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.