A creativity blog - including reviews, photographs and discussion on a variety of things; such as dragons and other things almost but not quite completely entirely unlike tea.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

My fictitious self and I sometimes get along

I write fiction very rarely. I used to write it more often at some point, but I never finished anything and upon rereading stuff it usually ended up being deleted - if it was on a file on my computer - or ripped to shreds and the shreds duly hidden from view. Also, if I write fiction rarely, I more rarely let anyone read it. My fiction writing is most often only for myself, it's about clearing my head and unloading stuff - in addition, it's almost always in the form of poetry, so one more reason not to let anyone else read it. There are some poems I've rewritten over and over and am quite proud of and will probably keep till the rest of my days, but don't think I'll ever publish them anywhere. They're mine, and that's how they'll stay.

So now this text: I got an inspiration to write something last night when I was going to bed and I thought this morning, that since it's the National Novel Writing Month, I could in the spirit of it publish it here in my blog. I'm not taking part to NaNoWriMo itself - I don't have the time and I could never hope to write anything as coherent as a novel. My writing is at its best in short form and I myself enjoy it the most when I get to describe moments in time - then move on to something completely different once I'm finished with it. Also, my writing often tends towards the fantastic, as it is my favourite type of literature for reading as well. My weakness is writing is that I cannot ever think of things that could happen in the text - it's always just a description of things gone past, of kingdoms or estates, of characters, or sometimes, as in this case, of dialogue between characters. The dialogue writing is one of the most challenging ones for me, so I was surprised this ended up becoming such - I was rather planning on some self-reflection on the part of the main character; but she ended up being rather suppressed by the other one I brought on primarily as a supporting character. That's how things happen sometimes - the best plans go wrong, as those imagined start to develop a life and a character of their own, regardless of what you as a writer were planning for them. 

Maybe now that I debut some fiction in this blog too I can publish something more later. I like writing, but I believe I need a lot more practise in it. Poetry is starting to be rather fluent for me already, and I can often spot points of development straight away after writing the first draft; but with prose I lack the experience.

They got the fire going and after a while both of them quite forgot themselves; both staring at the flames and the sparkles dancing, flying upwards only to disappear into the blackness of the sky. The wind was picking up, disturbing the sound of water heating on the fire. It boiled after a while and Autumn picked the tin up, pouring half of it on the herbs she'd gathered before making camp and to Ella's dismay, the other half straight on the wound on her leg, without as much as flinching. The smell of the burning flesh and blood made Ella feel sick again, and she gasped at the cleaner, colder air from outside their ring of fire. The memory of blood and bone returned with the smell of the same at the back of her throat.

- What are you? She managed to get the words out, as Autumn started padding the wetted roots and whatnot on the wound that had started to seep blood again. The other gave her a look and with an effort, Ella shrugged her shoulders. - There's no harm telling me, is there? It's not like I could run off telling anyone else, right?

- Knowledge is a nuisance. You're better off without it. Autumn finished tending her leg and leaned back. As Ella watched, the phosphorescent tattoos started to move again - swirl and stretch and spread - they closed on the wound and encircled it, pulsing with a faint light. Autumn had resumed staring at the fire and said nothing.

Ella shifted her legs around, but remained sitting on the other side. - What are those doing? she finally asked. - Are they mending your leg? Can you heal yourself that way? I can see how that could be useful...

- They don't heal anything. The flesh has to do that on its own. They just concentrate on a tainted area, to fight corruption.

- So it doesn't get infected?

- No. More like, it doesn't allow passage.

- Passage? For corruption?

- Yes.

- I don't think I follow.

- I don't really expect you to.

- Oh.

They were silent for a time, then Autumn also shifted, raising a bit to inspect the leg and turning then to lie sideways to the fire, while the tattoos continued their swirl.

- Does it hurt? Ella had seen wounds like that before, on men much bigger build than the stranger facing her now. Most didn't live through such, unless their leg was cut off above the wound. Autumn, however, didn't seem to be even in much pain; she hadn't even gasped at the boiling water or at the funny smelling herb paste she had applied to the open wound before dressing it.

- I don't really feel pain. Sometimes, but that's quite rare. And then its on the inside too.

- Inside? Autumn looked suddenly straight at her and she almost unconsciously curled up a bit, drawing her knees to her chest and hugging them. - Just asking.

- Hmph. Well, as you say, there's no one you really can run off telling. Autumn looked back at the fire and Ella perked up a bit. - If I were to explain this plainly, you could say that I'm two different people.

- Somehow I get the feeling you mean that literally.

- I do.

- I don't understand.

- You don't need to understand. No one does, not even me, really. And no one is supposed to, either. It's just how it is. Simply put. Autumn reached and picked up a stick from the fire, waving it until it no longer burned but only glowed from the other end. Then she started drawing figures to the air above her. A triangle first, then a circle around it, and while those were etching themselves in Ella's eyes, staying there even though the light had already faded, she closed them both within a square.

- You see, a wood doesn't heat much if there's no fire to burn it. And fire, well, it needs the wood to keep on burning, as well as air - if you try to light a fire in a sack, it will only smoke a little while and then die.

- So you're burning the wood to be the fire?

- No.

- No? But.. then how? Before? The camp?

- I'm not the fire. I'm the wood.

- Oh. Ella paused, thinking. - I don't follow. If you're you, but you're not the fire... Who's the other one?

- That's something you don't need to know.

- You can't just tell me this much and then nothing! Ella bursted out, and saw how Autumn flinched a bit. Emboldened, she continued - You said something before, that I'm "bonded" to you, whatever that means. You may not remember about it anymore, but I do. So if there's something else beside you or with you, then it's clearly it that feels the bond with me, right? And since it's not here, or not now at least, you owe me the explanation! While her tirade was going on, Ella could see Autumn moving uncomfortably, raising her shoulders up defensively and tensing her muscles - but otherwise she stayed still. Ella felt a bit out of breath after her outburst and as the silence stretched, she too started to feel herself uncomfortable in the other's presence. 

- Tell me, she said in her most commanding tone. Not that she had ever commanded anyone before, but she somehow now felt she could.

- Fine. But you asked for it. Autumn picked up the twig again and this time, started making wavy patterns in the air, circles and swirls, similar to those her tattoos kept still making on her leg. - You know, most of the raw power in this world is pretty much useless on its own. I talked about the wood and the fire both needing each other - otherwise there'd be no use for them.

- A wood could grow, as a tree.

- That's true. But in order to grow it needs the dirt to grow on, water and probably some other trees too, as growing on its own on an open plains is difficult. Then it might bear fruit and be a mother to more trees, but eventually it will die and fall down and be trampled or eaten - or a forest fire might kill it, who knows.

- So you're saying you're like that? Dependent on something else?

- Yes and no. Something like that. You see, there was this power. No one really understood it properly, didn't know what it was or indeed, what it was good for. They just knew it had power, or more accurately, that it had the potential to have power - a great amount of it. But it required something else to flourish, a wood to burn, or a patch of dirt to grow on.

- So you're using this power, burning it, so you can level an entire camp of bandits in a manner of moments?

- No.

- No?

- It is "burning" me.

- What? How? Why?

- I told you already it required something. Not me, I require mostly food and rest - but now I require less of both. You see, I'm sort of a vessel for this power. See these? Autumn pointed at her tattoos, which had slowed down from their previous movement, but were still pulsing with the bluish light around the wound. - These are a part of it, its protection. Protection mainly for it, but by extension some also for me. They mark me as a vessel, but they have another purpose as well. As I said, they forbid passage - nothing is to come in, but not a drop is to get out either, unless warranted. Such as in the bandit camp. It is currently balancing itself out - burning me, so to speak, to make more of it. But as I'm wounded on the outside as well, it is doing it more slowly, so that my body can concentrate on healing as well and won't allow anything from the outside to interfere with it beneath the surface.

- So it's inside you?

- Yes. And when there's excess of it, it comes out. And then I can kill a campful of bandits in a manner of moments. I'm using the word "I" quite loosely here too.

- You mean... You don't control it?

- That's right. Not completely anyway. There are some ways I can affect it. Autumn looked at Ella again and smiled a little smile. - And sometimes I loose myself, wake up later, no recollection of what has happened. And I don't remember what I've done, or what I've said.

- So that's why.

- Yes. Usually it's quite bad at those times.

- How bad?

- You don't want to know.

- Actually, I kind of do.

- Hmph. Well, I woke up on a plains once.

- And?

- There had been a city there when I arrived.

- Oh.

- The well was still good, thankfully. It was rather long way from anywhere.

- You destroyed a city?

- Apparently.

- Were there... a lot of people there?

- Yes.

- Oh.

- So that's what you're bonded with it, if I'm to believe what you're saying. Never heard anything like that happening before though. That's why I think you're still here. And that's why I'm taking you with me.

- Well, it's not like I have anything to return to.

- Sorry.

- No, that's not what I meant. I mean, I was a slave. I don't mourn any of those bastards. It's just... Well. I don't know if I've not traded the freezer into the fire at this point.

Autumn smiled at her at that, then turned to her back and closed her eyes. - We'll see.

It was a long while before Ella was able to close her own eyes - the fire danced low now and the tattoos kept encircling the wound on Autumn's leg under its dressing. But she didn't feel quite so afraid anymore, and after some time she also slept.   

Monday, 11 November 2013

Asiria update #4

A bit more of Asiria done. Almost half of the second page finished- still one more easy column to go before the confetti starts. :) Also, trying out the camera and content transfer functions on my brand new PSVita. Works splendidly, although the camera cannot really be compared to my Nikon or Canon - but that's to be expected.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Light of my life

I don't really do interior decorating much... I don't really see the point of it. I do like moving the furniture around occasionally, but as I like to have stuff like cds and games accessible near the places I'm going to use them in, there are only so many ways you can arrange the various pieces of furniture I own. However, there is one thing I'm a bit nutty about and that is candles. Thus, I own a number of decorations for candles, and as it's late autumn (or early winter if you believe some days when there's already snow) and the light outside is failing, I like to bring some fire hazard into my life by burning candles.

Featured in the above picture are almost all candle decorations I have, alongside my plants and my other tv. I have a few Christmasy decorations I don't really use except during that season and I'm quite sure I missed a couple hiding somewhere in my bookcase... One at least I noticed right after taking these pictures, but nah, as usual I can't be bothered to take more pictures since I've already gotten these ones out of my camera.

The two linked white glass decorations on the foreground here are the "Gemini" by Partylite. Gemini is my star sign and apart from that, this decoration is just amazingly beautiful and serene. Behind it there is one wintery decoration, which doesn't show it really well, since the blue glass inside which has the snowflake pattern isn't really visible from this angle. The snowflakes are cast as shadows, which makes this decoration one of my favourite smaller decorations - it is not Partylite, though. I might have gotten it as a gift from someone, but I can't remember its exact origins anymore.

These are my favourite Partylite decorations. They are called Brilliance in Finnish (Loistavuus) but the only English name I could find for them was Change O Style, which doesn't really convey their magnificence, in my opinion. They are sort of Asian styled with black frames and white glass and detachable magnetic walls, of which there are several different kinds. Here they are with the Halloween -themed walls, as I had them in school for Halloween last week. I have two smaller ones and one big one and I wanted them exactly because I could change them around so much. There is also a wall set sold separately, which adds to the amount of change you can get out of them. And the Asia-ish theme doesn't hurt either, when it's me we're talking about.

The Buddha, along with two of the three elephant decorations I have. My mother originally bought a Buddha for herself and I liked it a lot - so much so, that the next time there was a Partylite evening I got them for myself too. I first bought a set of two elephants and I later received one more as a gift from my brother's wife. The elephants also have different markings on their sides, so they're not just all from the same cast either.

Neither of these two decorations are Partylite. The big one I actually bought for something like 10 euros for myself, as I wanted to have this kind of big decoration, but the ones Partylite has invariably cost something like 80 euros a piece... This one is not very good in that the candle doesn't seem to be getting enough air when it burns lower and the flame starts flickering a lot, which leads to the candle burning unevenly. The smaller red one I seem to remember having been a Christmas present a few years back, maybe from my Grandmother. It is really pretty and casts this red glow around it, but the colour red is only in the bottom and has been scraped away a little during me cleaning the decoration.

These ones are both the other ones from a set of two similar decorations I have. The one of the foreground and its pair I got as a Christmas present from my other brother's family and the lilac lantern I bought just this autumn from a buy three pay for two sale in the local crafts and other stuff -store. I would have only bought one, but I was missing one item from another set of three items, so I got the second lantern for free. The lanterns I mainly use on the balcony, while the other decorations is only for indoor-use.

In this picture then is the prettiest candle decoration I have: the Sakura Sconce. It used to be terribly expensive and I kept drooling after it for a long time - then, as often happens, it's production ended and the remaining storage at Partylite HQ or wherever was sold of with nice discounts. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get one, but my mom luckily went to a Partylite evening and didn't have anything in mind for herself, so she asked me if I wanted / needed anything... It has screws and holders with which it could be attached to a wall, but I rather like it on the top shelf of my bookcase, where it usually sits. My cd cabinet is not really wide enough for it to look pretty here, but for the purposes of this picture it is good enough. I also have other Asia-themed things on or above the top shelf alongside this decoration, such as fans, chopsticks, a manga poster and such and such, so it has friends from "home" to keep it company. 

The round glass swirls are among the first Partylite gifts I got from my mom - I thought she bought them for herself, but no, I got them. They are really pretty and cast wonderful shadows with the wavy pattern the glass has.

Here's another picture of the decorations together - also featured, my PS2 & PS3, and their respective games. Here you can see a few more walls for the Brilliance decorations as well. (I think I'm going to use this name for them in English from now on. It's lovely.) I would still like to have some bigger decorations (I don't know where I'd put them, but I still want them) and also, I'd love to get my hands on these long, reflective decorations Partylite has... The reason I haven't bought them yet is that they are sold as a set of three decorations, which hikes the price up somewhat... Also, my eldest brother's wife has got those - not that it matters since we don't live that close to each other, but still. One more decoration I have and that I don't have a picture of is the Starlight Gemini, which my mom bought me as a birthday present (I think it was) a couple years back. It is lovely blue glass decoration that has the stars of the Gemini star sign on it - also within is a candle that smells rather strongly. I tend to get a migraine from strong smells, so I haven't burned the candle inside yet - plus, as it is very pretty, I don't know if I ever will, even if I could then burn other candles in the decoration once the one inside is gone.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

"Dark dreams lie upon the heart." - Begin play with 3 Corruption points.

In this blog post I discuss mostly a Dark Heresy campaign I played in some years ago and the two characters I played as in the course of it - if you're not interested about my insights on things-gone-by, just read the second and third paragraphs, which discuss the system and the setting in general.

One of the longest-running regularly played role playing game campaigns I've ever played in was with the Fantasy Flight Games' Dark Heresy rules system, in the Warhammer 40'000 setting. During the campaign I played with two characters - the first one was a random-generated male Imperial Guardsman with loads of guns and a heck of an accuracy for firing them, another one was a more well-thought of and fleshed-out female psyker, who was a bit gun-nut too, to tell you the truth. Our party included another psyker, who was noble-born and thus all sorts of trouble ensued; a tech-priest with a strange affinity for doors; a cleric who was wont to do something silly like set himself on fire in order to climb a sheer cliff surface up and save us all from, well, flames; an assassin who didn't often talk much but could slice and dice any enemy in a matter of seconds and a bit later addition, a half-man, half-machine (the leg-half was the machine) guardsman, with big guns and not so big a brain. (We didn't of course all start out as competent as that, but things tend to occur, experience and levels pile up and suddenly you realise your character has evolved quite unexpectedly from what your initial idea for them was.)

WH40K is an old setting (at least to me as a role player), which means that there are loads of background materials for aspiring players; the system has gone through several rules modifications, changes and rebuilds and products available vary from miniature games to role playing games rules books to novels. Dark Heresy was the first, what I like to call new generation WH40K rpgs, published by Fantasy Flight Games - it was later followed by Rogue Trader, Black Crusade, Only War and Deathwatch, all set in the world of WH40K, but with a different focus within the imaginary. Dark Heresy (DH) places its players on the employ (or debt or whatever) of an Inquisitor, who are very powerful individuals working for the benefit of the God-Emperor, the Ecclesiarchy and the man-ruled space. The milieu is that of Calixis Sector, which was once lost and then rediscovered by the Empire, due to abnormal behavior in the warp. The sector is close by to the Golgenna Reach, which is the main setting for the Rogue Trader rpg (RT) and thus it is entirely possible to advance a DH game into a RT one - the characters in DH are pretty low-levels in the beginning, whereas RT starts with more advanced character-base. Black Crusade (BC) is set to the chaos-side of the setting, i.e. the enemies of the Imperium; Deathwatch  (DW) takes on the enchanced supersoldiers, the Space Marines; while Only War (OW) brings to the table exactly that, which it promises in its title. Having not played any of the other games except for DH (so far) I cannot really comment on them at all - also, DH is getting a rules update with a second edition, so for most part anything I have to say about it will in a while be obsolete too. But nevertheless, I wanted to write something, in the honor and memory of one of my favourite role playing games ever.

What I most liked about Dark Heresy, was the apparent simplicity of its rules - you throw a percentile die and try to get lower than you ability score and the possible bonuses from skils or earlier actions. A skill of 20 I believe was a human average and as for the PCs, it is quite easy to get most characteristics over 30 in the beginning of the game - thus you need to roll 30 or under to succeed in your action. Along with this, of course, is the overall setting of the game, which I found so different from the few other games (mostly adventure fantasy such as AD&D or Warhammer Fantasy rpg) - it is basically science fiction, in that everything happens in space; but there's also the element of medievalism in the way the church is portrayed; the technology is a mixture between steampunk and faith and the society is a dystopian caste-system, where those with power rule over those who work, and that with or without pay as well. The main way to control to huge Empire of Man is through its religion - as mentioned, the Emperor is also their God, lighting the way through the warp, which is used in faster-than-light space travel. The warp is also where the daemons and chaos lurk and sometimes it gets through to pester the mankind - there is corruption, mutations, insanity and worse yet - player characters who accidentally (or purposefully) summon daemons in the middle of delicate negotiations...

My first ever character, as mentioned, was a shrine world-born Guardsman. Stern was completely random-generated character, as I had no concept of the setting before starting to play it and thus, no biases for or against any sort of character. Stern was also maybe the third character I had ever made, so it was good that he started out simple - he had guns. Lots of them. Also, he liked to get drunk on people's birthdays (and since the Empire is vast, it's always someone's birthday) and that's how he actually found himself on anspaceship in the first place too; being woken up with a terrible hangover by a red-clad Tech-priest, who needed aid in something or the other... Can't remember what it was exactly, but as Stern was hungover in any case, maybe it doesn't matter so much. I do remember collecting some seals one maybe wasn't supposed to be collecting, killing a bunch of mutant rats or something or the other and always being just around the corner from the command center. I do believe there were also some doors that didn't want to open up.

I played with Stern for quite a long time and got to know other PCs too, apart from the Tech-priest named Red; there was a Cleric named Barack who was initially the cook on the first spaceship Stern was on; a noble-born Psyker Tybalt and his bodyguard, the Assassin Scarlet joined up on a mission to some mine that was filled with yellow goo; and a later addition that was another guardsman, going by the name of Karl; whom Stern met only briefly as Xanthia has already surpassed him as my character.

Xanthia then I created myself and I liked playing her very much. The reason behind her creation was that Stern's levelling up started to get boring - he'd only get more weapons and more fighting skills and at some point I started to crave for something more than just that, seeing there were those nice quirky skills and techniques the Tech-Priest and the Psyker could get, plus the Assassin and the Cleric were far superiour to Stern in close-combat... Wanting to maintain some of the gun-ho attitude of Stern's, Xanthia originated from Gunmetal City on Scintilla, the capital planet of Calixis Sector, and always carried with her dual pistols, or autoguns, at a later stage. Which she kept losing on a regular basis, given that characters from Gunmetal City get a huge minus to several stats whenever they're not possessing a firearm... So then, she had to rely on the psychic abilities to get those damn guns back! Playing a Psyker was very much fun and I believe our GM enjoyed having two Psykers (Xanthia and Tybalt) in the fray, as it meant lots of psychic phenomena occurrences, daemons, chaos and insanity - and that just in the breakfast table, as we somehow almost always managed to not get any phenomena during the most critical moments... Don't know why that happened.

Xanthia's other quirks were her deep love for a young Cleric she knew during her training on Terra, hatred/fear for the actual trainer, affection for her whimsical brother and distrust towards her sister, whom she met for the first time after returning from the voyage with the Black Ships. She was also devoted to the God-Emperor and was proud to get to work for an Inquisitor; although she liked to keep her own head rather than just blindly follow commands given to her. She was a mind-controlling type of a Psyker, although her skills reached their full height slowly - but towards the end of the campaign she could kill a Sororitas from 10m away by having her head explode internally. She didn't last a lot of damage though, so she was often the first one to go down - most of her skills required her to get close-by and the pistol didn't have a huge range either, so she got mixed up in a melee a bit too easily, if she didn't use a rifle for the shooting.

Our campaign plot took us far and wide, but mostly towards the "north" if you look at a map of the Calixis Sector. Two of our characters at least were born on Scintilla, so we had plenty of adventures there too and this one time we even made a gruesomely long journey to Terra, because we felt we had to get counsel from the God-Emperor himself, as all his agents that we knew of seemed to be more or less untrustworthy... After some years of playing we left the employ of our Inquisitor, got a spaceship of our own and continued on our holy mission of fulfilling a prophecy about the destructions of Calixis Sector, being all the time vary for both the enemies of the Empire and our former employer, who might or might not have liked that we stole away with the prophesied Messiah-character in the middle of the night, so to speak. Things were starting to look grim and there was tech-heresy and dealings with daemons to spare, but eventually it all culminated in a high-level battle between a Mistress of Assassins, a daemonhost and a daemonspawn - and us, the PCs. Naturally we kicked all of their asses, but not completely without casualties - some from our midst were lured in by corruptive powers, while others stood fast defending those they loved, and still others, those they believed would be able to save to day. And saved it was too, although the two (or was it three?) approaching armies might have had something to say to our PCs once they got to the hill where we conveniently ended our campaign.

I enjoyed playing Heresy very much and the players who I played it with are still all very good friends of mine, even though it was already been some years since the campaign ended... Maybe, when the second editions rules come out, we could play an anniversary mini-campaign, or something such. I should definitely suggest it to the GM. Not with the same characters, though. I think it's good to leave things as they were left. That way the story can go on forever, in my mind.