Draugur’s Tale (Part IV)

Draugur’s Tale (Part IV)

My stepson is on a bit of Dungeons & Dragons kick, and is wanting to take us through a dungeon in the future. I created my character, a rather capable (I hope!) dwarf whom you shall be introduced to below, as a way of creating his background. It is also a way for me to play with writing serialized High Fantasy, in all of its troptastic glory.
It may also make more sense if you start at the Beginning. Or, mayhaps, you might be looking for Part II or Part III?– DPA

Draugur gave Kaltgier grudging credit. The Crime Lord had barely flinched at his henchmen’s quick annihilation, and the brief flicker of emotion he had betrayed was more embarrassment than fear. Whatever trap ye walked ye self into lad, the henchmen were nae the spikes, Draugur thought.

“You were, uh, about to say something, Master Dwarf?” Kaltgier asked with sardonic sincerity, steepling his fingers and half smiling.

Draugur didn’t consider long before plunging ahead. As long as your head is in the noose ye might as well jump off the pony. And that hairline crack in the desk will make a nice backup

“I do have a story for ye Kaltgier, but I find me mouth a wee bit dry from me exertions. Ye would nae have anythin’ strong enough for a thirsty dwarf, would ye?”

Kaltgier evilly smirked, before pulling out a large bell and giving it three sharp, loud rings. The door behind Draugur creaked open, with only a bit of stuttering as the bodies were pushed out of its way. Draugur braced, but refused to turn. He could not, would NAE, show fear. He caught Kaltgier examining him critically while pretending to watch the servant who appeared at Draugur’s side. Draugur took the proffered ale and took a healthy draught. Forgetting his company, Draugur toasted Kaltgier out of habit, as it was a truly fine ale.

Odd that that should surprise ye more than me killing ye guards, before saying, “Me tale begins some 30 odd years ago. Me brain was younger than me years, and had messed up me first apprenticeship or two. I’d even done the required stint in the King’s Guard, but found I didn’t much care for the hours, the work, or the pay.

“So back to the family trade for me, working for me dead uncle’s partner. He ne’er liked me, and I really never liked him, but me Uncle had asked it as a favor, and then went and got himself killed before me Master could ask him to rescind it. A favor’s a favor, after all, so he made the most of it. I’d been around jewelers me whole life, and it just didnae catch my attention. But, it being my last chance too, I also made the most of it.

“I was at the bench when a bunch of bruisers burst in. I tried to use a bit of my military training and it didn’t matter a shite. They beat me, roped me, and threw me in the corner.”

Drauger caught the glint of joy in Kaltgier’s eyes as he described the beatings, but refused to let it affect him. Instead he paused for another pull of ale before continuing. “I was knocked out for a bit, but not too long of course, us Dwarves be harder than stone: we delve it, not the other way!”

“Of course, Master Dwarf, your people’s hardheadedness is the stuff of legends. Pray, continue,” Kaltgier urged with mockingly sympathetic undertones.

Draugur bristled, but was too close to the end to let himself get rattled. Instead he grunted before continuing, “They soon had me Master tied to a chair and was beatin’ him without mercy. It musta gone on for hours, the whole time asking about the Stone of Jaaraer. I knew it to be mere myth, of course, we all did; but then me Master broke. Words poured from him like a flood. And when the men had their answer, they sliced his gut open and left him to die.”

“That is a truly sad tale, Master Dwarf. But they spared you? Out of mercy?”

“Nae. Out of sloppiness. The same incompetence that had them speak the name of their master before they left.”

“Oh I see. So you’re here hoping I can help you track him down?”

“Nae again,” Draugur replied, slowly shaking his head before shooting forward, axe at the ready. He knew it would take all of strength and more luck than he could rightly claim; but with a mighty swing of his Great Axe he hit the desk on the hairline crack he’d seen . His blow sundered the desk in twain, leaving a clear path to Kaltgier. “I’m a lookin’ at him.”

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703 Words

Straight to the Bottom

Straight to the Bottom
D. Paul Angel
457 Words

Dr. Callahan walked into the conference room. Once again she was the only woman in the room, but instead of all the older, white men in suits gawking at her, they we solemnly looking at their papers.

“You wanted to finally speak about my Psych Eval of the Suspect?” she asked, standing a little straighter.

“Dammit Callahan we don’t have time for that shit!,” Director Ashland erupted, “That asshole planted a nuke under New York! It’s going to go off God knows when, and we are shit out of options.”

“If you read my report-”

“Stop! Just fucking stop. We’re past the psych bullshit, got it?”

“Yes Director.”

“Now, we brought you in because you’re going to have to make a decision, and you’re the only one in this room who can. You have to understand there are 8 million lives at stake. We can’t evacuate them, we can’t even warn them without hysteria and panic, and the blast would kill almost all of them. Your country, these people, need you. They need you to make the right decision, regardless of personal sacrifices. 8 million souls, Callahan!”

“I understand sir.”

“Good. Because fuck knows I hate to be the one to say this, but we are out of options.”

“Yes sir.”

“Our Perp has given us a quid pro quo offer. He gives us the location in exchange for providing him, to be brutally blunt, a sex partner.”

After a moment of quiet, Ashland continued, “So you understand then why you’re the only person in this room we can ask to make that decision?”

“I do.” Callahan paused in thought before continuing into the room’s quietus, “Frankly, Director, it’s my decision that you would be the best choice.”

Ashland shushed the sudden shouts and gesticulations around the conference table, quelling the surreptitious glances towards him as well. “What? What in the Hell are you talking about?”

“As my report details, Sir, the Suspect is a sexual sadist with extreme dominance fantasies. Therefore the only decision I can offer is which of you would best fulfill that fantasy.” Callahan briefly waited for the renewed flurry of shouts and activity around the table to settle before continuing over the Director, “Sir, breaking you and exposing your deeply closeted urges is exactly what he wants.”

Ashland brooked no more, slamming the table with his hand, silencing the room as he stood, “This is an outrage!”

“It is, sir. But, as you said, sometimes the lives of 8 million people are dependent upon one individual’s personal sacrifice. I’m sorry sir, but my professional opinion is that you are the best option.”

“But I-”

“I’m sorry Director. Good luck, Sir.”

“But I’m a Christian!”

“Then I guess this is your Gethsemane. Sir.”

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Draugur’s Tale (Part III)

Draugur’s Tale (Part III)
D. Paul Angel
432 Words

My stepson is on a bit of Dungeons & Dragons kick, and is wanting to take us through a dungeon in the future. I created my character, a rather capable (I hope!) dwarf whom you shall be introduced to below, as a way of creating his background. It is also a way for me to play with writing serialized High Fantasy, in all of its troptastic glory.
It may also make more sense if you start at the Beginning. May. Or, perhaps, you’re looking for Part II?– DPA

Draugur stared at Kaltgier from across the Underlord’s massive desk. It dominated an otherwise huge room, and seemed to have been carved from the stump of a single, Great Tree. Kaltgier sat near its center, though the smooth, round surface extended some five yards in 270 degrees around him. Tapestries showing the hunting of exotic creatures hung from the walls, and dozens of wrought stands held hundreds of candles to provide light in the windowless room. Throw in some half a dozen guards, that he could see, and Draugur knew the audience he had sought had quickly turned into a very well furnished trap.

There are two ways to deal with a trap, he thought while running his hand along the haft of the axe in his lap, you either avoid it. Or you spring it.

“I understand you wanted to see me?” Kaltgier asked, steepling his and looking down his nose at Draugur.

“Aye, but, as a preliminary, I thought you’d be wantin’ your signet ring back. Bloody mess losing one of those, in’t?”

Kaltgier’s wry smile froze as the heavy ring arched its way to him. He snatched the heavy, gold ring from the air and inspected it closely. He rolled it across his palms several times before deftly secreting it into a pocket hidden amongst the layers of his silken finery. “A nice piece of work, I’d think. But, you have a practiced eye then, don’t you Master Dwarf?”

“More than most, less than some,” Draugur replied, shifting slightly to center his balance as he began walking towards the trap. He knew this would take all of his strength, dexterity, and luck, but 222 was a rather elegant age to die at too. Even if it is a bit on the younger side.

“I’d rather tell my tale in private, if’n you wouldna mind?” he politely asked Kaltgier.

Kaltgier’s wolfish smile returned as he grandly gestured towards them, “I assure you Master Dwarf, my men are loyal, and will not repeat anything said here.”

Draugur nodded as though considering before heaving the Great Axe on his lap straight up with a grunt. Even as it peaked just shy of the stone ceiling Draugur was up with a throwing axe in both hands letting fly towards the stunned guards by the door. Two more axes followed, finding their targets too before Draugur caught the Great Axe at the ready. His dwarven yell echoed through the room as he made quick work of the last guards. Their comrades bodies fouling their footing- and their courage.

“An’ I believe ye Kaltgier. Now.”

Continue on to Part IV

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Carving Words & Editing Stone

Carving Words & Editing Stone
D. Paul Angel

I read Victoria Griffin’s post about editing earlier this week and began thinking about my own take on edits.  I was reminded of a stone carving class I took years ago, and our instructor talking about how the tactile nature of sculpture differentiated it from other artistic pursuits.  It’s not enough to just look at sculptures, you have to touch them as well.  While I’m sure a lot of art museums may take issue with that, there is a lot of Truth behind it since, in addition to all the other variables, sculpture allows you literal control over how it feels.

Sculpture tends to be either additive or subtractive, with stone carving definitively falling into the latter category.  My approach, philosophically, was that the sculpture, the Art, is already inside the stone; it is merely to the sculptor to release it. I am slowly finding editing to be a similar process.  As I write my first draft I am trying to just get the concept out.  I’m creating the form, shape, and boundaries of my creation.  I am, in essence, creating the “stone” from which I shall make my “carving.”  Sometimes the form you create is so close to your vision that the only tasks remaining are to chip off a couple rough spots (fix internal consistencies) and polish it (stoopid typos!).

Other times, most of the time really, what my first draft creates is merely a shape, with the details of my vision still locked behind a layer, or three, of stone.  That’s where the magic of editing becomes more of an art and less of a task in recursive grammarianing.  The details are there, the final form is all there, it just needs to be eased out.  So another pass is done and more of the figure can be seen.  Sometimes the changes are huge, as entire paragraphs are changed, shifted, added, and abandoned.  As this happens my sculpture’s shape takes on huge changes as well, shifting from merely a reclining woman to an angel.

Then, with the final shape taken, another pass is made and the large pick gives way to a smaller, finer chisel, if not a rasp.  This isn’t about the difference between an angel and a woman anymore, or whether her arms are held out or tucked in, this is about whether her eyes are open or closed.  The kind of details that spur a story, and the reader’s imagination, along without slowing down the narrative.  These are the hidden gems in writing that you can feel as you carve as being right.  To me, this is the first true release of the vision.

But there’s one step more.  Sculpture allows more than shape and form, it allows texture.  This is where editing lets me choose my story’s tone, and allows me to give depth to my characters’ voices. A coarse robe on my angel conveys a different sense of her elevation than a smoothly polished one.  That is the layer of texturing and tone that can ripple across your entire story.  It is the difference between wrinkles earned from a lifetime of laughing or a lifetime of frowning, and it is the sleight of hand upon on which satire, twists, and who-dunits rely.

There is no part of your story which you do not wholly control, so embrace it, enjoy it, and sculpt bravely!

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City or Pub?

City or Pub?
D. Paul Angel

A lot has been going on with Reddit of late, which got me thinking about how we view the Web, and the sites we visit. I am not a Redditor, though I have used it occasionally, and I personally know many good, solid people who use it very positively. It would be easy to limit my thoughts on just Reddit, but I think it is more valuable to use Reddit as a lens to examine a larger question: are we visiting Cities on the Web, or Pubs?

Even as far back as Geocities and Angelfire days, websites were talked about in terms of being “Communities.” Like a city. You had your little plot of land to do with, or not do with is, as you pleased. You had neighbors doing their thing, and you were invited to interact. My own foray into this world came via Slashdot, where I was an active poster under the handle Shadow Wrought for many years.

Slashdot uses a moderation system whereby a small set of random Users are giving a small amount of points to spend upgrading or downgrading posts from -1 to 5. So you can browse comments at 1 and not see anything posted anonymously (default 0) unless it’s worthy. It also eliminates most of the trolls and worthless posts as well. Reddit uses an upvote system which feels vaguely similar, except there is no limit on how many votes you can spend, nor on how high a post can go.

Slashdot also allow Users “Journals” predating, if I remember correctly, even MySpace, and certainly Facebook and Twitter. The Journals eventually gave editorial control to the Users as well so that only those whom you had marked as friends could reply to your entries. Again, I think Reddit allows something similar in that there are curated subreddits for which membership is controlled, and abuses result in banishment.

In both circumstances, and nearly across all of Social Media as far as I can tell, the idea that these are communities is reinforced. Websites become the equivalent of Common Carriers, distancing themselves from the content they store. Slashdot makes clear that the poster of the content is the sole owner of it, and bears no responsibility for what is said. I’m sure everyone else is nearly, if not exactly, the same. This, again, reinforces the idea of a Community, and that what you say in your own “home” is up to you.

What got me thinking of all this today was a tweet on my feed from Wil Wheaton, retweeting a screenshot from Reddit showing dozens of subreddits dedicated to rape and misogynest violence. It made start to wonder at what point does the negatives a site like Reddit allow, outweigh the positives, such as giving a safe, electronic home to widely dispersed people? As I was pondering this, I began to wonder if “Community,” ie a City, is really the right frame to be thinking about the Web?

This isn’t actually the first time I went down this path, but it’s the first time I followed the thought all the way through. I have a Facebook account that I rarely use, but am trying to “get better at it.” A friend asked what I meant by that and I came up with the analogy that, for me, Facebook is like a neighborhood restaurant in which I don’t particular like the food, atmosphere, or service. However, it’s where all my friends go since it’s convenient for everyone. So, if I want to see them, then that’s where I need to go. When you follow that analogy though, you realize it’s on point in another regard. Cities, our real life communities, exist to take care of us. They are not built for profit. When they are, as in the old mining towns, they are anything but beneficial to the people.

Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Slashdot, MySpace, Fark, WordPress!, etc., etc… all exist to make a profit. So when you have your little plot of land on Reddit, its really more akin to renting a backroom at the local Pub. Without people coming to the Pub, it’ll close up shop. Without people coming to Reddit, it’ll close up shop too. It is the visits to Reddit, or any other site, that make that site money. The “community” may exist, but it does so for its benefit, not yours. This is why, I think, that “Pub” is likely a better descriptor than “City.”

Which, opens up an entire can of worms, if not bucket of snakes. If your neighbor in the City decides to fly the Confederate flag and invite people over to degrade women and minorities, there’s not much you can do. They have a right to personal expression, and the City is not allowed to stop it until it crosses certain thresholds of criminal behavior.

A Pub though, is different. If a table decides to start making degrading comments and is abusive towards other patrons, the Pub is well within their rights to ask you to either STFU or leave. In fact, it’s usually expected. If you see that behavior at a restaurant, and the management simply ignores it, chances are you’re going to leave. At least that seems to be the case with the Slashdots, Farks, Twitters, and Facebooks of the world, but as near as I can tell, it has not been the case with Reddit. Here’s where the bucket of snakes get dropped: at what point do the other patron’s actions and words make you need to leave an otherwise great place? Everything else is good, except for knowing that they rent out their back rooms to everyone from Nazi’s to NAMBLA. At what point can you no longer, in good conscious go there?

If it really is a community, you understand that the City has to rent space to everyone and you ignore it as best you can. But if it’s a Pub, if your presence there earns them the money to stay open so they can rent their space to groups dedicated to attacking women, people of color, and the LGBTQ communities, do you find someplace else? And, if you do, where is that line drawn?

In a City, the power ultimately rests with the people, and while it cannot stop the hateful speech of some of its citizens, if enough voices decry it, it can at least take the power from the bigots. But in a Pub, if the management shows it has no interest in curbing the abusive behavior of some of patrons, do you have any choice but to leave? Or, having invested so heavily in making the Pub a good place for you and your friends, do you keep going and nagging the Management to make it better?

I am asking these questions in all earnestness because I really don’t know for sure. I don’t know where the line needs to be drawn, but I am very much curious about your thoughts? City or Pub? Is there a line to be drawn, and if so, where?

On the Forciness of Lightsabers

On the Forciness of Lightsabers
D. Paul Angel

I was thinking of Star Wars recently, like you do, and I had a thought about lightsabers that I think would have made them even cooler: what if Forciness was required to control the blade? Right? So instead of just anyone flicking on a lightsaber and going to town, as Han did on the Giving Tauntaun, you would have to actually have some ability with the Force.. This is not, however, without a few consequences…

  • Consider the scene with Han. As soon he lights up Luke’s lightsaber there be an unrestrained burst of energy. Although it would make for a messy sleeping bag, to say the least, you could replace Han’s, “And I thought they smelled bad… on the outside…” line with, “At least that went better than last time!” In theory you could even do both :-)
  • When deflecting blaster rounds, our intrepid lightsaberers could not only move the whole weapon, but make the blade itself deform or bend here and there as well.
  • General Grievous, being a Forciless droid, would live up to his name in a matter of milli-seconds and become the poster child for organic life forms trolling their mechanical creations.
  • It would also make Luke’s initial training on the Falcon far more interesting. “Concentrate!” would take on a whole other level of meaning since Luke’s lightsaber could rather easily punch a hole straight through the Falcon.
  • Those who can touch the force would necessarily become much more powerful. It would make Darth Maul’s duel-weilding all the more impressive since he would be maintaining the containment on two separate energy streams, in addition to flight with them.
  • And, when Qui-Gon’s assault on the bridge of the Trade Federation’s flagship is slowed by the second blast door, instead of restarting his work when it’s closed, he could use the Force to extend his beam instead.

Now if you want to really go down this rabbit hole though, I have one last “what if” to ponder. What if the Force wasn’t just necessary to control the blade, but to power it as well? Just using a lightsaber would require a tremendous amount of exertion, making the warriors using them even more badass. In that case Luke’s lightsaber would have been of no more use to Han than a chunk of metal. (Though Han strikes me as the type who always has a knife on him too- just like a good blaster!)

Finally, I a offer this not in the the hopes of changing Star Wars, it’s already seen enough retconning!, but just as a thought for others who, like me, sometimes dream of being Jedi Knights.  Or Sith Lords.

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Draugur’s Tale (Part II)

Draugur’s Tale (Part II)
D. Paul Angel
380 Words

My stepson is on a bit of Dungeons & Dragons kick, and is wanting to take us through a dungeon in the future. I created my character, a rather capable (I hope!) dwarf whom you shall be introduced to below, as a way of creating his background. It is also a way for me to play with writing serialized High Fantasy, in all of its troptastic glory.
It may also make more sense if you start at the Beginning. May. – DPA

Draugur walked down row after row of Kaltgier’s clerks. The signet ring, as he had expected, had granted him far more access than he could have hoped for otherwise. Kaltgier may have the facade of a wealthy, respected Baron, but normal businesses don’t often have Dwarf fighters casually saunter through their offices. Even when the odd clerk did look up and see Draugur’s mail and assortment of axes they scarcely took notice. That’s either the best sign yet, thought Draugur, or the worst.

The hall was long, with a high ceiling supported by sweeping arches, placed farther apart than Draugur’s builder’s eye thought prudent. Clearly built by humans, he thought, continuing onwards.

Despite the rooms thick, stone walls there was a distinct draft that flickered the multitude of oil lamps around the desks and columns. Draugur’s thick boots were muffled by the yard wide carpet that ran the length of the room along with the shuffling of papers and scratching of quills. That and his height meant his approach to the far, gilded doors came sooner than the half dozen human guards had expected. They were still trying to position themselves as Draugur simply pushed through them, once again holding up the signet ring as a totem of passage.

He pushed the massive, oak door open with a single, great heave. He knew from their height they’d be heavy, but wasn’t expecting them to be so lightly balanced that his thrust would violently slam it open. With a dull thud the door slammed against a pair of guards inside, crumpling them into an awkward heap. Draugur barely regarded them before turning his attention to the high dais on which Kaltgier sat, looking down on a trio of Nobles and a tonsured Cleric.

Draugur took the initiative in speaking before Kaltgier could finish either standing up or articulating an oath, “Nice doors, Kaltgier. Too finely balanced for human work though, so you’ve clearly worked with dwarves before.”

With a flick of his hands Kaltgier dismissed the group kneeling before him and regarded Draugur with an icy, malevolent glare. A glare Draugur matched with thrice a lifetimes worth of Dwarven fortitude. “Well Kaltgier,” he said, breaking the silence, “are we going to talk, or do you just like staring at me beard?”

Draugur’s Tale continues in Part III!

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