16 Aug 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 3

Episode 3 – “The Ends of Des Moines"

Yeah, we got the job to clean up after Team Six's disaster.  Worse, the Chief brought in the demon librarian.  So now we're stuck in Des Moines.  Wonderful.

Something happened.  Even Team Six doesn't go all explosion happy for no reason at all.  I'm taking Demona in under my wing, more to keep her out of Nadia's hair than anything else.  We found ground zero, but nothing strange.

My first mission with the Agency and Nadia and Ian!  I'm so excited!  Though, next time Nadia recommends the coffee somewhere, I'm having tea.  My stomach's still feels like something is chewing its way out.

The next morning, Ian met Demona outside their rooms.  The mountain of a man escorted the young librarian down to the van.  "Breakfast first," he said.  "Always get a good meal when you can."

Demona stared up at the room Ian shared with Nadia.  "What about Nadia?" she asked.  "Shouldn't she have breakfast, too?"

"Nadia exists on bad coffee and bagels.  And she's not pleasant in the morning."

"Just in the morning?"  Demona smirked.  "Tell me the truth, Ian.  Does she hate me?  Because that's the vibe I'm getting off her."

Ian sighed.  "Nadia isn't exactly cuddly, okay?  Think of her as a feral cat.  One that is as likely to scratch and bite you if you try to pick her up, but might approach you if you ignore her."

"I suppose."

"Let's find a diner.  We can sit there for a bit and brainstorm where Team Six might have stayed.  Got your laptop?"

Demona patted her shoulder bag.  "Right here."

"Great!"  Ian unlocked the minivan and opened the passenger door for Demona.

Ian drove through the streets of Des Moines, trying to avoid the morning rush traffic by taking side streets and finding a way to go against the flow.  He found a chain diner near the Interstate that didn't look too busy and pulled into its parking lot.  Getting out, he checked under his coat, making sure he only had his smallsword.

15 Aug 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 2

Can't keep a librarian away in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 2

Obviously, Demona was going to stick around.  She was the first character conceived of for the story.  The story really sprung up around her; Demona started as a character idea.  While I was working on her, I realized that she worked best with other characters around, which led to Nadia and Ian.  Demona counters Nadia in terms of personality.  Demona is generally cheerful and survives on more than bad coffee.

Nadia used to survive on cigarettes and bad coffee, but had to make a sacrifice.  She gave up smoking.  I may slip in the Airplane joke at some point with her, but not right away.  She's good for being cranky.  Just what you'd want in a mage, right?

Ian is the weapons master, the brawn to Nadia's brains.  His job is to have the right weapon at the right time.  He is good at hiding his weapons in his car.  Really good.  He owns a Mini.  I also added in that he finds Demona attractive.  Might be more informed beauty at this stage, but Demona is part succubus, so some attractiveness is expected.  Ian has a thing for hot librarians.

First Iowa City, then Des Moines.  There's a reason, beyond wanting to send my characters to places that really aren't known for glamour or class.  Heaven's Rejects was a NaNoWriMo project, so word count mattered.  Every city that the story went to needed to have at least two words.  If I could have figured out an arc for Ho Chi Mihn City, I would've used it.  That would've required research and planning.  However, if the series works out, I may still use the city.

Friday, picking up the cold trail, in Heaven's Rejects/ Chapter 3.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Expanse.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Kong Kong vs Godzilla.

9 Aug 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 2

Episode 2 – “Clean Up”

That had to be the worst mission I'd been on.  That includes the incident in Port au Prince.  We failed to bring back the book, Pro Daemonium Accersito.  An actual demon is summoned by a teenaged girl out for petty revenge.  And the librarian is half-succubus. 

That wasn't too bad, that last mission.  No one got hurt.  Much.  We kept everything under control.  Sorta.  And we know where the book is if we ever need it.  Maybe.  Oh, hey, right, the librarian was helpful and kinda cute.  Though being half-succubus, that comes with the territory.  Um, we didn't destroy the entire library, just the Special Collections Room?

That was an interesting day, to say the least.  Who knew that the book's errata was out there?  I got to see an old friend, though, and the girl responsible is working to pay for damages, whatever insurance doesn't cover.  But the library is going to be closed until the repairs are done.  Now what do I do?

The Chief looked up as Nadia, Ian, and the camera crew entered his office.  "Good.  Everything squared away?"

"Look, Chief," Nadia started as she sat down, "this isn't going to work."

"I saw the footage, Ms Wallach.  Other than everything that went wrong on your part, it looked to be working to me."  The Chief turned his attention to Ian.  "Going to add anything?"

"No, sir," Ian said.

"Good.  For a mission where you didn't retrieve the objective, it worked out for the best at the end.  But I did see an area where you two are lacking."

Nadia crossed her legs, the denim of her jeans swishing.  "I don't think we were missing anything except proper information that the local team should have determined when they first got there.  But, well, hard to admonish them now, seeing that they're scattered around Des Moines."

"That's why I'm adding an extra body on your team, someone who can get that information."  The Chief pressed the intercom button on his landline.  "You can send her in."  Behind the Chief, a door slid open.  Nadia and Ian recognized who walked through.

"Chief, tell me your joking."  Nadia stared at the newcomer.  "Right?  Right?"

Ian smiled.  "I didn't think we'd see you so soon."

Demona waved.  "Hi."

8 Aug 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 1

A new serial started with Heaven's Rejects Chapter 1!  Three new characters with their own setting to explore and destroy!

I'm trying something new with this serial.  The core idea was to mash urban fantasy and reality TV together.  By reality TV, I'm aiming for something like COPS with the asides of other reality competitions tossed in.  The Office meets Ghostbusters, though not quite that.  For the asides, I wanted to add images of who was speaking, taking advantage of the medium.  Since my drawing skills are at the level of malformed stick figures, I had to go a different route.  Fortunately, many computer games allow for character customization.  The Sims series is built on that idea, along with creating a soap opera over multiple families and killing Sims in unique ways.  Meet Ian, Nadia, and Demona.


The organization Nadia and Ian work for doesn't have great funding.  It's a Non-Governmental Organization getting funds from organizations that don't want their names revealed and don't really have that much spare money to pass along.  So, Ian prefers his car, a Mini, and I'm playing with the idea that he has the original version instead of the remake.  He is able to hide a zeihander, a German two-handed sword that is up to 213 cm (84 inches) long in a car maybe twice that length.  Should be easier to hide the sword in a minivan, but that's Ian for you.

The idea is inspired by Demon Hunters from Dead Gentlemen Productuons, though I'm creating everything from scratch.  The organization is more earthly than the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch, and the hierarchy is more loose.  Nadia and Ian report to "The Chief", but he's not the head nor is he near being the head of the the organization.  Ian's explanation gives a view at the ground level, what he and Nadia do.  Higher up is the tracking and planning, deciding where to deploy the agents and specialists.

Obviously, Nadia is Jewish.  Speaking (badly translated) Yiddish, the Star of David, the whole /schlemiel/.  I'm using Mel Brooks movies as a guide to Yiddish, so things might not come out the best.  The choice came after some thoughts about the use of faith against hte supernatural.  Since most of the writers creating supernatural canon, like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker were of some flavour of Christianity, the focus of True Faith tended to be a crucifix.  But if it's faith that drives back the supernatural, then why not other holy symbols?

The twist on the summoning came about because of genre.  Heaven's Rejects isn't meant to be serious.  Some ideas could be redone seriously elsewhere, but urban fantasy could use more comedy.  A demon named Tad becoming cheerful on seeing an old friend.  Demona's battle cry of "Shush!"  More will come.

Friday, Nadia and Ian get a new teammate and a new mission, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 2.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Teen Wolf.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Expanse.

2 Aug 2019

Heaven’s Rejects

Episode 1 – “Yes, You Have To.”

“Are you out of your mind, Chief?”  Nadia pulled her arm away from Ian’s attempts to get her to sit back down.  “What part of ‘secret organization’ have you forgotten?”

The Chief stared across his desk at Nadia.  The young woman didn’t back down, but also she didn’t continue forward.  “Times are changing, Ms Wallach.”

Ian leaned away from his partner.  “After what happened to Team Six, it’s kinda hard to hide again.”

“Edward was a disaster waiting to happen and you know it, Chief.”  Nadia sat back down.  She glared at the camera crew lurking in the corner.  “Just like these guys.  Bringing civilians along is a bad idea.”

“You’re not in the army, Ms Wallach,” the Chief said.  “You’re also a ‘civilian’.  Same with Mr. Markowitz.”

1 Aug 2019

NaNo 2019 Prep - The Contenders

November is coming.  Okay, it's still three months away, but with The Elf's Prisoner just recently completed and all its lessons on not building a world on the fly, I better brainstorm a bit.  I do have a few ideas, though.

1) Magical Lush Claire
I won't take all the credit or all the blame for this one.  A friend made an off-hand remark on Twitter and that triggered ideas.  I've started working on the setting and the characters, and I have a good idea on how things start.  Claire is a geology student at a local university, in part to make world building much easier, and is not having an easy life when things start.  I also have the rest of her magical girls team.  The idea here is that Claire, being a young adult, doesn't have a strong connection to the magic like a younger girl would.  To access the magic, she needs to lower her inhibitions, something alcohol does well for people.  And if she gets too drunk, she might accidentally change anyway.  I've got the opening worked out and an idea of how the other magical girls will treat her.

2) Subject 13 Volume 2
The plan here is to skip the massive battle with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and just give a quick recap of it through a news program, just to get Nasty home finally.  Nasty will be stepping down as Peregrine, as hinted in Crossover, and get her into the difficulties of having a semi-public ID, especially at school.  The usual problems, like dealing with Tia and trying to get a handle on her feelings for Eric, though those can't really outpace what happened in /Crossover/.  There will be some surprises for Nasty, though.

3) Streetwise Valkyries
I've already written the first four chapters of this, a team of teenaged superheroines who are dealing with their own lives, their relationships with each other, and the baggage of superpowers.  I have a few ideas to run them through, too.  The five, Lady Windchime, Miss Mana, Unruly, Ocelot, and the Steel Poppy, have been detailed in notes, including classes where I can pull them out of when needed.  This may hit topics that need to be hit, like school shootings.  There may be a crossover with Subject 13, too, though there's already a character who has appeared there.

4) Total Security Concepts
Another superhero series, this time set in Ottawa.  Total Security Concepts looks at the task of protecting people from superpowered threats.  Colleen, the owner of TSC, has designed a set of power armour.  Unlike most heroes who do that (I'm looking at you, Tony Stark), Colleen is mass producing them, at least for her employees.  She also employs people with superpowers; fight fire with fire.  TSC will also fall into the S13 setting, to make things easier and to give that setting a bigger feel.  If I go with S13 Volume 2, the team will get a shout out.  The story will start after the battle I'm planning on skipping in /S13/.

The usual contenders from previous years may pop up, too, most likely the time travelling daikaiju hunters.  That story needs a lot more research on historical eras and how a giant monster stomping around can change the course of history.

Three months to prep.  That should be enough time.

26 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Future Plans

Thirty-seven full chapters and a third of another later, The Elf's Prisoner is not complete.  The plot is a complex web of conspiracies that Kazi, Nyssa, Jyslyn, Wren, and Leo and cutting with a sharp sword.  Different cultures have appeared.  What's next?

That's the big question, even for me.  I have ideas of what I want, and I know that there needs to be a showdown against the Big Bad.  It's the path to get there that's in question.  The general direction is south, thanks to Sessarine.  South seems like a good spot to have backstabbing snake people.  It's warm, it's humid, there's rocks.  Everything a snake might like.

Along the way, the group would meet other Niceans and the crystal elves.  I don't want a travelogue, but the world would get explored.  The Niceans are more laid back than the ambassador to the Realm Under the Mountain is.  The crystal elves, well, they're another matter.  Like the elves of Wildwood and the Sundered Chasm, the crystal elves are a matriarchy.  They're also who the dark elves were sundered from and they have long memories.  Jyslyn would become their prisoner until Kazi and Wren sorted things out.  Jyslyn has some of her own tricks up her sleeves, too.  The crystal elves are very much into magic.  Jyslyn goes for practical means as needed, so getting out of manacles while in a magic dampening field is a matter of sleight of hand.

Speaking of ambassadors, it occurred to me that the ambassadors from both the Nicean Islands and the Seven Dominions are officious.  While the Nicean ambassador had other matters on his mind, the respective governments may have sent such people to deal with the dwarves because the dwarves appreciate such an approach.  That may have been the insight I was missing when I started Chapter 38.  Nyssa hinted at it, though.

Once done in the Realm, the heroes will take a canal boat to the coast.  I have a working canal locally, the Rideau Canal, that will help me with ambiance and actual working of shipping along a waterway.  It can pay to take note of what's around.  Anything can be tossed into a story.  Once down the canal, off to the Nicean Islands to catch a ship further south.  That may be the perfect spot to end the first book.  Not that I intended The Elf's Prisoner to have multiple books.  It kinda got away from me.

Long term, I need to get Kazi and Jyslyn to become a couple.  A possible sequel set decades later would have their children dealing with Valenza and her machinations.  Valenza has a long memory and the capability to nurse a grudge until the time is right for vengeance.  How best to do that than to tempt one of Jyslyn's kids back into the fold?  Jyslyn would be older and crankier by this time and is feeling her years.  Kazi, not so much.  The difference between dark elves and surface elves.

The biggest lesson learned from The Elf's Prisoner is to have the world built before starting to write.  So much effort was spent laying down the tracks in front of the characters that could've been used figuring out plot and characters.  However, I also learned that I can create a world on the fly while letting the characters interact to hide the frantic paddling.  It's a good skill, one that shouldn't be overworked.

This ends The Elf's Prisoner for now.  Unlike the other stories that were unfinished, there's too much right now to try writing chapter by chapter for the next few weeks.  I have other stories in the works right now and I do have a serial lined up for the next ten weeks.  I'll also post the potentials for NaNo 2019.  Thanks for sticking around for The Elf's Prisoner.

25 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 38

The sudden stop, Chapter 38.

Not much to Chapter 38, is there?  I reached this point in the final days of NaNoWriMo 2015 and the creative well was empty.  It wasn't a block.  I had a sense of where I was going.  I just didn't have the creative juice to keep going.  I not only was creating the plot, I was creating the world, and I realized that I didn't have enough in my to flesh out dwarven culture.  I considered myself lucky to figure out the naming convention for dwarves.  (For the record, Aztec/Mayan names.  Because no one has done that before.)

There's not much to talk about.  Nyssa's using some linguistic tricks to get away with having Jyslyn, Leo, and Wren at the meeting.  The dwarves aren't going to hold Jyslyn's home against her; they're not going to let her make any mischief but they'll give her the rope she needs to hang herself.  Having all five, though, sends a message that the problem is bigger than imagined.

The goal of the meeting is to find out if the dwarves have a problem with Count Varin.  None of the heroes believe there is one, but getting it confirmed by the dwarves is key.  Nyssa can send a missive back to the Count and to the King and be considered to have discharged her duty with this mission.  That leaves her free to pursue the investigation.  She's there under orders of the King, not Varin.  The King likes results.

/The Elf's Prisoner/ is not something I'd want to do again, not the way I did it.  Worldbuilding is something that should be done in advance, even if it's just where the story is happening.  Steve Savage, who runs The Seventh Sanctum where I have Lost in Translation, has a series of books about worldbuilding and the different elements that go into it.  It's not something that is easily done on the fly.  Quite frankly, I am surprised that The Elf's Prisoner got as far as it did.  Lesson here, it helps to plan a bit, even if you pants the story.

I don't think I could have written The Elf's Prisoner even five years sooner.  It was my tenth NaNo, and just being able to tackle a large project with little prep helped show me how far I've come since Lethal Ladies, my first NaNo project.  The plot is more complex.  The world is deeper despite the rapid development.  Everyone has a motive.  There's a sense of a world outside the pages.  I can live with what I wrote.

Tomorrow, what could be, the future of The Elf's Prisoner.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, advertising, adaptations, and Wacky Races.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The LEGO Batman Movie.

19 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 38

Chapter 38

The new path.
Entry Cavern, Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn stared in awe at the sheer size of the Entry Cavern.  Her home, the Morien Citadel, towered over most of the other residences within the Sundererd Chasm, but even the Citdel was overshadowed by the immenseness of the Realm Below the Mountain, more so because the dwarves had hollowed out the mountain itself, not just settling inside where space allowed.  The dark elf, covered head to toe, felt a nudge.  Wren urged her to keep up.  Jyslyn brought herself back to the moment and fell back in pace behind Kazimier and Nyssa.

A dwarf in armour made from a black metal greeted the group.  He set down his massive warhammer.  "You're Kellus and Starpetal?"

Kazimier stepped forward.  "I am Kazimier Starpetal."  He waved an arm at the knight.  "This is Dame Nyssa of Kellus."

"And who are the rest?"

"Our companions."

"The scroll said nothing about companions."

"The response didn't say anything about just the two of us attending," Nyssa said.

The dwarf spat on the stone road.  "Follow me."  He picked up his warhammer and began walking, not noticing or caring if he was followed.

Instead of going up to Embassy Row, the dwarf led the group on the road down, into the Realm Below the Mountain.  The light globes grew further apart, still lighting the road but not as brightly as ine the levels above.  After a fifteen minute walk, the dwarf stopped in front of a structure carved into the mountain.  "The Temple of Stone," he announced.  He looked at Jyslyn.  "Not polite to hide your face in the temple."

Jyslyn glanced at Kazimier, who only nodded.  She removed her hood.  "I didn't know if I would be allowed in."

The dwarf scowled. 

Next Week:
An overview of what is planned.

18 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 37

The last full chapter of The Elf's Prisoner, Chapter 37.

Chapter 37 was the last full-sized chapter written for The Elf's Prisoner.  By the end of NaNo 2015, I was exhausted from not just creating the story but also creating a world several steps ahead of my characters.  NaNo is a marathon, not a sprint, though there are days when sprinting happens, thanks to local events.  Mentally, I was tired.  I knew that I had to step back and figure out not only where the plot was going, as in, what were the characters going to do, but where it was going, as in, where in the setting needed to be developed.

I did wind up working on the world after NaNo.  There is still a lot of world to be developed, but if the characters aren't going there, there's no push to fill in the details.  However, when I ended NaNo in 2015, I had to figure out dwarven culture and names, southern culture, how the characters will get there, how to avoid unnecessary random encounters, and how to keep the plot on track and going and still be interesting.  That's just exhausting to think about, really.

Chapter 37 recaps a lot that has happened now that the group is back together.  However, I wanted more than just restating the obvious.  The group needed to figure out where to go.  There's no turning back from the mission now; there's too much at stake.  As a group, they figured out the details, like where Sessarine might be from.  Leo is thinking of the name Sevarine here, mind, but it's close enough.  What I did was take Sevarine and had a snake say it, since she's half snake.  I'm not going to ignore an obvious convention when it makes my job easier.

The canal was tossed into Chapter 28 as a way for the Realm Under the Mountain to ship ore and goods off for trade.  It became far more useful than I imagined.  First, the Canal District in Silver Trailings became the shadier part of the city, a place where thieves skulked.  The other use I found for it was travel, as in, I can get the heroes down the mountain without dealing with roads and bandits and all sorts of distracting encounters.  It may not be the most comfortable trip, but it's direct and patrolled.

The Tivalan, Sevarine, was a royal brat.  Poor Leo was assigned to watch over her, since he's just a squire.  Being from the south, Tivalans have darker skin in general, though there's varience.  The goal was to make this world feel like Earth, with different shades of skin throughout.  I have no idea if this is working, though.  Too much time spent in too small an area.

The last tidbit, The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 38.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the balkanization of television.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, advertising, adaptations, and Wacky Races.

12 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Jyslyn made some key discoveries.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Once the elves returned to the inn, the group gathered in Kazimier's room.  Leomund stood beside Nyssa, who sat in one of the room's two chairs.  Kazimier claimed the second chair, sitting near the knight.  Wren and Jyslyn sat on the bed, the latter in her new dress.  Leomund worked at not staring at the dark elf, succeeding most of the time.  For her part, Jyslyn didn't notice the young squire's furtive glimpses.

"We have some news," Kazimier said.  "Whether it's good or not is up to you."

"My feeling is that it's a mix," Nyssa said.  "First, the Niceans now know the fate of their ambassador.  It's hard to tell whether they're relieved, angry, or overjoyed."

"We may have forced them to cancel a war footing build up," Kazimier added.  "The Minister didn't indicate anything to us.  To be fair, the Niceans were a new addition to everything we have discovered."

"Second, we did get a reply from the dwarves.  They sent their missive to the embassy for the Seven Dominions, not to us."  Nyssa held up the scroll from the Realm Below.  "The meeting is tomorrow morning, back in the Realm Below.  We may have an third person with us, the ambassador from the Seven Dominions.  She received the scroll on our behalf."

Wren held up her hand.  "Is she someone we can trust?"

11 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 36

Sibling rivalry, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 36.

I realized that while I had the villain introduced, I didn't have a way to let the heroes know who is the immediate mastermind.  Sessarine had a few appearances, but the way the plot was going, it'd be some time before Kazi et al found out anything, if ever.  Silver Trailings was introduced to be a trade town, so beings from any number of nations and cultures could be here, which helps with Sessarine.  I just needed a way to make a connection to the heroes.

Enter Biala.  I introduced him with the rest of Jyslyn's siblings, more to flesh her out than anything else.  But, much like Mara in The Devil You Know, once introduced, Biala became useful.  First, he's a link to Jyslyn's past, one that isn't sympathetic to her.  Second, while Valenza is busy consolidating her new role as family matriarch and Tereska is busy trying to not die by her sister's hand, Biala has spare time.  He just needed a motive to join Sessarine in her plot.

Biala's motives comes from wanting to destroy his society to rebuild it in his/the Defiler's image.  Valenza wants power, but she doesn't want to destroy the power structure to get it.  What's the point of striving and strategic murdering if society is left in ruins and all she gets to rule is a half a dozen vermin?  Biala hasn't planned that far ahead.  But he has a plan and Sessarine is a useful pawn.

Just don't tell Sessarine that.

Obviously, the roster of deities expanded in this chapter just from necessity.  The Defiler is a deity of destruction and corruption.  Followers tend to leave things in worse shape when they leave.  Destroying the Sundered Chasm?  Almost too easy, except that the matriarchs there hold on to power like a koala holds on to an eucalyptus tree.  However, the ensuing chaos will send ripples through society, destabilizing it further.  If successful, there may not be much left of the Sundered Chasm.

When Jyslyn was skulking around to learn magic, she realized she needed some practical spells.  Spells that weren't direct, to get around magic resistance, helped earlier.  Jyslyn also planned on being caught at some point.  She has a spell to unlock chains and manacles.  However, given where she's learning magic, spells tend to be rough on the recipient.  The manacles needed to close tighter before releasing.  This goes back to the idea of special effects for spells.  Just as Kazi needs to use light as a motif, Jyslyn can't really use magic on herself without causing pain.  Once the voyage to stop a massive chaotic war is over, she can start learning new ways to cast spells, ones that don't hurt when cast on herself.  Her rod, as mentioned before, is a way to channel magic without burning herself out.  She can cast without it, but she becomes the path for mana.

A new direction, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 37.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Solo.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the balkanization of television.

5 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 36

Chapter 36

Politics and worries.
The Busty Dryad, Canal District, Silver Trailings
The manacles hung heavy on Jyslyn's wrists, pinning her arms behind her back.  Her cloak and tunic sat in a crumpled heap where they had landed after Biala removed them from her.  Her brother pulled on her arm, forcing her to sit down hard on a creaky chair.  He stepped back out into her view.  "Now, dear sister, we can talk."

"Are you sure that'll hold her?" the young man asked, his voice trembling with nervousness.

"Not even a Matriarch can cast spells with her arms locked together."  Belial knelt down to meet Jyslyn eye to eye.  "Shall I start to tell you just how much trouble you are in?"

Jyslyn maintained the eye contact without flinching.  "Just how is Mother these days?"

"Dead.  She died in a tragic accident."

"She was tragically in Valenza's way, you mean.  Just how did Valenza kill Mother?"

"Do you really think Valenza did the deed herself?"

"It's so hard to tell with her.  Did she see killing Mother as a task or as sport?"

4 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 35

Political complications for Nyssa, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 35.

It's the final countdown until the end of what's written with The Elf's Prisoner.  The plot is coalescing.  Characters are coming together and relationships are forming.  It only took thirty-five chapters, and I'm not even close to the middle.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Having a Knight of the Realm appear with no warning sends a message, intentional or not.  The embassy to the Realm Under the Mountain had no idea Nyssa was coming.  Mind, that isn't on Nyssa.  Count Varin should have sent a missive; he didn't.  Nyssa should have sent a note to the embassy announcing her arrival, but her approach is more bull in a china shop.  His Majesty thought he had one problem, not the one that exists.

Enide is officious, but she wasn't appointed to get her out of the king's hair.  Her mindset is useful when dealing with the dwarven realm.  Every regulation has a purpose, even if she cannot fathom it.  'Tis better to obey than to risk offending her hosts.  Trade between the Realm Below and the Seven Dominions is good, so she is doing her job well.

Wren tried to stay calm.  The day has past, though, and Jyslyn hasn't returned or even sent a message.  Wren doesn't know what's going on, so her imagination is running wild.  That she hasn't gone hunting for Jyslyn yet shows that she's willing to give the dark elf time to work.  She didn't stop worrying and she's not experienced enough to know when to follow her instincts and when to hold back.  And Kazimir is correct; Jyslyn is in trouble.

Friday, news from home, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 36.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the anti-adaptation backlash.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Solo.

28 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 35

Chapter 35

Jyslyn investigated a fellow dark elf.
Embassy Row, Realm Below the Mountain
Nyssa and Kazimier began their trek back to the Inn of the Foxes.  The meeting with the Nicean minister left the two travellers unsure of the Niceans plans, though neither expected the Minister to share his thoughts with them.  Nyssa's footsteps on the stone road echoed off the walls of nearby embassies.  No one else on the street noticed.  Functionaries rushed about, delivering messages and missives.

Over the hushed din, a voice called out with a strident tone, "Dame Kellus!"  The knight came to a stop as she looked around.  A woman wearing a long red dress ran to catch up, hiking up her skirts to avoid tripping on the hems.  "Dame Kellus!" the woman repeated.  She slowed as she neared Nyssa and Kazimier, allowing herself to catch her breath.

"I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you," Nyssa said.

The woman scowled.  "Enide, His Majesty's representative to the Realm Below."  She pulled the purple sash of office back up on her shoulder.  "Why wasn't I told that His Majesty had sent a Knight of the Realm?  What is your business here?"

"I am not here on His Majesty's business," Nyssa answered.  "I am here on the behalf of the Count of Varin.  Has news of what has happened in the County even reached here?"

27 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 34

Jyslyn's investigation turns up unexpected connections, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 34.

The Elf's Prisoner is in its final stretch of completed chapters right now.  As a NaNoWriMo project, there came a point where I just could not word anymore.  I did what I could, but the well was drying out.  I was also starting to hit the point of multiple subplots starting to get out of control, much like previous works like The Soul Blade.  Considering that The Elf's Prisoner might be a third of the way to completion, that's frightening.

This is a Jyslyn chapter, obviously.  Jyslyn made the decision to go check the shady part of Silver Trailings.  She has reason to believe the mystery dark elf she saw is part of the conspiracy; the knives found in two dead bodies were of dark elf manufacture, so someone had to be providing the weapons.  Jyslyn believes that she is best suited for the more shadowy parts of the mission, leaving the others to stay in the light.  Her goal is atonement.  The catch, though, is that she isn't that much more suitable.  She's coming from a position of power through her family, and any dealings with the darker elements back in her home were through having clout, not wheeling and dealing.  Nyssa, though Jyslyn doesn't realize it, is more suited thanks to her experiences.

One goal I set myself for this chapter was to not go heavy in dialogue.  There was action to be had, so the action had to be front and centre for a change.  A little scenery also helped.  Jyslyn is skulking about, which is something she knows how to do, and investigating, keeping an eye on her quarry.  The young man is, indeed, the same one who found the body and the same one who Sessarine promoted by eliminating his boss earlier.

I hadn't considered any of Jyslyn's family to be involved in the overall plot.  Yet, when I needed a dark elf connection, I went to the ones who had already appeared in the story.  However, it's Jyslyn's younger brother that's caught up in the conspiracy and not her sisters.  Valenza is too busy taking over her mother's position and quashing rebellion.  Tereska is occupying herself with making sure her older sister decides to not remove competition.  That leaves Biala.  He's younger, male, and not as likely to kill Jyslyn on sight.

That explains why Biala and not his sisters, but why choose Biala at all?  Conservation of characters.  I introduced Jyslyn's siblings, so I had better make use of them somehow.  I knew Biala was going to be linked soon after I introduced him, though I didn't know how then.  With him available, I didn't have to work out a backstory for a dark elf with no connections to Jyslyn.  I can up the drama just by having her brother be involved.

Friday, politics in an epic fantasy, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 35.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the anti-adaptation backlash.

26 Jun 2019

Ottawa's LRT - What a Mess

So RTG has finally come through with handing over the new LRT to the City of Ottawa and announced the handover for August.  For those counting, the announcement came 391 days after the original deadline was passed.  The City is hoping to have the LRT fully tested and running by September.  Let's count the ways that the City is out of its damned mind on this.

1) Once the handover is done, the new LRT has to be tested at full load for twelve days.  RTG hasn't reached that at all, especially with the double trains that will be needed during rush hour.  If at any point during the testing something breaks, the clock resets to zero.  Something breaks on day 11?  Fix it and restart the clock from the beginning.  I don't see a September start.  But let's say everything is working for September.  Then what?

2) September is when route changes happen, when people return to school and to work after a vacation.  OC Transpo has had problems in the past few years with major changes, to the point where buses get backed up past Tunney's Pasture eastbound and the University of Ottawa westbound.  Almost every time, OC Transpo has face planted and there's no indication that this time will be any different.  But let's say OC Transpo has its act together.  Then what?

3) Thanks to the delays, there has been no full load testing in winter.  The City tends to forget the other season besides construction, but Ottawa gets winters.  We get the entire range of winter weather, from mild and no snow to -35 °C before windchill (-40 °C and lower with), blizzards, thundersnow, ice storms, you name it, we've had it.  When RTG did do light testing, several of the trains broke from the snow and ice.  The trains the City is getting have never been used for public transit before, let alone in a city with weather extremes. What's going to happen with the first snowfall?  Are the trains going to come to a crashing halt?  Will they be able to run at all?  The City will be laying off drivers and selling off buses once the LRT is going, so if the system breaks, what's going to make up the gap?

The big problem is that the City went cheap on the LRT.  We're going to be paying for that.  It's bad enough that bus service now is a shit show of near epic proportions, with bus cancellations and no shows part of the daily commute.  If the LRT fails to arrive, what are passengers supposed to do?  Buses are already sardine cans.  There won't be enough buses to replace the trains.  Ridership is down over the past decade, because the service just isn't there.  The handover is more politics than service right now.

21 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 34

Chapter 34

Kazimier and Nyssa visited the Nicean embassy.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Satisfied with the fit of her new grey dress, clinging to her even as she walked, revealing the right amount of leg, Jyslyn began pulling her leather trousers on.  She pulled her sleeveless tunic over her new dress, hiding the garment away.  The dark elf covered the rest of her bare skin with her cloak and long gloves, leaving her head and red hair open.  As she was tying her hair back, Jyslyn heard her door open.  Out of instinct, her hand fell to the grey rod at her belt.

"Sorry, Jyslyn," Wren said.  She held her hands away from her body to try to ease the dark elf.  "I should have said something before I came in."  The young elf cocked her head to the side.  "Why are you dressed to go out?"

"I am going out."

Wren picked up her bow.  "I'm going, too."

Jyslyn held up a hand to stop the young elf.  "Not this time.  Wren, I need you here.  First, we're still waiting for a reply from the dwarves."

"But they might not answer at all!"

"I know, but we need to be patient."  Jyslyn patted the young elf girl's shoulder.  "The second is that where I'm going, it'll be too dangerous for you."

Wren crossed her arms.  "And it's safe for you."  Sarcasm laced her tone.

"It's not safe for me.  It's not safe for anyone.  I'll be safer than you would be, though.  Wren, you are so innocent.  I don't want to see you get tainted because of me."

20 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 33

Communications helps heal rifts, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 33.

And I'm back!  Last week got hectic, but I was still creative, thus the filk song last Friday.  Take note of it.  I rarely write poetry of any kind, even filk.  This is a once in a lifetime event.  Even my high school English teachers never saw poetry from me for assignments.  And, yes, Ottawa drivers are just that bad.

Anyway, back to The Elf's Prisoner.  Again, the story is incomplete and we're on the final countdown to the end of what was written.  It's not like The Soul Blade or The Devil You Know with just a few chapter left.  The Elf's Prisoner sprawled with the scope of the story.  I'll work out a summary of what I want to do with the rest of the story once we reach the end of the written part.

One of the biggest problems in many plots is that they can be wrapped up if people would just talk to each other.  Clear up misunderstandings by saying, "Hey, that's not what was supposed to happen.  Sorry about that."  Wacky hijinks aside, just have the concerned parties talk.  Nyssa and Kazi are using diplomacy to head off a possible war.  They have information that the Niceans don't.  Now, they don't know what the Niceans will do with the information, but the goal is to keep them from going after an innocent third party, in this case, the Sundered Chasm.

To help their cause, both Nyssa and Kazi are going in with full regalia, polished until light bounces off their outfits.  They are dressed to impress.  The Niceans aren't dealing with low-level flunkies.  Nyssa even gives Kazi a title to be more impressive.  Nyssa is also showing off her heraldry.  Nothing is being left to chance.

Lie detection spells are tricky things.  They don't discern if a statement is true or false; that would be beyond the power of the spell.  Instead, the spell detects if the subject is lying.  If a subject believes what he or she is saying, no matter how bizarre it is, the spell does not register a lie.  If Nyssa believes that Kazi's title is Chaplain, even if it isn't, then the spell will not register a lie.  Likewise, Kazi saying that they have an expert on the Accursed elves with them is the truth, without revealing that their expert is one herself.

I wound up creating a lot of Nicean culture for this scene.  How the society is shaped, who is in charge, how they deal with foreigners, all solidified for this chapter.  Ambassadors are called Ministers.  Society puts wizards, or their Nicean equivalent, in charge.  Security to get to see an ambassador is strict, too.  The dwarves don't want any messy situations from beyond the Mountain to get inside.  They don't care too much about what happens in Silver Trailings as long as it stays outside.  World building on the fly can be fun, but there's implications happening that I will have to deal with later.

Friday, a small family reunion, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 34.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Machinama and Fan Adaptations".
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

14 Jun 2019

Ode to Ottawa Drivers

Local drivers are just awful.  There is a rollover counter that hasn't hit double digits at all this year.  Downtown streets are clogged because drivers can't figure out that if the can't get through an intersection, they shouldn't enter.  Stop signs and red lights means stopping is optional.  Parking is everywhere, even if marked otherwise.  In short, Ottawa drivers suck.

So here's a song in their honour.  All apologies to Richard O'Brien, who doesn't deserve me butchering his work.

"Let's Do the Car Roll Again" (to the tune of "The Time Warp")
It’s astounding.
Gravity’s fleeting.
Driving takes its toll.

But tailgate closely
Not for very much longer
I can’t keep any control

I remember doing the car roll
Thinking back to when
The sky was below me
And the ground above me
Let's Do the Car Roll Again
Let's Do the Car Roll Again
It’s just a bump on the left
And a swerve to the right
Take your hands off the wheel
And shut your eyes real tight
It's the flip and twist
That gives #autowa its name
Let's Do the Car Roll Again
Let's Do the Car Roll Again

13 Jun 2019

Commentary Break

It's been a busy week.  No commentary this week, and instead of the next chapter of The Elf's Prisoner, a special presentation.  There will be a Lost in Translation Saturday and expect a review of Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express over at Psycho Drive-In.

7 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 33

Chapter 33

Culture lessons.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Kazimier sat in the common room in his formal white robes, sipping on an after-lunch glass of red wine as he waited for Nyssa to arrive downstairs.  The midday crowd thinned as people left to return to work.  Sorcha made a circuit of the common room, collecting used dishes, mugs, and utensils, a wisp of her red hair escaping her pony tail to fall in front of her face.

The sound of heavy footsteps came from the staircase.  Nyssa took each step with care, her helmet tucked under her arm.  Her plate armour shone even in the dim light from the common room's lanterns.  Kazimier drained the rest of his wine before he stood up.  "Over here, Dame Knight," he called.

Once on the main floor, Nyssa had no problem joining the elf.  "You look impressive, Chaplain."

"It's just Kazimier, Nyssa.  There's no hierarchy back in Wildwood beyond the Elder."

"Now, now, Chaplain.  There's an image we need to maintain with the Niceans.  They will be expecting proper titles.  We should oblige."

"The Niceans will know that I'm lying about the title, Nyssa."

"Nonsense!  You are a priest, thus you have the title of Chaplain, at least in these lands, mine, and theirs.  You don't have to tell them anything."

Kazimier narrowed his eyes.  "You're hoping that the wizard's spell won't detect a half-truth as a full lie."

6 Jun 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 32

Lessons in elven culture, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 32.

More emphasis on how Jyslyn is new to the surface world.  In her home, there's no need to block light.  She lived underground.  Windows are a security risk  It's too easy to shoot an arrow, a spell, or a venomous animal through one.  Jyslyn's windows were narrow slits that didn't have a great view; her sisters took the better rooms.  I didn't want to play up Jyslyn's fish-out-of-water too much, though.  She's smart and observant.  She should be able to pick up on things, though.

Kazi's personal philosophy isn't one that I share, but I understand it.  What looks like a choice might not be one, because of personal beliefs.  Jyslyn could have stayed in the Sundered Chasm.  According to Kazi, no, she didn't, because she felt the need to atone.  Likewise, her sister Valenza had many choices on what she could do instead of killing her mother and taking over the family, but she wouldn't be Valenza if she made any other decision.

The angry broom are a nod to "The Sorceror's Apprentice".  In the Sundered Chasm, the wizards tend to bind spirits to objects to force services out of them.  Wizards from more friendlier locales, like the Nicean Islands, might just animate the brooms, but the same problem exists.  At some point, the brooms will get out of hand.  With the bound spirits, they'll fight back anyway they can if they sense weakness.  Animated broom, on the other hand, just don't have the processing power to work out a new solution if they run into a problem.  The result is the same either way - the wizard gets smacked about by the broom.

Friday, the Nicean embassy, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 33.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Renault Brazil D&D ad.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Murder on the Orient Express.

31 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 32

Chapter 32

Sharing results.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
The next morning, Jyslyn lingered in her bed, her covers pulled up over her head.  The dawning sunlight streamed in, brightening the room.  The dark elf could hear Wren walking around, humming to herself.  The young elf had been out of her own bed the moment the sun began to rise.  Jyslyn turned under her blanket to face Wren.  "Good morning."

"Good morning," Wren sang.  "I didn't know you were awake."

"The sun is bright.  I couldn't stay asleep."

"Do you want me to close the shutters?"


Wren stopped humming.  "I guess you wouldn't know what shutters are.  We use them to keep bad weather out and the heat in during wintertime.  They block the sun, so we don't close the shutters unless we need to."

Jyslyn pushed the covers away from her head.  She squinted with the morning sun lighting the room.  "No, keep these shutters open.  I need to get used to sunlight, right?"

"I guess."  Wren twittered.  "You're a bit like me.  You don't really fit in, but you're trying to."

30 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 31

Sharing the results of the investigation, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 31.

The biggest challenge when a group investigates is to get everyone up to speed while not boring the audience.  The body and the knife stuck in it are clues, but not everyone was at the crime scene.  If this was modern day, Jyslyn could just text a message to Kazi and Nyssa, all done with a sentence or two.  "Jyslyn shot a quick text message to Kazi and Nyssa, updating them."  See?

The Elf's Prisoner, though, is a fantasy.  While there is magic that can send a message - Kazi used that in Chapter 24 - Jyslyn doesn't know how to cast the spell.  Kazi used a wisp of light before, since divine magic uses the special effect of the divinity to shape the spell.  Jyslyn has to study or create her spells and she had no reason to have a messenger spell.

To avoid retreading on ground just covered, I had to add other tidbits, like character interaction.  It's not the what, but the why and the reactions.  It's not that Jyslyn found the body, it's that she brought the younger members of the team to a dangerous part of Silver Trailings.  There was movement on the investigation, but the risks were higher than what Kazi wanted.  Wren is innocent of the ways of the world, so she gets to ask the obvious questions.  Why did someone stab an already dead body?

The other obvious question is from Kazi.  Just how involved is Jyslyn's family?  Being essentially an outcast, she doesn't know.  Dark elven society is matriarchal, just like Wildwood, so Jyslyn's mother and sisters would be in charge.  Her sisters don't really like or trust Jyslyn, though Valenzia doesn't like or trust any of her family, so no surprises there.  Jyslyn also went out on her own to learn how to use magic, pulling her away from family discussions.  She's guessing, really.

Long term plans for the story, characters, and setting include having Jyslyn and Kazi become an item.  The relationship isn't going to be resolved quickly for two reasons.  The first - I'm not that great at writing planned romances.  Laura and Mackenzie in Unruly are suffering from that, and the first actual romance I tried to write failed spectacularly.  I find it easier to have a couple start as a couple.  The hard part is done, now they're together and have to deal with new challenges.

The main reason, though, is that Jyslyn and Kazi aren't in a rush.  They're elves.  Elves have a long lifespan.  A whirlwind romance might be just a decade.  They are feeling something for each other right now, but both have baggage.  If it helps, their children will be cute.

A quick reminder - The Elf's Prisoner is not complete.  Not incomplete like The Devil You Know or The Soul Blade, where I had a couple of chapters to finish to wrap things up.  Incomplete, as in, "why has HBO wrapped up A Game of Thrones when George RR Martin hasn't written let alone released the final books" incomplete.  The story, which was completely pantsed, sort of got away on me, especially once the villains started showing up.  There's more to come at some point, including a trip to the crystal elves.

Friday, nature and magic, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 32.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Playstation Productions.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, surprise adaptations.

24 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 31

Chapter 31

Violence on the streets.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
"It's the same marking," Jyslyn said, showing the recovered dagger to Kazimier.

"And there wasn't any blood on the ground beneath him?" Kazimier asked.

"No, sir," Leomund answered.  "The body was dead when he was stabbed, I'm sure of it."

Nyssa crossed the room to stand behind her squire.  "I've taught the lad how to tell how someone died."

"But why stab someone already dead?" Wren asked.  "It seems like a waste of time."

23 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 30

Another dead body and another dark elf knife, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 30.

The seedier part of Silver Trailings became the setting for the chapter.  The city is a trade town, so I figured there'd not just be a rough part but one where the thieves' guilds would use, a neighbourhood the watch avoids.  Wildwood doesn't have a similar neighbourhood; the dynamics are different there.  Kazi has travelled to other cities, including in the Seven Dominions, and is aware of such places but doesn't spend time there.  Wren has been kept sheltered since her village was destroyed.  Leo has snuck off to visit such quarters while travelling with Nyssa, who did the same when she was a squire.  Jyslyn has more experience than Kazi, but not that much more; instead, she knows the mindsets involved.  She won't say it, but Jyslyn was relieved that Leo was around to help explain what Wren saw.

The streetwalker discussion let me throw in the differences between Silver Trailings and Wildwood, the big one being the latter's matriarchy.  Wildwood is very much a place where the women are allowed to express their sexuality without reproach.  Silver Trailings, under the watch of the patriarchal dwarves, aren't as open.  Add Silver Trailings' role as a trade town, and the nature of sexual relations changes.  It's not quite night and day; Silver Trailings gets influences from cultures that trade with it.

Wren still has the fuzzy memory of Kazi and Jyslyn hugging the night before, though not the full context.  Jyslyn managed to distract Wren's thoughts, at least for now.  Wren might think over what she saw, but Jyslyn's non-explanation works for now.  And if anyone used a spell to detect falsehoods there, none would be found.  Jyslyn deftly avoided the question.

Wondering who the body is?  He's Sessarine's victim back in Chapter 22.  She doesn't believe in wasting resources.  Much like Space Mutiny, no one is allowed to call in dead if they work for Sessarine.  I had gone back to make sure that she killed him by breaking his neck.  Normally, going back to edit is not recommended during NaNoWriMo, but this was needed.

The third interregnum was more for me.  I wanted to get Sessarine's reaction and to make sure she knew what was going on.  Our heroes are now known, though not with great details.  Sessarine knows she has opposition actively working against her.  This should set up the middle, as the heroes and Sessarine try to outmaneuver each other.

Friday, communicating, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 31.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Playstation Productions.

17 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 30

Chapter 30

The Nicean emissary.
Canal Distract, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn, Wren, and Leomund wound there way through the narrow streets of the Silver Trailings' Canal District.  Away from the bustling crowds, the trio took their time, taking in the sights.  Jyslyn stopped Wren from staring at daringly dressed women a few times, pulling the young elf away by the elbow.

"What is the big deal?" Wren asked after being dragged for the fifth time.  "I've never seen anyone wearing clothes like that."

"You don't need to know," Jyslyn answered.

"Can I ask them?"

"No, Wren.  It's not a good idea."

The young elf stopped dead in the street, crossing her arms.  "Why not?"

"Kazimier will be upset with both of us."  Jyslyn sighed.  "It's complicated, Wren, apparently."


Leomund laughed.  "All those women are streetwalkers."  Feeling Jyslyn glaring at him, the squire said, "Kazimier can be upset with me."

Wren added her own glare at Leomund.  "What's a streetwalker?"

16 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 29

Trust, but verify, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 29.

Two main elements in Chapter 29.  The first is how well the inter-party trust works; the other how trusted the party is by others.  This wasn't an intentional approach.  Again, seat of the pants writing here.  However, I do like having characters together.  They can play off each other in dialogue where a solo character is just stuck with thoughts and no one to explain things to.  The previous chapter saw Jyslyn, Wren, and Leo head out for some investigation.  Nyssa and Kazi get to wait for replies.

Nyssa doesn't necessarily trust Jyslyn.  She hasn't made waves so far because her mission could use the extra help and Jyslyn has helped the party.  However, dark elves have a rep, one that's weighing on the back of her mind.  Kazi has the inside scoop on what's going on with Jyslyn.  Ancient elven history is something to learn from the elves.  The prophecy was a last minute addition to the story.  It's more sequel hook than anything else, but it helps with building the world.  Ancient prophecies tend to make a world more lived-in.

Kazi sums up what happened in the early chapters.  Nyssa hasn't heard the full story yet.  It didn't feel right that she was just going along with Jyslyn being there, even if she was Wren's responsibility.  Maybe especially if she is Wren's responsibility.  Wren is still a young elf.  The original work, done long before NaNoWriMo ever existed, based on details in the first edition of AD&D.  While I am trying to fill off the serial numbers, I do need to point out inspirations.  In the game, high elves, which Kazi and Wren were in the original concept, had longer life expectancies than drow, like Jyslyn, ignoring that a dark elf was more likely to die from a dagger than old age.  A young adult high elf could be older than an adult drow.  Technically, Wren could be older than Jyslyn.  It makes timing difficult, especially with some future ideas in mind.

The Niceans started forming as I got closer to this chapter.  They use a different type of magic than seen so far.  I don't have the specifics, though.  It wasn't needed just yet, but it's something I kept in mind.  Niceans acting in official capacity tend to be formal.  It could be either from their native language having nuance or from them being always on when in foreign lands.  Iskander has another reason for being short - he lost an ambassador.  Kazi recognized that Iskander had cast a spell to discern truth.  It's considered impolite to do so in Wildwood, and dangerous to do in the Seven Dominions.

Friday, murder in the streets of Silver Trailings, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 30.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Men With Brooms.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week - this week's busier than I expected.

Also, if you're in town, CanGames is over the Victoria Day long weekend.  I'll be there playing.  Say hi if you want.

10 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 29

Chapter 29

Investigating in the marketplace
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Nyssa paced from one side of her room to the other and back.  On Leomund's bed, Kazimier watched the knight with amusement, not helping Nyssa's mood.  "Waiting is torture, lad," the knight said.  "How does your dark elf cope with being alone?"

"Jyslyn isn't mine," Kazimier said.  "And I don't know if she is coping.  It's hard to tell with her."

"Keep an eye on her, lad.  I've never heard of an Accursed woman dabbling in magic.  Nor have I heard of one living in an elven city."

"One needs to be the first."  Kazimier stretched.  "There is a prophecy from about a thousand years after the War of Splintering that said that the dark elves would return to the light.'

Nyssa stopped her pacing.  "Prophecies are fickle beasts, always just out of reach."

"There aren't many records from the War of Splintering.  Depends on who you ask, either those who would become dark elves rebelled to take power but were thwarted or they were being oppressed and were fighting for their survival.  Either way, they lost the war and were driven out, cursed for their actions."  Kazimier shrugged.  "The prophecy could very well be a dream by someone who lost family to the curse.  Or it could be a glimpse into a possible future.  If Jyslyn is the first to return, others could follow."

"If you can trust her."  Nyssa sat on her bed.  "It's been hard to tell with her.  She keeps her own council.  She hides in her room."

9 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 28

Investigating the marketplace, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 28.

With the youngest party members' hangovers abated, it's time to get some investigation in.  And maybe do some shopping to see what is available.  It's filler, but filler with a purpose.  Wren's never been in a large trading city like Silver Trailings before.  Wildwood is a quieter place, more government town than anything else.  The young elf is more at home in the wild.  She's the wide-eyed tourist, ripe for every pickpocket, scam artist, and ne'er do well around.

The first merchant Wren buys from knows what she is.  He didn't need to charge an extra shilling; he could have just slipped the foreign currency in with the rest of his coins and passed them on to the next vendor, or kept the elven coin to use with elven merchants.  He could have even melted the coins down for their value as metal, though that might not be the wisest idea.  Leo could have said something, being more familiar with how merchants work; instead, he stepped in to help Wren.

While the younger two shop, Jyslyn's keeping an eye on things.  She's more used to a wretched hive of scum and villainy and knows to keep her guard up.  Jyslyn is also looking for more info on what's happening.  The merchant has a mix of truth and rumour, but if the elf cast a lie detector spell, it'd show that he believes he's telling the truth.  Remember, the goblins got greedy and kept the dark elf-made dagger back in Chapter 22.  The villain's plot is complex and being created on the fly.

Jyslyn does have a need for something comfortable to wear.  She's already had a couple of fanservice-y scenes, most recently in Chapter 24.  She wants something she could wear something at night that she didn't feel bundled into and that won't distract Kazimier too much.  Jyslyn also gave Leo a way out of the awkward conversation that was building.

One of the fun parts of world building on the fly is that questions that come up can be answered right away.  If I had put any thought into the world before starting, the dwarves would just send their trade goods out through horse-drawn caravans.  However, since I needed the equivalent of a dock's red-light district, I tossed in a canal!  The difference?  I can showcase dwarven engineering, I can have even more goods being sent and received than possible with horse-drawn wagons, and I can use the Rideau Canal as a template.  The Rideau Canal was built to supply Kingston with goods from Montreal and Bytown in case of American invasion.  The dwarves aren't as worried about that, but they do need to get raw and refined ore out to their trading partners.

The last scene in the plays on the misunderstanding in Chapter 24, when Wren arrived in the middle of the awkwardness between Jyslyn and Kazi.  Wren suspects there's something going on, but isn't sure of what.  I do have plans for Jyslyn and Kazi's relationship.  They're not at the right moment to realize what they feel, though.  There's too much baggage that they need to work through, but the trip may help there.

Friday, a response to Nyssa's letters, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 29
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, sports movies.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Men With Brooms.

3 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 28

Chapter 28

The morning after the night before
Marketplace, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn led the two younger members of the group through the after-lunch crowd milling around the market.  Both looked far better than they had in the morning though still worse for wear.  To their credit, they both avoided the dwarven spirits at lunch.  The general din, punctuated by merchants hawking their wares, didn't affect either Leomund or Wren.  The young elf stopped at each stall just long enough to look over the goods on sale.  She passed on dry goods, but lingered over the trinkets.  Leomund kept watch over the two elf women.  Jyslyn also kept an eye out, watching the crowd for threats.

Wren squealed at one booth.  "Jyslyn!  You need to see this!"

2 May 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 27

Plans for the day, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 27.

The Elf's Prisoner was written on the fly, with minimal planning before NaNoWriMo started and plotting just far enough to be a day or two ahead.  When I couldn't get that breathing space, I fell back on character moments.  By 2015, I was getting good with character moments.  Also helping, I didn't want my characters to just know what the others were doing.  They barely know each other right now.  Nyssa and Leo might be able to know what each other is thinking, but there's no way any of them can know what Jyslyn or Wren might be contemplating.  Having the group discuss the day's plans also meant me figuring out what the plans were.  Go investigate in the market?  Okay, I can start working on what happens there while I write out the meeting.

Leo and Wren also needed to have a conclusion for what happened the previous night.  Both drank far too much, so there had to be some consequence for them.  They're young; they're not going to be experts on the morning after the night before.  They're going to have hangovers.  They're not going to be happy.

At the beginning, Kazi cast a divination to get an insight on what's going on.  Divine magic is tied to special effect.  The Lightbringer is going to pass along a message using light and colour.  It's up to Kazi to interpret the images.  He doesn't quite get what's being passed along, though he does figure out who is behind the scheme, though separated by many go-betweens.  The snake imagery is because of Sessarine, though Kazi doesn't know about her yet.

I worked in an idea that I'd had for a fantasy world, that deities are known by different names in different cultures.  It's something I picked up from the Dragonlance setting.  There, the different gods and goddesses were known by different names throughout the game world; for example, Paladine, the head of the good-aligned gods, was known as E'li amongst the elves.   The idea made sense to me; I wanted my different nations to have different names for deities.  The more isolated the culture, the more likely the other names wouldn't be known.  Of course, it'd help if I had developed the deities more.

Wren's youth and isolation do get some play in the chapter.  She's been sheltered ever since she was taken to Wildwood.  To her, a thieves' guild is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where everyone gets stabbed in the back and robbed.  Jyslyn is more used to the shadier aspects of life.  She's shown signs that she's dabbled with rougher elements beyond her older sisters already.  Jyslyn is the only one who could figure her way around, too.  Nyssa and Leo are nobility, Kazi's a priest, and Wren is sheltered.

Friday, investigating in the marketplace, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 28.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Death Race 2050.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, sports movies.

26 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 27

Chapter 27

A lurker in the neighbourhood.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Morning's first light fell on Kazimier.  He offered quiet prayers to the Lightbringer in thanks for the new day.  His sunbeam amulet caught the light, spreading it through the room in a rainbow of colour.  Kazimier knelt on the floor, making sure the amulet remained in the sun's light.  He chanted, a song of praise to the Lightbringer asking for wisdom and clarity.  The kaleidoscope of colour on the walls coalesced, coming together to form the image of a wriggling serpent with scales of red, blue, and yellow.  The image crawled along the wall.  A bright flash of white light struck the snake.  When the light cleared, the serpent had two heads.  The snake reared to strike, then the image dissolved back to the rainbow of colours.

Kazimier lowered his head.  "I understand."  He kissed his sunbeam amulet, then let it go.  The elf got to his feet, straightening his clothes.  A knock came from the door.  Kazimier answered it, opening the door to see Nyssa and Leomund waiting in the hall.  The squire had a hand shielding his eyes from the light.  "Good morning," Kazimier greeted.

"Good to see someone wide awake this morning," Nyssa said.  "Need to break your fast yet?"

"Not just yet."

"Think the lasses are awake?"

Kazimier stepped out of his room, closing the door behind him.  "Only one way to find out."  He led the way down to Jyslyn and Wren's room.  The elf pounded on the door.  Leomund pressed a hand to the side of his head.

25 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 26

Silver Trailing has interesting traffic at night, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 26.

Jyslyn's bout of insomnia leads to a discovery.  Another cloaked figure, skulking in the night.  Getting around like it can see in the dark, much like Jyslyn can see the figure.  Given her background, Jyslyn might be a bit paranoid about who the figure is.  However, there does seem to be dark elf involvement already with the dagger found on the goblins.  So, is Jyslyn over-reacting?  Or does she have a reason to suspect that one of her fellows is in town?

The Outcast Queen Jyslyn threatens is one of the gods of the setting.  I don't have a list, just a rough idea of what I want covered by divinities.  The Outcast Queen led the Accursed elves into an uprising, leading to their exodus or exile, depending on whose legends are to be believed.  The details have been lost to time, but the elves wound up splintering, with the Outcast Queen's followers sent or led underground.  Even the elves of Wildwood are an offshoot, broken off from the main group.  I covered the different types of elves before, but the idea is still evolving.  Right now, the crystal elves look like they are the original, with the Accursed and Wildwood elves the splinters.

If Jyslyn didn't have Wren with her, she would've gone out after the lurking figure.  She would have asked Kazi for forgiveness for going out at night, since it would be easier than asking permission.  Wren, though, is Jyslyn's charge.  Jyslyn would never forgive herself for leaving.  However, that thought process is still foreign to her, so she had to rationalize not going.  Jyslyn is learning, but it's a long process.

The insomnia Jyslyn has and her attempt to get through it is something I've gone through.  Anxiety does not help sleep patterns.  Sometimes, the mind keeps working on a problem it shouldn't even when it should be resting.  Those are never fun nights.  The best I've done is close my eyes, try to focus on something else, anything else.  That trick never works.  I can't focus on anything for long and my mind just does not shut down.  If I fall asleep, it's not for long.  Fortunately, the next night, I don't have the problem.

Friday, insight into who is behind the plot, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 27.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Teen Titans.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Death Race 2050.

19 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 26

Chapter 26

A quiet night of writing for Nyssa
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn stared out the window.  The rain let up, leaving the cobblestone streets glistening under the light of the moon and of the street lights.  The dark elf sighed.  She longed to go out, to explore Silver Trailings, to go be lost so she could find her way back.  Jyslyn held her ink black hand up so she could see it.  She could cover herself up again, but she was growing tired of hiding herself, even if she understood why.she must.

The dark elf's charge turned in her sleep, letting out a loud snore before she settling back down.  Jyslyn reached out to stroke Wren's honey blonde hair, combing it with her fingers.  A twinge of envy coursed through Jyslyn; she pushed it back down, reminding herself that Wren didn't have an easy life, thanks to the dark elf and her siblings.

Jyslyn paced across the room and back.  Sleep eluded her.  Her body was on its own time, not with the rest of the world's.  She considered trying to exhaust herself through casting spells, but she had already cleaned every piece of clothing that both she and Wren owned.  Any other spell she could cast would cause too much destruction.

Movement outside caught the dark elf's eye.  She stared out the window, peering into the night.  Jyslyn started to dismiss what she saw.  Must have been one of the town guard on patrol, she reasoned, except . . . Jyslyn looked again.  Except the figure skulking in the shadows didn't have any light but was still walking around as if it was midday for the ease he avoided obstacles, an ease Jyslyn shared.  "Outcast Queen," Jyslyn cursed in a growl, "if this is one of your wretched followers, we shall have words."

18 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 25

Miscues and misbehaviour, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 25.

Once again, I'm in my cycle of event-reaction-reflection with my characters.  However, Leo isn't in the best of shape to reflect.  Never try to out drink an elf.  They aren't lightweights in this setting, apparently.  He and Wren will be legends for a few weeks at the Inn of the Foxes.

Nyssa's two messages are letters of introduction and requests for an audience.  Nyssa's original mission was to talk to representatives from the Realm Under the Mountain to see why they were threatening Varin.  The mission has expanded, but Nyssa is keeping to the original plan.  She can tell Count Varin truthfully that she tried to contact the reps.  The Niceans are the latest being pulled into Sessarine's plot.  Poor communication kills; Nyssa is trying to open up means to talk with everyone involved.

Galan's Shields are a mercenary company acting as the local town guard.  The dwarves don't care about what happens in Silver Trailings as long as it doesn't affect trade.  The merchants in Silver Trailings like it when their customers can walk down the street without being mugged.  The coins that aren't taken by force can be spent at a number of shops.  Dwarven-craft items, from utensils to weapons, are sold at a premium, but for far less than what they could sell for elsewhere.

Perry is pear cider as Kazi mentions, sort of.  It's not a platypus or a former Canadian game show host.  Perry proper is from the perry pear.  Still, it's a nice addition to the setting; Wildwood has pear trees, not apple trees, and the elves craft cider from them.  The little details make or break a setting.  I got the idea from a King Arthur Pendragon campaign after my character purchased a lot of pear trees for his holding, and perry was one of the items that could be made from the harvest.  My knight didn't hold his religious belief too high, but what can one expect from a family where my knight was the white sheep of the family.  More bastards than legit children there.

Friday, lurking, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 26.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Teen Titans.

12 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 25

Chapter 25

Bridging the cultural divide.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Nyssa pressed her signet into the still-warm wax sealing the second of her message scrolls.  She shook out her hand, trying to work out the stiffness and cramps she earned while writing,.  Nonetheless, both missives were ready.

The door crashed open.  Nyssa spun in her seat, her hand falling to the dagger in her belt.  Leomund lurched into the room, one step at a time.  The knight relaxed.  "Really, Leomund, decorum."

The squire fell across one of the beds.  "Why do dwarves hate us?" he groaned.

"Too much to drink."  Nyssa walked over the her squire's side.  "What happened?"

"I learned to not outdrink an elf.  Birdie kept up with me."

"Haven't I always said that you'll meet your match some day?"  Nyssa helped Leomund roll into bed properly.  "And that you'll pay the price for trying?"

"Never thought my match would be an elf girl."

Nyssa pulled Leomund's boots off.  "It's always the one person you would never suspect."  She slapped the squire's leg.  "Roll on your side."

With effort, Leomund did as he was told.  "What are we doing now, ma'am?"

11 Apr 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 24

Miscues and misbehaviour, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 24.

This was Kazimier's chapter.  Part of the reason for focusing on him was to get used to writing from a male perspective.  If you take a look over at the list of works, most of the stories feature a lead woman, particularly the solo leads in Subject 13, Tales of the Soul Blade, and The Devil You Know.  This was a chance to get inside Kazi's head for a bit and to make sure Jyslyn and Nyssa didn't take over the narrative too much.

The first part of the chapter let me show how divine spells worked.  Instead of having to study individual spells like a wizard would, priests pray.  Whether the priest gets the desired spell depends on the deity.  What the spell looks like, its special effect, also depends on the deity.  Kazi is a priest of the Lightbringer; the spells he uses must involved light in some way, whether a soft glow while healing or a wisp of light as a messenger.  Since I don't have many deities fleshed out yet for the story, I'll use examples from the Forgotten Realms.  Auril, the Frostmaiden, if she were in my setting, would use snow and cold as special effects for spells, with healing involving a touch so cold it burns and messages sent through snowfall even in summer.  Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, may not even grant healing spells and messages would be sent via blood.  I wanted to show a difference between the arcane and the divine.

That just leaves the blatant fan service.  A clash of cultures.  A very awkward moment.  Part of the plan for the story is to get Kazi and Jyslyn together by the end.  What happened in the room, though, is more of a setback.  They're still learning about each other.  Jyslyn has some baggage that she needs to deal with.  Kazi isn't looking for a quick roll in the hay.  One of the goals in the back of my head while writing this was to show them growing together.  At the same time, I don't want it to be too fast.  They need something more than saving each other's life to build on.

Wren was a great way to leave some unsaid tension between Kazi and Jyslyn.  Drunk Wren is even better when it comes to awkwardness.  Some of her mannerisms are based on me, though not directly.  The veering away from the straight line?  That.  After a more horrible than normal day working at an ISP that will remain nameless for now, when word came down from on high that techs would have to upsell crap, I poured myself a rye and Coke - it was the only mixer I had in the apartment - with 2.5 to 3 fingers of alcohol in a lowball glass.  I probably should've been eating something, too, but I may have been going out later to do just that.  I only had the one drink, and it was a rare thing for me to do.

Friday, missives and misery, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 25.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Titans.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters.