Poem — Blank

I live in fear of nothingness

The Would-be’s and Should-be’s

The endless possibilities

Of all things I could see

 

The white canvas is beloved

“Writing is creative!”

But nothing pans out well because

Words are just translative

 

So when those words don’t come to you

And everything stands still

I find I’m just as blank inside

A white too vast to fill

 

Review — Wonder Woman

After all the raving reviews for this movie, and how everyone I know seemed to like it, I had high hopes for this movie. Even with it being part of the superhero bandwagon DC is jumping onto (which we all know they have been horrible at translating their stuff to the big screen), I knew it was going to be great. And, by and large, I think it was. Not a fantastic movie, mind you, but a pretty good one. As far as this post goes, I won’t be spoiling any specific plot related stuff, but I will talk about the general framework of the movie.

Now, when I tell people that I didn’t think this movie was amazing, most are surprised. Don’t get me wrong. This movie is amazing, especially compared to the other DC movies. But there’s nothing that makes it stand out as unique. The general plot is pretty basic, and one of my main issues with this movie is that there are never any direct consequences for the heroine. She wants to do a thing, and nothing in the world will stop her from doing it.

I, like much of the world of fiction, will consider this level of stubbornness and arrogance a character flaw. Only, she is never punished for her actions. (I realize you could argue this, but doing so would involve spoilers, so let’s just leave it at that.) But when I say she is never punished, I don’t mean there is no conflict. I mean that I wanted her actions to make the situation worse, and for her to learn something because of it. Instead, her arrogance leads her to take actions that don’t solve the problem, so she goes and does something else instead.

Overall, the plot structure is also very basic. “Here’s some exposition, now some action, and now we’ll be getting intermittent character development in between action scenes.” You hear a lot about character-driven fiction versus story-driven fiction, but this is definitely action-driven fiction. Characters will make dumb decisions based on the plot’s need for some slow motion action-y bits, of which there are a lot.

That isn’t to say that action movies are bad. But no action movie will ever get a perfect score in my book because I like interesting stories, and they just never do. Instead, they focus on cool shots and CGI. This movie did have some great shots, but I wasn’t a big fan of some of the CG. There were quite a few moments where Diana was moving in a way that looked wrong because the specific things that were happening didn’t physically work. I realize that I’m a product of my generation in that I have extremely high expectations for what looks real and what doesn’t, but still. (I will admit that all the horse tricks and the flips looked pretty dang snazzy, though.)

By far, the single best thing that Wonder Woman had was Gal Gadot. Her acting was pretty awesome, and she did a great job portraying a lost but stubborn character in an unknown world. I love naive characters like that, and she really nailed it without also being ‘dumb’. Plus, I think she really nailed the facial expressions, and as attractive as she is, I found it completely believable when all the characters who saw her for the first time were awestruck.

So, when I watch the next movies in the Justice League series, the thing I’m most excited for is seeing her act more. Unfortunately, it’ll be a ‘present day’ Diana where she’s acclimated to society, so we won’t get nearly as much of the naivety anymore, but either way I think that the quality of this movie is an probably an outlier. I don’t expect the next movies to suddenly be on the same level.

Story — The Hands of Aeneus Pt. 1

Under the table, Varra clenched her fists in annoyance. It was like talking to a brick wall. “Look, I’m not saying we give the people free roam of the city. I realize nobody in Upper Terrace would agree to that. But we have to do something. We need a more defensive presence in the primary city.”

“No, we don’t. We’ve done it this way for hundreds of years. Trust me, it has always worked. No substantial threats have come to the kingdom, so there is no reason to change things.”

She looked down into the courtyard of the palace, and the stone, spear shaped obelisk in the center. The single most dangerous object in Tebrein. Right in the center of the capital. And the only people who knew what it was capable of were the Hands of Aeneus and their seconds.

“I realize this is a lot to take in,” Elodrus explained, grabbing his wine glass as a Tenshari servant refilled it in passing. “But what you’re proposing would be a tactical blunder. If we pull troops from Lower Terrace into the inner city, people will ask questions. We can’t tell them honestly why we would make such a seemingly useless decision, and it will draw attention to the wrong places.”

“But what if the Spear Gate activates and we are invaded from the inside?”

Elodrus shook his head. “There is no need for concern, darling. The Gate has been dormant for decades. In fact, I hadn’t been the appointed Hand of Ceremony for three weeks before it opened.”

She tensed at that. “So what’s stopping it from opening again, now that I’m a newly appointed Hand?!”

“Relax, relax,” he soothed, gesturing for her to sit back down as he lowered his voice. “The answer is nothing, but as I’ve said, there’s no reason to believe it will open any time soon, either. Do sit down, you don’t want to draw attention.”

Varra glanced about the scarcely populated dining hall as she sat back down. It was more of an immense open corridor, really. She had often eaten here as a child, but knowing what that obelisk was now changed everything. It made her feel vulnerable. As if it was staring at her. Tasting her fear.

“I admit that I’ve lost sleep since I’ve relocated to my new chambers in the palace. It is customary that a Hand’s bedroom has a window facing the Spear Gate, but I find it unnerving. I’ve had the servants cover the window, but it stares at me just the same.”

“It does have that effect on people,” Elodrus nodded. “And, allow me to say that I do admire your willingness to take action. You are so like your mother in that regard. In many ways you’ve taken your duties in stride. I find that remarkable, but rest assured that everything we do is for a very good reason, and taking drastic measures out of fear is political suicide.”

“I’d much rather commit political suicide than tactical suicide,” she murmured. “We could have an entire army in the palace within minutes at any point in time and there would be nothing we could do. All five Hands and each of their seconds could have their throats slit during the night and then both Terrace and Tebrein would be left with no government. What good is my ‘willingness to take action’ as the Hand of Defense if I am not allowed to take defensive action?”

He took a long sip of wine before responding, frowning as he did. “Much of the things we do is directed by the experience we have. Your being appointed Hand is unprecedented because you are so young, and not even a groomed second. But desperate times call for desperate measures, Varra.  At twenty winters you are by far the youngest Hand to walk the palace grounds in at least a century. Worry not, however. The other Hands and I have discussed this, and we will be more than happy to shelter the burden of your office until you are old enough to really understand your duties.”

Story — The Third Era and Recent History

From the Writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

 

The Great Sundering that created the Xal Deer Sea brought a close to the Archon War. They were all in agreement that they had the power to change the world, and if they weren’t careful that power would tear it apart. Verik and Cedrine took much of the blame for all the lives lost in their act of retaliation, but rather than continue to wage war, the other Archons decided to forgive them and make things right by changing things for the better.

The Archon War’s official conclusion was the establishment of the Preservers, by Kitsuki’s suggestion. This organization would have international influence and would bow to no sovereign power. Their goal, as it remains to this day, is to collect and maintain all knowledge of the world in all forms. This means obtaining copies of every written work, and writing down our findings as well. The individual tasks of the Preservers has grown more complex over time, and a more detailed explanation is better suited elsewhere.

The Preservers was established, and the Archons also served as the original Keepers of their respective nations. As such, they served as both leaders of their nations and of the Preservers. Most Archons agreed that this should not always be the case, and succession for control of their governments and the seat of Keeper should diverge after their own lives were at an end. However, they could never agree on a rule of succession, so most nations adopted their own specific rules. Suffice it to say that this has been met with much controversy, and people both inside and outside the Preservers are often very opinionated towards how this should have been done or why things happened the way it did.

After the Archon War, the Archons collaborated on several large scale projects, most notably the Endless Halls in Kitsuya, where a vast majority of Preserver collected knowledge is stored. It is believed that Verik crafted The Archive at around this time, though he informed no soul of its existence, and the Preservers didn’t discover it until much later.

It is at this point that northern Torreth reaches a golden age. Many advancements regarding the use and application of magic are made, and this allows even the most arid regions of Ketha to be inhabited, as well as the unforgiving slopes of Aluvalia.

It is also at this time that the Archon Zephirine ventures (or returns, if some rumors are to be believed) to Koh Liia. This is the first verifiable incident in which a human has successfully returned from Ithalin or any other known or speculated landmass.

Due to the establishment of the Preservers early on, the events of the Third Era are so well documented that picking and choosing which are most significant are always up for debate. As such, it would be better to briefly describe how things changed over the centuries rather than describe specific events.

Contrary to popular belief, the Archons did not live particularly long lives, save for Zephirine and Kitsuki. If anything, their lives ran shorter than average due to the wounds sustained in their battles and the stress their positions caused. Most died of old age.

Initially, the Preservers had a difficult time enforcing their power beyond the reach of nations. It has never been the charge of the organization to deal with politics in any light other than our own internal affairs, but the first three hundred years of this proved difficult for both sides. There were many that thought the Preservers and the national governments should work in tandem, and some that believed the two should be entirely separate. In time, separation won favor, and it has been that way ever since.

The middle of the Third Era is widely regarded as the most fruitful and peaceful time in all of history. Border disputes were few and far between, and even when they were brought up they were solved peacefully. Armies became useless, and as such much of the magic users that were not affiliated with the Preservers opened schools to formally teach others.

This allowed for the growth of even more knowledge, and a few centuries later, steam-powered energy became very popular, birthing a revitalized interest in the advancement of technology rather than a prioritization in magic. Calitha turned to steam as their main source of energy, and they became the leading nation in commerce. Nations like Ketha have followed behind, while some have been more resistant to change, but overall trade between nations grew much easier.

This golden age continued until recent memory, when the Rupture occurred. This has been chronicled as the beginning of the Fourth Era, of which this has been written in the fifty-second year. There is still little that is known about the event, only that it originated in Veritia. The explosion wiped out the entire nation and left a rift in the night sky, and it seems to have influenced the way flora and fauna interact with magic. This, in general, made the use of magic far more dangerous, and has necessitated the need for a new defense force that does not utilize magic.

This was the reason for the formation of the Riftguard, a non-research oriented branch of the Preservers, forty-three years ago. They are devoted to the protection of the realm against both magical and non-magical threats. A smaller division of the Preservers has also recently been established to investigate the Rupture, it’s cause, and it’s consequences.

While little may currently be known about the drastic changes in our world and environment, it is imperative that this is knowledge the Preservers discover quickly, for the safety of both Torreth and Nacre Then as a whole.

Improv 101 — Arms Through

One of the games that Whose Line is it, Anyway? is most famous for, Arms Through is sort of a gimmick game that I don’t play a lot, because it requires a few variables to be in place before you can even try it out. Now, when I explain it, I’m not going to explain how WLIIA plays it, because that’s a different environment than what most improv would provide.

Arms Through is a team hoop game with a varying energy level. It’s humor can derive from both the things that are done and the things that are said, so really it just depends on that specific game. The setup for the game is pretty simple. Four people get into two different pairs. One person from each pair folds their arms behind their backs, and the other person from that pair goes behind them and puts their own ‘arms through’ the gaps in their sides. Each pair in this game is one person in the scene, with the body of one person and the arms of the other. You get any suggestion at all, and the scene progresses as if it was two normal people doing it, if those people were excessively prone to touching their faces and generally being “handsy”.

So, why does this game not work well in all situations? Well, for obvious reasons, it requires you to know and trust the rest of your cast. IF you get two strangers to play this, they won’t be very comfortable with one another. You want the pair of people to work as  a team, following hand gestures and all, but if they’re so uncomfortable they’re standing a foot apart from each other, their arms won’t even be long enough to accomplish anything, and any audience would practically be able to feel the discomfort that would cause. Another thing that I specifically have to consider is that I’m working with a lot of teenagers, and without really getting into it, I have to be careful because things can go from uncomfortable to sexual harassment really quick. (When considering this, I always make the pairs the same gender, but this doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.) Really, though, as long as the cast knows each other, these aren’t things anyone would have to worry about.

So, how do you actually play this game? Well, it really is a normal scene. It is the “body’s” job to allow the arms to be as involved in the scene as possible, and it’s the “arms'” job to be entertaining. Obviously moving around can be difficult because each person is actually two, but this game wouldn’t work with stage entrances and exits in any case. As a result of this, this game is often shorter than most, because having two people interact nonstop in one scene starts to get a little stale, even if the scene itself is entertaining.

Whose Line plays this as a gimmick, with Colin making Ryan eat awful concoctions and having him justify those things in the scene. There’s never any movement, and since they only have one body-arms pair, all the focus in the scene is given to them. In a conventional improv performance, however, improvisers almost never have props to use in any game, and it makes the game different each time you play it. I don’t like the way Whose Line plays it because it’s always done the same way, which isn’t in the spirit of improv, but to each their own.

Story — The Archon War (420)

From the writings of Lead Historian of Ancient Affairs, Toreshide, 52.4E

 

After the Treaty of Eight was signed, the continent of Torreth was split into two designated halves. The southern half was the remaining portion of the Autlan Empire, and with the decline in its power and size came a sudden and huge influx to the northern reaches, much of which was previously considered uninhabitable until the rediscovery of magic.

But there was no solace to be had there. The signing of the Treaty of Eight gave way for the most violent decade in all of recorded history: the Archon War. The purpose of the Treaty was to settle land claims for the Autlan Empire, but gave no such distinction for the nations of magic and their godlike leaders. (This was one of the reasons it was signed so shortly after it was originally drafted.)

Each of the Archons, with the exception of Kitsuki, believed themselves to be the most powerful, wise, and capable leader. Some wished to unify the magical nations of Torreth, while others wanted to be the sole leader. They birthed the seven distinct Sources of magic, but they specifically bear little historical significance and as such will not be discussed here.

Since there was no agreement to be had, they waged war with one another, largely over land disputes. (It was at this time that Kitsuki declared her distaste for war and claimed the north-eastern islands as her own.) They fought with the fury of hurricanes and tornadoes. The Archons, it is said, were forces of nature in their own right, and the only thing that could stand up to one was another Archon. This time of conflict at an individual level is referred to in Preserver documents as “Phase One”. Phase One did little to settle land disputes, however. Calitha, for example, would lose a battle to Verik, and then continue taking his land from under his nose anyway through cunning and trickery.

For this reason, the Archons started forming alliances with one another, with two general goals. Calitha, Zephirine, and Keht forged their alliance with the objective of unifying Torreth and bringing the magic realm into a golden age with which it could expand both geographically and scientifically. This was contrasted by the alliance of Verik, Cedrine, and Aluvair, who believed that the seven nations should remain separate, and that individuality and adversity was key to advancement. This is referred to as “Phase Two” of the Archon War, and it was relatively less destructive than Phase One as it lead to many civil discussions between the seven Archons. Kitsuki, in all of these discussions, remained neutral. It is possible that she first proposed the formation of the Preservers in one of these meetings.

Phase Two did not last long. It isn’t entirely known what started the birth of Phase Three, the final phase of the Archon War. It is speculated that Calitha had secretly been teaching others how to use her magic, which was an action that was openly scorned by the Archons. Many Preservers speculate that Keht somehow betrayed the trust of the civil meetings, or that Zephirine was selling secrets to the Koh Liir race on the distant continent of Ithalin in order to gain their favor. There is undeniable significance that all of these rumors put the “unification” side of the Archons in a bad light, but there is little that can be concluded from this.

Phase Three began as the Archons started bringing up disciples of their magics. As magic is pulled from one specific source, teaching more people one type of magic makes each individual’s ability to use it more diluted, and thus this weakened the Archon’s direct power, but on a large scale, having armies that could utilize magic was a significant boon. Battles sprouted like wildfire across the landscape. With Calitha’s exceptional tactical prowess and large army, combined with Zephirine’s ability to manipulate the weather on a continental scale, the war suddenly looked very grim for Verik, Cedrine, and Aluvair. Their position was strongest during Phase One, where their magic allowed them to become unstoppable, but the tables had turned, and if they couldn’t find a way to tip the scales, surrender would soon be the only option.

Their response was a single retaliation on such a massive scale that much of northern Torreth was destroyed, sinking below sea level and creating the Xal Deer Sea. This blow killed thousands upon thousands of people, and is called The Great Sundering by many. This event forced the Archons to rethink their own power, as it had never been used on such a cataclysmic level. This effectively ended the Archon War, as each nation and Archon decided that war was not the answer.

Prompt — Aenendium

“But here’s the kicker,” Lex continued, a wide grin on his face. “When she told him that they were over, you know what he said?”

“No, what?”

“He said ‘Yeah, and so are all your other relationships.’ And then he showed her the Voice he had taken from the night before. He called every other guy she was cheating on him with that morning.” By the time Lex had finished his story, he had already brought himself to tears with laughter.

Despite herself, Neda smiled. “That’s pretty devious of him.”

He wiped away the last of his tears. “Sometimes I’m jealous of how awesome my brother is.”

“And how every relationship he’s in seems to fail within a few months?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Well, maybe not that part. But at least it doesn’t bother him. Plus he gets so many good stories out of it!”

“Alright,” Neda said, setting a serious tone. “We’re here, and you need to focus.”

Lex frowned at the huge, boulder-like object before them. “Why do I need to focus? Your Scanner is going to be doing all the work.”

“Hardly,” she replied. “Tink can only examine the contents and pack it away.”

“You really named it?”

“Sure. Every Scanner has personality. Tink’s front camera is busted, so he doesn’t know when to start scanning until he actually hits the target. You’ll see. But there’s a procedure to mining. First, examine the object.”

Lex rolled his eyes. What a waste of time. “It’s a big rock that’s dark and gray.”

“That’s unusual. Most of the iron in the Needled Flats is red from oxidization. What does that tell you?”

“That we should have ‘Tink’ scan it because it can actually tell us what it’s made of.”

“You’ll never be a miner if you want to have robots do all the work. You have to look at it and know whether or not it’s worth your time before you even scan it. What if it’s just a giant chunk of iron coated in some other material?”

“How many times do I have to tell you people I don’t want to be a miner?!” Lex looked exasperated, using wide hand gestures to help convey his annoyance.

“Not my problem,” Neda shrugged. “Your mother asked me to take you, and I’ll be damned if I don’t take you back without teaching you something worthwhile. Now tell me. What else is interesting about this boulder?”

“It’s sharp. Unusually sharp. The high winds in the Needled Flats erodes the spires and makes them smooth, so even if this was a piece of one it shouldn’t be sharp.”

“And?”

“And it’s all alone. There’s no spire nearby for this to have broken off from.”

“So, what’s the diagnosis?”

“It’s out of place. It might still be iron, like you said, but it doesn’t look quite right. It does look like it’s been here a while, but it seems to have been placed here deliberately.”

Neda nodded, showing some approval for once. “Good! Is it worth a scan?”

“If I say no, can we go home?”

“The sooner you answer my questions correctly, the sooner we can go home.”

“Then yes, it’s worth a scan.”

Neda crouched down to the little rover and activated its scanning mechanism. The robot perked up almost like a small animal being roused from it’s sleep. It started rolling forward towards the boulder, submerging slightly in the small puddles.

It didn’t stop once it got close enough to scan. Instead, the robot bumped against the rock with a soft ‘tink!’, to which Neda glanced at Lex and winked. Backing up, Tink started scanning the boulder, shining a bright, horizontal light against its surface that spanned up and down with a soft buzz.

After a moment, the light cut out, and Neda jogged over to the robot and looked at the screen to examine the results.

“Gods above,” she murmured.

“What does it say?” Lex asked, following behind.

“Ninety-six percent Aenendium,” she said.

“Aenendium?”

“The strangest metal ever discovered. It is only found on Asamos in extremely rare circumstances, and doesn’t fit on the Periodic Table. Our scientists have never been able to manufacture it.”

“What does that mean?”

“With a deposit this massive,” she pondered. “We could change the world. It would destroy the economy.”

Lex frowned. “So what do we do?”

Neda pulled out her Voice and began tapping numbers into it. “I don’t know. This is big. I have to call my administrator.”

It didn’t seem as though Lex would be going home any time soon. But somehow, that was okay with him.

 

Prompt:iron_sea_kuldar_leement_by_kuldarleement-dbbn3l4