What do you say, Rixi?"

Rixi considered their offer for a moment. 'Maybe if I go along I'll be able to prevent whatever disaster would befall my parents,' she thought to herself. Aloud, "I think I'll go along."

Her parents each put an arm around Rixi and the three of them walked up the gangplank together. Rixi followed her father into the Captain's Cabin. She went to the large navigation table in the center of the room. She saw the course charted on the map and turned to her father, "Why does your course take you so far away from the continent?"

Her father put down the spyglass that he'd been cleaning and strode over to the map. He pointed at the farthest point from the continent that the course would take them. "We've heard a rumor of some schools of exceptionally large tuna out here and we thought that it would be worth spending a little extra time to take a look."

Rixi nodded to her father to show she understood. She looked more carefully at the route and saw that they would come close to several uncharted islands. Her father interrupted her studying by saying, "We're going to be pushing off soon, want to watch?" She nodded and followed him outside.

The next couple of days Rixi spent with her parents bathing in the warmth of their love and company. She realized that this event or whatever it was might be fleeting, so she tried to take advantage of the situation as best she could.

Rixi was sitting in the Captain's Cabin on the fourth day when she felt the ship slow. She stood and went out to the deck. She shielded her eyes from the sun as she scanned the deck for her father. She spotted him at the wheel when he waved her over.

"The lookout thinks he's spotted a school of tuna," her father announced when Rixi approached where he and the pilot were standing. "We're going to furl the sails soon and throw the nets over."

Rixi spent the next two days watching the crew fill their hold with the largest tuna that Rixi had ever seen. She wondered aloud to her father how the fish was kept fresh. "Oh, all fishing vessels have magically enchanted holds that keep the fish fresh," Luvar explained. "In the old days, fishermen would have to salt the fish right away, but that wasn't a very good system and they wouldn't dare try a fishing run this far away from their home port."

Rixi nodded absently. She was busy staring at something on the horizon. "What's that?" she asked, pointing.

Her father squinted at where she was pointed. Sighing, he pulled out his spyglass. Rixi knew that something was amiss when his stance turned rigid instead of being the casual gait he normally affected. All of a sudden he put the spyglass away and sprang into motion. He jumped down onto the main deck and started shouting orders to pull in all of the nets and prepare the sails.

Startled, Rixi turned to the wheelman and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Me thinks yer father seen something he don't like in that ship ye spotted," the old sea dog responded.

Rixi's heart pounded in her chest. 'This must be what happened to my parents,' she thought to herself. 'I would bet that that is a pirate ship.'

Now Rixi jumped down to the main deck and ran back into the Captain's Cabin. She practically bowled her mother over as she charged into the room. "What's going on?" Losa asked. "I heard shouting..."

She must have seen the dread on Rixi's face as her own face steeled in resolve. Rixi wasn't sure what her mother mumbled next, but it sounded something like "Pirates".

Losa ran over to a chest on one wall of the cabin and threw it open. She pulled out several wands and potions and pushed them into her belt pouches. Rixi went to where she had hidden her own weapons and started equipping herself. She felt a hand on her back and turned to see her mother's stern face looking at her own.

"A battle is no place for a child," her mother said.

Rixi's face showed determination as she said, "Mother, I cannot explain it now, but I'm no child. I will fight with you and there is nothing you can do to stop me."

Losa was taken aback by Rixi's fierce words. Gently she said, "As you wish, Rixi." She kissed her daughter on the forehead and ran out onto the deck.

Tears welled up in Rixi's eyes, but she fought them down. "I can make a difference here," she said as she charged out onto the deck.

She shielded her eyes from the bright sun as she stared out at the approaching vessel. It was much closer than before. Rixi dodged the sailors running about as she ran to the forecastle where her parents were standing. As she approached she heard her mother say, " doubt about their intentions?"

Luvar shook his head and replied, "None. They display no colors and heed no signals."

Rixi reached the forecastle just as the sailors unfurled the mainsail and the ship started moving. "Can we outrun them?" she asked her father.

Luvar turned to his daughter. He saw the weapons and equipment she was carrying and started to say something but was stopped when Losa shook her head. Sighing, he said, "Not likely, my dear. If they're good pirates, their ship is built to be faster than ours, not to mention the fact that we're carrying several tons of tuna in our hold."

Rixi glanced back to fast approaching pirate vessel. "How long do we have?" she asked.

Her father shrugged. "Perhaps fifteen minutes," he said. "I plan to sail directly towards them and then turn hard to port just after we pass broadside of them. Hopefully, that will buy us some additional time as they scramble to intercept us."

Her father ran back to the wheel. Rixi watched the approach of the pirate vessel with apprehension. They were getting close enough for Rixi to make out sailors running on the deck. The ship was about the same size as her father's, but it sported broadside cannon where the fishing vessel didn't. Rixi saw smoke bellow from the front of the other ship, then saw a splash about twenty yards fore and starboard of the fishing vessel.

"Great, they have a forward cannon on deck," her mother mumbled. She pulled out a stunning red wand from a pouch and aimed it at the other ship. "Just one more minute until we get into range..."

The pirate vessel sent another cannon ball sailing towards their ship. The range on this one was good, though five yards or so to port. The next one would probably land squarely.

Before they could get off another shot, Losa let loose with her wand. Several bright spheres of light sailed across the open water and struck one of the sailors serving the forward gun square in the chest. The man flew back and landed on the main deck, unmoving. Losa smiled at Rixi and said, "I just hope they don't have a real wizard or sorcerer on their ship. I couldn't match them with my meager skill."

Losa drew another wand as the ship neared and let loose a fireball at the other ship. The fireball exploded on the bow of the pirate vessel causing the rest of the guns crew to fly backward. The sail above the forecastle burst into flames.

The two ships were beside each other now and the pirate ships broadside guns opened up on the fishing vessel. Rixi felt the boards beneath her vibrate as the roundshot struck home. Rixi grimaced when she saw the pirate sailors wielding grappling hooks. Their approach was close enough that most of them stuck when they threw them over. Rixi was nearly thrown from her feet when the ship slewed to starboard as the sailors on the pirate vessel pulled the ships closer together.

Rixi jumped down to the main deck as pirates began to make the crossing to the fishing ship. Her qualms about killing humanoids from earlier in the day were thrown out into the wind as she began slashing and stabbing the intruders.

Rixi didn't get much of a chance to gauge the status of the overall battle as it raged around her, but she did notice every time the ship shuddered when something struck it. After one particularly large shake, Rixi dispatched the pirate she had been fighting and glanced around. The first thing she noticed was that two of the fishing boats masts had fallen and the sail on the mainmast was on fire. The pirate ship was faring much better, the fire Rixi had seen on the foremast's sail was out and there wasn't much other damage to speak of.

Then Rixi noted a figure moving about the pirate ship. The man was wearing simple robes and walking about the ship confidently. Rixi could tell right away that he was a wizard. Growling, she stormed over to the rail and grasped the nearest rope. She swung over to the pirate vessel and landed near the wizard.

"Ah, what's this? One of the peasant fishermen wishes to bring the battle to our ship?" the wizard said.

Rixi ignored the man's brash comments and growled again as she charged him. He just stood there smiling as she passed right through him. Rixi stumbled for a couple of steps and looked up to see the wizard standing on the quarterdeck, smiling down at her. "You're no match for me, little girl," the wizard boasted. "I've killed the meager sorceress your ship boasted and I've been plastering your vessel with my destructive..."

The man's boasting was silenced when Rixi charged him again. This time, she stopped short of his image and spun around to where he had been standing before. Sure enough, the wizard was there. Rixi launched both of her short swords at him and quickly drew her daggers. She watched as the short swords reached their target and she stabbed into the image of the wizard standing behind her. She smiled as her daggers penetrated flesh and she heard the wizard gasp. The image on the main deck disappeared.

She withdrew her daggers and turned on the wizard. She stabbed him again with both daggers and watched as the life drained from him. Something inside her cried out, but she pushed the feelings down deep. She cleaned her daggers and returned them to their hiding places. She quickly jumped down to the main deck and retrieved her short swords.

Rixi took a moment to assess the situation. The pirate ship was all but deserted with most of the pirates aboard the fishing vessel. The fighting over there seemed to have stopped with most of the sailors dead or surrendered. Rixi saw that a full third of the fishing vessel was on fire. Tears welled up again in her eyes, but she fought them back as she ran to the rail. She swung back to the fishing ship. The pirates seemed to ignore her presence as they looted and corralled their prisoners.

She turned to run to the forecastle, but stopped short when she saw the wall of flames engulfing the entire deck there. Tears welling up, she ran instead to the poopdeck where the wheel was. As she approached she saw several bodies piled up there.

She cautiously began sifting through the bodies until she saw a shining spyglass. Sobbing, she pushed the body of a dead pirate off of her father's body. Tears began pouring down and blurred her vision. The closed her eyes and let the tears come.

After a few moments, she began to wipe her face and she opened her eyes. She was startled to see that she was no longer kneeling on the fishing vessel, but was in an unfamiliar room. She saw the wizard Yif standing over her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TSA - Police State Agency

So there's a video circulating around the internet right now of a little six year old girl getting an "enhanced" pat down search. I've watched it a couple times now and I'm just shocked and appalled on two levels. One, how can anyone claim that this isn't a violation of our rights? And two, how could the parents of this child let the TSA get away with this?

The behavior of the TSA and their agents is getting out of hand. This is the kind of thing that the founding fathers of this nation feared from the English kings and why we have a BILL OF RIGHTS. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches. Now, this is an unfortunately subjective wording. The TSA and therefore the entire United States government are claiming that the searches and pat downs are not unreasonable in order to protect us from the possibility of terrorist attack. I say that we need to find another way. I understand their logic and I do think that their methods have probably made some terrorists think twice about their tactics. I do not think that the threat is great enough to warrant the blatant disregard of our "unalienable" rights. It's just a matter of time before some terrorist will find a way to circumvent the current TSA protocols and then things will get worse. We, as American citizens, need to put our feet down and say "This is unacceptable!".

It should be unacceptable. If I were travelling with my wife and children I would rather go to jail myself then subject my children to this kind of treatment. If the TSA insisted that my children go through that kind search, I would shout and make a fuss and do whatever it took to make sure that it didn't happen. Because it shouldn't! I wouldn't let them get away with it either. If they arrested me, I would call the ACLU so fast that it wouldn't be funny.

Wil Wheaton recently wrote about his experiences with the TSA. He mentions that he is speaking to a lawyer and the ACLU and I don't blame him. In fact, I applaud him for it. I would do the same and I would be glad for a celebrity on the side of good in this instance because it seems that these days people listen to celebrities more than they pay attention to right and wrong. I've been lucky in my travels to not have experienced this myself and I am not looking forward to that day. I'm sure it's coming and that saddens me. This nation is supposed to be about freedoms. I'm saddened because I'm sure that someday soon the government will try to violate my Fourth Amendment freedom while I'm traveling. I'm not sure, yet, how I'll react to the situation. Will I stand up for my rights or just take it and complain afterward? I just don't know yet.

Now, contrary to public speculation and rumor, the TSA is a government agency that reports to the Department of Homeland Security. The current administration is within its power to direct the TSA's activities and I think that an overhaul of its policies and procedures is overdue. Perhaps a changing of the guard as to who runs this agency is even necessary. I'm not sure exactly because I'm not a government expert, but it needs to happen before things get out of hand (which might be too late).

I'm going to end this post before it turns too much into a rant (might be too late!), but I'd like to encourage you all to watch out for yourselves and don't let the government trample on your rights. Remember that authoritarian regimes aren't always built overnight.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Favorite Websites

You like websites, don't you? Of course you do, you're on the Internet now reading my blog. Shouldn't you be working? Just kidding, come back! This post is about some of my favorite websites. I've done a post on my favorite websites before, here, but it has been a couple of years though, so I thought I'd put up an updated list today.

I'm always interested in seeing what pages that others visit frequently. I'd also like to share the sites I visit the most too as a way of "spreading the word", so to speak. I still visit most of these sites regularly, but not always directly. I've mentioned Feed Demon before and I still use it quite a bit to keep up with changes on my favorite websites. When I first mentioned the tool, I had about six or seven feeds, but now I'm up to fifty-six. That might sound like a lot, but it's a quick and easy way to keep up with a lot of websites in a short time.

The list here will mostly consist of the sites in my RSS feed, with the exception of:

Twitter - Twitter seems to be the kind of thing you either love or hate. I personally know a couple of people that absolutely love it, but I know a lot of people that absolutely refuse to even look at it. I fall into the love category. I think that it's interesting to have a look into other people's lives and what they choose to share in < 140 characters. There's a bit of celebrity <-> normal person interaction that occurs on Twitter that I like a lot too. I've only had a couple of short interactions with a couple of minor nerdy celebrities, but I've only been on Twitter for a few months now. Twitter is not in my RSS feed since it would probably overload Feed Demon. I normally just keep the Twitter website open or use the iPod/iPhone app.

Bad Astronomer - This is the Discovery blog written by Phil Plait. He's a brilliant astronomer and his posts are witty, smart and often filled with beautiful images of the universe. He does write about non-astronomy topics occasionally as he is a self described skeptic, but those posts are also well written and researched.

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Disalmanac - I stumbled upon Disalmanac in a retweet from someone I follow on Twitter. I'm not sure who, or I would give them credit. I'm not really sure what to say about Disalmanac except for that it's really funny. The blog and Twitter posts are filled with fake facts about a topic. Check it out for a laugh or two.

Dork Tower - This is a web comic put on by John Kovalic, who you might know as the illustrator of the amazingly popular Munchkin card games. I also follow him on Twitter and he's quite funny.

Nerdy Apple Bottom - Right around Halloween this lady's blog went viral when her son wore a Daphne costume for Halloween. Her blog is interesting and I like her viewpoints on bullying and other topics that she's written about on her blog.

WWdN - This is Wil Wheaton's blog. Since he is a personal hero of mine, I follow him on Twitter and read his blog whenever there's a new post. He's quite a good writer and his posts are all very interesting. If you haven't read any of his work (books, short stories, blog), check it out, you'll be glad you did.

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XKCD - This site is a pretty long running web comic. It's often funny, often serious, always interesting.

What are some of your favorite sites? Like I said, I'm always interested in finding more sites to read.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Story a Week 18 - Propheteering Part 6

Technically it's past midnight here, so I'm posting this week's Story a Week. I've had it done for a couple of days, but took the time to reread it a couple of times and did a little rewriting.

So, enjoy the story!


Meentha pulled the last arrow out of the minotaur's stomach. She looked it over and nodded to herself. She was able to save several of the arrows that helped take the beast down. She glanced around. She saw the dwarf, Cuddlington, digging through the minotaur's pouches.

He pulled a wand out and tossed it to the half-elven sorcerer, Melbrid. "Figger this out," the dwarf said in his gruff voice.

Meentha looked over to where Rixi was standing. The girl was staring blankly down at her blood-covered short swords. She didn't particularly like the little elf rogue, but she could see that the girl was troubled. She glanced back at the dwarf and half-elf, but they were busy with other tasks. Meentha sighed to herself and cautiously strode over to where Rixi was standing.

Rixi looked up when she felt Meentha's presence and put a weak smile on her face. Meentha asked, "How arre you doing, Rrixi?"

Now Rixi smiled in earnest as she said, "I like the way you say my name. It sounds more exotic."

Meentha started to feel slighted by the comment about her accent, but then she realized that the girl was trying to be nice. Meentha smiled back at her. "Arre you okay?" she asked again.

Rixi's smile diminished a little, but she nodded. "I've never killed, nor helped to kill, another humanoid before," she said.

Meentha nodded. "I thought as much," she said. "Do not worrry yourrself, little one. Minotaurrs are notorriously evil crreaturres. The worrld is a betterr place with the death of this one."

Rixi nodded. "I guess so..." she started to say.

Cuddlington interrupted their conversation by saying, "Lasses, ye all ready to move on?"

Meentha glanced at Rixi, who was nodding to the dwarf. Seeing this, Meentha nodded as well. Cuddlington waved the two of them over to where he and Melbrid were standing.

Meentha started to walk over to them, but Rixi's hand on her arm stopped her. "Thanks," the rogue said.

Meentha smiled and nodded back. When the four of them were all standing together, the dwarf nodded to Melbrid. The sorcerer mumbled some mystical words and waved the wand over their heads. Meentha closed her eyes as the spell grew around them.

When she opened her eyes she was startled to find herself crouching in a dense forest. She quickly glanced around and recognized her surroundings as part of the forest near her old village. She tensed when she heard a noise in front of her. Ahead of her were a group of a dozen or so armor clad soldiers plodding through the dense forest. She recognized them as soldiers from the Bortan Empire.

Now Meentha was thoroughly confused. She glanced around again more carefully and noticed and recognized several other pantheron near her. 'Oh, my dear Ehlonna, I've been transported back ten years!' she thought to herself.

She looked back at the soldiers and saw that they were beginning to make camp for the night. She then noticed several of the other pantheron looking in her direction. She nodded to herself and signaled that they should back away. She pointed to the nearest scout and indicated that he should watch the soldiers.

When the rest of the scouts arrived, Meentha spoke in the pantheron language, "We will sleep in the trees tonight and have a standard watch on the soldiers."

The other pantheron nodded and dispersed to hunt for their dinners. Pantheron preferred to have their meals freshly caught, but Meentha pulled a large chunk of jerky out instead of hunting with the others. She had a lot to think about. Why had her goddess, Ehlonna, sent her here? Is this a test of some sort, or is she supposed to fix the wrong that would happen tomorrow?

Before long it started to get dark out and the hunters started returning. The group bedded down in the trees for the night. Meentha knew she could trust her team to keep the watches, so she tried to sleep. She did sleep, but fitfully. Her current situation and the events leading up to it plagued her thoughts.

She awoke before the dawn returned to the forest floor. The youngest in her team, Perrkrrid, was already awake and sitting on a rock near the base of the tree that Meentha had chosen for her bed. When he saw her land on the forest floor, he stood up and respectfully waited for her to address him.

Meentha remembered the youngster from the last time that this had happened. He had just reached the age of ascension last week and his father, a friend of Meentha's, had begged her to take him on this mission.

Meentha nodded to the youth and said, "You have something to tell me."

Perrkrrid nervously said, "Yes, Scout Master Meentha. Do you have a few moments to spare?"

Meentha remembered that she had rudely put him off last time, but that he had been persistent so she let him speak. This time she said, "Of course, what is it?"

Perrkrrid was still nervous, but he said, "I had a vision last night. A horrible, troubling vision."

Meentha knew what he was going to say, but she still said, "Please, tell me about your vision."

The young warrior looked about, but the two of them were alone. "My vision showed our return to the village," he said. After a short pause he continued, " was destroyed."

Last time, Meentha had utterly dismissed his vision as a nightmare of a youth. He had argued that it seemed very real, not like a dream, but she was stubborn. This time, "Yes, Perrkrrid. I believe in your vision. We will act accordingly."

The youth seemed to perk up when Meentha said this, but a thought troubled him still. "What if we are too late?" he asked.

Meentha placed a hand on his shoulder. "We will not be," she said. "Wake the others; I must speak with the watcher."

Perrkrrid nodded emphatically and practically jumped up a nearby tree where a warrior was fast asleep. Meentha raced to where the soldiers' camp was. It took her a few moments to spot the watch, but she was glad to see that it was Yerrn, a warrior with as much experience as Meentha had. She quietly approached his position.

He saw her coming and flashed a smile in her direction. "Their watch fell asleep an hour ago," he whispered to her. "I could have killed them all without waking a one of them."

Meentha put a hand on his shoulder. "We are returning to the village," she whispered back.

Yerrn looked confused, so she elaborated, "Perrkrrid had a vision of the village being destroyed in our absence. I believe in his vision."

Yerrn, Meentha knew, was a very spiritual individual. He nodded. "This is wise of you, Meentha. I know that you do not have perfect faith in such things."

Meentha almost got angry at that remark, but then she remembered that up until today, she hadn't been a true believer in Ehlonna. The day's events would have changed that. Now, she knew what was going to happen, so, hopefully, she could change the outcome.

Yerrn was watching her, as if trying to read her thoughts. She said, "Things change, my friend. Also, the possibility is too much to risk staying with these fools and not going back."

Yerrn nodded and gestured in the direction of the sleeping soldiers. "What should we do about them?"

Meentha's visage turned stonily cold as she said, "Kill them all."

Yerrn nodded and stealthily crept towards the camp as Meentha returned to their sleeping place. The entire scouting group was waiting there. Meentha confidently strode into the center of the group and addressed them. "We are returning to the village." Several pantheron started whispering amongst themselves, Meentha ignored them. "Perrkrrid has had a vision from Ehlonna that we cannot ignore. If we continue this mission, our village will be destroyed." The whispers turned into gasps. Several warriors started talking at once.

"Silence!" Meentha growled. The entire group became quiet. "We will leave as soon as Yerrn returns."

"What is he doing?" one of the warriors asked.

"This group of soldiers is merely a distraction by the Bortan so that they can sack our village while we are gone. Yerrn has gone to kill them all while they are still sleeping." Meentha glanced around for any dissent, but saw only nodding faces. She had the group’s full support.

It was at that moment that Yerrn strode into the group and up to Meentha. "It is done," he said.

"We move!" she shouted and ran in the direction of their home village.

Several hours later Meentha signaled for the group to stop to take a short rest. Everyone growled in unison to keep going. Proudly, Meentha nodded and signaled for the group to keep running.

Another two hours passed before the group arrived in the village. The villagers were surprised to see them return so soon. Meentha ran up to the chieftain’s hut, but as she arrived a flaming arrow struck the hut not five feet from her head.

Meentha quickly turned to see a dozen Bortan archers fit another volley of arrows to their bows. "Ambush! North of town!" Meentha yelled as she drew her own bow.

Meentha quickly fired off several rounds into the archer group. She wasn't sure she hit anyone, but she saw a couple of the archers fall before they let fly their next volley of flaming arrows. The remaining archers melted into the forest. Meentha heard an unintelligible shout come from the forest, then ten mounted warriors came charging out of the forest into the village. They were followed by at least thirty men on foot.

Meentha knew then that there wasn't much hope for the village. Glancing about, she saw several huts on fire and only her few warriors were ready to defend the village and they were exhausted from their sprint back to the village.

Meentha fired off a round into the nearest horseman, then grabbed the nearest pantheron she could find. "Get the Chieftain and Warmaster! We must organize the defense!"

The older female nodded and ran into the chieftain’s hut. By now, several other warriors had joined hers in the defense of the village. Meentha noticed the archers returning to their positions, so she started picking them off, one by one.

The Chieftain, Herran, came up beside her, wielding his own bow and firing at the archers. "Why have you returned?" he asked in between volleys.

"A youngling in my group had a vision foreseeing this event last night. I knew that we would be needed," Meentha replied.

Herran, who knew of her imperfect faith in Ehlonna, looked at her doubtfully for a moment. He fired another shot at an archer, then nodded at Meentha. "I am glad you heeded the vision," he said. He looked around at the village and sadly remarked, "Of course, there might not be much of a village left after this attack."

Meentha was about to reply when one of the horsemen charged the two of them. Meentha dropped her bow and quickly drew her scimitar. She easily dodged the charging horse and, in the same movement, sliced the poor creature's front legs. The horse immediately dropped to its knees, throwing its rider forward.

Meentha quickly ran over to the man and, before he could recover, dispatched him with a quick slice to the back of his neck, nearly decapitating him. She turned back to where the melee was occurring and saw that the chieftain was lying on the ground near the horse. She ran to him, but saw that there was no hope for him.

"Meentha..." he whispered. Tears stung her eyes as she tried to keep him from talking. He shook his head weakly and groaned. "I'm..." The chieftain would never speak again.

Angrily, Meentha rose. She grabbed her discarded scimitar and ran, growling, into the melee. After several minutes of frantic fighting, the remaining soldiers retreated into the forest. Meentha, clutching one of the wounds she sustained, surveyed the damage.

All, save one, of the huts in the village were burning. Many of the villagers lay on the ground, unmoving. She counted five of her own warriors among the dead, leaving just Yerrn and Perrkrrid alive. Meentha hung her head in shame and guilt. She'd come back instead of continuing the pursuit of the diversion and it hadn't changed the outcome by much.

Her sadness and exhaustion caught up with her and she fell to the ground and started weeping. After a few moments, she noticed the sounds around her and grown quiet. Puzzled, she opened her eyes and saw the wizard, Yif, standing in front of her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Buying a House!

My wife and I recently began the process of buying a house. From the start, we knew that it would be a long, arduous process filled with frustration and sacrifice. This ended up being true, but not quite in the way that we expected.

I've written about our plan of attack for getting a new house before. To sum up, we're probably going to end up being at least $40K upside down when we end up selling our house. This, plus trying to sell a house with two small kids, made this task seem impossible from the start. So, we came up with a solution in which my mother-in-law (the best mother-in-law in existence) would sell her house and move into ours, thus allowing us to buy a new house while she rented ours until it sells.

Hurdle, the first:
Sounds like a great plan, right? Well, we thought so too, until we started talking to mortgage brokers. Apparently, mortgage companies don't count rent when: 1. it's from a family member; and 2. you've been renting your house for less than one year. So, my mother-in-law (let's shorten that to MIL; I'm a programmer, I like acronyms) is going to still rent our house AND co-sign on our new mortgage until our old house sells (again, best MIL EVER!). Hurdle jumped.

Hurdle, the second:
So, we're approved for a mortgage at around what we were looking for. That's good. Now we start looking for houses in that price range in Eagan, MN. If you don't know Eagan, it's a pretty nice area in which house prices didn't lose as much value as the rest of Dakota county. So, houses in our price range in Eagan were definitely improvements over our house, but weren't quite meeting our expectations. So, we started looking in the surrounding communities and ended up finding a great house in Burnsville. It's just as close to my work as many of the houses in Eagan we looked at, and even closer than some of them. Plus, it's four (potentially five) bedrooms and two baths. We're definitely satisfied with our choice. Hurdle jumped.

Hurdle, the third:
At this point, I started traveling again for work. We'd signed most of the paperwork, but there has been A LOT of back and forth with our mortgage broker. This makes it hard when three people in three different states have to sign the same document. Also, it seems that our financial situation and my MIL's situation had caused some concern with our smallish mortgage company. They've started asking for the weirdest information. Stuff like: how old are your children?; are you planning on running a salon in the house? (the prior owner ran a salon in the basement and the home is licensed for that); and several others that were ridiculous and personal, rather than financial, that I won't repeat here. This one is less of a hurdle and more of a constant frustration with our mortgage broker and company. Hurdle jumped.

Hurdle, the fourth:
The prior owners love that house. To me, that's a good sign, but it's caused some minor issues. They have asked to change our close date a couple of times and have made some questionable responses to the inspection. We've managed to maintain our original close date and I'm not too worried about the inspection items. It's stuff that wouldn't cost us too much to fix ourselves. Hurdle jumped.

Our close date is fast approaching (4/22) and we're packing up our house. We're very excited for this move and can't wait to have more space to stretch out into. To have a yard (with a swing set!) and enough room for each kid to have their own room! I can't wait!

Basically, our biggest frustration has been with our mortgage broker. He was referred to us, but I don't think I'll be referring him to anyone. He's unorganized, slow to respond and will only pick up the phone and call at the last minute when he needs something from us. I know, more than most I think, that we're all transitioning from phone to email/text/etc, but you can't always run a successful relationship with just emails. If you're going to try, your communication must be coherent and organized. Use proper punctuation and capitalization. If you're giving me a list of items to return to you, make it a coherent list. If I give you something from that list in a response, keep track of it! I've given this guy the same document at least three times because he's lost it. So frustrating!

I've learned a lot over the past few months. If anyone wants any advice, please leave a comment! I'm happy to help. After we move out, we're going to put our house up for sale. I'll probably write another blog post about that too, so stay tuned!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Story a Week 17 - Propheteering Part 5

Hello! It's time again for a Story a Week. It's a day late, but the funny thing is that I actually finished the story Thursday. Yesterday we spent the day out of the house and I barely touched my computer all day.

Anyway, here it is. Enjoy!


Cuddlington pulled a wand out of the minotaur's pouch and handed it to Melbrid. "Figger this out," the dwarf said gruffly.

Melbrid took the wand and nodded. He sat down cross-legged and concentrated on the wand for a moment. He began to sift through the emanations of magical energy that he could see the wand giving off. First, Melbrid saw that there was some basic protection on the wand to prevent non-magic users from accidently activating the wand. Next, he saw something strange. The spell was new to him and obviously crafted by a powerful wizard. There was some effect masking the true powers of the spell, but it was quite obvious to Melbrid that it was a teleportation spell of some sort. Considering their surroundings, Melbrid guessed that it was designed to teleport the group over an extremely long distance, a feat that was risky using the normal teleportation spells available to most wizards.

A voice brought Melbrid out of his reverie. "Melbrid, ye figger that wand out, yet?" Cuddlington asked him.

The young half-elf nodded uncertainly. "I think so," he said, "I've never seen anything like this wand before. It's some kind of teleportation wand, but it doesn't use the traditional teleport spell. It's pretty unique."

The dwarf gruffly shrugged back at him. "So? Can ye activate the blasted thing?"

Melbrid nodded back and Cuddlington turned to where Rixi and Meentha were standing. "Lasses, ye all ready to move on?"

They both nodded, so Cuddlington waved them over to where he and Melbrid were standing. When the four of them were all standing together, the dwarf nodded to Melbrid. The sorcerer mumbled some mystical words and waved the wand over their heads, closing his eyes as the spell built to a crescendo.

When he opened them, he was immediately confused. He found himself standing outside the wizard school in Gadenz, the capital of the province where Telquirk was located.

Melbrid glanced around, but didn't see anyone around. He suddenly remembered the last time that he was standing outside this particular building. He ran inside.

The first door opened easily for him, but the doors on the inside of the entry wouldn't budge. He heard someone clear their throat to his right. Melbrid glanced over and saw a bored looking student worker sitting behind a service window rolling his eyes. "Can I help you?" the student asked.

Melbrid quickly went over to the window and said, "I have an appointment with Head Wizard Munic concerning admittance."

The distaste that the student obviously felt for Melbrid's presence was obvious as he replied, "Your name?"

"Melbrid," was Melbrid's reply.

"Melbrid..." the student said condescendingly.

Melbrid sighed and said, "Melbrid Thatcher."

Melbrid knew the reaction he would get from his lower class surname and wasn't surprised when the student mumbled, "Uh-huh." The student nodded to himself as if Melbrid had confirmed something he had already surmised.

The student looked down at something on his desk. He grudgingly nodded and grabbed a wand from somewhere out of sight. He waved the wand at Melbrid and said in a bored monotone, "Welcome to the Gadenz Wizard School. Your presence will be tolerated for two hours at which point you must either leave, or have an authorized wizard renew the spell I have just cast on you. The door will open for you, now."

Melbrid quickly said his thanks and ran through the door. He hesitated in the hall for a moment, but then started up the main stair that went up through the center of the tower. If he remembered correctly, the Head Wizard's office was at the top of the tower. Several minutes, and many, many flights of stairs later, Melbrid arrived at the top, out of breath. He gave himself a moment to catch his breath before he knocked on the door that stood at the top of the stairs.

"Enter, Melbrid," he heard an elderly, yet strong, voice say.

Melbrid nervously stepped forward and opened the door. He saw a man sitting behind a desk reading a thick tome. The man was obviously quite advanced in age, but exuded a powerful presence all the same. The man, without looking up, gestured for Melbrid to enter and take a seat.

Melbrid tried to exude confidence as he entered, but the memory of this event plagued him. He still didn't understand why the wand had somehow transported him ten years into the past, but he could figure that out later. If he was stuck in the past, perhaps he could change his future today.

After a few moments, the man looked up at Melbrid and smiled. "As you know, I am Head Wizard Munic."

Melbrid nodded and replied, "Thank you for inviting me here, Head Wizard. I was pleased to get the invitation. It was unexpected."

Munic nodded. "Yes, this I am sure of. As I'm sure you're aware, being a wizard has become an elite position in our society. Only aristocrats and their brats have the power and money to get into any wizard school in the Bortan Empire. I aim to change that as much as I can." Munic paused. "When I attended the wizard school in Bortan City nearly two centuries ago, tuition was cheap and there was no acceptance process to speak of. Everyone was accepted and if they couldn't hack it they were excused, that was all."

Munic stood and paced behind his desk for a few moments. He stopped and faced Melbrid. "My point to all of this is that I know that you're interested in attending our school, but I'm also aware of your family's standing and financial situation. To be blunt, neither you nor your family can afford to send you here and you frankly don't have the political pull to have the administration reduce your tuition."

Melbrid was still surprised by the old man's frank attitude, but he nodded all the same. Munic nodded back at him. "Good, you at least acknowledge your situation. If you'd argued it, I would have put you out on your ear, which is still a possibility, mind you.

"There is something that I've found out about you that concerns me, Melbrid," Munic said as he started pacing again.

After a few moments, Munic didn't elaborate, so Melbrid said, "What is that, sir?"

Munic sighed and said, "I've been informed that you've begun training yourself as a sorcerer. Is this true?"

Melbrid remembered this part of the conversation from the last time that it happened. He'd tried to downplay his training as just an eagerness to be familiar with magic and his skills were only at a novice level. Munic called him out on that and kicked him out. 'Things will be different this time,' Melbrid thought to himself.

Steeling himself, Melbrid said, "Yes, sir. I have been training to become a sorcerer. I..."

Munic turned suddenly and silenced Melbrid by slicing his hand through the air. "Enough! I know about it, but that sort of behavior will not be tolerated in my wizard's school!"

Melbrid was confused. Last time Munic had kicked him out for trying to hide his activities, now he was angry just because of them. "I d-don't understand, sir," he stammered out.

Munic seemed to calm down as he explained, "You see, Melbrid, magic isn't meant to be 'dabbled' with. It's too dangerous. Wizards practice magic with scientific precision through experimentation in controlled situations and documenting our findings. Sorcerers arrogantly claim that they 'understand' magic better through some hokey innate control. All wizards know that this control is a fallacy. Sorcerers don't understand the basic principles of magic enough to..."

It was Melbrid who cut Munic off this time. All the old wizard's rant did was to anger Melbrid, not show him the error in his ways as Munic has obviously intended. "You're the one who doesn't understand!" Melbrid blurted out.

Munic stared at Melbrid with astonishment that quickly turned to anger. "You dare?!? You're as insolate and arrogant as the typical sorcerer! I will not have you in my school! Get out!"

The door behind Melbrid's chair slammed open. Melbrid stood slowly and said, "It's really wizards who don't understand magic, Munic. You use it like a tool while sorcerers embrace it as a part of us and everything around us. We are the will of magic, you are its abusers."

Munic's face flushed with anger now. "Out!" he screamed at Melbrid. "Out before I show you how deadly my 'tool' is!"

Melbrid turned his back on Munic and slowly left the room, slamming the door behind him. Things definitely went differently this time, but the result was the same. Melbrid found himself smiling all the same, which was also different than last time. He had been so disappointed before, now he found himself beaming because he knew his path was the right one. He smiled at the gruff, tough looking students who met him at the first landing. They looked at each other quizzically; they'd never seen someone happy about not being admitted into the school before.

Melbrid had always regretted how things had gone at during his interview, but now he knew better. He closed his eyes, savoring the moment. When he opened them he was startled to be in an unfamiliar room. Standing in front of him was the wizard Yif.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Career Path

I've been thinking a lot lately about my career. I'm just not sure that Software Development/Project Management is for me. I've always been interested in science and I've decided to pursue a career as a scientist. To be more specific, I'm going to be a MAD SCIENTIST!

I've been dabbling in all the fields that you'd expect from a Mad Scientist. Robotics, Lasers, Alien Technology, you know, the basics. I've got a nice prototype robot in my secret basement lair and enough spare body parts to attempt my own Frankenstein.

I'll be attending the Annual Mad Scientist Association Convention (AMSAC) in Toronto in a couple of months. They used to meet in Las Vegas, but they decided that Las Vegas was too predictable a locale. Toronto is a city on the rise in Mad Scientist circles. Maybe I'll see some of my heroes there, such as Dr. Horrible.

So, stay tuned for some big announcements concerning my demands and threats to national and world security.