Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WNW: Brainspotting

Choose life. Choose cannibalism. Choose a great big machete, choose taxis, wheel wrenches and air raid sirens. Choose undeath, bloody vomitus, and no pulse. Choose a cozy catastrophe. Choose a fortified country manor. Choose a happy ending. Choose one last hit of juicy, juicy brains. Choose to run and wonder if survival is as good as it gets. Choose rotting away for 28 days, a shambling, smelly, shrieking twat. Choose your future. Choose life.

(No, I didn't write the flavor text, it was in the sidebar on YouTube. But I wish I had!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pellatarrum: Destruction of the Nightspire

And now I can finally answer the question I mentioned being asked on Friday.

Part 5: The Destruction of the Nightspire
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Beholders rebelled against their Illithid masters, and a bloody, genocidal war was fought between them. What should come as a surprise is how it ended.

The Illithid race had taken residence within the Underworld's version of the Dayspire (hereafter called the Nightspire to avoid confusion). The Beholders, seeking to topple their masters from their place of power, decided to destroy that fortress and cast them out into the light, which the Illithids shunned.

It's debatable which is more impressive: the fact that the Beholders actually managed to destroy a monolith of infinite height and immense width, or their startling lack of thought regarding what would happen as a result of that destruction.

For one, a spire of infinite height, when toppled, must perforce fall forever. To this day, mountain-sized chunks of Nightspire strike the surface of the Underworld regularly in an infinitely large spread.

Second, by virtue of having one side constantly exposed to the Positive Energy and the opposite to Negative Energy, the Nightspire (like its cousin, the Dayspire) was an immense magical battery, which is why the Illithids took residence there in the first place. When these charged fragments of Nightspire strike the surface, they explode in a cataclysmic shower of energies. Sometimes this is Positive Energy, and sometimes it's Negative. Sometimes everything is turned to glass for a mile. Other times, life is spontaneously created. Sometimes that life is a fluffy bunny. Sometimes it's an owlbear. Sometimes it's a Tarrasque.

Third, without the Nightspire to counterbalance the topside's Dayspire, the entire disk of Pellatarrum sank until it found a new equilibrium. This resulted in the legendary "Day of Rising" on the topside, where the Positive and Negative Planes appeared to rise from midway across the disk to their current 10:00 am positions. The topside has been the better for this ever since... the underside, not so much, as both "suns" have apparently sunk below its horizon.

Fourth, recall that in order to practice magic, a caster needs 8 hours of rest to regain the ability to cast spells. With the destruction of the Nightspire, the entire underside lost its day/night cycle. Without that cycle, there are no circadian rhythms; without those rhythms, there is no rest, and therefore no ability to practice magic. In a very real way, the Spire itself was a regulatory mechanism for magic, and without its governor, magic went berserk. In a world without observable time, "instant" spells can last forever and "permanent" spells can wear off within minutes.

In short, the underworld is now a hellish, blasted landscape of eternal explosions, erratic magic, and random bursts of creation and/or destruction. No sane creature would want to live there. This of course makes it the perfect destination for someone seeking to create or destroy an artifact, or risk death for a shortcut to power. Perhaps like Siegfried, the character inherits a permanent Stoneskin effect, or learns the secret to casting a level two Fireball by studying the magical environment.

Or perhaps he's devoured by a herd of vorpal bunnies.

Regardless, nearly all of the underside's original inhabitants retreated into deep caves in order to survive the apocalypse. Eventually, some of them were able to travel through the underdark into the caves on the top side of the disk. This is why nearly all aberrations are found in caves -- they are slowly migrating upwards.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pellatarrum: The Underworld

Part 4: The Underworld
And so it was that, for a time, the races of Pellatarrum lived in peace.

Unless, of course, you counted the bottom of the disk.

Which no one did, because as far as the Elder Races were concerned, it was just a bottom. If they gave it any thought at all, they would probably suppose that anything on the reverse side of the disk would just fall into the sky and eventually hit the Elemental Planes, because when the Material Plane was being created the Dwarves had insisted upon having objective gravity (something about how it was the foundation of the plane, and without it everything would fall about the place, and the Elves and Dragons chose just to cede the point rather than endure centuries of Dwarven sulking and complaining).

But in actuality, the bottom of the disk was fertile and habitable. Much like Australia in our own world, its biology had moved in a direction different from the topside. Creatures of the underworld tended towards chitinous shells, tentacular appendages, and inherent abilities both strange and wondrous. The underworld is the origin of all aberrations... which is probably the result of its most notable inhabitants, the Illithid.

Illithids, also known as Mind Flayers, were ancient when the elder races were young, and in fact predate even the Genies. They are the sole surviving civilization of the Godswar, and they managed this because they fled into the Astral Plane to escape the destruction of the Material. For eons they remained there, buttressed upon the corpses of dead gods, their incredible mental powers growing ever stronger within the timeless realm of pure thought and psychic energy. And then one day -- if days could truly be measured in the timeless, silvery waste of the Astral -- something remarkable happened: reality was re-forged.

The Illithids rejoiced at this, in their own alien way, and left their sterile fortresses to colonize this new world. They imported their livestock (food, slaves, and beasts of burden) and proceeded to adapt their environment to suit them. Or, to be more precise, they altered a strain of livestock to make the necessary adjustments for them, because the Illithids had better things to do than manual labor.

And thus were born the Beholders, who after their genetic uplift were far, far smarter than their masters ever expected...

(Note: some readers may feel I am repeating myself with the "Elder race creates a slave race which gains independence" motif. This is deliberate, as recurrence of patterns is a key theme in Pellatarrum. This is a cosmos with a clockwork progression of seasons, reincarnation, and an "as above, so below" relationship between the Material and Elemental Planes. In short, I'm not being lazy, I'm establishing a theme.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pellatarrum: The Lesser Races

Part 3: The Lesser Races
And so it was that after the creation of Pellatarrum, each of the former slave races -- now the elder races in this new world -- went their separate ways, seeking only to create a new life for themselves in peace.

Which is a polite way of saying they hated each other, and the tenuous alliance needed to create the new Material Plane was now gone for good.

The Dwarves claimed the Dayspire as their own, and to this day it is their ur-kingdom and cultural center. The Elves disappeared into the seas, though a cultural schism resulted in some of their number relocating to the forests. The Orcs claimed the hills and crags, and the Dragons disappeared into the skies of whatever climate they found most favorable.

So having accomplished their grandest goals and living in a paradise of their own making, it's only natural that they would wage war against each other.

It's easy to blame the Orcs, but they were creatures of fire, whose nature is to consume and destroy without regard for consequences. They created the Goblinoid races as servitors and foot soldiers, and within a few years had amassed an army which numbered greater than the other races combined. Their intent was to drive all non-Orcs from Pellatarrum and claim it for themselves alone.

There was some opposition to this, as you might expect, but the remaining races were too few in number to contest the Fire Horde. Their only salvation lay in another alliance, and yet they could not tolerate the others enough to engage in any form of diplomacy, so each elder race created their own servitors to act as couriers, diplomats, go-betweens and assistants.

The Dragons, fewest in number of all the races, created Kobolds to represent them in council and guard their treasure and eggs when not in their lairs.

Elves created the Gnomes specifically to parlay with Dwarves. Short in stature and comfortable underground, yet also inherently magical and full of whimsy, they proved ideal for this task.

Similarly the Dwarves sought to find common ground with the Elves, and so created Humans. Shorter than Elves but taller than Dwarves, they could comfortably talk to both, balancing Dwarven practicality with Elven emotion.

Thusly united under a common banner and able to communicate effectively, the races of air, earth and water shattered the people of fire, slaughtering the Orc leaders and destroying their capital. To this day, the Orcs remain a broken people, still driven to fight and consume but without a unifying culture or history. They squabble amongst themselves, and even their former servitor races oppose them.

The other races, not wishing to have history repeat itself yet again, emancipated their servitor races once they were numerous enough to develop their own society and culture. For the most part, the Gnomes and Humans remain on good terms with their parents, though there is the occasional disagreement. Kobolds, on the other hand, promptly re-enslaved themselves to their Draconic patrons. The only reason that free Kobolds exist today is because there are far more of them than there are Dragons to give them orders.

No one knows where or how Halflings were created. They just appeared one day, shortly after the Fire War. Scholars theorize they may be a Gnome-Human hybrid, but experimentation seems to prove that the two races are not interfertile. The Halflings themselves believe they were created along with Pellatarrum itself, incarnations of the cooperative spirit needed to create the world and the desire for contentment shared by all races. As such they are more than happy to share "their" world with the other races, but remain quietly confident that they will eventually inherit it all.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pellatarrum: The Dayspire & Creation Myth

Yikes. Would you believe I started writing this beast on Sunday?

As much as I'd like to have everyone believe I've thought of everything beforehand, creating anything is very much a matter of "Oh crap, how did I miss that, now I have to fix it," usually with much pacing and flailing about and sometimes smashing crockery. This week has seen me sit down to write something, only to discover as I'm arm-deep in creativity that not only did I miss something critical, but fixing it demands I radically re-think whatever I had originally planned.

As you probably know by now, I do not easily discard beloved ideas, but sometimes they gotta go. Fortunately, I had some very competent help, and while the replacement ideas may not be as elegant as what I originally planned, I think they make up for it with sheer nastiness.

So, onward with the post, and I hope it makes up for my recent silence.

In my Cosmology Overview post, longtime reader Mxyzplk asked a series of questions regarding light, shadow, etc, and it took me forever to realize what he was actually asking, which is this:

"Palette, it seems to me that given your description of this world, and especially in the cross-section of figure 4, that the disk of Pellatarrum evenly bisects the energy planes which produce day and night. This means that the "sun", if you will, is at the same height regardless of the time of day, and as such there are going to be really crazy sunrise-like shadows all the dang time. How do you address this?"

And I say, I blame my deficient art skills, because figure 4 is for representational purposes only and is not to scale and I should have said so in the first place. Sorry!

Properly addressing this confusion requires a multi-part explanation. I apologize ahead of time for the massive infodump this has become.

Part 1: The Dayspire
Assuming a perfectly smooth, circular track, and a horse that could sustain a 30 mph gallop, a rider at the base of the Dayspire that started riding in the direction of rotation at noon could just keep pace with the sun. This equals a diameter of 720 miles which, to put that in perspective, is two-thirds the size of Olympus Mons, the biggest mountain in the entire solar system.

Yes, that's the entire state of Hawaii in red.

Now, while the
Dayspire is smaller than Olympus Mons, it has one thing over on its larger Martian cousin: instead of being a cone, the Dayspire is a cylinder of usually consistent thickness (slightly larger at the base due to sloping, etc.) So when I say it blots out the sun (or the Energy Planes, same thing in this case) it really does eclipse it.

Now what's interesting about this is that sunrises -- we'll call them sunrises for simplicity -- are really strange because they're sideways. As you face the Dayspire, the sun will peek out from the right hand side, transit behind you, and then set to your left. The entire time the sun is in the sky, it is approximately at what we on Earth would consider to be 10:00 am.

So, sadly, you never get any high noons. On the other hand, everyone knows what time it is just by orienting themselves toward the Dayspire (easy to do on level ground, as this is a flat world and the Spire has infinite height) and looking at the angle of shadows on the ground.

But how is this even possible? We have to go back to the beginning.

Part 2: The Engines of Creation
The reason there are no gods on Pellatarrum is because they are all dead, having perished untold eons ago in a glorious Götterdämmerung that destroyed not only the mortal realm (Material Plane), but also the abodes of the gods themselves (the various Outer Planes).

Yes, you read that correctly. The entire Great Wheel destroyed, along with all the gods, demons, devils, angels, blessed and damned souls, and everything in between, because when all of their inhabitants were destroyed, there was nothing left to keep the planes in existence. This is the ultimate scorched earth, mutually assured destruction scenario.

Now, if you're a reasonably competent god, you know what's going to happen, and that it's unavoidable, because prophecies have been talking about this sort of thing for millennia. So you throw a hail mary by making sure at least some of your worshippers survive by relocating them in places you hope won't be destroyed and instructing them to keep believing in you no matter what. You play the long odds that you won't be forgotten and will get prayed back into existence.

As it turns out, the enclaves which survived were located on the various Elemental Planes, probably because they were considered to be a cosmic ghetto by the various deities. Does Vulcan reside on the plane of fire? Does Pele? No, they live in the Outer Planes. Elementals don't have souls, the gods reasoned, and therefore they were below godly notice.

Or, to put it another way: in case of Nuclear War, Antarctica simply isn't going to get hit.

So these races made their homes on the Elemental Planes, and while some died, others managed to adapt and thrive. Time passed; races interbred and evolved. Eventually, they became the dominant cultures there.

But a funny thing happened, or rather didn't happen: the gods never returned. This was partly due to loss of worshippers, who either resented their god for abandoning them or lost hope after years of unanswered prayers, and partly because it just takes a huge amount of time and prayers to not only re-grow a god, but also create his divine plane from nothingness.

However, systems have a way of balancing themselves. Even without their gods, the Priests could still channel Positive and Negative Energy, and from there it was a short step to worshipping the Energy Planes themselves. Souls must come from somewhere; why not the cosmic fount of creation? Positive Energy forms the souls, which then progress across the Elemental Planes where they are incarnated into the faithful, and when they die the souls either return to their source of creation for another go-round or they are judged tainted and are consumed by Negative Energy. It's clean, it's elegant, and it even answers certain questions like "Without gods, who answers my prayers?" Answer: the souls which exist as pure energy. Not turly a god, more like a hivemind consciousness, a basic operating system of worship. Input prayer, output spell.

More time passed. The dominant cultures on each plane become planar aristocracy, and are what we now call Genies (the Djinn, Efreet, Marid, and Dao races). In turn, they created subservient races: Dragons (air), Dwarves (earth), Elves (water) and Orcs (fire).

Yet more time passed, and the slave cultures of each plane realized that their fortunes would never change without direct action. Yet their masters were too powerful to overthrow, and there is no other place for them to go where they can be free. Unless the old legends are true...

Eventually, the sages of the four races come to the conclusion that since the old Material Plane was a combination of all 4 elements, it should be possible to create a new one using resources siphoned off from each of the Elemental Planes.

It was a dangerous undertaking of epic proportions, one which cost hundreds of years and countless lives, but in the end, powerful magic and ancient artifacts were used at the heart of each plane, and thus the Engines of Creation began to make a new Material Plane.

TL;DR break inserted here. Continued next post.

Monday, September 21, 2009


A combination of feeling crappy and a post which threatens to spiral out of control has forced me to give you this, in an effort to hew to some kind of schedule, no matter how half-assed it may be.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pellatarrum: Gods

Or lack thereof, to be accurate, because there are no gods in Pellatarrum.

You see, I've always been fascinated with the concept of clerics who somehow get their powers from worshipping an ideal rather than an entity, and wondered if it would be possible to extrapolate that abstraction further. Is it possible to get spells from worshiping an alignment? What about a plane? Or energy?

The people of Pellatarrum do just that. Remember that the Positive and Negative Energy Planes serve as sun and anti-sun. They are visible reminders of life and death which sweep across the face of the world daily, and clerics naturally channel positive or negative energy. From there it's a simple, natural step to the Church of the Light and the Cult of the Dark.

What exists on those planes? The PEG is the source of all souls (much like the Guf of Hebrew lore) but it's not like you can really interact with them in any meaningful way short of high-level magic. They are soul-stuff, and you... aren't. It's like trying to to have a conversation with a bacterium; there's a huge metaphysical divide which cannot easily be breached.

The NEG, of course, is simply rotten with stuff you can interact with, but none of it is healthy. Undead, intelligent undead, incorporeal undead, powerful undead, and of course entropy itself all wait for you with cold, grasping hands.

There are angels and demons of a sort, though. The enigmatic Xag-Ya and Xeg-Yi are there as well, doing... whatever it is they do. For all we know, they could be planar janitors or interior decorators. The point being, any time the GM needs something angelic or demonic to appear, you get these guys. They aren't really good or evil per se, but they are incarnate energy of either creation or destruction, so they fill basically the same roles,a nd without the mess of alignment afterwards!

But still, that leaves us without suitable extraplanar shorthand for good guys and bad guys, doesn't it? For that, we need only cast our gaze upwards at the Elemental Planes.If you need good guys, then Djinni fit your bill, and their counterparts the Efreeti make dandy villains. The Chaotic Neutral Marid will hopefully satisfy Jeff Rients' passion for chaos frogs, and the Dao are greedy bastards.

What to do if someone casts "Summon Monster" and needs a celestial or fiendish critter? Use the "elemental creature" template from the Manual of the Planes instead. A fire element scorpion will certainly get someone's attention!

Another nice benefit this has is that it puts the Gray -- those who worship nature, the land, or seasons -- into a position of increased usefulness. It's handy to be able to rebuke or control elemental creatures when spellcasters are summoning them willy-nilly.

So there are no gods in Pellatarrum. (Druids and elemental clerics get their power from the elemental planes themselves.) There are, in fact, no Outer Planes at all. The Ethereal and Shadow planes do exist, but they're coterminous to the Prime Material (which in this case is the infinite disk of Pellatarrum and nothing else) and as such don't really merit a special "place" on the map. Souls come from the Positive Energy Plane, and when they die they go...

Well, it depends. And that's a subject for another post.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pellatarrum: Cosmology & Geography Overview

Are you ready to have your puny minds broken? Good, let's begin. And remember, if at any time you find yourself asking, "But why?" please remember that the proper answer is "Because fantasy, that's why."

The world of Pellatarrum is a disk of infinite size with a spindle rising from its center, like a child's toy top. (The technical term would be "gyroscopic rotor".) This spindle is colloquially known as the Dayspire, because it is responsible for providing Pellatarrum with a day/night cycle.

There are no moons, stars, or suns in the sky above Pellatarrum. Instead, light and darkness are handled by the Positive and Negative Energy Planes, respectively, who are perpendicular to Pellatarrum's disk and are equidistant from it. The Dayspire is precisely large enough to eclipse the two energy planes.

Behold my crappy art. I spent literally minutes on this thing, just for you.

As Pellatarrum rotates upon its spindle, different parts of the disk are exposed to positive or negative energy, or a combination of both. This gives Pellatarrum a cycle of 6 hours of dawn, 6 hours of daylight, 6 hours of twilight and 6 hours of night. A later post will explore in greater detail the ramifications of this cycle.

A note for the scientific-minded: In this cosmology, darkness and cold are things which can be radiated, as opposed to merely being the lack of light and heat.

Pellatarrum slowly rotates within its own pocket universe, which is a prolate spheroid, or what we Americans would call a football. To continue the metaphor, the energy planes would be the tips of the football, stopping at the white painted rings, and the air inside it would be the Astral Plane.

The four panels of the football (sans tips) would be the four Elemental Planes of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Each element is created by the Positive Energy Plane and processes towards its destruction at the hands of the Negative. As an example, Water would begin its existence as Steam, coalesces into Water proper, and then turns to Salt shortly before destruction.

This is a picture of airflow around a thrown football. It is here because it is pretty.

Seasons are the result of the Elemental Planes rotating about the football's axis. Spring is Air, summer is Fire, fall is Water and winter is Earth. Yes, the elemental plane of the season actually occupies the sky above Pellaterrum. Yes, during the summer, fire is known to fall to the ground. Yes, it falls through an infinite void and yet somehow strikes the ground of another plane. Because FANTASY, that's why.

Behold the power of color fill.

Another post will cover seasons in more detail. This has just been a brief overview so that I can blow your minds now and clear up any confusion you may have before I delve into the trippy ramifications of this universe.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WNW: The Nine Alignments of Batman

I'd credit this, but I have no idea who made it. It might have spontaneously formed from the randomness of the internet in a digital abiogenesis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing Pellatarrum

The thing that gets me about D&D campaign settings in general is how slavishly people adhere to certain aspects of science while willfully ignoring others. I mean, consider for a moment the ramifications of the square-cube law:

If an animal were scaled up by a considerable amount, its muscular strength would be severely reduced since the cross section of its muscles would increase by the square of the scaling factor while their mass would increase by the cube of the scaling factor. As a result of this, cardiovascular functions would be severely limited. In the case of flying animals, their wing loading would be increased if they were scaled up, and they would therefore have to fly faster to gain the same amount of lift. This would be difficult considering that muscular strength was reduced. This also helps explain how a bumblebee can have a large body relative to its wings, which would not be possible for a larger flying animal. Air resistance per unit mass is also higher for smaller animals, which is why a small animal like an ant cannot die by falling from any height. Because of this, the giant insects, spiders, and other animals seen in horror movies are unrealistic, as their sheer size would force them to collapse.
So not only would dragons be physically incapable of flight, they'd asphyxiate if they grew larger than elephant size. Likewise giants larger than Ogres. And let's not even mention all the ways that a fireball spell violates the Laws of Thermodynamics...

And yet, people are happy to ignore these transgressions against reality, because they are genre conventions. Without magic and giants and strange flying things, fantasy wouldn't be very fantastic. I call this the "Because fantasy, that's why!" rule.

But at the same time, other bits of science filter in and no one seems to notice how out of place they are. Example:
  • Anything involving genetics, whether it's about the implausibility of crossbreeding or that perennial favorite, "Do female dwarves have beards?" (Answer: it depends on if they're openly lesbian or not.)
  • That other perennial favorite, Does gunpowder work?
  • Arguments involving geology, climate, biodiversity, or basically anything else that happens when someone who knows too much science notices something the Dungeon Master did "wrong" with her map and decides to argue with her about the "realism" of the setting and no, this is just an off-the-cuff example, I'm not citing personal experience, not at all...

So, with all this mind, I created a campaign world called Pellatarrum. Its official motto is "Because Fantasy, That's Why."

Its unofficial motto is "Fuck science. Fuck it up the ass."

Pellatarrum is a place unlike any other. It is fantastic, both in spectacle and in impossibility, and yet it makes sense within its own mythic framework.

It is a world without a sun, yet has a day/night cycle. It is a place where fire and rocks routinely fall from the sky. It is infinite, yet bounded by the finite.

It will break your brain and leave you wanting more. It has been more than four years in the making.

Welcome to my world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What the hell, Erin?

The astute among you no doubt noticed that I failed to deliver my 9/11 memorial post. I was sick pretty much the entire weekend, and I consider it a miracle I was able to feed and wash myself.

So now that the day has passed, and I find myself at an uncomfortable decision: do I struggle to write an appropriate post after the fact, when I really don't have the energy to put myself through that kind of emotional wringer so soon after feeling so lousy? Or do I just admit that I missed my window and get on with my life?

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it's important to me. I've been dragging my feet all day with this post, and I think that in itself is notable. My subconscious might as well be telling me, "You don't really want to write this post, now do you?"

And the answer is no, of course not. I don't like feeling angry, which is how I'll feel if I write about 9/11. But yet if I don't, I feel like I'm somehow not doing right by my country, or properly honoring those who died.

Patriotic ennui -- I has it.

And so do a lot of other Americans, I'm sure. There comes a point in everyone's life where it's just too fucking exhausting to be furious any more, no matter how righteous the indignation. Anger takes a lot out of a body.

It's been eight years now. If we liken 9/11 to Pearl Harbor, then we (or at least I) have been angry at Bin Laden for twice as long as 1940s America was furious with Imperial Japan, seeing as how, by August 1945, Japan had pretty effectively ceased to be an Empire.

Of course, many, many people continued to be angry at the Japanese themselves for quite a long time after that. It's not my place to judge how justified that anger may have been. What I do know is that both the Bible and psychologists say it's not healthy to hang on to anger after it's ceased to be productive.

And for me at least, 9/11 rage stopped being productive a long time ago. It hasn't spurred me onward to make changes in my life or seek justice for others. Mostly, it's an excuse to scream profanities at the television when things I don't like happen in the Middle East.

So today, with a simultaneous sense of failure and relief, I announce that It's okay to stop being angry about September 11, 2001.

If you're still angry about it, I won't judge you. We all grieve in our own way, and at our own rate. I was lucky that no one I know was killed that day; others were not so fortunate, and so must live with that loss for the rest of their lives. If they want to rage to the sky over this injustice for the rest of their lives, so be it and more power to them.

For the rest of us, though, I posit that maybe, just maybe, it's time to relax a bit. It doesn't make you any less of an American. It doesn't mean you suddenly think that what happened eight years ago is somehow forgivable, or that you don't want to see Bin Laden brought to justice. It just means that you're tired of being angry and want to move on to feeling more positive emotions.

If it helps, think of this way: We are temporarily benching our emotion for the next two years, so that when the 10 year anniversary arrives in 2011, we will be able to properly observe and honor the event as it deserves

It is my sincere hope that when that day comes, we will be able to celebrate by drinking a beer from our festive replica Bin Laden skull cups.

Too soon?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

State of the Palette Address

I know my updates lately have been spotty, so please accept this post as both a half-assed excuse and a lame attempt at padding my postcount.

  • Did everyone have a good Labor Day? My brother and his girlfriend came to visit us from Sunday through Wednesday, and while it was good to see him, it was just as nice to see him leave, which sounds horrible but is true nevertheless. It's exhausting being "on" for company and it's nice not having to worry about if I look presentable or if my sweatpants have stains on them.
  • Also, the changing of seasons has been seriously kicking my butt lately. I promise not to get too graphic, but I wake up feeling hungover and then have to spend the next 30 minutes to an hour in a reclining position as the mucous slowly migrates from horizontal to vertical within my body. YAY!
  • Work on Curse/Or continues at a good pace, ironically made easier by Ricochet's comment that she "heard" Netty as Stephen Fry. This is strange because I always saw him as Eddie Izzard, but I admit that Fry is easier to write. So now Netty is a strange fusion of Fry and Izzard (Frizzard?), fabulously crossdressed and insouciantly urbane.
  • I have an idea for a fantasy world/cosmology which I'd like to being developing on Monday. Still not 100% sure about the name, but it's tentatively called Pellatarrum. The setting is best described as "Fuck science! This is a fantasy world!" Once you stop trying to have things make sense and just go with what is epic and interesting, things fall into place remarkably well.
  • Tomorrow, of course, is my annual 9/11 memorial post. Good times! Those of you who don't enjoy me frothing at the mouth are invited to return on Monday with no hard feelings.

Thank you for your continued readership, and see you tomorrow (or Monday.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Curse/Or, Chapter 3 end: On a Lonely, Lonesome Highway

It wasn't so much a waking up as it was a slow unfolding of senses back into reality.

First there was motion.
(The gentle vibration of a moving car.)

Then there was sound.
(The hum of tires over asphalt.)

Much later, there was vision.
(A long, lonely stretch of desert highway.)

And finally, after a few million subjective years, the helpless thing cowering behind unresponsive eyes uncurled from its fetal position and became a person again. Teresa blinked, coughed, and gagged a bit, the taste of bile strong in her mouth. "Jesus," she murmured.

"Here," she heard Esther say as something warm and fibrous was pressed into her left hand. "Drink this. You'll feel better." Numbly, she raised the object to her lips, was surprised to discover it was a paper cup from a coffee chain, then was surprised at her surprise. The cup was so exceptionally normal that when compared to everything which had happened in recent memory, it was the strange thing.

She sipped the dark liquid carefully, half expecting it to scream all the way down her throat. She supposed that it wouldn't particularly surprise her if it did. The coffee was warm and bitter.

It matched how she felt in her heart.

"Someone mind telling me what the hell just happened?" she asked, as much to the cup as to the woman beside her in the back seat. "Second time today I've woken up in this goddamn car with no idea what hit me."

"You had a bit of a fit, dear." Esther brushed the bangs from the younger woman's face reassuringly, her touch that of a grandmother soothing a colicky child. "But you're better now."

"Bullshit." Teresa spat, and found the round vulgarity oddly comforting. The old, familiar anger was returning too, a fire in her chest that rose to fill her face. "I don't have 'fits'. Never fainted in my life, neither. Now you tell me what really happened."

"Psychogenic fugue state," pronounced Yarrow from the driver's seat. His voice was more nasal than before, due to the rolls of bloody cotton which had been shoved up each nostril and taped into place. "Characterized by reversible amnesia, wandering, and loss of original personality. It is etiologically related to…"

"Someone," Teresa hissed, "needs to tell me, using very small words, what the hell happened back there, with the exploding cat and the weird shouting girl and the cheeseburgers and OH FUCK WHAT HAPPENED TO MY HAND?" She jerked her right arm into view; it was swathed in a mitten of bandages which extended up to mid-forearm. "I CAN'T MOVE MY FINGERS!" she screamed, whirling to confront the others.

"Teresa!" shouted Esther. "Reecy! Stop!" She caught Teresa's flailing wrist, locking it in place with her velvet granny-grip while smoothly relieving her of the cup of scalding liquid. She placed it on the floor between her feet but never released her grip or broke eye contact with Teresa. "Reecy, you just sit there and relax for a while as I explain things best I can. Will you do that for me, please?"

Teresa nodded. Then, "Reecy?"

The older woman shrugged. "Teresa, Tereecy, Reecy. Just thought it suited you better." She smiled, and for the first time Teresa noticed how straight and white her teeth were, brilliant against her dark skin. "Calmer now? Good. Now, you can't remember what happened," she explained, "because you weren't you at the time. You went… away in a moment of stress and became somebody else. But now the stress is gone, and you've calmed down and become you again." Her smile broadened, and the corners of her eyes crinkled. "And we're glad you're back now."

"What. Happened," Teresa breathed, through teeth clenched with fear and frustration, "To. My. Hand." The anger was still building inside her chest despite Esther's "let's all get off this ledge and go talk about it, okay?" tone, but she lacked any true desire to fight.

"Now," Esther said cheerily, "the important thing to keep in mind is that there was no permanent damage done. No, no, just relax," she said as Teresa tensed. "The reason you can't feel your hand is because we immobilized it and gave you something to help with the pain."

She took Teresa's left hand in her own, and held it gently. "You have a bit of a nasty burn. Back there, when things became… difficult… you did something very brave. It saved us all, and I want you to know just how much we appreciate that. Don't we, Yevgeny?" She looked pointedly at the driver's eyes through the rear-view mirror. Muttered nasal sounds of thanks lacking any real conviction emanated from Yarrow's direction.

Esther turned back to Teresa, her face wrinkled in sympathy. "But Reecy, when you did this very brave thing, you hurt yourself something fierce." Esther's face wrinkled in sympathy but her eyes never left Teresa's. "Your lighter got so hot that it melted some, and burned your hand. We didn't want to remove it for fear of hurting you worse, so we just bandaged you up. We were going to take you to the emergency room, but…" Her voice trailed off.

"We thought it would be too dangerous," offered Yarrow.

"Yes," Esther agreed, nodding quickly, as if she were reassuring herself as much as Teresa. "Too dangerous. But I want to tell you, Reecy, that we are gonna take care of it soon as we can. Soon as it's safe."

Teresa laughed then, a sharp coughing laugh that threatened to bring up blood, or possibly venom. "Safe. I haven't been safe since I met you fuckers. I was safer back in Frontera where 200 pound dykes were trying to shiv me for cigs on a weekly basis." She shook her head slowly and relaxed back into the bench seat of the station wagon. "Sure, safe. A thirteen year-old girl in cat ears tried to shoot us at a Denny's while we ate breakfast. That is so goddamn surreal it redefines everything. What's next? I get maced by a nun?"

"Surreal," said a tinny voice from the front seat. "Excellent word choice. I'd have chosen 'anomalous', but a good word nonetheless." The voice was soft and British, with an accent that suggested sophistication without arrogance. "But if you want to talk surreal, might I recommend you look at the front of your shirt?" Teresa looked down, starting when she saw the bloody mess that covered her chest. "You were shot in the heart, and yet here you are with only a freshly-healed scar and not a gaping mortal wound. So, my dear, you are just as surreal as everything else that has happened today."

"Who's talking?" Teresa demanded, struggling to look into the front seat. Esther released her hand. "Who are you?"

Yarrow picked his iPhone off the dashboard and handed it back to her. "Hello," it said, an androgynous face appearing on the display screen. "I'm the Internet." A hand extended towards the screen, and then the phone vibrated, as if in handshake.

"Call me Netty, for short," it said, and gave her a cheeky wink.

To be continued in Curse/Or Chapter 4: Infodump

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