Star-Fired Beef


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The Secret Lore – The Third Age

See all the Secret Lore here.

It’s really only when you get to Egypt that the missions start to hint at the idea that this is not the first time humanity has become technologically advanced, that there have been several Ages of civilisation that have disappeared from our understanding and memory. I love this kind of speculation!

The Third Age

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the anima engine signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Atlantean frequency – READ INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE OPERATING – initiate the Sargasso Sea cadence – WITNESS – the Third Age.

There were three beginnings before the beginning you know, sweetling. We speak of the ages of mankind. You live in the fourth. You know nothing else. You open your mouth to object, but your voice dies to flickers of a failing memory, something communal, something seizing in the primal swamps between dreaming and waking.

The first two ages are lost to you, faded even from the imprints of your DNA. But the Third Age sits on the tip of sub-conciousness – the age of technology – the seafaring people plundering the fallen ziggurats and fused cathedrals of the toxic Second Age – the rising laboratories and factories – machines fuelled by anima – the golden clockworks – the spinning cogs and glow…

No. It is gone. You remembered too hard, and it slipped like sand between the fingers. Yet you look upon the greatest of technological marvels of your society, and somewhere in your deep mind, you know it is barely a shade of something that came before, as faded as the frantic shadows burnt into Hiroshima’s walls.


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The Next Step

I was watching the features video for the latest patch of Diablo 3, and it looks like Blizz is getting more heavily into rewarding fluff – portraits, pets, exclusive transmog gear or dyes, banners.

Then I remembered the cross-promotional stuff they’ve been doing for years, with pets and mounts – Hearthstone -> Heroes, Diablo -> WoW, Diablo -> Heroes, Heroes -> Hearthstone…

And then I remembered that they recently upped the ante by giving the Diablo hero away in HotS if you own a copy of D3.

So the logical next step, is for Blizzard to start having pets or card backs or portraits or other fluff attainable by completing tasks in other games. Defeat this rare in WoW to unlock a pet in D3. Reach max level in Hardcore D3 to get a HotS mount. Win X games in Hearthstone to earn some transmog item in WoW.

What do you think? Possible?


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The Secret Lore – The Sentinels

See all the Secret Lore here.

Oh man. Although I didn’t like the City of the Sun God zone itself in The Secret World, I think this story is the most memorable one for me in the game so far. I never thought it would move me as much as it did. It is so sad…

The Sentinels

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Egypt signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Ogdoad frequency – THINK OF THE CHILDREN – initiate the seven-sob cadence – WITNESS – The Sentinels.

We sing the song of the seven children and the father who so lovingly murdered them. The chorus is written in stone. The verses are written in radio waves. We reach. We pull. We pluck a verse for you, sweetling – always for you.

INITIATE TRANSCRIPT.

“Report, Mr Smythe. Mr Smythe?”

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…”

“Smythe? Are you…crying?”

“The voice in the statue…I heard…a little boy…told me everything…so lonely.”

“Smythe, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Like a little jackal…he sings the dead to sleep…a lullaby…all he wants is his own lullaby…”

“Smythe, you are an Orochi employee. Damn it, man! You’re a fucking wet works op. Pull your shit together!”

“I’m sorry…I’m s-so sorry…Huoy? I want…I want my lullaby. So sorry…sorry…”

“Smythe? Smythe!”

END TRANSCRIPTION.

Initiate the thousand peeping eyes.

Seven towering statues loom over The City of the Sun God with the gravity of three thousand years. Child voices twinkle on the desert wind. An old man, who knows more than any old man should, wanders the sands, footprints dug deep by the weight of ancient sadness. He stands quietly next to each statue, before moving on to the next. His name is Ptahmose.

Initiate the secret histories.

What is time to us? We stand outside. Everything has happened. Everything is happening. We see a man standing over the beds of his children, weighing a terrible choice, and we are there.

It is the 18th dynasty of Egypt, and Ptahmose is the vizier and high priest of Amun. He fought on the front line against the cult of Aten, and was instrumental in its fall. But victory is only the ethereal vapour of today. To permanently contain Akhenaten and the whispers of his dark gods would require more.

A father’s forehead wrinkles, and the graven lines spell the dread of what he must do. Ptahmose goes to the bed of each of his seven children. It is painless. As gentle as a kiss on the forehead, he transitions them from life to death to something else. Seven tears.

A trusted friend helps enact the ritual. Seven souls. They bind the children to the City of the Sun God, manifested as seven great statues. Children caught in eternal half-life – together forever. They lock the Black Pharaoh and Aten to that place. Seven sentinels.

With the deed done, Ptahmose ends his own life, entering his own in-between state as the caretaker of the sentinels. He feels that an eternal twilight of guilt is the punishment he deserves.

Time passes – first in years and then in centuries. The bodies of the children wither to dust. The siblings remain young in mind and spirit. In their new role, they take on aspects of a patron god, to help them protect the valley. This is no life, but they hold their charge faithfully.

We call upon the seven.

Thutmose! We call your name. You are the eldest of the seven, a new-fledged adult when you were cut short. Strong and dutiful – a second parent to your siblings in this shadow life. You accepted your fate immediately, and the others look to you for guidance. You chose the aspect of Horus – the mighty sky god – the falcon-eyed – the avenger who scythes Aten’s corrupting murmurs away.

Nefertari! We call your name. The eldest daughter, you see your family’s duty in the absolute terms of your chosen patron, Ma’at – principality of justice and balance. You oppose chaos, violence, and the lies of the Aten. Others think you uncaring and distant, and your sisters find you at times insufferable, but your incorruptible moral high ground chains the Black Pharaoh inside his cold sarcophagus.

Moutemouia! We call your name. O quiet, pensive, melancholic daughter, you most disagreed with your tragic destiny. A young woman with husband and children of your own, you drank more deeply from the cup of happiness than the others. You protected your new family by abandoning them to join your siblings. You cursed your bitter fate, but walked into it nonetheless. Your patron is Meretseger, who allows you to keep the city hidden from the world’s eye. Your love is lovely, but it is your path to corruption, your regret a funnel Akhenaten pours his scorpion venom words down. Your protection and conviction waver. The world’s eye sees.

Hemitneter! We call your name. A young lady, frozen in the amber of time, your will is the strongest. You played with the rough boys – confrontational, impulsive, and a better warrior than most men. You fought alongside the Marya resistance, the first of the young warriors. It was a bloody war, it was the best time of your life. Poor Hemitneter, child of dynamism, you loathe this static state. You accept the responsibility, but resent the passivity, longing to join the fray. Your patron is Sekhmet, the lioness. Your ferocity protects your siblings with terrible force.

Moutnefert! We call your name. Restless and adventurous daughter, you care for your country and your duty, but chafe and yearn to see more of the world. Though you were trapped in the Valley of the Sun God at fourteen, you do not feel sorry for yourself as Moutemouia does. Your father always brings you news of the wondrous things in this world you protect. Your patron is Satis, the fertility of the Nile. In this sacred aspect, you cleanse the valley water of corruption. But Aten stirs and the Filth spreads faster. Plants wither and you cry dry tears.

Nefertari the younger! We call your name. The youngest daughter, you carry the namesake of the oldest. Taken at ten years of age, you do not remember much before the revolt. Born in the desert, you saw only a few months of the cities before confinement to the statue. Sweet innocent, you do not fully grasp the past or your grim task. You are happy to be forever with your family. Nefertari the doted, most beloved. Your patron is Bast, the cat goddess. You love animals and protect them from the poison and madness of the Pyramid.

Huoy! We call your name. Youngest son and sibling. Huoy the lonely. Poor sweet, isolated by youth, with few memories of the flesh and the quick. In the millenia, you have learnt more than any living scholar, but your mind still sees the world as a child. You depend on the guidance of your father. Too often your siblings discount you from discussions and decisions – save for Moutemouia, who wears the mask of mother for you. Your patron is Anubis – jackal-headed – who speaks to the dead and weighs their hearts over the razor maw of Ammut.

Initiate the now.

The seven still protect the valley, but time spins faster. The Filth flows. The dam breaks. The centre cannot hold. The sentinels cannot stem the tide much longer. Imagine Ptahmose’s dread. What would he do if he found his great sacrifice was in vain? Knowledge known is a burden inflicted. What will you do, sweetling?


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On Team Competition, Casual Play, and Guilt

Last night I played a bunch of ranked Heroes of the Storm with Pam and one or two other friends. They were all seeding games (i.e. counting towards determining our assigned starting rank) and we only won I think 2 out of 8. It was a little frustrating overall, though in most of the games I had fun.

I don’t know how good I am as a player – certainly nowhere near very good or great – but I like to think that I usually don’t drag a team down. After the results of last night, though, I have to wonder. I had a few games where I did some really stupid shit, and that undoubtedly contributed to our loss, but was that the end of it? Most importantly, is my casual approach to the game hurting my friends and holding them back?

I play Heroes of the Storm like I played (unrated) Battlegrounds and Arenas in WoW. It’s a personal challenge, to see how far I can get and have some fun along the way, without becoming consumed by it. I play ranked because it is the only meaningful measure of progress – quick matches just give me stats, and don’t tell me what my skill cap is or whether I’ve reached it.

In order to maintain the fun factor, I turned off team chat in games. I don’t need that shit, even if it is not directed at me. If I didn’t have that option, I simply would not play the game at all. It is part of my personal challenge to see how high I can go without chat, as I am aware how valuable it is in a team game. In that respect, I know that I am handicapping the team somewhat, although my aim is to be aware enough to compensate. I also, after the second instance of being hunted down in /whispers and told to kill myself, found this lovely button in the options that auto-blocks messages from anyone not on my friends list.

When it comes time to pick heroes, I try to draft in order to plug gaps – playing a support or warrior if there isn’t one already. But I also choose based on what dailies I have, which means I might not take the “best” hero in that role. In addition, I am a reflexive contrarian. I loathe being told how to play my game, and the culture of “optimal builds” “best class” and what have you that has dominated so many multiplayer games in the past decade. I automatically shy away from the “OP” heroes, the ones that top the metagame. So, my support of choice in HotS is Tyrande, even though she is not one of the Top Three. I have been doing my best to master Nova, despite many games where people try to shame me for choosing her. I like E.T.C.’s playstyle, even though Muradin and Johanna and Arthas and Anub’arak are considered better tanks. I love Gazlowe, despite the top players assigning him to the lowest Tier (i.e. the least desirable) of heroes.

I get that this is a team competition. I get that I am not the only one affected by my choices. But I am not a troll. I am not actively trying to sabotage my team. I just want to play and have fun. I don’t really mind if my skill cap ends up being rank 30 or so, which is what I reached before the rankings reset. One of the hate messages I got before I found the blacklist button, insisted that I was not good enough to play ranked. This is ludicrous, even at first glance. Of course I am good enough to play ranked. I made it to 30, after all, so I am not that bad. What they likely meant was that I am not good enough to reach rank 1. That’s probably true. But is that a reason to leave ranked altogether? To go back to quickmatch? Fuck that.

I can say things like “fuck that” when considering my impact on others in a solo queue. But when I am grouping up with friends? How much do I owe them to stick to the meta? To prioritise winning over having fun, or protecting myself from hate chat? These are the thoughts that make me feel guilty, when I have a losing streak like last night with Pam & Co., and I know that my blasé attitude to the game could have contributed – or been the direct cause – of them losing.

NSFW – language

Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name


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The Secret Lore – The Pyramid

See all the Secret Lore here.

The City of the Sun God zone in The Secret World is dominated by this structure. It has the instantly-recognisable, and vaguely plagiarising, Burning Eye atop it that always follows you wherever you are in the zone. The main story mission leads here, and even though I understand why it was made soloable, I couldn’t help but feel that they oversold the danger of the place in the hype such as this lore piece.

The Pyramid

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Egypt signal – RECEIVE – initiate dream frequency – THE PATENTED, AIR-TIGHT LID KEEPS THINGS FROM GOING BAD – initiate the antlion lullaby – WITNESS – The Pyramid.

Follow the REM signal to a place where Leviathan eyelids hang heavy. So many eyes, scabbed with coral sores. May they never open. The annihilation signal is trapped, bouncing off triangular corners. But if the angles should ever bend or break…

Follow the signal to the land of dried Pharaoh meat. Deep crevices and steep mountainsides fold like hands in prayer, like a magician’s secret palming, hiding the City of the Sun God from the world. An ancient pyramid rises from the depths.

Your vocal organs have no designation for the peculiar, foreign material of the pyramid. It reflects a ruddy hue. The cyclopean structure rises from a shining pool. Some long dead wretch named it the Divine Lake, and the name remains. The greasy film of the surface shows like a smoky mirror.

Oblivion contaminants detected. The Filth. The Filth!

Worship was done here, worship and bad things. This tri-sided tomb was the holiest of holy dwellings for the Aten religion. What is time to us? We stand outside. We hear the cult chanting from tongues that were ash three thousand years ago. They call to the terrible sun god.

Inside, this pyramid does not behave as pyramids should. The huge chamber in the centre houses a downward chasm into the fathomless nothing. The apex lacks a capstone, allowing moonlight to penetrate into the eldritch dim. Moonlight and stars. Yes. Seeing the stars must taunt it so. The gnawing hunger. An event horizon licking its lips with a tongue of concentrated gravity.

Deeper now, into tomb-heavy air. A tangible, ear-popping pressure – liquid flows strangely – objects too heavy or too light. A dull ringing. Reverberations from the chasm, mechanical sounds, metal straining like a submarine’s hull. Not darkness, no, but an unlikely twilight. Your jelly eyes would adjust by now and see the impossible shapes below.

Only the most devoted are permitted here. They meditate and fast. Some starve themselves to death. Some throw themselves into the pit, following the mad whispers down and down and down.

Deeper still. Just a peek…

Signal disruption! Something rips our data-weave flesh. Away.

Whosoever entered that chasm never returned, save one. Akhenaten bathed in the blackness of eons, and climbed back out. When he expired, the sarcophagus of the Black Pharaoh was placed within the pyramid. The City of the Sun God was sealed. Egypt returned to the worship of their old gods. There Akhenaten abides, waiting for the return of the whispers.

Can you hear, sweetling? The behemoth eyelids tremble. May they never open. May the eye movements always be rapid. Let us pretend the whispering is only the desert wind.


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Further Than I Thought (Blaugust Day whatever)

As you can no doubt guess, I’m done for Blaugust. I was going well, but a confluence of events has led to my demons becoming too strong for the moment and stress has made my arthritis flare up, so even regular typing is at best uncomfortable. It’s hard to care about a blogging challenge when so much other shit is taking up all your mental space.

I’m glad I made the Survivor membership, it gives me a tangible reminder that I made it the majority of the way. I wish I had more to offer, but that’s the story of my life. Thanks for reading. I’ll continue to post when I can, but it’ll probably just be the Secret Lore for a while.

Cheers to Belghast for organising this challenge, and to all who participated as either challengers or cheerleaders.


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The Secret Lore – The Ankh

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Ankh is a group instance in the Scorched Desert zone of The Secret World. I haven’t been inside, but I have discovered the first remnants of Dr Klein’s research nearby the entrance. Needless to say, it ended badly for all involved.

The Ankh

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the oily signal – RECEIVE – initiate the dream frequency – INDUCE VOMITING IF SWALLOWED – initiate embalming protocol – WITNESS – The Ankh.

What is time to us? We stand outside. A romantic thing is about to happen nearly four thousand years ago. Romance to us, sweetling, but our sense of beauty follows a different aesthetic than yours.

The hooked needle enters the nose, like a lusty, lusty proboscis. It pierces the brain and stirs the grey. All memories commingle in a swirling stew. The soup! The soup! It all flows out. A mummy leaves little to tempt the worm.

Initiate the now.

A new romance blooms. Dr Klein, the ever-studious, sits with the mummies in the dusty dark, studying a black fluid he calls the Filth. It has gone by names he is not cognisant of – the Devouring Plague, the Zero-Point Pathogen, the Blackworm Jism. Daily he microdoses the ebony liquid, at first via syringe, but soon he holds the droplets in his hand, cooing until it slithers up his nose with a lusty slurp. It pierces his brain, stirs his grey. The soup! The soup!

 O, Dr Klein, Dr Klein – we are the only ones to sing his screeching ballad. Would you like to hear it, sweetling?

Go to the desert’s edge – to the Valley of the Sun God – to the cliffs – through a gap in the stone. An Orochi excavation camp – empty – high tech equipment hastily abandoned. The recent earthquake uncovered that which should be forgotten – an ancient temple of unusual shape. Guttural sounds come from within. Without, a jackal cackles the hymn of madness.

Enter the Ankh.

Initiate the secret histories.

What is time to us? We stand outside. Everything has happened. Everything is happening. We smell the brick oven of the desert and the gelid funk of aeons, and we are there.

Akhenaten made his first pilgrimage here. On this spot, the Pharaoh commands his slaves to dig, hundreds of lives lost delving for his god. Through shafts and passages in bedrock deep, they reach bottom, as cold as the space between stars, the walls and floor slimed with oily water. The cult of Aten is born from this black-jellied quim of earth.

“Be this the condensed breath of my god,” Akhenaten says of the black water. “Harvest it!” A temple is built, so that all may bathe in the ichorous breath of Aten. A pulley system is installed to extract the dark matter below. The baptismal fluid evaporates in the desert air, so ceremonies are conducted underground.

The black water invokes visions during sermons. Embalmers use it to ensure a cultist’s service is as eternal as the sun god. Undead cats savage slave children to the musical laughter of the Pharaoh.

Time passes – first in a trickle and then in a gush. The City of the Sun God grows. The black water flows thicker, the visions stronger, the deformities more severe. The holy fluid, now a tar, flows upward on alien gravity – a living thing – choking passageways in rivulets and tendrils – a crawling chaos.

Some grotesques out-grotesque all and can no longer be endured. The Marya, the Young Warriors, descend on the valley, footfalls sound as cleansing rain. They gift the Aten cultists with the mercy of slaughter. The new Pharaoh commands that the temple be sealed, the entrance to the hollow collapsed. The black water recedes. The darkness waits, monsters skulking in its belly, moaning for their god.

Initiate the now.

Digital devices beep for Orochi employees who will never answer. Dr Klein came with the team as an archaeologist. They found the Filth. They found horrors. They found things less easy to define – machines of warped bone and sinew – voices that are not voices that sing lullabies that will eat you in the dark.

Lullu-lallay, sweetling.

The Filth has dried, but flows again since recent events. Urgent – cross-reference with Tragedy in Tokyo!

Dr Klein, the ever-studious, still diligently studies and experiments, and the dead are ever so much more cooperative. He works with the mummified clay, and now great Melothat walks the halls as titanic as a plague.

Dr Klein takes his medicine daily, tiny doses of Filth. He fancies himself immune, but there is no immunity to the slime that flows along ninety-nine dimensions his science cannot see. Dr Klein is part of the soup. Now he is more, and now he is less. He has plumbed depths you cannot possibly fathom. His skull is a tentacular snow globe.

Shake it, sweetling! Shake it!


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Organising the Steam Library (Blaugust Day 15)

Continuing the prompt train via Pam, I’ll devote this post to detailing how I organise my Steam library.

As seems to be common, I have a lot more games than I ever anticipated owning. Thanks to Steam sales and various bundles, there is a large measure of mindless collection involved, and I have had to divvy up my games list in order to avoid being overwhelmed every time I look at it. So here is my breakdown:

Steamlist1

These are the games that I would prefer to play with others. Some of them, like Blood Bowl, Civ V and Terraria, I have played and will play solo, and some – Monaco and FORCED in particular – I can’t see myself playing solo at all.

 Steamlist2

 

There is some overlap with the above category here, but these are the games I can come back to over and over – you can see it is dominated by strategy titles. Roguelikes and sims also tend to fit in here.

 

 

 

Steamlist3

Pretty straightforward category: games that I am finished with, either because I have beaten them and am not interested in replays, or I’ve played them enough to get my enjoyment (or steam trading cards) out of them and thus consider them done.

Steamlist4

This is the latest category I created. Games that I have tried, and aren’t bad, but also aren’t engaging enough to stay on my to-do list. Also games that I would probably like to try but are not high enough on my priority list to remain in the Games category. Basically, my backup list for that magical time when I’ve played all my other games and am jonesing for something new (aka it’s never gonna happen (but it totally might!(keep dreaming, son(you never know!)))).

 

 

Steamlist5

I was actually fairly surprised to find that I had enough games to warrant an MMOish category. Includes both actual MMOs, and the weird lobby-based games like MOBAs, shooters and such.

Needs Controller is self-explanatory. These games I have decided would be best enjoyed with a controller rather than mouse & keyboard. Mostly shmups and beat-’em-ups.

 
Steamlist6

Puzzlers is also an easy category to present. Can range from pure problem-solving, like SpaceChem or Obulis, to platform-puzzlers like The Bridge, to Lemmings-like games, to (non-action) tower defence.

 

 

Steamlist7

 

These are games that I have tried and they have either irrationally angered me, or bored me to death. Also games I have no intention of playing, and versions of games that were superseded (e.g. by HD versions) and yet linger in my library. Oh, and fatally bugged games.

 

Steamlist8

 

 

 

Finally, the remainder of the games. The ones I still have to play, or at least give a good try. The objective of my Steam Challenge series is to cull this list as much as possible. Hopefully by finishing them, but sending them to other categories is also acceptable.

 

 

And there you have it. I have thought about creating more categories, e.g. adventure games, but it hasn’t appealed to me enough just yet. The main reason I’ve got the ones I have is that I want to separate out games that I am not necessarily aiming to focus on, but can play whenever. 

 

P.S. Hat tip to Valve for now having an Early Access sash for their titles as well as a DLC sash. It bothered me a lot to see a promising new title show up in the store only to find on navigation to the game page that it was in EA.

Jock Jams – Are You Ready For This


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The Secret Lore – The Kingdom

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Kingdom is one of those parts of the Secret World that is frustratingly undeveloped. You only ever meet one member of it, Saiid, in the Scorched Desert, and I for one am disappointed that we don’t get to spend more time with him or his compatriots. There is so much potential for character or plot development here, but alas, this lore entry is all we get at this time.

The Kingdom

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Ka signal – RECEIVE – initiate Ba syntax – IT KEEPS GOING AND GOING AND GOING – initiate the Going-Forth-By-Day lexicon – THREE CAN KEEP A SECRET, IF ALL OF THEM ARE DEAD – initiate the necrotic prerogative – WITNESS – The Kingdom.

Staccato city sounds beat the tempo. Cue the Danse Macabre.

The hand that deftly holds the smartphone is skeletal with rot, skin like old tea leaves. The ears are mostly withered away. A tongue like a dried date waxes eloquently into the receiver, setting the pieces, playing the game. Empty sockets stare from sunglasses. They still have a formidable wink. The drawn rictus always grins knowingly. Frowning is a fad of the living. He smells oddly sweet – honey and the wilted flowers of an absentee lover. With perfect suavity, he adjusts a silk tie and tips his hat.

He shambles away with such an undying style. His name is Saiid. At least, that’s the name he would give you. No one knows Saiid’s name. Not even Saiid.

The dapper dead strut the streets of modern Cairo in Armani suits. There are levels of panache the breathing never achieve. In the deep shade, they tickle the strings – kingpins of Egypt’s criminal underbelly. Hidden, fearless, outside the bounds of any faction – no rules save what they create. Their chests are hollow, but their ribcages pound with lust and debauchery. These embalmed princes pursue the one sanctity left in this world: money. They are the Kingdom.

Initiate internal scan – dry bodies contain eternal souls. Initiate the secret histories. What is time? We stand outside – everything has happened – everything is happening – into the past – the connecting frequency is the clink of coins.

In the before – they are all rich men – merchants, nobles and priests – living their lives in the golden age of the land of Pharaohs. But death is blind to wealth. These men of affluence obsess over immortality and afterlife access. Their coin buys potent rituals. Something goes horribly right. Something goes horribly wrong.

A bizarre accident – the spark of life hibernates within their mummified husks. Time passes, first in years, then in decades. Their souls rebuild – spirits ever-living, flesh ever-dead. They open their shriveled eyes. Oh, the shock. Oh, the best laid plans.

They stumble from their tombs like emerging cicadas who find they have no wings. They are strangers in a strange land. But they find one another, and these men of pragmatism accept their cadaverous existence. They are men of talent, now united. Why should they lower their standard of living in this afterlife? Their mouths decay into smiles. They gather their funerary treasures, and the forbidden relics of other tombs. Wealthy once more, they hide from the living, and form a decadent underworld.

Time passes, first in centuries, then in millennia. Their dance stays the same – financial acumen and preternatural terror – a hidden empire – a seedy dominion. Cairo is theirs.

Initiate the now.

Politicians and law enforcement think they rule society. They cannot see their own puppet holes or the desiccated hands jammed inside. Civic planning, excavation rights, gambling, prostitution, black market trade – all of these belong to the Kingdom, and they offer access to it for the right price.

There is no morality or loyalty. Those rotted away long ago. There is no grand plan of world domination. The debonair mummies continue their eternal existence.

The internet has been kind to the shamblers. Information and anonymity, all at a touch. The flesh be preserved, but the spirit be willing. Undead, but not anachronisms,  they delight in the digital toys of this faceless age.

Recent events bring the secret societies back to Egypt. The Kingdom has no interest in the ethics or politics of the secret world – the struggles between the factions – but they do watch the movements, eager for the opportunity. They offer their services, careful to creep past the eyes of the Council of Venice.

Watch the dead dance, sweetling. They worry not about the living or of consequence. They do not agonise over the insane cults that have crept up in their backyard, who worship the anathema to all life. Why should they worry? They have already died. The worst is past. And the afterlife has been very, very good to them.

Do you hear the static-twinkle of our laughter? We know a secret, sweetling, and now we will tell it to you: there are always worse things than dying.


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The (Meta?)Physics of Magic (Blaugust Day 13)

Have you ever sat back and wondered about how magic actually works, in your universe of choice?

There are some spells or types of magic that we accept, but never really think about the implications of the way they work. Some effects may work sensibly enough in certain applications, but raise questions about other uses or situations. Let’s just go through a few I can think of. Note, this post contains no answers, just questions.

Invisibility

The mechanics of the Cloak of Invisibility from Harry Potter is straightforward enough: anything covered by the material is invisible. But how do invisibility spells or potions work? Does it apply to your body alone? Anything in contact with it? Does that mean you can pick something up and it becomes invisible? Is it a field (kind of like an electromagnetic field) around you, that covers your clothes and personal items – but what if you have a 10′ pole? Does it actually divert light around you? In that case, can infrared sight still see you? Or does it work by affecting the mind of any observer, just kind of erasing you from their visual processing? If you took a photo, would it show the invisible person/thing?

Healing magic

It seems like healing magic suffers from a major inconsistency – often, there are grave wounds that take many healers a great deal of time to mend (think Archdruid Hamuul in WoW’s Cataclysm), yet we also often see combat healers throwing out instant-mending spells in the thick of battle. So how does it work? Does healing magic simply amplify and accelerate the body’s natural healing abilities? Does it repair the damage itself? Does it take time, or is the patient just instantly restored? Does it tax the body at all? Do different types of magic (natural, divine, etc) work in different ways?

Shapeshifting

How long does it take? Is it a long, drawn-out, painful process, or a flashbang-woah-now-I’m-a-wolf kind of process? Where do clothes go? Items? Do you retain consistent mass (assuming you are changing into something way different, e.g. human-owl)? If changing into an animal, can you understand that animal’s communications now? Can you still talk in (human) language, as much as your mouth parts allow? 

Creature summons

Do you teleport a creature to your location, or does the spell simply create a new creature, fully formed? Can you choose where you get the creature from? Do you have to know what it looks like? Where does it go when the spell ends? If you use the same spell often, do you get the same e.g. bear, or a different one each time? Does it remember you?

Illusions

Much like invisibility, is it a thing that exists independently (like a hologram), or is it all in the mind of the sensor? Can it be recorded – photo, video, etc?

Portals

Are they like wormholes (I’ve watched too much Stargate, can you tell?)? Do they need anchors? Do you maintain velocity through a portal? Can you stick your head through to check out what’s on the other side before going all the way? Can two people on either end of the portal hold onto the same object? Can they close while someone or something is travelling through? Where does that send the person/object?

Any other aspects of magic you have wondered about?

Marcy Playground – Cloak of Elvenkind

 

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