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21 Sep 07:00

afflatus: Word of the Day

afflatus: inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within.
21 Sep 17:05

Thankfully, big problems are made of many little ones.

by Jessica Hagy


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19 Sep 12:45

Light or Dark By TeraS

by TeraS

I don’t feel much like I can write these days. The reasons are … what they are. I have been told that writing helps in times like this. Perhaps it will, or does, so I try. And, as I write, the words I can manage … well … I suppose … that Queen Tera comes to find me in my darkness and gives me a lesson about whether things are …


Light or Dark
By TeraS


One of the things that Tera has to deal with—and, for that matter, so does everyone that calls the Realm “home” and happens to have horns and a tail—is a question that is asked over and over again by those who don’t have a clue:

“Are you evil or good?”

There is an obvious reason for this question—the horns and tail—but at the same time the question itself brings about questions about the one that asked the question in the first place.

This, then, is what underpins the question: perception.

In any event, Tera often finds herself being confronted and asked the question. As she doesn’t like to hide her tail or horns, this is something she finds herself dealing with to the point she could almost set the train schedules, if there were any in this particular universe, by.

Sometimes the question is asked in some sort of court, a tribal council, a meeting of elders. Regardless of the place, of those asking the question, Tera’s reply is true to herself for she can do nothing less: “I find it interesting that you ask about evil first, then good. Why is that, I wonder?” The questioner then suggests, or insists, that she is trying to avoid the question, which usually results in Tera pinching the bridge of her nose and sighing: “No. I am trying to understand why you have seemingly made up your mind.” This generally makes her questioner snort in derision, make a snide comment or, if it is an especially good day, their answer makes her smile. Much of the time there is reference made to one deity or another, while insisting that she is not of the light. Her answer is, again, seemingly obvious: “All beings are their children, no matter their look, existence or purpose.”

It is not, sadly, a rare occurrence when they take offence at her reply. There comes a long, quite forceful, statement of what they see as fact. She, of course, listens attentively, sometimes tracing a fingertip over her lips in thought. Allowing them to say their peace, whatever it may be, is only being respectful.

When they are done, out of breath or otherwise, then, at that point, it is Tera’s turn. “The thing about having preconceived conclusions is that they are, for the most part, illusions. Your books speak of good and evil. They offer means to see if one is, or is not, one or the other. Your wiser souls have transcended that level of knowledge and seen beyond, to place their vision upon that which Goddess wrote long before you came to be.”

Her expression generally shows slight disappointment in her accusers. They look at her in defiance, about to interrupt, but she holds up a single finger: “I allowed your words. In the spirit of understanding, one does allow the other to have their moment as well.”

Bluster comes, an attempt to find some sort of law, word, or anything which would put an end to her reply. However, before that can go even a bit too far, there comes another voice, sometimes of an elder, other times of an inquisitive younger soul. Once in a while a child asks a seemingly innocent question. Having no recourse, and feeling foolish for the first time in their encounter with her, they sulk back to their place and watch.

“The question is not whether I am good or evil, as has been asked. The question is, why is it so necessary to ask? What has happened here that when a different soul arrives, seeking nothing from anyone, save to learn, that some are threatened by this?” The Queen moves away from the chair, or witness box, or some other place she has been settled to in order to walk among the accusing souls and consider them. As she passes some by, there is clear attraction to her. Others are repelled; the reasons are their own. Some are indifferent, others impatient to return to their lives.

Somewhere in the room she pauses, her tail moving slowly behind her. Guards in the room tense, the judges are concerned. The prosecutor flinches. The audience, or spectators, depending on the venue, await the next moment with anticipation.

“Light is within each of us. Dark is as well. For each soul, each life, a choice is made to embrace one or the other, or so you might think. In truth each and everyone here has been both, one or the other, or shades thereof.”

Her smile is, always, bemused. “I am not the right hand of Goddess, though I know her and love her dearly.”

This admission brings gasps.

“I am not the hand of evil, though I know of them and have no time for them.”

This brings confusion.

“I am the Queen of my Realm, the Eternal of my King. I am called sister and loved for being so. I love, with joy and passion, my dearest loves, I hold them with me always.”

This makes some give pause and look upon their own lives.

“I am the mother to a son who loves me.”

These words bring nods from those that know what these words mean. They are far more than words alone.

“I am the Dear One of my heart. The singularly most cherished words I know.”

Silence comes over the assembled masses, as she has their attention now.

“You ask me your question and yet do not ask the question of yourselves. You seek solace from the questions within you by projecting your own shades towards me. I cannot help answer your own questions, but I can offer this.”

Her focus is on the assembled souls, her gaze accepting, as it always is, as she always is. “If you ask me to leave, I shall. I hold no ill will. If I am allowed to stay, then, I hope, we can learn from each other.” Turning back to the judge or elders or other authority, she concludes, “The choice is yours, it always is. You must choose, whether light or dark; none else can.”

She walks back to the place where it had all started, waiting for their answer. Either way, she thinks, Goddess knows what will come. In one way, there will be light shared, in another the light will be the moment she was given with them. Regardless of the outcome, she knows one pure thing:

Light and dark are not good or evil. No one should ever see them as being the same.

19 Sep 07:00

cosset: Word of the Day

cosset: to treat as a pet; pamper; coddle.
12 Sep 12:28

Absolution By TeraS

by TeraS

The concept of giving absolution is, at times, a complicated thing. There are many levels to consider, many possible means to achieve it. But the thing about this particular point is that one cannot simply just ask for …


By TeraS


In every life there comes a time when one must reflect on one’s past. In doing so, one finds there are things done which one isn’t proud of. Those aren’t, always, a problem. One can justify such actions to oneself, to cloak the truth away such that others will never really see it.

However, sometimes there are things that cannot be justified. A moment, something said, an action preformed, something which nags within one’s thoughts, even if they are not completely aware of it always being so. Sometimes, one must face this, to come to terms with it, to try to ask for absolution for what has been. Sometimes there is but one person that can answer the question and give an answer, if one happens to be listening for it—or, for that matter, willing to accept it.

On this day in the Realm the sky was as blue as it always was, the Lake of Fire was calm, reflecting the land that bordered upon it. The clouds surrounded the mountains as they always did and, overall, the Realm was managing as it was meant to, save for one soul who was, at that moment, making her way through the Realm, a specific destination in mind.

Tera, the Queen of the Realm, needed to ask someone a question. The problem was that she wasn’t expecting any sort of answer. Whenever she had spoken to this person in the past, she’d never heard an actual answer. There was no voice to say what the person thought. There was no expression of whether or not her words were even heard.

She had spoken to this person in many different ways, some very personal, some very public. She’d expressed her thoughts about things to others who offered their perspective and made suggestions, and she was given thoughts to consider. She had, of course, examined every one of them, considered each carefully, and did the best she could do. In the end, all of her thoughts and considerations had brought her to this journey where she found herself.

All beings in the universes have, in one way or another, a belief in something. For some, it’s a little bit easier because they know, truly, there is another watching. For some, they have, at least once, been in the presence of Light in the universe.

In the Realm exists a place called the House of Light—a place in which the Goddess of Light is given her proper respect and due. To describe the place is very difficult because ti appears differently for each soul. No two see it exactly in the same way. As Tera stood outside of the arched entryway, what she saw was something she never quite could put into words. The best she could do was describe a wonderful, warm place of love and light that shone brightly over the Realm.

Her expression this day was slightly troubled, her thoughts being about what she was going to ask, even while sure that she’d never actually receive an answer. Still, the words needed to be said, she thought, and she began to walk into the House to speak.

Passing into the bright, pure light, she vanished from view; the Realm lost sight of her. For Tera, her first thought was that she must have made a wrong turn, but she was sure she hadn’t passed through Albuquerque. That thought came because she found herself standing beside a certain fence that she knew intimately well.

“You realize, I hope, you have nothing to ask absolution for?”

She smiled, it was her heart and his council was, as always, true.

“Oh … I think I have many things my heart.”

“What you have, Dear One, is your love which drives you.”

“That’s not it.”

“You have your compassion, which you give freely.”

“I know.”

“You have your passion, for every soul you touch.”


“You have your generosity, giving freely without asking for anything in return.”


“You are, in more ways than I can count, precious to so many.”

“Never really see that, my heart. It’s …”

“… not how you are, Dear One. Yes, I know.”

He was silent for a time, and she was looking around wondering just how it was she came to be at the fence.

“You know … I’m not sure why I’m here, exactly.”

He shook his head slightly: “Oh, I am.”

“How so?”

“Goddess speaks to us in the here and now, but not in ways that you expect … that’s why she brought us together. You, my Dear One, are looking for absolution. But she’s not the one to give that to you.”

“Then who, my heart, should I be talking to?”

Her heart, the one that knew her so very well, just looked at her. When she realized the answer, she pinched her nose and sighed. He just smiled.

“She’s … a bit too stubborn to listen, you know.”

“Yes, she is … at least when it comes to forgiving herself. However, beneath those red horns and behind those so-green eyes, she’s actually a wonderful soul. She might, if given a chance, find a way to give herself absolution.”

Resting her arms on the edge of the fence, that particular red horned woman they were taking about considered. “I think she’s not willing to accept that she’s worthy of absolution.”

“That’s because she, sometimes, can only see her faults and not the light she is.”

“Oh … she sees them both.”

“Seeing them isn’t the same thing as accepting them.”

“Which means?”

“The path to absolution starts inside of each of us, Dear One. Accept that and, perhaps, you’ll find the way.”

“One hopes.”

“One knows.”

The world cascaded into shimmering light and Tera found herself once more in the House of Light. Once more the Realm saw her and she saw the Realm anew.

That evening, as was her custom and joy, she met her heart at the fence.

“Hello, my heart.”

“Hello, Dear One.”

“I had the most unusual day.”

“How so?”

“I had a conversation about absolution.”

“Really? Do tell.”

She leaned over the fence slightly and kissed his cheek: “That story, my heart, begins with a soul of Light that is wiser than he knows and ends with a soul of Light who learned something she didn’t know before.”

He blushed: “You’re welcome, Dear One. But it was not me so much as Goddess working in and through me.”

She smiled: “Whoever it was, thank you, my heart.”

“Anytime and always, Dear One.”

To find absolution within means accepting that need in yourself and seeing the way clear to believing you are worthy of it. But it also, many times, takes the wisdom of another to show you the way. And, Goddess knows even better than Queen Tera that she is never, ever alone.

16 Sep 13:49

Time for a New Look at the Old Reader


In our effort to constantly evolve sometimes you need to look from the ground up. When The Old Reader started, it was (and still kinda is) “the ultimate social RSS reader for The Open Web.” Our old logo represented multiple RSS feeds coming together in one place. But if I had a slice of pizza for every time someone asked us “what’s RSS?” we’d have a lot of pepperoni. 

The Old Reader stands for delivering you content you love, all in one place. It’s the one website to rule them all. You don’t have to know what RSS is. Just plug in some websites and go. So we wanted to give ourselves a little facelift so that people knew this is for everyone. You OR you OR you. If you like technology OR design OR cat videos. If you’re on desktop OR tablet OR mobile. There are feeds of content for you to tap into. And we think our new logo achieves that. 


Look for the new look and design in the app itself in the near future. But as always, you are a part of this community. We want this community to grow so it’s a better experience for us all. Do you think this logo will help us do that? Does it feel more approachable? Will it blow up the internet like the new Instagram logo? We hope so. Will there be millions of posts on “designers react to The Old Reader logo redesign?” Our designer hopes not. We don’t care about their opinion, we care about yours. This mark stands for us all. Read on!

16 Sep 04:00


"I've noticed you physics people can be a little on the reductionist side." "That's ridiculous. Name ONE reductionist word I've ever said."
15 Sep 23:42

We're Totes Taking A Stand Against Harassment

by Zak Sabbath
We here at _______ are taking a stand against harassment!

Oh cool. Are you going to donate to legal efforts against harassers?

Well, no, sorry.

Ok, that's maybe a little much to ask. So you're just going to call out the harassers?

Um, no.

You're going to privately take steps to see that they don't harass people?


You're going to block them on social media?

Mmmmmm...not that either.

You're going to stop advertising their stuff?

You're going to stop buying their stuff and donating to their Kickstarters?

Oh hells no. Gotta keep doing that.

But if there's an accusation of harassment, you're going to read up on it and see if it happened? To be, like, informed?

YeahhhNo. No time for that.

But you'll at least not allow it in spaces you control?

Uh. Actually gonna totally allow that. Wouldn't want to upset somebody by telling them to shut up.

Not gonna like commit it yourself, at least?

I mean, I don't think so, but...

What is harassment?

I don't know. I can't, like, define it.

But you're taking a stand against harassment?

12 Sep 21:23

2.5D.I learned about 2.5D, or two and a half dimensions, from my...


I learned about 2.5D, or two and a half dimensions, from my engineering days. Turns out it’s really quite common to make 2.5D things because, for example, it’s easy to drill or mill down into something, and a pain to turn something on it’s side and drill from the other side. Or, as with vacuum forming it’s easy to suck plastic onto a mould, but a pain to get it off if you’ve got any overhangs as you can’t lift it straight up again. Hence the plastic sandpit in our garden is a 2.5D object rather than true 3D. Civilisation in general looks rather 2.5D from the air as we tend to build up, but don’t find overhangs that easy or practical eg the pyramids.

12 Sep 04:00

Earth Temperature Timeline

[After setting your car on fire] Listen, your car's temperature has changed before.
11 Sep 07:00

dabster: Word of the Day

dabster: an expert.
09 Sep 07:00

lucida: Word of the Day

lucida: the brightest star in a constellation.
09 Sep 15:02

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Security Vulnerability


Actually, if we eliminated the whole universe...

New comic!
Today's News:

Last week to submit your proposal for BAHFest West!


07 Sep 07:00

corybantic: Word of the Day

corybantic: frenzied; agitated; unrestrained.
06 Sep 05:01

Resource Anger Management – DORK TOWER 06.09.16

by John Kovalic

Happy Resource Management Hour

05 Sep 23:36



05 Sep 07:00

spinebash: Word of the Day

spinebash: to rest; loaf.
04 Sep 15:00

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - I Am No Longer a Child


Once every ten sentences, raise your voice to a high pitch, so as to recall to your mind the days of childhood.

New comic!
Today's News:

BAHFest West is coming soon! We are still looking for more geeks to submit proposals. Click here for more info.

01 Sep 19:01



hi! i was commissioned to make some spooky character gifs for the upcoming film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children @peregrinesmovie which happens to be directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Tim Burton. really fun project!

01 Sep 23:52



31 Aug 20:22

Great Adventure Hooks in Art History 3: The Fish of Vettersfelde

by Zak Sabbath
The Fish of Vettersfelde

So this fish. Found as part of a gold hoard in Poland, the fish is typical of the Scythian zoomorphic style. The fish has other fish on it, plus panthers and deers and stuff. "Scythian" is kind of a collective name for a not-exactly-mongols central-asian-but-wide-ranging group of nomadic tribes whose impression on literate peoples might be best visualized as Dothraki but actual plus the women fought alongside the men rather than sitting on gazelle hides going "It is known" like some kind of dirt-smeared grassland feelies in an Eclipse Phase thread. Also they had very distinctive metalwork, often gold, usually animals, always with a long rollercoastering line and rhythmic proportions similar to what we know of central Asian tattoos and always with these golf-hole eyes.

We know little of the Scythians actual lives or leaders. This fish was found buried along with some circular medallions and a sheath. Nobody knows what any of it was doing that far north.

But all that has changed because here's this blog entry...

The Fish of Vettersflede isn't art and would be depressed to hear me say it was. Actually it probably would just ignore me or pretend to because it is a god.

A god of the Scythians, to be exact, The Fish Of Roaming, who appears in mid-day dreams. One day a shocked fisherman drew him wriggling from the River Frigid (that's what they call it, they don't know what you call it) on a winter morning in the Hollow Year and brought him to Orvet the Taking Prince, who put the god in a broad trough on high, wide wheels to be dragged behind his raiding train for luck and good counsel.

The god (a small member of one of the philosopher species, related to the aboleth) bored of this situation quickly and demanded the Prince free him. The prince's oracles and witches advised against it. On an abandoned plain, beneath a shining sun, before all the raiding riders, the fish god cut a deal in two parts:

The prince would be granted one wish.
The god would be released into the sea.

Orvet then displayed poor judgment. "Very well, small god," said Orvet "before I give you up, I wish for everything on this plain to be turned to gleaming gold".

And all the tents turned to gold, and all the ropes holding them, and all the tent-stakes and carpets and all the straps and leather and the meat inside and all the goats and all the arrows in their gold quivers and the horses and the daggers in their sheaths, and all the tiny socket-eyed animals that they'd collected and all the Scythians, and Orvet, and the Fish of Roaming as well and all the other things on the plain.

Weeks later, three thieves adventurers from the north came upon what was once a tribe and was now a pile. They took all they could carry, including the fish, buried the rest under the sand, and made a map.

These adventurers soon fell to ill fortune and such treasure as they carried was in turn plundered. And on and on until your game starts.

So anyway there is the fish, found somewhere. It's treasure, yes, but it also retains a divine consciousness, dulled by centuries of use as currency. It is a god, if a very tired one.

The Fish of Roaming has the ability to make anyone possessing it see or believe long distances to be short and vice versa (no save). It will employ this ability to one purpose--to get it back into the sea, where it will regain its full power. It can also, of course, send cryptic dreams. The more anyone looks at the fish, the higher the DC or negative modifier to successfully get a night's sleep. It can telepathically communicate with any living thing if it decides it's really important, which it usually doesn't.

The Fish is worth 100,000 gp, easy, but only if it's actually sold to someone. You don't just get the gp for picking it up.

There's also the rest of the chrysomorphosed encampment, still somewhere in the desert, and the map to it, currently in three parts and rolled in three small sandalwood tubes in three attics still belonging the adventurers' three families in Brandenberg. The fish knows the identity of these adventurers, having traveled with them and been privy to their conversations.

Further complicating things is that, following a massive earthquake, rockslide and some empire-building, the burial site of the literally golden horde not only lies entirely beneath the city-state of the Slender Khan, but has begun to be surreptitiously excavated after having been discovered by the necromancer Abbat Khuor, a man of considerable influence, rumored to be in contact with other gods beneath the sea, who now seek their fellow.
30 Aug 05:01

Stick To Cartooning – DORK TOWER 30.08.16

by John Kovalic

Happy Flame War Hour

31 Aug 07:00

nodus: Word of the Day

nodus: a difficult or intricate point, situation, plot, etc.
30 Aug 18:51

Great Adventure Hooks in Art History 2: Matejko's Stańczyk (+new Axe)

by Zak Sabbath
First: new I Hit It With My Axe episode


Stańczyk (The Ioculator)

(Second in a series about how Art History is Actually Adventure Hooks)
Click to enlarge, it's magnificent
So the official story is this is a late Piratey Era painting by Jan Matejko. His art was censored by both the Russians and the Germans on grounds that he depicted Polish history, the existence of which irritated them, and this particular piece was stolen by the Germans in the 40s on the grounds that it was not nailed down then (in an irony that pretty much sums up Polish history) returned by the Russians in the 50's on the grounds that they basically owned Poland so they could afford to be generous. History Painting (more a genre than a movement, but a big deal in the 1800s) was a generation before straight-up Realism (which typically had less lush color, and focused on contemporary subjects) which Matejko's students would adopt.

It depicts the semi-legendary Stańczyk, satirical genius and jester to three Polish kings for at least 40 years during Poland's Renaissance being depressed about the Russians taking Smolensk while a brushily executed ball (or just a few people talking in a lobby?) takes place on the right and a comet streaks earthward on the left.  It's an important and iconic image in Poland according to the thing what I read and the number of weird red-suited parodies of it on pages in Polish that come up when you google image search it and Matejko is to Polish history what Wayne Reynolds is to Pathfinder--basically if it happened to Poland before Matejko was born, he painted it.


-"The title erroneously suggests that Poland was at the time ruled by Queen Bona Sforza, when in fact, on July 30, 1514, when Smolensk was lost to Russia, Poland was ruled by King Sigismund the Old and his first wife, Queen Barbara Zápolya".

-Sigismund survived an assasination attempt by an unknown assailant in 1523.

-The country experienced an uprising known as the Chicken War during this same period.

In reality....

Although attributed to Matejko by the Soviets (who decided they liked the idea of the most famous Polish painter's most famous work being a clown who's sad about losing a fight with Russia), it is in fact much older--having been painted in Osc Lithicum by Haerlaen Qinzael during the reign of Sigismund the Old, while Stańczyk, the Great Ioculator, was yet living.

It hung for many years in the Snail Quarter headquarters of the absurdist anarchist Cult of the God That Laughs and depicts Stańczyk brooding not over the loss of Smolensk but over his unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sigismund earlier that year.

While outwardly a loyal subject gently but cleverly tweaking the foibles of the Crown, Stańczyk was a spy in good standing for the ruinous Cult.

The Cult's foundational beliefs are based around the idea that, in their formal and named forms, comedy and democracy emerged at the same time (the 6th century)--and it considers the former absolutely necessary to inform the latter. Just as Aristophanes mocked the Athenians in order to tell them who to vote for and against (ok, mostly against), the Cult sees the creation of amusing viral absurdities as necessary to spreading the Laughing God's message of universal disorder. The Cult's actual aims are variously populist, nihilist, socialist, apocalyptic or merely liberal, depending who you ask and which branch and era they are familiar with.

Only marginally more successful than the assassination attempt was the so-called Chicken War--while history records that the name derived from the popular notion that only chickens were harmed in the anti-monarchist rebellion, the name actually came about because during this period Stańczyk had managed to introduce an hypnotic pheasant into the court of Sigismund the Old, which strolled from room to room whispering bad advice to generals and advisors until the fowl was discovered and traduced by the Minister of Wells.

At any rate, in the manner of all Laughing Cult artworks and artifacts, the portrait of the undiscovered traitor Stańczyk contains esoteric clues to the mysteries of the Troupe--in this case the combination to the Cult's vault in Vornheim.

It comes in the form of a spread in the Nornrik Tarot (the word "Karkivit"--Northen Elvish for "6 Cards" is written on the message in the center of the painting):

The Comet ( 17 )

The Tower ( 16 )

The 3 Goblets

The Marotte ( 0 )

The Peacock's Fan ( 7 )

The Chandelier in Blood ( 14 )

Stańczyk himself is a 14th level Thief or Rogue or Specialist or Assassin, like all members of the Cult he has access to one Joke which, due to issues of timing, pronunciation, accent, etc only he can properly tell.  These Cult Jokes have the following characteristics:

-They are cruel and target one intelligent creature present.
-The can only be effectively told once to any given audience--the joke's power is lost if anyone present (aside from the teller) has heard it before.
-These impressive jokes shake and humiliate the target such that, each morning thereafter, s/he must make a wisdom/will/spell save or lose a point of charisma. This continues even after a day's save is made until the victim is reduced to a timid husk, incapable of any action.
-The joke's devastating effects can only be ended by gathering the same audience (or such members of it as are living) and telling a funnier joke at the Cultist's expense. The counterjoke must make the god's laugh (practically speaking, this means it must make the majority of the players at the table laugh--and genuinely). This reverses the effect of the joke completely.

The Cult's vault is rumored to contain:

-The immensely compromising diary of Queen Bona Sforza, a Cult member, including intimations of improper contact with the most powerful wife of a prominent Eastern Monarch.

-Coins of many nations.

-A Goblin Marotte which, when shaken by any creature of that kind, causes changelings to laugh and thus reveal themselves.

-A Sforza family tree, accurate up until the current date.

-A report compiled from various sources on the senses of humor of the world's monarchs covering the last 600 years written with an eye toward practical use--including topics and formats likely to gain favor, offensive subjects to be avoided and reports on the success and failure of various specific attempts to amuse them.

-A secret Deck commissioned by Franceso I Sforza consisting of portraits of his family depicted as Fools and variations thereupon--the Idiot, the Joker, the Ioculator, the Jester, the Joker, Le Mat etc ... As only Foolishness is universal and only Fools behave the same regardless of context, this Deck is said to have ultradimensional properties such that for any deck (including any world's Deck of Illusions or Many Things) there is a card within which can be inserted into it and subtly rewrite the esoterica of that world--causing suits and arcana to shift, altering sowing seasons, changing spell durations, renaming gods, etc.

-A painting entitled The Poisoning of Queen Bona painted before the poisoning took place likewise painted by Qinzael and inaccurately attributed to Matejko in the modern era:

29 Aug 12:43

Missed By TeraS

by TeraS

This past weekend was my Eternal’s birthday. It was … not what we’d hoped for. There was someone not there, at least not physically. From this birthday onwards, there will be, always, someone …


By TeraS


It is said by many in the Realm that if there is one character trait their rulers share, it is that neither of them wishes any fuss to be made when either of their birthdays arrive. That isn’t to say they aren’t thankful for anything should it occur—which it does, for they each make sure the other’s birthday is celebrated, no matter what. The wishes given and the words shared are treasured. A card, no matter how simple, matters and is adored. Gifts—though they never wish them, and have said, over and over again, that such things are not needed—are accepted with the grace everyone expects.

This particular birthday in the Realm came during a year where there was something, or rather more importantly, someone missing. This particular birthday was the first which dawned beyond the time when a blessed soul was called home to Goddess and she answered that call.

It was, to get to the point, Keith’s first birthday after his mother had gone to her rest.

The time in-between the loss and the natal day was filled with many things, some good, some not so much so. There were moments where the pain, hurt, and ache did terrible things to the royal family of the Realm. They were bent, but not broken. They wept, but did not despair. She did, after all, express to her loving son and daughter that she did not wish them to live in the hurt for all time.

But there were some days where they keenly felt someone missing, someone that had been there before, said the words, shared the joy, gave the gifts, and was, after all, never missing … until now.

The day had dawned with the Eternals in bed together, their tails entwined, snuggled under the sheets. To say who woke first wouldn’t be the question to ask, for it didn’t really matter. What did matter was the feeling within each of them that someone was missing, a feeling which had been their constant companion of late, becoming that much more present on this morning.

She was the first, as was meant to be, to wish him a happy birthday. The words were warm, loving, holding hope that the day would be kind to him, for she was not concerned for herself. He held her close, smiled, kissed her horns and thanked her. His hope was that she wouldn’t be sad today; he had no wishes for himself. Well, there was one thing that he wanted, but she was missing.

The morning was, if one was to be honest, melancholy. The shower was long, he standing there and thinking long after she’d gotten out to deal with drying her wild mane of hair, which always took, it seemed, forever. Perhaps the time in the shower was so that his tears would be masked by the water falling upon him. He couldn’t, after all, be like this throughout the day. It wouldn’t be right, knowing what his Eternal had planned—or thinking he did, at least.

By the time he’d tucked in his shirt, run a hand through his hair, and made his way to the kitchen, the melancholy had faded slightly. It was, to be clear, a start to the day getting better in time. He shared a bagel with her, smiling, a real smile, while she talked about the evening to come. Part of the day would be missing, for the first time. Part of the day wouldn’t be the same: the comfort, the expected moments that had always been. He didn’t allow those thoughts to creep into his expression. But she knew. As she sipped at her tea, she looked at him over the rim of her mug, giving him that look that all souls entwined knew so very well. The one that said: ‘I know. It’ll be okay.’

He trusted in that. He needed to.

Much of the day was spent with the two of them being together, talking. Occasionally there was a call to be answered, from one of the family who was dearly thanked and then asked about themselves. A visit at the door came, as well, at several points in the day. Their daughter Rianna popped by, to hug her parents and tell her father she loved him. Sister Rachel called, wishing him the best, he asking about her, to be sure she was doing alright. His answer to each of them was: “Things are … okay.”

Then there was a visit from Legion, the two men—as men do—clasping hands, nodding, keeping themselves in check, not from some male need to “be strong,” but rather from an understanding that they were both managing. When asked, he admitted: “Missing her.”

A birthday song was presented by Aria, Keith chuckling at some of the more interesting passages. Her concerned question was answered, “Missing her, but things are … okay.”

Noon came and went, the day being a little bit brighter, a little more promising. Their neighbours came to the fence, to wish him well. He spoke with them both, their conversation milling about many things, many moments, many thoughts. He was asked a question, the answer being: “Missing her, today more than ever. Things are … okay.” They nodded, but knew. Afternoon came sooner than expected. He embraced their neighbours warmly, thanked them, and then turned to look upon their own home. He could just make out her, rushing about within, being busy with things she wanted done for the evening to come.

He entered their home and made his way towards the dining room. Being that this wasn’t the Palace, the space was small, and he stood there watching her gathering her utensils, pacesettings, and more. The phone diverted his attention, Uncle was calling, and a long talk about football did bring a smile. A question was answered: “Doing okay … missing her.”

He intended to go and help with things, but the next call was from his father. It was the most difficult call of all: not because of missing her, not because of it being his father. It was the most difficult because the question was asked, his answer could only be: “Love you, Dad.”

In the past. they had dressed up for dinner. Not this year. It didn’t seem important, didn’t feel, somehow, right to be celebrating even if that celebration would only be known by themselves and no one else. At her call, he walked into the dining room and paused at the doorway.

There should have been two place-settings. There were three: one for the soul missing and there, two for the souls hurting and there. The message was clear. It was one that she’d said before: souls were never missing when they were remembered. He smiled, a real smile, knowing that she’d been missing that smile. Then he opened the bottle of wine, pouring out exactly half a glass. She wasn’t missing, she was there, after all, and she would not be forgotten, especially on this day. She always had exactly one-half a wine glass’s worth, no more, no less.

He expected dinner to be a quiet thing with his Eternal, but instead found himself talking to the one missing … no… that wasn’t right: her glass was there, her place was set; she was, as ever, listening to the conversation; he could see her smile, the knowing look from time to time when he, or his Eternal, tried to dance around her questions. He found himself talking to the one he had missed.

Dinner came to a close, they putting things away. The wine glass remained half-full and was brought to their living room. The Eternals laid together on their couch, words not needing to be said. They looked at the wine glass on the table across from them, thinking about the one missing, yet not. The day wasn’t as sad as he expected; it was better than she had imagined. It wasn’t a feeling of getting through it all, but rather knowing that being missing only meant that one was missed.

None were ever missing from the lives they had brought into being, given life to. None were ever missing from the lives they had touched and taught. None were ever missing from the hearts of those that loved them. They were missed, not missing.

That is the important difference between missing and being missed … always.

29 Aug 20:03

Great Adventure Hooks In Art History 1: The Arnolfini Wedding

by Zak Sabbath
The Arnolfini (Arnoult Fin) Wedding

(First in a series about Art History is Actually Adventure Hooks)
Ok so this is the Arnolfini Wedding by Jan Van Eyck--a classic of the Northern Renaissance (the better Renaissance) and one of the first examples of not only oil painting (artists used egg tempera until then) but of a level of then-unheard-of realism in art. It also has a funny dog.

Art history records some odd facts about the Arnolfini wedding:

-Nobody knows who the woman is--the woman people thought it was didn't roll up until after Van Eyck was dead. One theory holds it's Costanza Trenta. "...this would make the painting partly an unusual memorial portrait, showing one living and one dead person"

-Art historian Erwin Panofsky claimed the portrait was actually a marriage contract with the force of a legal/religious document.

-The bride looks like she's already pregnant which--seriously WTF AD1434 posh people?

-The mirror in the background shows additional hidden figures.

-A 1516 inventory including it says "It is necessary to put on a lock to close it: which Madame has ordered to be done."

-By 1599 it had a new frame with a quote from Ovid "See that you promise: what harm is there in promises? In promises anyone can be rich."

-By 1816 a British Colonel James Hay had it and historians say it basically fell off a truck during the Peninsular War.

In reality...

Panofsky is right, but much else is wrong.

The painting actually depicts (as a 1523–4 Mechelen inventory correctly records) a merchant of Vornheim named Arnault Fin and a succubus (Isvin Othvyx of the Fourth Insidious) wearing the skin of the deceased Constanza Trenta.

Folkloric texts found in treasure hoards, sages of highly civilized lands, a DC 19 history check or, in Call of Cthulhu, an Occult roll or a successful Library Use roll made at a sufficiently specialized antiquarian archive will reveal that just before their (essentially shotgun) marriage, Fin (pronounced not like the guys in Star Wars and Adventure Time but like the French would, so like you're about to say "Fuck" then get turned into a sheep then get punched in the nose in the space of half a second) woke late one night to find his fiance missing. He headed to the pantry to get a pear and then chanced to glimpse her, naked atop a wide and spreading oak, throwing stones at the moon and eating the loosened flakes as they fell to the ground. Fin instantly recognized that this was not a proper diversion for a potential bride.

Othvyx's scheme was simple: seduce-, become impregnated by-, and marry- the prosperous Fin and proceed to birth into the emerging merchant aristocracy of Vornheim a strain of tieflings with which to manipulate and intrigue to the advantage of Hell against- and from within- the great cities of the Northern Continent.

Two minor obstacles obtained:
-According to the law of Vornheim, a spouse must obey any promise made to their partner during the first month of marriage.
-Demons can't break contracts.

Othvyx planned to circumvent these by using the false name that went with her false skin: Constanza Trenta.

However, once Fin discovered his wife's demonic nature, he consulted a witch-hunter, who instructed Fin to go on with the marriage and the usual marriage contract, but to also, unbeknownst to his new wife, enact the contract in a non-verbal form--thus the commission of the painting, which Othvyx, unschooled in art, mistook for a mere curio. Fin then playfully extracted from his new bride a pillow-promise to always be good and to teach their children and all the fruits of their line good things and Othvyx agreed, thinking herself safe due to the treacheries embedded in the written contract. Fin then burned the written contract, leaving only the painting--a loophole-free document of the reality of their marriage, and Othvyx was forced to be good and to teach her tiefling children goodness for all time.

The line of Fin is, incidentally, one of the sources of those non-evil tiefling PCs that pop up in D&D campaigns.

As for Othvyx (immortal and still extant long after the natural death of Arnault Fin): This rankles.

The Hellish siblings of the Fourth Insidious have inculcated many schemes over the years to free their sister and her descendants from her long-ago promise to Arnault Fin. Their various stratagems include:

-Destroy the painting

Seemingly the most straightforward scheme, but a demon can't destroy a contract, so it requires either manipulating resourceful mortals with unusual access into doing it. Complicating this is the fact that the artwork is discreetly protected by (in the D&D eras) various responsible clerical orders (thus the 1516 lock on the painting) and (in the Call of Cthulhu eras) clubby secret societies of Templars and whatnot, to one of which Colonel James Hay--who actually wrested the painting from the hands of a Spanish diabolist and scion of a corrupt family in Salamanca who had acquired it from the Inquisitorial libraries of the Dominican order and totes did not steal it off a truck like some parody of an entitled British world-heritage plunderer--belonged.

-Besmirch the good name of Arnault Fin

Divorce won't do it, but if the Church or State can be somehow persuaded that the Fins could never have been married in the first place and thus trigger an annulment then Othvyx is free to work once more her wicked way in the world. Generally this is easier in a D&D game than in a Call of Cthulhu one as the only entities extant still capable of annulling the marriage in modern times (the Catholic Church and the government of Belgium) seriously do not care. Either way, the most obvious way to do this would be to somehow smear Arnault Fin, finding someone in authority willing to retroactively and officially declare him a close relation of Othvyx, a changeling, a bard, or some other entity denied the ordinary rights of a citizen.

-Get the witnesses to recant or be declared unfit

The convex mirror in the painting shows two witnesses. One is presumed to be the painter himself, Jan Van Eyck.

In D&D, agents of demonic forces might hunt down these people themselves and cause them by threat or guile to recant their witness to the marriage of Fin and Othvyxx. In any game taking place long after the painting was finished, the task of ruining the witnesses is not unlike discrediting Fin himself--it will require convincing an authority figure that the witnesses were not what they seemed or in a state of disordered mind (drunk or possessed) rendering them incapable of proper witness.

Either way, you'd have to get a good look at the painting in person in order to figure out who these witnesses are or were.

So anyway...

If this painting happens to turn up in a treasure hoard or on a the wall of a great hall, it's valuable to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and could start a lot of trouble. Keep an eye out.
29 Aug 17:29

Understanding takes time.

by Jessica Hagy


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The post Understanding takes time. appeared first on Indexed.

29 Aug 04:00


I'm excited about the proposal to add a "brontosaurus" emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument.
26 Aug 07:00

truepenny: Word of the Day

truepenny: a trusty, honest fellow.
26 Aug 04:00

Linear Regression

The 95% confidence interval suggests Rexthor's dog could also be a cat, or possibly a teapot.