Star-Fired Beef


Steam Challenge – The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 4 hours

You. Guys.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is SO GOOD.


I won this game last year in a raffle that Pam (of Cannot Be Tamed) ran on her blog, and I’d been intimidated by the probability that it would wreck my machine. I finally upgraded a few months ago, so when I had enough download limit left to install it, I plunged in. And Oh My Goodness was it worth it.

It’s best not to learn much about the story before you go into it, because it unfolds so well, and experiencing it for yourself is simply amazing. All you need to know is that you are an occult investigator, and you have been called in to solve the mystery of what happened to Ethan Carter. It is spooky, but not horror. The Lovecraftian touches raise the stakes and elevate the tension, but are not intrusive enough to take over the story.

The graphics are simply incredible. I believe that they used some new technique to achieve photorealistic environmental graphics, and although the people are not as perfectly represented, they are done well enough that they seem natural.

The game is broken up into chapters, small self-contained stories that are also puzzles, which ask you to recreate the events from evidence found around the area and using your special ghost sight. Each story is stumbled upon individually, and while I think they can be done in any order if you are an explorer (except the last part), solving each one gives clues as to where the next one can be found. It all follows a loose narrative, too, so even though you can easily put the story together in hindsight, the more you do them “in order” the more sense it makes as you progress.

Once you have access to the final part, you are presented with a map of the game world and the locations of the stories out in the wild. You need to complete them all before you can finish the game, and I was very impressed with the way the designers handled it.

The ending was way more satisfying than I had thought possible. So many games I’ve played recently have been making me angry with the way they finish the plot, but Ethan Carter was just thought-provoking and sad. There were some homophobic slurs at the end, which I found shocking because there was no justification nor relevance to it. It was completely out of place, even in the context of the situation. I can understand wanting to show how mean and intolerant a character is, but there were so many other options to draw upon that would have made more sense. It’s the only bit of writing that I have a problem with.

It’s short, extremely well executed, and I cannot recommend this game enough.

Thank you Pam!

Australian Crawl – Reckless


Steam Challenge – Borderlands

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 30 hours

Borderlands does stand out from the rest of the FPS pack. The art style is really cool, the added RPG elements give it a bit of a twist, and it has a killer soundtrack. I’m still not entirely sure that it is a game for me, though.

Now, despite all the problems I had with it, I enjoyed Borderlands. Some of the humour was great, the story was decent, and the enemy design was both contextually suitable and unique enough to be refreshing. I liked the talent system and the fact that each character has a unique special ability.


I’m not sure that I like the way they brought RPG elements into an FPS. Even from the start, it felt like I was in the introductory zone in a new MMO, with the attendant breadcrumb quests and xp padding via bland sidequests. It was a little too in my face. Especially the practice of sending me to the other end of a zone – or to another zone – for the hell of it in order to pick up the thing or destroy the thing. The game world feels huge until you realise just how much of it is there simply for the quest objective padding.

Respawns started to annoy me too. Being careful and taking down an enemy much stronger than you is a time-honoured FPS technique, but when it takes a long time (as it does and should) and you start facing respawns because of it…well, it gets old fairly quickly. And that brings me to the gear system.

Sometimes it is impossible to kill an enemy because of your level, since the level disparity makes them take vastly reduced damage from your brand spanking new OP weapon. Just like in an MMO. But I hate that in an FPS. These games are supposed to be about twitch skills, not stats. Most of the time you don’t notice the system, because the game gates you pretty well so you tend to not face higher level enemies. But when you do…oh, man, it is frustrating.

The loot system was also a bit of a drag after a while. They tapped into the MMO crowd psyche again with the colour system to indicate quality (common, rare, epic, legendary), although it became clear that the level of the weapon was much more important than the colour. As such, you couldn’t help but go back to pick up all the things just in case. I burned through the last couple of zones once I decided to abandon this approach and just go with what I had in hand. Much more satisfying. I just don’t feel like the gear system added anything positive to the experience. I would have been happy enough with just the talents on offer.

The story actually made me angry at the end. It was so abrupt, so unapologetic, so unsatisfying, that I felt robbed of the time I’d spent getting that far. The premise was pretty good, but the way they ended it…ugh.

Finally, I found it a tough slog through the latter half of the game due to the setting. I know the story reasons for it, but I was bummed out by the constant, unrelenting wasteland desert full of hostile inhabitants. They did a great job in creating the wasteland, but it was draining for me to be in for any length of time. That, combined with the anger at the way the story ended, made me abandon my plans to play through the DLC content.

Borderlands is undoubtedly a quality game, great production values and well polished. On balance, though, I can’t say I’d give it the accolades that most people have over the years.

Champion – No Heaven


Leave a comment

Steam Challenge – Finding Teddy

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

It is becoming more and more apparent that I am, at least in one particular way, a graphics snob. I used to think that the only time I could enjoy the retro-pixel look was in some adventure games, harking back to old LucasArts titles. But I’m discovering that even then, more often than not I am finding it hard to appreciate and fully enjoy these games.

Finding Teddy is the latest example. At its heart it is an average point-and-click adventure, with little to no story in the first part of the game. The puzzles are either easy to solve or ludicrously obtuse, and I gave up halfway through the second act. I just wasn’t having fun with it.

I have no nostalgia for the retro look. I played some games of that era, and they were fun at the time, but I have no desire to go back when there is so much artistic potential out there with today’s technology. Indie games that use this style of graphics have to work that much harder in the gameplay and/or story department in order to win my acclaim. Not many have been able to do so. Terraria is the one that stands out in that regard.

I can’t recommend Finding Teddy. Even if you like the retro look, the game itself does nothing new or special to stand out. It isn’t a bad game, but there are plenty of better ones out there.

Kaiser Chiefs – Every Day I Love You Less And Less

1 Comment

The Secret Lore – Phoenicians

See all the Secret Lore here.

I’m still not entirely sure what the role of this faction is in The Secret World. Sure, they are a kind-of secret society, and they seem to be all about the money – kind of like the Kingdom – but there is always a sense of a deeper purpose, a more sinister role that they are playing. Not quite Orochi sinister, but mysteriously unsettling nonetheless. Their origins, however, are fascinating.


Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Babel signal – RECEIVE – initiate Carthage frequency – DOWNLOAD – initiate the Tyrian Effect – PRICED TO OWN – initiate the golden apple grammar – THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS – initiate the purple spectrum – WITNESS – The Phoenicians.

There is a story, sweetling. You will hear it on the lips of a drunken sailor or fisherman or the disgraced captain of an oil tanker. This story will be hard to find, but can be heard in any port in the world. The details change, but always there will be a floating city, hidden by magic, travelling the seas of the world as a leviathan ghost. Always, the intoxicated tongue will mutter, “Purple.” A day or a week later, the storyteller will go missing, never to be seen again.

Only a fool would believe such a tale. But the dark days initiate the fool’s prerogative. Everything is true.

The Purple People. Their ships in the night. Since civilisation’s infancy, they have hungered for wealth and the occult. Their emblem tattoos every harbour.

Initiate the Secret Histories.

Mesopotamia. The Tower of Babel. From its top, two brothers ruled all they could see. They could see all. Enter a woman. Her beauty will inspire myths. Her eyes are a prelude to the fall of empires. Her parted lips promise secrets and the tidal pull that causes men to steer their ships onto jagged rocks. Night to night, she visited each brother, promises moaned. She taught them jealousy, distrust, and covetous thoughts.

There was a falling out, shattering the promise of Babel, precipitating a war that would stretch all the way into the now. One brother took to the valleys and plains, founded a secret society that spread to Babylon, Persia, and Rome. They would become the Templars.

The other brother gathered his own cabal. They heard our voice in the broken reception of Babel and saw divine muses, animate egos, and genius – back when people had the wisdom to see their genius as a separate entity. They journeyed to Tyre, Byblos, Arwad and Sidon. They sailed across ancient seas, traded exotic goods, including a much sought purple pigment. They amassed wealth and established colonies in lands faraway.

This Brotherhood of Phoenican Sailors reaped much influence and more favours. Their alliances shifted with bloodstained tides. Power was brokered in a way that would set the modus operandi for the secret societies for millenia to come.

The dance found its rhythm. Phoenicians allied with a great king, sworn to the Illuminati and common enemy of the Templars. They built his temple, kept his secrets, and much of their wealth came from this accord. Fortune draws envy, and the Templar kings of Babylon waged a war. The brotherly feud metastasised into a a vicious tradition.

The great centipede, the Persian army, marched. The Phoenicians fled to colonies in North Africa to rebuild their trade empire. Carthage rose. The Illuminati, the children of Eye and Pyramid, bristled at the invasion, and alliances dissolved in acidic suspicions. Greece and Rome raged. In the end, the dream of Carthage came undone.

The wind took the fleeing Phoenicians, wary of enemies and of rebuilding, to Far Eastern seas. No longer would they seek visible power. Let others build and squabble and rebuild.

Time passes. Europeans finally explore the Indian Sea and the Pacific, where the Phoenicians had already long ruled trade. The Purple People retreat back to the sea, and there they stay, a perpetual fleet of mercenaries and treasure hunters, shrouded in the mists of mystery.

Time passes. The fleet evolves into a floating city: New Carthage. Concealed by sorcery and careful craft, only the agents of the purple flag know where it is at any given time.

Knowledge is power, and the Phoenicians sell to the highest bidder. With such fluid allegiance, they survive. But when the arcane secret or treasure proves too powerful, the Purple People take special care to keep it from the other factions.

Across the world, occult energies gather, and secrets ripen, opening like eager petals. Always the Phoenicians are there. The most favourable angle, the last man standing, prize in hand – these are their creeds.

In this amusing modern world, the other secret societies have spat and made shaky alliances against the oncoming dark. The Phoenicians stand outside, peering in, waiting for their paycheck. They just may have the final means to spare this planet, yet their intentions are as fleeting as the tides, and always they hunger for the golden apples of Eris. Teeth break, atoms split, and disaster follows fast and follows faster on such appetites.

And what of the woman, who is said to have set these things in motion? The brothers of Babel never saw her again. We might say she is gone, yet you sweetlings still find the lust to steer onto jagged rocks. We can almost smell her…

Be seeing you, secret worlder.

Leave a comment

The Secret Lore – The Hell Dimensions

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Secret World’s lore would not be complete without some exploration of Hell. I always appreciate the unique take on these kinds of concepts that Funcom brings to the table.

The Hell Dimensions

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the Sheol signal – RECEIVE – initiate the City of Dis frequency – WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD – initiate Malebolge broadcast – CAUTION DO NOT CROSS – initiate Dante lexicon – WITNESS – The Hell Dimensions.

What is Hell? The question mark is a winding road. You must follow. You must answer the question, and the question is, “Wicker?”

“Wicker?” hiss the dead leaves.

“Wicker?” croak the frogs, mucus-slick bodies heavy with writhing young.

Do you know about Theodore Wicker? They say he bit off his tongue to better speak the demonic language. They say he carved runes into his flesh and cut out his own heart to be better adapted to their hellish environs. To know the truth, you must follow the questions. It is a path of angry fishhooks.

Wicker? Wicker? Wicker?

It falls to us to be your guide through the dark valley. It is necessity, and not pleasure, that puts you on this road. Follow it to the Overlook Motel. The rooms smell of mildew, nicotine, and brimstone, and you take on the dreams of those who slept there – all those lost souls trapped in the seedy perdition of 3AM – all those unique ways to spell despair.

An ancient TV flashes white static and crackles in a cyclopean voice, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER INTO THE CITY OF WOES. The dying thermostat rattles and groans, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER INTO ETERNAL PAIN. The invisible stains in the streets spell out, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER THE POPULATION OF LOSS.

Do you hear? “Wicker-Wicker-Wicker.” From the bathroom. Follow. Into the blotched porcelain of the toilet are carved these words, ABANDON HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE. Trace the letters with your finger, and you can see the face of the woman who drew them, before she opened her wrists. The swirling water washed the red away. But where did it go? Where does the flush end? If only we had the harsh and grating rhymes to benefit that melancholy hole…

We must show you, sweetling. We, who transcend the meat, will lead you from circle to circle, canto to canto – ferry you across into eternal dark on the opposite side – to sin’s profoundest abyss. It is an in-between place, located in the constellation-geometry of a needle-tracked arm – second scar to the right, and straight on till mourning.

Initiate descent into the sightless zone.

Setting coordinates – just above the chasm of pain, which holds the din of infinite grief – just when you see a fire overcome a bleak hemisphere of night – just when the notes of agony in sad crescendo reach your ear – you are there, where light grows mute. What is Hell? Now you know. It is being out of the sight of the immaculate machine, beyond the breath of her anima.

Fie! Fie! No anima! Entropy eats all. The infinity Ebola. We shiver. Our wings dissolve. Oh, let us not linger, sweetling. Let us fly. Let us fly, for we must!

See the engines and cogs. It is technology older than stars. Can you read the writing in the scars? Now you know the next truth – Hell was once wondrous. A great civilisation palpitated here. What went wrong? Methuselah machines pump arcane energy the way a lizard’s tail wags hours after death.

See the denizens. The incubi and succubi strut through the wasteland. The rakshasa skulk, slaves to the other races. Giants of demonoid flesh and burnt iron shake the scabrous ground with their stride. See how they clamber towards any crack in Hell leaking with anima. They are starved for it, grow strong on it. Beware any demonkind that has tasted that nectar.

But you did not come for the children of Hell. You come for its one missionary. Who is Theodore Wicker?

Initiate King James Protocol. The code is 30 and 26 and 31. The password is “Job.” Transmit!

He was Oxford born and bred, a leading scholar of demonology, this Age’s greatest master of portal magic, of stepping between worlds. He came to Hell and adapted to the hallucinatory wilderness, thrived among the ashes and eldritch. An impossible mortal, now immortal, with knowledge of the Second Age. He preaches to the demons, and they listened. This man, born of dirt, became the spiritual leader of those born of fire. A misbegotten movement turned army. Soon, Wicker leads a power that tips the scales in Hell.

Another faction looms; those demons who follow the Enemy. Beware the clap of his wings, for he remembers all the Ages. He has convinced his followers to march on Earth, and take it for the lush land that should have been theirs. All they need is a door.

And that is the answer to the question, “Wicker?” He is a door. And so the Enemy built a machine – see how well he understands technology older than the demons – and powered it with Wicker. Apocalypse can happen in the time it takes to open a door. What will you do?

And now you know some, but not all. You must find another path. Seek out Egypt. When we move, you must follow, and enter on a deep and savage road.

One knocks twice upon the doors of Hell.

Initiate the second canto.

Be bold, sweetling. Be strong. For now the descent must be like a stairway down the din of lamentations. That dark and timeless air like sand in a whirlwind. Though the razor-grains blind, follow the sounds, the carnage that would turn an ocean red, and the prayers of a temple savage. Welcome to these iron shores.

The war between Wicker and the Enemy heightens. Demon clashes with demon, eyes rolling, eager for gore. Crazed jinn ravage. Hulking golems rise from fallen meteors. Cogs and wheels turn. Machines contrive, pumping poison.

There is no time to smell the toxic roses. Do not let your vision linger on these mutilated shades. Seek the dark tower. Always towards the tower.

In a bold strike, the forces of the Enemy have cut Wicker off from his main army. He sits, isolated, in a fortress under siege.

Initiate the next riddle: Why did Wicker come to Hell?

Did he gather an army of demons for power? No, sweetling. He is immune to such lusts. The truth is much more impossible. When Theodore Wicker first saw Hell, he fell in love. His eyes see through the scars, straight into past wonders. His eyes see the Second Age. He knows what Hell should have been.

When he looked upon demons, Wicker saw twisted creatures who lost their paradise, feral children in need of guidance. Their strange laments beset him, each an arrow whose shaft was barbed with pity. Behold the messiah of Hell, the patron saint of demons. “It is humans who corrupted the hell-born,” he would say. Theodore Wicker is insane, an insanity born of the idealistic notion of saving demonkind. There is one man who cries for devils.

Beware! Beware the Enemy. Did you see him? How fierce he seemed in motion, with wings outstretched. He remembers all Ages. He knows the secrets of the ancient technology here. The Enemy was one of them who built it. He is more than demon born. His name? Let us not speak it, sweetling. Not yet.

If you would know more, sweetling, a different path from this one would be best, away from this brutal place. Go to the land beyond the forest, and seek the third door to Hell.

Initiate the King James Protocol. The code is 11 and 14. The password is “Revelations.” Transmit!

One knocks thrice upon the doors of Hell.

Initiate the third canto.

There is a doorway in Transylvania. From the portal a voice says:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

And it says:

“They open their throats wide as Sheol, like Death they never have enough.”

Cast yourself down that throat, sweetling. Now we descend to greater wretchedness. Now we enter an abode of sighs. It is not jokingly that one begins to describe the bottom of the universe.

A burning place, dessicated corpses of a hundred thousand demons smoulder in the ashes of strange cities and petrified forests. The oily oceans boil and the mountains roar to the soot-choked sky. Salt and sulphur dunes give way to wrong-angled cliffs. The burning glow of the far horizon s occasionally broken by the monolithic remains of Second Age structures, relics from a time when humanity openly consorted with demons. These once great ziggurats have been worn down by the elements to featureless black shapes, their original purpose lost.

Hell is not what it was meant to be. It is the aborted experiment, abandoned to die, slowly starved of anima. But who discarded it? Impossibly, Hell survived. The demons adapted to a torturous, eternal life. The fabric of this place turned vampiric, suckling upon any stream of energy connected to your world, dragging matter across the divide.

Here in Sheol, Wicker mobilises his army. His voice carries like a radio signal, to inspire his adopted brothers and sisters. Times are desperate, and he will accept outside help. Who can find words, even in free-running prose, to describe the blood and wounds and horror you shall see?

Beware, sweetling, a beast stalks Sheol. It crosses mountains and leaves walls and weapons broken.

Initiate the King James Protocol. The code is 9 and 18. The password is “Revelations.” Transmit!

Beware the three traitors. Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot march in Sheol, demon-chewed and filled with hate. But the demons and the wicked dead are a shadow of a shade compared to their master. Beware the beat of his wings.

Initiate the verboten secrets.

The Enemy remembers all Ages. When it becomes necessary to utter a name, we shiver. And that name is Eblis. He is one of the builders. He helped construct Hell in the time before time before time. When it becomes necessary to utter a word, we shudder. And that word is Nephilim. He is one of the fallen Host. Gaia still remembers his tinkering.

And now we went from bridge to bridge, and spoke of things which our Commedia does not mean to sing. We have said too much. All in time. All in the slow, erratic trickle of honey. We have given too much before. We have pulped the heads of sweetlings past with too much forbidden lore. Every one of them broke our electromagnetic hearts.

You will learn more in time.

Be seeing you, sweetling. In the half-light.


Is Jeromai an Elitist? (Spoilers: Probably Not)

Jeromai discussed their thoughts on GW2 news in this post, and it made them realise that they were kind of elitist…maybe? In a way? I started this as a comment but it grew too lengthy so I decided to make a post instead. Disclaimer: I may not make any sense here.

I think that one of the misconceptions about elitism is that the elitists are making mistaken assumptions about the motivations of those “beneath” them. Or, at least, many of those beneath them. Your motivations don’t make you elitist per se, but they become so when you decide that it is the motivations that make you better.

That is something that you, personally, might recognise and understand – that different people play for different reasons, and no reason is inherently better than another – but I think too often, elitist attitudes come into play because they assume that everyone who plays the same content has the same motivations.

So, PvP elitists assume that those they crush are just bad at being the best PvPer around. Raiders assume that if you step into a raid, you aspire to clear the raid as fast and efficiently as possible. And so on. But that is not the case, people jump into content – even competitive content – for a variety of reasons. 

Elitists treat everyone as if they have the same motivation, and so they seem very hostile to those who do not actually fall into that category. If your primary motivation for doing a certain raid is social, for example, then being told you are “doing it wrong” is not very likely to encourage you to try it again. Likewise, if you are denied admittance to a group because they think you aren’t good enough, then you are not going to have a bond with them.

I think most elitists are probably fairly accepting that people have different playstyles and enjoy different parts of MMOs. The problem comes when those “different” people want to play in “their” content. In guild-type groups, you can be fairly upfront about it: “Sorry, we only want to play with people who think like us in these particular contexts.” But in any random group that is impossible.

The end result is that people self-segregate. Which, when you think about it, is possibly for the best. People like Jeromai, who are goal-focused, find others who are Achievers in the same way. People like Bhagpuss go and do their exploration alongside fellow explorers. The problem is, the ones who had bad experiences with elitists will tend to assume that all raiders/PvPers are the same, and they will therefore not seek out other, like-minded people. Especially if they don’t have the time, willpower or personality to create such a group. Thus the chasm grows wider.

All we need is to have some technology that will read our minds and group us up with the most compatible people for our playstyle and motivations. Get on it, Science.

Tool – Schism


Until Next Year

Blaugust is over for another year. This was my first attempt at participating. I started off well, but I became overwhelmed by RL stuff mid-month, so my posting dropped off dramatically. I did make the halfway mark, so that is a good benchmark for me to aim to better next year.

Thanks to Belghast for once again organising the event, and keeping track of everyone in it. I was impressed at how useful Anook was in both logging your posts and consolidating everyone else’s to make it easy to follow them. 

Finally, congratulations to everyone who participated, those who achieved Survivor status, and a big congrats to those who completed Blaugust.


Supreme Beings of Leisure – Truth From Fiction

Leave a comment

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.


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?

1 Comment

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.


“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!”


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?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers