February 1, 2014

Letter Month 2014!


Information here

Posted by Jvstin at 3:58 PM

January 6, 2014

Today is a day... [Cold]

Today is a day to stay indoors, with a cup of tea and a blanket. To read and dream of distant Deryabar, warm and magical. Or to conjure a world of one's own, with pen or keyboard.

Alas, I am at work.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:12 AM

December 4, 2013

Haiku 12/4/2013

Gentle snow falling
Like a Wyvern's Wife Whispers
Cold winter beauty

Posted by Jvstin at 10:48 AM

September 26, 2013

Fermentation (Ficlet)

Marissa chatted about Earth and alcohol. as her friend chewed the grain slowly. He took stalks of the ripe wheat from the bowl and chewed them one by one, letting his flat eyes watch Marissa as he listened. He tapped one of his hooves against the tile floor as if keeping time to music.

What a strange biology, she thought, as she sipped her glass of water and tried to explain Prohibition to him. Domlas wasn't buying or understanding the idea. It was incomprehensible to his species. How could you enforce it? But, then, she could barely understand how the United States of America ever expected to enforce it, either. Was that why it had fallen? She was admittedly fuzzy on the timeline of history.

It would take the better part of a week of the grain he was eating to turn into alcohol, and then be absorbed into his system. Benefits, and disadvantages, of a two stomach biology, Marissa thought.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:55 AM

September 25, 2013

Reardonism Ficlet

RBC News, London, August 18

Reardonist Sympathizers claim responsibility for explosion at warehouse of supplies for victims of Hurricane Isis.

Reardonist Sympathizers have claimed responsibility for the destruction of a temporary warehouse set up for victims of Hurricane Isis in the American state of Carolina. Minor injuries are reported, but thousands of dollars of relief supplies were destroyed.

A spokesman for the Reardonist movement praised the action in an interview with RBC News:

"This sends a message to the Federal Government that the American people do not want their tax dollars being used for moochers and collectivist actions." Ann Randolph said. "The purpose of the government in our view is only to ensure property rights. It is not to waste taxpayer money on those who were foolish enough not to prepare for natural disasters such as this."
Senator Taggart of the state of Franklin in a statement said that while she did not condone the incident, "This sends a message that the government needs to reassess its priorities. Americans do not want to spend their tax money on bailing out people. It is UnAmerican and Collectivist to expect hard working Americans to pay for other people's problems."

Senator Taggart is a co-sponsor of the effort, with Senator Enderby of Deseret, of an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would devolve law enforcement within U.S. borders entirely to private entities.
[Sidebar: The history of Reardonism]

[Sidebar: Tax Rates in the United States versus other nations]

Posted by Jvstin at 7:40 AM

January 15, 2013

The Magician and the Ogre,an experiment in point of view.

The Magician and the Ogre, an experiment in point of view.

3rd person:

The desert sands crunched under his boots as he walked toward the thing. Larger than a tank, Marcus thought, looking up at the numerous guns. He hadn't quite gotten a good look at it on their last encounter. Now that he was within spitting distance, the origins of the thing, with its fusion of metal and organic designs were clear. And it definitely did not belong here. So.

Marcus cleared his throat. "Good afternoon. As a duly designated representative of the town of Northmarch, the Kingdom of Ryozan, and the Empire of her most serene Highness my mother the Empress Julia Procopina, you are hereby in violation of the Sweetwater Compact. As such, you are hereby ordered to remove yourself behind the Black Line back to your origin,or nearest such parallel dimension."

The metal monster seemed to consider this a moment.

"Are you one of the Nine and Forty?" it stated in that metal voice Marcus had heard before.

"I believe I specified that already" Marcus replied. He tensed himself and was not surprised to see the main gun track and turn on him.

"Is that an affirmative?" the metal voice repeated.

"Linea's Eyes, YES!"

The gun fired...

1st person Marcus

This was not one of my brighter ideas. I had to trust my sister's plan, because, well, she was smarter than me. And this thing had to be stopped. I'd invested too much in the Kingdom on behalf of Mom to let some metal construct from the other side of reality wreck it.Besides, if Dulce was right, *I* and the rest of the family was its real target.

I stopped a few paces from the thing.It had been traveling slowly, a few miles per hour, after the sting of our first encounter. It did not immediately fire on me. Maybe she was right.

I cleared my throat and spoke.

"Good afternoon. As a duly designated representative of the town of Northmarch, the Kingdom of Ryozan, and the Empire of her most serene Highness my mother the Empress Julia Procopina, you are hereby in violation of the Sweetwater Compact. As such, you are hereby ordered to remove yourself behind the Black Line back to your origin,or nearest such parallel dimension."

The thing might be made of orichalcum instead of marshmallow, but the same principle applied.

I think I confused it, it took a moment to answer.

"Are you one of the Nine and Forty?"

Idiot, I thought. I said my mother was the Empress already, indirectly.

"I believe I specified that already" I replied. Yeah, my brilliant big sister was right. Coming for the family. Good. Let's make this personal. And don't think, I thought to myself, I don't see that big gun turning on me.

"Is that an affirmative?" the metal machine repeated.

"Linea's Eyes, YES!" What a pedantic machine. I tensed my shoulders.

The gun fired.

1st person Ogre

The little man walked toward me. I slowed down to a crawl, and then a stop.I had to revise his threat level from 0 to 3 after the previous encounter. Form indicated negotiation before immediate hositities. There was also a 89 percent probability he would have countermeasures for a sneak attack. Patterns of force suggested allowing him within range of main gun. Programming also dictated confirming the man's identity, although there was a 45% chance, based on current evidence, he was Prince Marcus. Confirmation was essential before action.

The man spoke.

"Good afternoon. As a duly designated representative of the town of Northmarch, the Kingdom of Ryozan, and the Empire of her most serene Highness my mother the Empress Julia Procopina, you are hereby in violation of the Sweetwater Compact. As such, you are hereby ordered to remove yourself behind the Black Line back to your origin,or nearest such parallel dimension."

Most of the referents were to local and large scale political entities. Form of the speech suggested allusion to some work of literature. I spent a half second searching for the referent, in vain. In accordance with programming, I resumed the forms.

"Are you one of the Nine and Forty?"

"I believe I specified that already" the man replied. This increased the probability of the subject to 89%. It was not 90% confidence, confirmation was indicated. I trained the main gun on him anyway, he was enough of a threat in any situation.

"Is that an affirmative?" I asked. Human language could be fraught with strange constructions. Why could these Empire dwellers not use a regular language?

"Linea's Eyes, YES!"

I ignored the mythological reference. He was Prince Marcus,and thus a legitimate target. I fired.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:52 AM

April 4, 2012


The periwinkle skin of the demon was visually jarring compared to the sharp horns on his head, and the foul cigar butt planted permanently in a corner of his mouth. His watery yellow eyes looked at me with unbridled malice.

"What you never realized, and now will be unable to forget" Doubt said. "Is that people really don't like what you write and compose. You thought they did, the small encouraging comments here. The occasional plaudit there. You thought the small amount of positive attention you gave people and their work was appreciated. Or even wanted."

His tone was positively gleeful as he continued.

"Now you know its a lie. Now you know what they really think of you. I just showed you *his* true feelings. You know that he's just the tip of the iceberg. You know it in the deepest part of your heart. He's the rule, not the exception. Those small nice things and mentions you receive." He belched a cloud of cigar smoke. I choked in response as it hit my nostrils, eyes and mouth. "All were acts of pity."

Doubt hopped off of the computer desk, which had groaned but not broken under his weight. He strolled toward the apartment door, out of my field of vision. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak. I had no answer for him. I did not see, but guessed from the sound of his voice that he turned his head to face me one more time.

His tone changed to saccharine sweet.

"Now my work here is done. See if you write anything ever again. See if you comment or promote anyone's work ever again."

I didn't look at him. I didn't answer. I just stared at the computer screen. A hot tear rolled down my left cheek as I heard the sound of the door open, and close, shut.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:24 PM

March 20, 2012

Secret Service Code names

Surely, all of you know by now that Presidential candidates, as well as elected Presidents and Vice Presidents, get Secret Service code names.

The code names for Santorum and Romney have been leaked out:


I like to think of Secret Service Code names as the modern equivalent of Roman cognomens, the "third part" of a tripartite Roman name. Cicero, for example, is really Marcus Tullius' cognomen. Ceasar was Gaius Julius' cognomen. Not everyone got one, or earned one. And after a while, the cognomen became formalized, and so a second cognomen, the agnomen, was created.

(example: Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus)

Anyway, what would *you* pick if you had the chance to get a Secret Service code name. For you writer types, what would your characters pick?

Me, personally, I'd either go classical and pick something Roman based (Cicero would not be a bad choice, really, he's a hero to me) or something mythological. Griffin, possibly. :)

Posted by Jvstin at 12:47 PM

March 2, 2012

Guest Post "The Unwritten Stories in my Head"


I have a guest post up today, but its not a review, a Mind Meld or a RPPA column, and its not at the Functional Nerds or SF Signal.

Instead, its at the blog of writer Mhairi Simpson (kind enough to host this for me) and is called "The Unwritten stories in my head"

So go read it already:


Posted by Jvstin at 10:55 AM

February 22, 2012

Who are your favorite villains in Fantasy and SF?

I curate a new Mind Meld at SF Signal, now live today

What are your favorite villains in Fantasy and SF?

I asked a sheaf of authors, from Scott Lynch to Myke Cole:


Posted by Jvstin at 7:07 AM

February 17, 2012


Scipio dangled the blade limply in his hand.

"I don't understand. It's just a sword"

Whip fast, his uncle's hand swept forward, slapping Scipio's sword hand. He dropped the sword, which seemed to anger his uncle even more.

"Pick her up, and apologize to her." the swordsmaster ordered. "A sword should always be treated with respect as the lady she is. She is not an "it".

Meekly, chastised, Scipio knelt. With not quite exaggerated care, he bore the sword in both hands from the sawdust-swept floor and into his hands.

"Kiss the blade." his uncle ordered.

Scipio placed his lips, briefly, on the thickest part of the flat of the blade, near the hilt. This seemed to placate his teacher.

"And now we will begin again" the swordmaster said.


The blond haired man holds me in his hand. He still doesn't get it.

"I don't understand. It's just a sword"

The swordmaster, who created me, hits him. The blond haired man drops me, and I shudder as I hit the wooden floor.

"Pick her up, and apologize to her." the swordsmaster says. "A sword should always be treated with respect as the lady she is. She is not an "it". He's talking about me.

The blond haired man kneels.He takes me into his hands. I feel a tingle inside of me. This feels right, now.

"Kiss the blade" the swordsmaster says.

The kiss is electric, and binding. Does the Blond haired man know? Does he understand what he has done?

I feel it in every inch of my steel. He's going to be mine. I wonder when I will tell him my name.

"And now we will begin again"

Oh yes, oh yes we will.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:39 AM

November 19, 2011

A Modest Proposal: Patents of Nobility


In keeping with my previous Modest Proposal, another one to raise revenue. This one would require a Constitutional Amendment but the Republican party, in particular, seems willing to amend the Constitution.
Section One, Articles Nine and Ten of the U.S. Constiution include the following passages:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person
holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

It's time we faced facts, friends. The One percent are a de-facto Nobility, and its going to stay that way. Why don't we formalize that, and make some money in the process. My previous Pyramid Tax Plan already shifted the tax burden away from the rich and onto the numerous teeming poor. This plan would raise revenue from the rich, but in a completely voluntary way that is also capitalistic and free-market oriented.
This proposal would amend the Constitution to remove the language not allowing the States and the United States to grant titles of Nobility. It would work as follows:
The United States Government would establish a hierarchy of national nobility ranks as follows:
2 Grand Princes/Princesses (Grand Princess of the Eastern United States; Grand Prince of the Western United States)
4 Archdukes/Duchesses (Archduchess of the Southwestern United States, et cetera)
9 Princes/Princesses
12 Dukes/Duchesses
20 Earls/Count/Countesses
20 Peerage titles revolving around the personages of Congress and the White House, in the same way that French Kings once granted ranks to nobles in their courts. People already call Washington "Versailles on the Potomac". Let's leverage that!
In addition, each State would be allowed to establish nobility ranks as follows:
1 Marquis/Marchioness (Marchioness of the State of Minnesota)
10 Barons/Baronesses
20 Baronets/Baronetess
The noble titles would be sold by means of auction. I bet the bidding would be rather fierce, and raise a significant amount of revenue.
The titles would not be merely ceremonial. A noble who had state nobility would be entitled to a vote in that state's legislative chamber. The federal nobles of Prince and below would be entitled to vote in the House of Representatives, the Archdukes and Grand Princesses would be considered Senators. They would also have the right of High Justice.
(It occurs to me that repealing the 17th Amendment and merely making the Senate a House of Lords like in the United Kingdom might be for something down the road)
These titles would not be heritable, as a holder of one of the titles passes away, on that sad day, the title would be resold. The first born child of the deceased noble would have the first right to buy the title at the cost, adjusted for inflation, that their parent paid for it.
The revenues brought by the selling of these noble titles would definitely help America stay strong and free, and the oppressed, wrongly hated wealthy would finally have some formal recognition of how important they are in society.
God Bless you and God Bless America

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 AM

August 11, 2011

Meme: I surrender

Here's how it works:

1. Comment to this post with "I surrender!" and I'll assign you the basis of some TV show idea. (post-apocalyptic scifi-fi drama, fantasy, noir gumshoe pulp, criminal procedure...IN SPACE, historical drama WITH WEREWOLVES, etc.).
2. Create a cast of characters, including the actors who'd play them.
3. Add in any actor photos, character bios, and show synopsis that you want.
4. Post to your own journal.

Via Harry Connolly at Twenty Palaces


He gave me:

WW2 setting, classic Universal monsters vs. Nazis.

The Monster Squad

In a world where the Universal monsters are secretly real, during a USO tour, the Universal Monsters and their Army handlers discover that they are as good fighting the Nazis as they are entertaining the troops. Now, under double cover of being actors playing the monsters on a USO tour, the Monster Squad is set to punch Adolf in the jaw.


Hugo Weaving as Dracula.

Sam Worthington as The Wolfman.

Michael Clarke Duncan as Frankenstein. In a nod to Brittle Innings, it turns out he has been playing Negro league baseball in the U.S. prior to joining up with Universal.

Arnold Vosloo as The Mummy.

Thandie Newton as Annie Andrews (Ankh-es-en-amon). Its strongly implied that she was responsible for bringing the Mummy to life...

and Clancy Brown as their handler, British Major Abraham Van Helsing. He has secrets of his own, or else why does Dracula insist on reminiscing on the good old days when he and Van Helsing clashed in the 1880's. Van Helsing can't be *that* old, can he?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:18 AM

August 3, 2011

Brainstorming a Point of Divergence

I had tweeted:

Given where it sends me, if Chris Columbus had my Garmin, he would have wound up in Istanbul

Chris Columbus left Palos de la Frontera on August 3,1492.

Not surprisingly, there were a couple of comments saying that it would have been better if Columbus hadn't reached the New World.

But how plausible is it that Europe would not have reached the Americas sometime within the next 30 years? If it wasn't Columbus, someone else would have tried the western route, and soon. The economic pressures were too strong not to try it.

So, how far back in history do you have to go to make an Old World where Europe is NOT striving westward in search of routes to the Orient? And what is your change to make it plausible that 15th century Europe doesn't come into contact with the Americas?

Posted by Jvstin at 8:10 AM

May 20, 2011

Ficlet: Gone

5 am. May 22, Time to make the donuts. The clock radio alarm woke Doug up to quiet static.

Doug frowned as consciousness won out over sleep. Instead of the dulcet tones of the local public radio morning hostess, there was just static, like an old television tuned to a dead channel.

Doug looked at the time, and decided he could deal with the radio tuning later.

Twenty five minutes later, after morning ablutions, Doug picked at a whole wheat bran muffin that did not taste as good as it looked. And it looked like something that an unloved pet might find in their food bowl. The white noise sound of the static of the radio still filled the tiny studio apartment.

Doug walked over and started to fiddle with the dial. Nothing. Static. Not even the annoying prog rock station whose signal sometimes overawed the small public radio station's broadcast had anything. The conglomerate modern music station had some sort of test sound, a high pitched whine.

"Stupid radio" Doug cursed under his breath. He resented the money it would take to replace it.
Doug padded over to his computer. A few emails from last night, but nothing that required his immediate attention or his reply. Work email could wait until he was in the office, anyway.

When he logged onto some social networks, he noticed that no one seemed about. Sure, few people followed him or cared about what he was doing, but he could usually see what other people were doing. If he was reading this right, there had been no activity from any of them since last night. Not even the Inkheart writer group in Europe, which usually had a lively debate going on Twitter. All silent.

A trip to some news sites, even the BBC, revealed that no stories had been updated since last night. No timestamps beyond 11:38 PM. It was as if the Internet stopped after that time.

"My fucking cable connection, too?' Doug growled aloud and slammed the heel of his hand against the computer desk. He regretted the outburst. Old Mrs. Atwood woke up early and had preternatural hearing. More than once she had complained to the apartment manager about Doug's television being too loud. By too loud meaning above the sound of a whisper in a thunderstorm.

Silence. Nothing. Perhaps she was fast asleep, for once. Maybe she had spiked her Geritol.
Rebooting the computer, and the connection, did not change matters. Doug glowered at the computer screen. Besides, Doug thought, he was late for work.

It took about six blocks for Doug to realize something was seriously wrong. A gas station on fire, with a Hummer crashed into one of the pumps was strange enough. It was doubly strange that there was no one seeing to the fire or even watching it. The lights were on in the twenty four hour convenience store. Regretting that he didn't have a cell phone, Doug carefully parked away from the fire, and trotted to the convenience store.

The store was empty of people. Doug headed to the counter. Something possessed him to look over the counter. There was a pile of clothes in the center of the space, but nothing else. Quizzical, Doug eased himself over the counter and picked up the phone. Three attempts to call 9-1-1 resulted in nothing more than an answering service. Calling the police department directly proved equally fruitless.

Outside, the fire in the gas pump burned in the morning light.

Doug racked his brain as he got in his car, but finally memory sent him down DeNardo road, toward the nearest fire station. The car radio was as useless as the radio in his apartment. He could not find a working station.
There were a few abandoned cars in the grass lined ditch on the right side of the road. Doug slowed and stopped by one of the cars. The car was still on, running fruitlessly, headlights and taillights on. There was a pile of clothes in the driver's seat, and shoes in the footwell. Key still in the ignition, Doug leaned over and turned the car off. It sputtered to a stop.
Doug continued on his journey. The fire station shared space with Clifton Landing's police station, and, as Doug was growing to expect, both were quiet as a tomb. There were a few piles of clothes and shoes here and there, in random places. Doug lifted a set of keys and explored the fire station and police station.

Even in the drunk tank, there were two sets of clothes without owners.

Doug went to the administrative section of the police station and fired up a computer. Clucking his tongue with the lack of any security whatsoever, he quickly was able to get onto the Internet. A thought had been creeping in his mind for the last hour.

A little Googling did the trick. There, there it was. Reverend "Pappy" Todd Brandt. He had loudly predicted the Rapture would come 7:39 AM, Jerusalem time, May 22, 2011. The computer translated that to 11:39 PM local time, last night. Pappy had said only the worthy and the saved would be bodily transported to heaven, leaving all others to misery for the end of their days on a dying Earth.

Dumbfounded, Doug wandered out of the police and fire station, into the street. The sound of a sonic boom led him to look up at the sky. Instead of the early morning light, the sky was now the crimson color of fruit punch, and a diagonal line of clouds were black, forming a gash across that unnaturally colored sky.

Doug shook his head and moaned. It couldn't be. It couldn't. It just couldn't.

Everyone he knew and met, apparently, and for all he knew everyone in the world had been Raptured.

Everyone, except him.

Doug sank to his knees in the street, looked up at the hellfire skies, and wept, alone.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:42 AM

April 2, 2009

Writer's Life as Infocom Text Adventure


Welcome to WRITER'S QUEST!
You are in a writer's room. Exits are north and east. The door leading north has "This Way to Fame, Fortune, and Free Beer!" painted over it.
There is a chair here.


You have a Hazy Idea for a story.
You have a Muse.
You have an Inner Editor.

>go n

You can't go that way.


I don't know how to what.

>look chair

It's just a chair. It doesn't look very comfy.

>look muse

Your Muse waves at you.

>look editor

The Inner Editor glares at you and mutters.
Your Muse is trying to say something.

>listen muse

You can't hear over the Inner Editor talking. (It has some things to say about the implausibility of your Hazy Idea.)

> gag inner editor

You gag the little anthropomorphic personification. It glares at you and sulks.

Read the whole thing. Those of us who have played a lot of Zork will find it especially amusing.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:11 AM

September 12, 2008

Better Dishonor than... (political ficlet)

This is a political piece of fiction, with a touch of fantasy/sf.

Better Dishonor than...

The Night of August 24, 2008

"Who, what..." Senator McCain said, as a figure from nowhere stepped out of the mist. McCain looked at the shape warily. A shiver involuntarily ran down his spine.

"I'm dreaming", McCain thought. Lately his dreams had been of the Presidential race, and whom he would pick for his Vice Presidential Candidate. Although he was not energetic and exciting, Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota was a solid choice. He couldn't pick Lieberman or Ridge like he wanted to, because the fundamentalists would have a field day with a pro-lifer, but Pawlenty was religious enough to avoid a revolt, and hell, the convention was *in* St. Paul this year. It might even give him a reasonable shot at grabbing the North Star State...

"Listen!" the man's voice interrupted McCain's dream logic. As he came into view, McCain could see the figure was he. The figure was a couple of years older and definitely showing it, but clearly the man facing him was himself, John Sidney McCain III.

"You're me." The Younger McCain felt no need to beat around the bush. In his mind, he wondered if this is how he would look after time spent in the Presidency.

"Yes. Don't ask how I am here. But I am here to tell you what is going to happen and what you have to do." The Older McCain said. "Just shut up and listen."

The Younger McCain could be pugnacious, but this was himself he was talking to, and it was a dream, anyway. So he did as he was bidden. McCain shut up and nodded curtly, once.

The Older McCain waved a hand, stiffly, at the younger man's acquiescence. "Good."

"This is what happened." The older man continued "You picked Pawlenty. It's not good enough. You ran a relatively clean campaign on the issues. Issues don't work this year, John. Our base doesn't get enough red meat to turn out in any substantial numbers. Obama wins 302 electoral votes."

"I'd rather be right than President." The Younger McCain quoted.

"I said, shut up and listen." The Older McCain snapped angrily. The Younger McCain could see the eyes of his older counterpart bear down upon him as he continued. "April 7, 2009. President Obama is visiting Savannah, Georgia. Unbeknownst to him, a tramp cargo ship from Pakistan has steamed into port. Its cargo, a nuclear device liberated from Russian stockpiles, detonates before it can be searched and stopped. Sixty nine thousand one hundred and eighty seven people die, including the President, the Mayor of Savannah and Governor Sanford. The country is paralyzed by indecision. Biden, bless his heart, just isn't up for the task. It makes Nine Eleven and the Jay Eff Kay assassination look like picnics. It just gets worse from there."

"We can't let this happen, John." The Older McCain said.

"Yes, yes." John said. "We'll tell..."

"Tell who?" the Older McCain demanded. "That you dreamed about this? Forget it. You are going to win the Presidency and do whatever it takes to do it. That's what you need to do. You're not gonna like what you need to do it, but you are going to do it all anyway. Put Palin on the ticket. Governor of Alaska. She'll fire up the conservative base, ethical and experience questions be damned. The party will love her."

I met her once...and She even supported that stupid Bridge to Nowhere! The younger McCain thought. And she has even less experience than Obama. The younger McCain however did not interrupt as the older McCain continued.

"Next, you are going to slime Obama. There are an awful lot of people in the country who just need reassurance that it's okay to not vote for Obama. They just need the motivation to justify their own prejudices and fears. You are going to hand it to them. No matter how ridiculous, just keep slinging it at him. Forget the issues, make it about the personality. Do you want to vote for me, or the scary African-American? It's the only way you are ever going to win this election, John, as dishonorable as that sounds. And if you don't win this election, dishonor or not, the consequences are grave."

"Palin. Attack Ads. Slime. Do it, John. Forget your f-ing honor. This country is more important."

And then John Sidney McCain III woke up to the cold light of the morning, the last words of his older dream self burning in his head.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:14 AM

March 16, 2008

IMF, Exalted Style

The purple robed man opened up the scroll. A charm vocalized the written words, only for his ears. In the center of the scroll was a stylized painting of a white haired being. The Sidereal studied the painting.

"Good morning, Phelps. The being you are looking at is is none other than the Mask of Winters, the Deathlord who recently conquered the City of Thorns in the southern area of the Threshold, also known as the Scavenger Lands."

"We have received information through unusual channels that the Mask of Winters next target is the Horse Clans realms to his north, centered on the ranch town of Mishaka. We believe that he is attempting to create shadowlands as a threshold gate to move a force directly into the region around Mishaka via the Underworld rather than heading overland.

Your mission Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to stop the Mask of Winters efforts for a possible invasion. As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Bureau Head will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This scroll will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim."

Posted by Jvstin at 5:09 PM

March 29, 2007

And the Stone God Did Not Make a Sound

A standalone Solo RP bit I wrote for Ingrey in Time Under Chaos. I thought I would share it with a wider audience.

Ingrey is a Chaosian Diplomat from House Wererathe who works at the Chaos Embassy to Amber, in Mel Mason's Time Under Chaos game, where Merlin sits on Amber's Throne, and Mandor is his Prime Minister...

And the Stone God Did Not Make a Sound

Returning back to the residential building of the Embassy complex
after Breakfast, Ingrey Wererathe stepped into and through the rooms
of the modest suite that comprised his living space. Even after some
decades in the service of the Emperor in Diplomatic Service, his
accommodations were comfortable, but not overwhelming in opulence
compared to people of similar rank. Pieces were made of Cherry, rather
than more expensive woods such as teak. The furniture was more
functional than stylish, designed for comfort and use rather than
impressing the few that Ingrey allowed in his sanctum sanctorum.

In point of fact, if Ingrey stopped to think about it, if the likes
of Vikund Anansi or Morgan Deirdreson were, for some bizarre reason,
invited to his rooms, they would be either sorely disappointed in the
lifestyle that the Minister-Counselor lived in, or, more likely, it
would reaffirm their opinion of him as a poor civil servant without
the sense and corruption to enrich himself with his position.

Ingrey slowly divested himself completely of clothes as he moved
through his quarters with purpose, pieces of his outfit pooling in
small piles, making a bread crumb trail of his movements. Ingrey's
destination was a small alcove like room, not much larger than a
closet. In point of fact, it used to be a closet before it was
retasked for its current purpose. Ingrey's needs for the storage of
clothing were not quite as high as some of his counterparts and
predecessors, male and female alike.

The alcove was lit by a small mage light which Ingrey made a point
of always keeping lit, night and day. Some might use candles, or other
sources of perpetual lighting, but Ingrey liked the arcane approach.
The small yellow light, held in a sphere which dangled on an iron
chain hooked to the ceiling, illuminated a simple low kneeling bench
and a trestle table like altar. Both were made of granite. The former
was sometimes cushioned, depending on Ingrey's feelings that
particular day.

After the encounter with Duke Uther Helgram, and her Excellency's
decree, Ingrey felt the need to remove the trappings of comfort in an
effort to better seek guidance. Ingrey felt more comfortable, more at
peace with his God, if he delved deep inside of himself and brought
forth his true feelings of humility.

Thus, he removed the red cushion that sat on the bench and placed it
temporarily outside of the alcove. With this done and returning to
the matter at hand, Ingrey lowered his knees on the bench and faced
the altar. And so, naked, on bare stone, he was before his God, as he
should be. Masks were laid to the side, and the Inner Ingrey, as it
were, could be shown.

Upon it, on top of the crimson colored cloth that draped the granite
altar, was a single statue. Some Devotees had crude, worn images on
purpose, insisting that the quality of the statue did not truly
matter, it was the personal devotion that counted. Some, far more
affluent, had more beautiful and expensive creations. Like the
diplomat that he was, Ingrey favored a middle, moderate course.

The statue was made of obsidian, with a red garnet for an eye, and the
extended tongue was of garnet as well. The statue was in the form and
shape of Serpentor Custodes, the standing tall representation of the
Serpent, on guard and ready to strike if needed, with some of the
sinuous body pooling in black coils as the rest rose to face the

Ingrey spoke the opening Sura as he always did when he began his
prayers. He clasped his hands before him in prayer, head bowed.

"In the Name of the Serpent, the Most Gracious, the Most Wonderful."

"I seek refuge with the Serpent, the lord of the Turning,"

"From the evil of what he has created,"

"And from the evil of the darkening sky as it comes with its darkness"

"And from the evil of those who practice poisoning upon the guiltless."

"And from the evil of the envier when he envies."

Ingrey paused a moment and then began his plea.

"My Lord." Ingrey said, "I know not if the course I have taken is
the correct one. I have done what I must do as a Diplomat in the
service of his Majesty, but I do not know if my service to You strikes
the correct chord within my heart as well. Do you wish that I aid the
Duke Helgram, rather than hinder him, in his goal to destroy the
Patterns? Or does his mission displease You? Guide my hand, as it is
in the service of You, as I have done all of these years. I ask you as
a loyal servant to show me the path that I must take. I will walk it
for You, and with You, and my efforts shall reflect Your glory."

"And of my mentor, my superior, Paloma Baccaran. She is a loyal
daughter of the Church even if, to my knowledge, she does not have the
secret, inner relationship with You that I am privileged to have.
Help me, if it is your Will, to place her upon the Throne of Amber, to
be a fine Chaosian Queen for a King who is lacking in so many ways.
Help me help her bring the wisdom that you impart, to all of Amber,
both in the outer and the inner world."

Ingrey then closed his eyes, and opened his mind. It was a technique
he had learned many years ago, ever since those series of waking
dreams as a youth brought him to the attention of those in his House
who showed their devotion to the Serpent in manners above and beyond
the pieties of attending Church services. In his mind's inner eye,
the room's details were as rich as those in real life. It was a useful
thing, to have a shrine which was memorized so perfectly, that it was
as visible to Ingrey with his eyes closed as it was with them open.

In his mind's eye, though, the Serpent's obsidian beauty and form was
animate, liquid, alive, and aware. Ingrey felt the press of the gaze
of the garnet eye upon him and he felt the attunement that he felt to
the Serpent. It was personal and ineffable. With this attention upon
him in his mind, Ingrey repeated the plea and prayer he had just
addressed the stone statue, this time willing his mind to send the
words to the real Serpent who was represented as animate stone in his
mental vision, and was stone in the real alcove in which he knelt.
Even if he only imagined and conjured the sensation within himself,
the intense gaze of the mental construct of the Serpent washed over
him like a high tide upon a shore. The form did not answer, of
course, it would be impious for even a devotee of the Serpent in this
gnostic and esoteric fashion to imagine that any direct response would
come here.

And then Ingrey faithfully began to speak, both in mind and word, the
closing Sura.

"In the name of the Serpent, the most Beneficient, the most Merciful."

"I seek refuge with the Serpent, the Lord of the Thari"

"The King of the Thari"

"The God of the Thari"

"From the Malice of the Abyss which whispers in the hearts of the Thari

which withdraws from its whisperings after one remembers the Serpent."

"Those who whisper evil in the breast of the Thari"

"Demons and all beings."

With his prayer done, Ingrey slowly closed his mind again, opening his
eyes even as he closed his mental one. The familiar confines of the
room returned, the form of the Serpent returned to stone. Ingrey
bowed his head one more time, rose, and exited the alcove to retrieve
his clothes. Dressed, he walked over to a side table where a letter
box held some pieces of correspondence. One caught his eye. He
opened it quickly and easily with a gleaming silver letter opener with
an ivory handle. The envelope contained a letter in a neat script and
he recognized it. His mercantile Factor in the Courts, with news.

Picking it up in two fingers, Ingrey dangled the parchment before his
eyes and read the note. A rare, slight smile came across his lips.
With the latest portion taken from his most recent pay packet, his
invested funds in Chaos were at last nearly enough that he would be
able to now meet a bride price from even the likes of House Corrino.
His austerity was finally bearing fruit. And if the Serpent were
merciful and showed favor upon his devotee, he would one day have a
marriage union, as was right and proper.

Still, if he truly followed Paloma's decree now as part of her plans
to use him to sway the daughter of Mandor to her cause, he was going
to miss his Favorite, and no one to succeed her in his thoughts. No
one at all that might disturb the propriety of Mandorsdottir. Ingrey
frowned and pushed away the thought.

Ingrey placed the letter in another box, currently empty, to remind
himself to write an answer.

And then Ingrey left his personal quarters, making a mental note to
attend the official Church service on the morrow, and returned to his

Posted by Jvstin at 4:32 PM

November 9, 2006

The November Country

"This is the deal." Death said.

" I will give your father five years of life, backdated to a year ago, in exchange for the remainder of your life, backdated a year ago of course."

"What kind of life?" I asked, remembering my father's slow descent over these few years, even if I lived first several thousand and then only a thousand miles away, with few visits.

"Better than he had at the end as things are now. Good enough that he will be happy and healthy enough to appreciate them. And your mother, too..." Death continued. I nodded, remembering. Mom took Dad's death hard.

"Only five?" I said.

The bony form of the black dressed man shrugged. "He was at his life expectancy, and did not live a healthy life. Still, five more years."

"Would anyone know? What would they know?" I asked.

"No, they wouldn't know of your sacrifice. I know your tendency toward martyrdom." If Death could wryly smile, Death wryly smiled. "You'd know, though, before the end, and what comes after. You'd know."

I hesitated. Five more, good, years for my Dad. And the lives he touched. In exchange, for the rest of mine, and the lives that I touched.

"Death." I said. "I have my answer."

Posted by Jvstin at 4:45 PM