Monday, March 30, 2020

Being a Short Order Cook Blogger

You know one thing I kind of dislike about this urge to post lots of things, Blapril or not?

The sheer volume of unfinished drafts sitting in the "post" section of Blogger.

Not counting any fiction I'm working on, there's at least 5 articles from the recent couple of months still in draft form that I intend to publish. It's just that I look at what I'm working on, whether it makes sense to finish it now, and deciding that I'd be better off leaving them unfinished for now.

It's not like there aren't unfinished drafts in the blog's Post section; over the years we've accumulated quite a few of them.* A lot of those I started, got partway through, and decided to either table it for another time (that never came) or that it wasn't working and decided to abandon it. But now, with too many things to say but being uncertain in which order to say them, I have a lot of mostly finished posts that just need to be put in some semblance of order.


When I started blogging, I didn't expect this would be a problem. I thought that you'd write something, post it, and maybe you get some commentary from it, and that'd be the extent of my involvement in PC. However, with the dawn of the modern influencer movement has come the expansion of brand promotion, data analytics, and all sorts of other "non-content related" activities with running a blog.

Which, on the face of it, seems silly for a blog that is largely about a gaming movement that is long past its heyday.

Even if you discard --like I do-- a lot of the analytics, brand promotion, and other traditional "influencer" activities, you still have content that needs to be presented in a coherent way. And that's where my dilemma is.

When I have one major idea at a time, it's not a difficult matter to write, edit, and post. But if I get a lot of ideas at once --hey, my brain does kick in every once in a while-- sorting them out takes a few days. Or a week. Or two weeks.

But I guess the entire point of this massive jumble is that it's a good thing to have so much to say, but making sense of it all requires an understanding of blogging meta-issues that, to be honest, are not why you got into blogging in the first place.


Perhaps a better analogy is comparing blogging to cooking.

Both can be fun activities, and there are times when both feel a lot like work. With both you can take the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach and just make something with whatever you've got on-hand at the moment, whether it be a specific topic (blogging) or whatever is in your pantry (cooking). However, once you get into planning things out, you can then anticipate with regularity when you'll need to focus on different things. For example, some people do the "Taco Tuesday" or "Wine Wednesday" where they make meals that fit into a theme. Converting that into a blog, you can have a "WoW Wednesday" or a "Miscellaneous Monday" where a regular topic means you have a ready made posting direction.

Sure, you can mix and match elements as much as you like to keep things fresh, and gaming news has a way of interfering with the best made plans out there, but sticking to a regular schedule helps a person plan things out and also allows for consistent feedback.**


But in the end, whatever works for you is worth it.

If I'm going to meet the Blapril scheduling demands, however, I need to be in more of a planning mode if I'm going to order my unfinished posts properly as well as meet the increased demands of many posts in a month.

(The same goes for cooking, given that we're in lockdown for the foreseeable future.)

Oh, and one more non-blogging tip: despite my skepticism, air fryers work. I didn't ask for one and I had no intention of buying one, but I was given one for the Holidays this past Winter. Once I realized that a so-called "air fryer" is actually a mini convection oven, that opens up all sorts of avenues for cooking that I didn't have before. But yes, you can make killer onion rings in them, too.


*I can officially say "we" because Soul has exactly one in there from eons ago. Still, it's a blank entry, so I guess it might not count.

**Sheesh, I sound like a big data miner.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Going in With Eyes Wide Open

I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking, but I signed up for Blapril.

It's not as if I don't have things to do, games to play, work to keep me busy, or family to keep an eye on, but I guess I just wanted to to it.

Well, and looking back on last month I was uncommonly busy, posting-wise.

Even if you take out everything affiliated with One Final Lesson I still posted seven times, which is high for me. I typically try to hit a once/week posting schedule, with a couple of extra posts thrown in every month, so I'll freely admit that March 2020 was definitely unusual from my blogging output.

Of course, March 2020 will be remembered for another particular reason that I need not expand upon here.


And now I have to come up with a boatload of topics on an almost daily basis. I realize you're not required to do that in Blapril, but come on. You know what you're getting into when you commit to something like that. And unlike my last several forays into NaNoWriMo, I'm going to try to make this stick.

Why should it be different this time, you might ask? Probably because I actually finished a story.

Sure, it was a "shouting into the void" moment, but once I started writing an "origin story" of sorts for Cardwyn, I simply couldn't stop even if I wanted to. And now that I finished an actual work of fiction, I've found I can't stop. It's like I've been transported back to 2008-9, when I first joined LiveJournal and began to connect with all sorts of aspiring writers. I burned through a lot of virtual ink during that time, writing something that could only be described in hindsight as Mary Sue meets Marty Stu with lots of angst in the way. But being able to step back and realize what was happening, writing wise, meant I could actually write something better the next time around.

And less cringe worthy.

At the same time, I dropped fiction in favor of, well, this blog. I found it sated my need to write while keeping me on a (semi) regular schedule.

To be honest, I even stopped reading or watching fiction, because I felt I couldn't devote the time to it that I felt it deserved. I was happy to see SF/F take a more prominent role in our fictional worlds --written, visual, and virtual-- but I couldn't see myself devoting time to books, movies, or comics because of my completionist tendencies. Well, that and the desire of a lot of content creators to inject a lot of "pathos" into stories just to make the stories feel more "adult". Like I've said many times before, I don't need that in my fiction because if I wanted that I'd just turn on the news.

But you know how to get the fiction you want? You write it yourself.

And you actually finish the damn thing. And post it as proof that you finished it.


And now I've come full circle, with an urge to write fiction and devote more time to writing non-fiction as well.

Which includes doing something stupid and signing up for Blapril.

Oh well, I guess you couldn't say that I don't know what I'm getting myself into.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wordpress Doesn't Seem to Like Me

No, really.

I've commented on several Wordpress blogs lately, including The Last Chapter Gaming Blog, Kamalia et Alia and The Ancient Gaming Noob, but the comments never appeared.

My first thought was that I'd somehow screwed up and pushed a Cancel button or something instead of Post Comment, but I've since discovered that there is no Cancel button.

Okay, I thought. Maybe I ended up on a spam list somewhere.

The only issue with that is that I'd assume that if that were the case I couldn't post on Blogger hosted blogs as well, but I have no issues there.

So go figure.

It's not as if this sort of thing hasn't cropped up before. My wife managed to get our main PC infected several years ago, and even after I removed the infection our PC showed up on some block lists that our ISP subscribed to, so I had to wait until our PC vanished from those lists before we could connect to the internet once more.

I'm kind of hoping that's not the case, because removing infections can be a royal PITA.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Musings in a Brave New World

In these extraordinary times, when "shelter in place" and "pandemic" and "cancelled" have become active parts of our lexicon, I've been wondering about gaming. Obviously, if you're stuck inside the house one of the activities you can do --by yourself or with family-- is play games. If the mini-Reds were a lot younger, we'd be playing a ton of boardgames in our free time*, but nowadays they've been playing video games.

And yes, that includes MMOs.

The oldest mini-Red has noticed an uptick in gamers in LOTRO recently, and I've noticed more players online in WoW Classic as well, although the opening of Arathi Basin might have something to do with that.

As for ESO I can't tell, because I mainly craft these days.** and I've only been puttering around Belsavis and Hoth in SWTOR lately, which aren't typically your most populated zones.

But I've also been playing a lot of Civ IV games, and the second mini-Red has been playing a lot of Civ V.

What have you noticed? Has there been noticeable uptick in gaming?

*Relatively speaking. I work from home, and that hasn't changed. And my wife still works retail, and her job hasn't shut down yet as it's kind of important to distributing food and supplies.

**I've got it in my head that I'm going to do all of the expansions (both major and minor) in order, and that means saving up money to either subscribe or buy the mini-expacs outright, so I'm kind of in a holding pattern there.

Monday, March 16, 2020

You know the world has turned upside down when....

...I pull out an album I've not listened to since roughly 1990.

My wife asked me to fix her old Magnavox
stereo system, ~1987, so...

Some of the oldest mini-Red's university stuff is to the right; her university is going virtual for the rest of the semester, and I'm pretty sure that the second mini-Red's university will follow shortly.

EtA: Aaaand we just received word that his university is definitely going virtual. I guess it's time to hit the road again.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Happy Tenth!!

In the midst of everything going on, I forgot to mention that Kamalia of Kamalia et Alia has celebrated her tenth blogoversary on March 9th.

Kamalia's Gravitar.

I've enjoyed her fashion sense with her Sunday on the Promenade recurring series, having been able to create fashion outfits out of the tons and tons of WoW gear that you can use. Me, I'm just happy if I don't look like Burning Crusade clown gear, but maybe I should learn a thing or two about fashion sense (and I don't mean wearing white after Labor Day).

Over the years, Kamalia has seen her family grow with two new additions, and I can truly appreciate her efforts at keeping the blog running with two little ones around.

Happy Tenth, Kamalia!!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Two Inc To Lumber Mill

Yes, that means that Arathi Basin opened this week on WoW Classic, and Zul'Gurub and Nightmare Dragons next month.

A short refresher. And no, that's not
Cardwyn on the left. (From Wowhead Clasic.)

I guess that makes up for E3 being cancelled, among other major cancellations out there. eSports is but one venue being hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, but for gamers eSports and cons such as E3, PAX, BlizzCon, and GenCon are huge social events. Of course, gamer events are, comparatively speaking, small potatoes to some of the cancellations and/or modifications happening in other areas, such as the NBA suspending the rest of their basketball season, the NCAA Hockey and Basketball Tournaments to be played without spectators, and the Italian Serie A football season suspended.

Fast news week, if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shooting Robo-dinos with Arrows -- Coming Soon to a PC Near You

To get away from fiction for a while, news came out yesterday that the PS4 title, Horizon: Zero Dawn, is coming to PC.

From The Verge, who credit Guerilla Games.

Of all the PS4 exclusives, this is the one I was most interested in, and I know I'm not the only one. However, I'd kind of resigned myself to never seeing the game on PC because, well, Sony would like to keep their exclusives in-house and make you buy a PS4 instead.

I guess Sony must have run the numbers and decided there was more money to be made by releasing the game on PC rather than keeping it in-house. I'd like to think that's the case, as I can't possibly be the only PC gamer who simply doesn't have an XBoxOne or PS4 lying around.* Additionally, it certainly seems that consoles are driving the video games market, so PC ports can be more trouble than they're worth: with the XBox and PS architecture, you only have to design for far fewer sets of hardware than in the PC market. Additionally, PC gamers are used to much higher framerates and graphical detail than can be found in the console market. Nevermind that the number of PC gamers who have hardware that can achieve those lofty heights aren't that numerous, that the potential is there is the important part.

Officially, Sony is saying that they want to lure PC people into using the PS4, but I believe that everybody who wants and/or owns a PS4 already has a PC, so chasing after dollars from people like me --who don't have and don't want a PS4-- is kind of a head scratcher.

But hey, I'm happy to accept this lure by Sony. Sony had better not expect me to drop the full price for the game, however, as a) I don't have that sort of money just lying around, and b) I'm busy with other games first.

*I'm not including the Nintendo Switch here, as third parties aren't exactly flocking to putting their latest and greatest on the Switch. Their loss, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

On Being Debriefed

Now that the story is fully posted, I can take a deep breath and relax.

Once I started in on the tale, I didn't expect to be flirting with a novella length story*, but that's what ended up. I know it's cliche to say it, but the characters themselves insisted on a manuscript this size, although I did chop off quite a few words during editing.** Cardwyn in particular shoved me out of the way and took over the keyboard, insisting that "this was how it happened".

I originally started this project writing in third person, but it just didn't feel right. I personally prefer third person, because you can get multiple viewpoints from scene to scene, but once I converted to first person the story flowed much better. There are events behind the story that Card was never going to know --at least at the time, anyway-- so I had to create a cheat sheet with a timeline to keep everything straight.


One thing I immediately decided upon, however, was to expand the size of Azeroth. As of now, in both Classic and Retail, Azeroth is just big enough to allow people to travel and keep things interesting going from point to point. In much the same vein that Turbine/Standing Stone took towards creating LOTRO, if Azeroth were as large as it really should be, there'd just be tons and tons of walking around with absolutely empty countryside. Think of it this way: in LOTRO, you can ride from Bree to Rivendell within a day of game time whereas in Tolkien's Middle-earth it would have taken close to a week's riding travel to get there.***

An ancillary point is that according to the map of Elwynn Forest, there's a grand total of four farms present in the zone, with one of them a vineyard and another a pumpkin patch. That's simply not enough farmland to feed all of Goldshire, let alone Stormwind. Walking (not jogging) from where Guard Thomas is stationed at the stream near the logging camp to Goldshire is something around 15-30 minutes of game time, which makes sense only from a plot/game perspective.

Based on all of this, I essentially blew up Elwynn Forest into a super-sized version --complete with many more farms-- which also means that Goldshire takes on more importance as a regional farming hub than the WoW Classic version would allow. Consider the difference between Troyes and Paris in Medieval France: while Paris was the center of the monarchy, Troyes was a major trading hub in the Medieval period, enough to command its own fairs and draw people from throughout the region. Troyes even has its own cathedral, which is a very big deal in Medieval Europe.

There were other items, however, that I did not tinker with.

I knew in general what Evelyn and the others could do, and also knew that the four veterans (Balthan, Daryn, Evelyn, and Mona) were considerably more experienced than the Defias they were facing. That also meant that in game terms they were significantly higher level than the Defias, so they should have been able to steamroll the Defias in a fair fight.**** The leaders of the Defias gang undoubtedly knew this, and even though they thought they were originally going to fight just Daryn and Mona, they decided to use as many dirty tricks for leverage as they could. But once the actual fight began, I had to keep in the back of my mind whether things that Evelyn in particular did were possible within the context of the game.*****


In addition to this being Cardwyn's story, I wanted to keep any involvement from the "main" WoW NPCs to a minimum.

If there's one thing that bugs me the most about the WoW stories that Blizz puts out, they always focus on the "big players" within Azeroth. What makes WoW --and especially WoW Classic-- tick is that it's us, the players, who have the direct involvement in the story. And WoW Classic in particular doesn't elevate us to the level of the power brokers in Azeroth, and it doesn't try to either. You might be part of the army --represented in game by 40 person raids-- that takes down Onyxia, but you're not Luke Skywalker or Aragorn. At best, you're somewhere around Fatty Bolger's level#, who had a part to play but was one of many.

But the WoW books spend so much time on the "big players" that they miss the point of what makes WoW interesting: us.

I was determined that Cardwyn's story would not involve the "big players" at all, because this is a story about, well, us. No nobles, no kings, no high priests, no faction leaders, just people. Even the NPCs aren't exactly high up in anybody's command structure, and although at least one mid-high level NPC is mentioned in the story, there's no guarantee that he'll play a part in any subsequent tale. Additionally, there's no guarantee that Balthan is as well connected as he thinks he is. After all, the guy drinks at taverns all over Azeroth, and I can't imagine a faction leader --or their immediate subordinates or even their subordinates-- doing just that.##

That doesn't mean that along the way Card won't run into some people who qualify as "big players", but the story won't be about them, but Card herself. And I'm happy with that, because while I can wander over to Stormwind Castle, I don't have quest markers over the big players in the throne room. At least at the same rate as you find in some of the later expacs, anyway.

But an astute reader will figure out who Card's older sister is, and yes, that was deliberate. I always thought there was a story there with her, and I decided to tie that NPC in with Card's story. In as much the same way as the Blue Recluse barker or Ol' Emma roaming Stormwind, these are the stories I really want told.

No more "big player only" stories in Azeroth, please.


There is one last item, and it is presently driving me nuts, but Cardwyn will simply. not. shut. up.

It was as if I'd opened the floodgates, as once I finished this story Card has been bugging me, showing me scenes for other stories and other people, and insisting that these stories be told as well.

That's great and all, but I don't think it's going to happen just yet. And besides, I don't want to turn this blog into a fan fiction blog. I am also aware of my own limitations. I'm not that great at description, and while I don't aspire to be a Robert Jordan with his walls of descriptive text it would be nice to figure out how to describe things a bit better than the spartan level I presently can attain.

And although I'm grateful that Ancient allowed me to use Kitwynn, I don't want to create the Kit and Az Show. I do admit that it could be hilarious in its own way, but I don't want to take creative control over Kit. She belongs to Ancient, and I really like it that way.


So there it is, my big debriefing about One Final Lesson, and I'm glad I wrote it. It's something so unlike the rest of PC's output that I understand that people may not be that interested in it, but the concept behind the story was something that had been bugging me for quite a while. While I'll freely admit that when I hear "fan fiction" I immediately have "Rule 34" pop in my head, I knew that if I was going to make this story work I wasn't going to come within 10 miles of anything like that type of fan fiction.

Thanks for being patient with me for putting the story out in several posts.

*According to SFWA guidelines for the Nebula awards, a novelette is 7500 - 17500 words, and a novella is 17500 - 40000 words. One Last Lesson clocks in at roughly 18975 words, give or take some 10 words as I'd made some last minute tweaks that I need to add back to the original Word doc.

**The original draft finished at over 20000 words. I guess I tend to be a bit wordy.

***I should point out that unless you've invented the Middle-earth Express, horses can't be expected to be pushed to their limits everyday without collapsing. The same thing goes for people walking from Bree to Rivendell; I can see 10 miles per day on a normal pace (and remember a "normal pace" also includes stopping time for food/rest/camp setup before dark), and maybe twice that on a forced march, but keeping a forced march up for weeks will not leave the army with enough energy at the end to fight in melee.

****And in the end it was.

*****Yes, it could be done, if she was a Frost Mage and blew all her CDs. The only item added for dramatic effect was the time it took for the frozen Defias Mage to thaw. Typically it takes much less time in-game than what it was in the story, but as Card said, she kind of overdid it.

#If there's one thing that drives me nuts about the LOTR movies, it's that a couple of smaller but memorable characters, such as Fatty Bolger, had to get cut. Don't get me wrong, I love the movies, and I'm not really complaining about Tom Bombadil either, but I felt Fatty got the short shrift based on how Peter Jackson put the four hobbits together as opposed to the books. It also made Pippin more of comic relief rather than simply naive.

##If you strip away their responsibility, I could see a few of them doing so --particularly Magni Bronzebeard-- but the thing is that they can't. Their situation does not allow them that luxury at all, and to be honest once they get far enough removed from the common people they lose all sorts of perspective. Think of Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2: he goes out drinking and has a grand old time, but once he becomes king he has to put those aside for the serious business of ruling. What he effectively tells Falstaff and his drinking buddies is "I don't know you" once he becomes king.

Monday, March 9, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 6/6

Previous Installments:

One Final Lesson -- Part 1
One Final Lesson -- Part 2
One Final Lesson -- Part 3
One Final Lesson -- Part 4
One Final Lesson -- Part 5

When I woke the next morning, I felt immeasurably better. Mom was up and moving, if slower than her usual self, but she told me she'll feel better the longer she follows her daily routines. Evelyn and the first Kaldorei cleaned up my blood in the hallway last night; when I asked the Kaldorei how she knew to do that, she said "You don't want to know."

After breakfast I sat down with Mom, Dad, and Mistress Evelyn.

"You're certain you want to go through with this?" Dad asked.

I nodded. "Yes."

"Very well. The three of us talked, and Evelyn believes you have the making of a good Mage. She also believes that you need more practice, and that reporting to Deputy Willem at Northshire Abbey would provide you with a good start. She also believes there is a Mage assigned to the detachment there at the Abbey, and that Mage can provide you with some basic instruction before you go to Stormwind."

"What about the message?"

"We agreed that you can deliver the message," Mom replied, "but only when the Northshire Mage determines it safe for you to reach Stormwind."

Where am I supposed to go, and what is SI:7 anyway?"

Sunday, March 8, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 5/6

Previous installments:
One Final Lesson -- Part 1
One Final Lesson -- Part 2
One Final Lesson -- Part 3
One Final Lesson -- Part 4

Everything happened at once.

I cast the Frostbolt --well, not so much as cast but it escaped-- straight at the Defias Mage. No longer a puffball, it was densely packed iceball that shot straight ahead, leaving a long vapor trail behind it. 

The Mage jerked her arms upward as it smacked right into her chest.

A pair of shadows appeared right behind the two Defias holding Carys and Karyn, each plunging daggers into an arm and then the neck. I could see Carys and Karyn drop just as I heard the clang of daggers on cobblestone.

The Defias Mage hadn't moved. Bluish white ice spread from where my Frostbolt had hit her, encasing her in place.

As much as I wanted to jump up and down and cheer, I knew I only had moments. "Come on, Kit," I grunted as I burst out from the bushes. The throbbing in my head intensified as bile in my stomach lurched up toward my throat.

Evelyn raised her arms and the arcane burst forth in a blast of icy hell, freezing the Defias surrounding her. She then blinked out of view and I felt another burst of the arcane.

"Kill them all!" the lead Defias shouted just before he was bowled over by Dad. Balthan slammed into the Defias on the right and they collapsed on the ground.

"Get your weapons!" I heard Evelyn shout from somewhere to the left.

I reached the spot where Carys lay, still screaming. I flipped her over and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw there wasn't a nick on her at all. The Kaldorei was as good as her word. "Come on, Sprout," I said as I picked her up.

"CAR-WYN!!!" Carys shouted. "MAMA!! IT'S CAR-WYN!!"

I turned back to Karyn just as a Defias closed on her, dagger out. I tried to lunge for Karyn, but I was too slow; my head felt like it had split open, and while I managed to keep holding Carys I vomited all over the cobblestones.

A huge dark blur flew through the air and swatted the Defias away. The gigantic cat that nearly knocked me over in Stormwind let out a fierce roar and her jaws clamped down on Defias' neck. I heard a sickening crunch, and then another deafening roar from Kit.

My body was shaking uncontrollably as I wiped my mouth with my free hand. Something dark and red was dripping onto the ground next to me.

"Car-wyn, you're hurt!" Carys cried.

I nodded, unable to speak.

Karyn reached me and grabbed Carys, then offered an arm to me. I grabbed on and tugged in the general direction of the porch, and the three of us lurched over there like drunks leaning on each other for support. I collapsed on the top step and cradled my head in my hands.

"You're really hurt," Karyn whispered. "You're bleeding pretty badly." I heard cloth ripping, and then felt something pressed to my head.

"I'm supposed to be rescuing you, not the other way around," I croaked. I could hear sounds of fighting, punctuated with burst of arcane energy, but all I could do was moan a little.

"Oh Light," I heard Karyn whisper, terrified.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 4/6

Previous Installments:
One Final Lesson -- Part 1
One Final Lesson -- Part 2
One Final Lesson -- Part 3

The wind whistled through the fields as I strolled, fishing rod in hand, to go down to the pond. Kira and Jas were out of sight ahead of us, but Linna was a step ahead of me, hopping along, as she was telling me she was going to catch a catfish as long as her arm. I grinned, as I knew she was lousy at fishing, but the day was young and we snuck out before Mom and Dad would notice. We reached the edge of the woods and I could hear Mom calling something, so I stopped and listened.

"Come on, Cardwyn!" Linna called out. "We're almost there!"

I heard Mom call again, and I waved Linna onward. If someone was going to get in trouble, let it be me first. What was she saying? 'Where's my makeup'? No, Mom never painted her face...

I concentrated harder.

Was it 'wake up'?  But I'm already awake.

Linna stomped her foot. "Cardwyn, let's go!"

"Wake up, Cardwyn, please wake up!" Mom's voice again. At first it was from across the fields, but now it sounded like she was next to me, closer than Linna.

The fields and the fishing pole and the impatiently waiting Linna all began to fade. I smelled iron.  

Wait. There was something here...

"Come on, Sweetie, please don't be dead!"

Dead? But I'm not.... Why would Mom think that? What was I doing? Was I in the fields? No, what was I...


I threw the latch on the door and...

My eyes shot open.

Friday, March 6, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 3/6

Previous Installments:
One Final Lesson -- Part 1
One Final Lesson -- Part 2

Mistress Evelyn and Balthan wove through the crowded streets with such dexterity that I struggled to keep up, let alone follow their conversation. The dwarf's presence invigorated Mistress Evelyn, and she seemed younger than when she first arrived at our farm some hours ago.

"I don't know what happened to him," Mistress Evelyn was saying as we reached the bridge to the Mage District. "He used to always be out there in the field, working tirelessly to protect the weakest and most vulnerable."

"Give a man a little power and ye'll see what he's made of," Balthan replied. "Judging by his vestments he's not that high up in the Church hierarchy."

 "I just thought that he'd avoided the disease that afflicts the rest of the Stormwind nobility."

"There aren't that many that do, Evelyn. If those nobles aren't careful, someone's gonna chop 'em down to size. Look at Ironforge; there be just enough Dark Iron sympathizers out there to cause real trouble for the Bronzebeards, in spite o' all Thaurissan did. The Stormwind nobility is givin' some bad apples an excuse out there to rob the tavern, so to speak, and nobody has their watchful eye on the cask."

"Ah, Balthan, I've missed your way with words." Evelyn paused on the bridge to hug the dwarf, who looked embarrassed.

"I've missed ye, too, Evelyn. Where've ye been? I was hoping to see ye when I was last in Theramore."

"Retired. I was caught up in the Third War when I was visiting home and he came there, but aside from that I've taught quite a few of the children in eastern Elwynn and Lakeshire over the years. I wanted no more part in fighting caused by pride and stupidity."

The dwarf nodded. "Can't as say as I blame ye on that."

"So, I've been teaching all I can to try to rectify the 'stupidity' part. And also keep in touch with Daryn and Mona."

I felt there was an insult in there somewhere, but I wasn't exactly sure.

"How've they been?" Balthan asked.

"Really good, particularly given how things played out at the end. Daryn is still a bit bitter, but Mona has always been a hard read. This business might cause real problems for her."

"Speakin' o' stupidity," Balthan said, snapping his fingers, "I've been daft. I know someone who can help us out. She manages to get herself in all sorts o' trouble bein' in places she ain't supposed to, but she said she was gonna be here for another few weeks."

"Balthan, I've seen your so-called 'friends' before. How do I know she's reliable?"

"Reliable enough for me to trust her with running a message up to a friend in Southshore from Booty Bay. When I got here, I went to the Pig 'n Whistle, and sure enough the reply was waiting for me." Balthan turned back in the direction of the central part of Stormwind. "Lemme leave her a note and she'll catch up with us."

Thursday, March 5, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 2/6

Previous installments:  

Traveling through the portal was one thing: first we were in our barn and then we stepped into a long room with stone walls and filled with bookshelves. But the sensation of moving was akin to a wave washing over me, stripping away all weariness and stress.

"Ah," Mistress Evelyn said. "That rush never gets old."

I felt around to be certain I still had my clothing, and just as I breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn't naked I realized we weren't alone.

Men and women in various colored robes milled about the room, some reading, others talking in small groups, and some few surrounded by larger numbers of people. All seemed to ignore the fact that two disheveled women --one old, one young-- just popped into their midst.

Evelyn tugged at my sleeve once more. "Let's move," she said. "It's not polite to block the portal."

I took a step or two forward, glanced behind me, and nearly tripped over myself. A huge ring of metal with glowing runes carved in it, at least 10 feet high, stood behind me. Within the ring was a swirling mist of green, brown, and white, obscuring anything else. Standing beside the ring was a woman in robes and holding an ornate staff, watching.

"Welcome to Stormwind," she said in a carefully neutral tone. "Please clear the portal for other arrivals."

"Thank you," Evelyn replied, and yanked at my sleeve a bit harder this time. "Try not to look like you were living out in the Hinterlands," she whispered to me.

I gulped and nodded.

"Just follow me," she said a bit louder. "I know the way."

We walked toward the far end of the room, where another portal awaited. To my right, staring at a bookshelf, stood an impossibly tall woman wearing a blue, black, and gray robe with gold trim. My head barely came up to her chest, but what drew my attention were the long, vertical ears that poked out from above her golden hair and angular face. She glanced our way and did a double take. 

"Evelyn!" she cried, crossing the distance between us in two long steps and embraced Mistress Evelyn. "It's been years! How have you been?"

"Elsharin," Evelyn replied with a smile. "My bones complain a bit more, but the years since we last met have been too long."

"I would imagine," Elsharin replied. She spoke in an accent I'd never heard before. "I can see you're in a hurry, so I won't keep you." She then turned to me, her grin turning mischievous. "Is this your apprentice? I thought you'd retired."

"I did retire, but I do still teach non-arcane subject matter for the most part. Cardwyn here is the daughter of friends."

"I'm sure she is. Greetings to you, Cardwyn," she added, folding her hands together in a formal manner.

I mimicked her action. "Greetings to you, Elsharin."

Her smile grew even wider and nodded, as if I'd passed some test. "I'm certain we'll see you two around here again. Please do stop by when you're finished with your business here; we've a lot of catching up to do, and I'd love to get to know young Cardwyn better."

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

One Final Lesson -- Part 1/6

(This is a rarity for PC: an actual work of short fiction. A month or two before I thought about writing this post, I pondered character motivation and backstory for my toons. Az would be a really tough nut to crack, given all sorts of contradicting issues regarding The Rogue Life with Darnassian society, but I thought there was something I could write about for Cardwyn. When the time came to actually start writing, I thought it would be a short piece in the same vein as my sole other work of fiction on the blog, but Card had her own thoughts on the matter. A month and a half and waaaay too many words later, this is the result.

Okay, part of the result. Rather than do a dump of the entire story, I decided to break it up into six parts so that any reader wouldn't be confronted with a wall of text. I also decided I was going to finish the entire story before posting, because I wanted to make sure I was going to see this through to the end. I inserted breaks because, well, it'd likely overwhelm the blog otherwise.

Some final notes: This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to any people, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Any characters created by Blizzard for WoW Classic remain their property. Kitwynn appears courtesy of Tome of the Ancient. This work of fiction uses WoW Classic as the reference point, no other version of WoW. This was written by Redbeard of Parallel Context, 2020.)

One Final Lesson

Mom looked out the window into the fields, her jaw set. Her hands kept up their steady pace kneading the dough, with only a slight tremor betraying their emotion.

Fold, turn. Fold, turn. Grab a scant handful of flour and dust the dough before folding once more.

I always wondered how she could keep up this work for what seemed like hours on end, as baking day wore me out by noon.

"We could use the gold, Mom," I began.

Her eyes flicked back to me for a moment, silencing me, before returning to the wheat growing beyond the fence.

I turned back to the oven, inserted the long wooden paddle, and nudged a rapidly browning loaf away from the coals. Tired or not, Mom would make me turn over the manure in the yard this afternoon if I burned one. "It's not like I was joining the army."

"Ah yes, the army," she spat. "Go and see the world, meet people, and get turned into a ghoul. Or worse."

My knuckles turned white as I clenched the handle. She didn't need to bring up Uncle Aeron this early in the argument.

"Where is the army, anyway?" she continued. "You'd think that they'd be back home now, especially since the Plague is now some someone else's problem."

I noted that her "someone else's problem" conveniently left out just whose problem the Plague was.

"But Mom," I said, "I'm talking about our home. With the army not here, we need all the help we can get. Did you see those people the other day? Even Dad was shaken last night. And Kira says—"

"I know what your sister says. I'm talking about our home too." She tore her gaze away from the window to set the finished loaf to one side, covering it with a damp cloth, before grabbing another wad of dough from the large bowl.

She dusted the dough with flour and began kneading. "Did Evelyn put you up to this?" she continued.

"No, Mom. I came up with it on my own." Well, that was only partially true, and we both knew it. Mistress Evelyn talked about Lordaeron and the gleaming towers of Dalaran whenever she would visit, and that the beauty of Dalaran put the Mage Tower in Stormwind to shame. Her faded Tirisfal accent made her stories more believable as well has her lessons more bearable: a touch of the exotic in a world of crops, food, family, and neighbors. The occasional trip to Goldshire was a poor substitute.

Mom grunted as she continued to knead.

"You can ask her, Mom. She'll be here this evening."

If anything, Mistress Evelyn would prefer I do something else entirely. "Very few outsiders ever joined the Kirin Tor, you know," Evelyn frequently said when I was younger, "but if you applied yourself to your studies, Cardwyn, I would sponsor you." I was skeptical as to how arithmetic and grammar would help me join the most powerful Mages in all of Azeroth, but I kept those misgivings to myself.

"Hmmpf." Mom attacked the dough with a vigor that said we'll see about that.

Despite her outward resistance, I felt that Mom was at least considering the idea. She and Dad, among many others in Elwynn, were veterans of the Second War, when we nearly lost everything to the Horde. The Third War was, to a large extent, someone else's war, despite us all being part of the Alliance of Lordaeron. Dad would be a tougher nut to crack, as he'd had his fill of fighting after the Second War and had a long and healthy distaste of what "those Light damned nobles" were cooking up in Stormwind. But if I could get Mom on my side...

"Hey!" Mom's shout shook me out of my reverie. "Get that bread out before it burns!"

I shoved in the paddle and pulled loaves out to the edge of the oven. My eyes narrowed as I focused on the bread and the oven's heat, whispering a sing-song that Evelyn had taught me. I then grabbed the loaves, which despite the shimmering heatwaves felt nice and cool, and tossed them into a basket. The scent of freshly baked bread filled my nostrils as I lugged my catch over to another table and set each loaf out. Steam curled off of the loaves as I flipped each over, inspecting them for blackened sections. Not too bad for someone who wasn't paying attention, I thought, nodding with satisfaction.

"We'll talk about this later," Mom said, dismissing me with a glance. "And go check the manure pit."

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Conan Exiles -- TL DR: Wow, is this a Brutal Game

I downloaded and began playing Conan Exiles the other week.

When they say it's a brutal game, they're not kidding. I think I died more in two 1.5 hour sessions than Az died from her WoW Classic creation through Scarlet Monastery, and I'm not really exaggerating much.

And, I should mention, this was on the single player game.


If there's one thing I will say about Conan Exiles, Funcom got the Sword and Sorcery world of Conan pretty much dead on.

I'll have to collect my thoughts a bit later, given that I've not had enough time in-game to get everything squared away, and also that I have to go and read more online about whether my hunch of simply just killing animals and avoiding people for a long while is the right strategy. I suspect it is, because all of the NPCs seem to have metal weapons, and I'm stuck with pointy sticks at the moment.

I feel like I'm in a Conanesque version of Lord of the Flies.