Melisante, Bride of Fire!

The following story is a fan-fiction character background for a game that I will soon be playing.  The game will be played in the Forgotten Realms setting; a Dungeons and Dragons game and a product of Wizards of the Coast.  There are usually two ways I write backgrounds. The first is in this form below, illustrating out how my characters life has gone. It is a way for my to understand the things that move them. The second form, is one I have used on this blog in the past. I use the character as a storyteller to relay a small part of their life to you. Again that also allows me to step into the head of that character. But both help me in different ways and on occasion I will do both.

I had the idea for this character and her background for a while, but have only just tonight put it to paper.  It came surprisingly fast for me, though I did have motivation. So this story is dedicated to Sarah, my unyielding task mistress and one of my girlfriends. *grins and winks* Hope you enjoy.

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Born: 1350 DR Tear of the Morningstar

Melisante Fatin el Zubaida is the second daughter born to Sayyid Hamil el Zubaida and Ziya Nur el Zubaidak.  Sayyid Hamil el Zubaida resides as one of the Sultan within the country of Calimshan, and heads of one of the oldest noble families of the country.  The families’ holdings control much of the spice and rare herb trade inside Calimshan and control a fleet of trading vessels that export those goods and others to the outside world.  The families main base of power is centered primarily out of the great city of Calimport, and in that city of intrigue and danger, is where Melisante grew up.  One could assume that the life of a noble is easy, and perhaps it is so when compared to the street trash or slaves.  But the nobility have dangers in their lives as well.  Those dangers are as life threatening, if not more so, then the ones that the low born endure.

When Melisante was born she was “touched by the flame.”  This was a gift that had not been seen within the family for a few generations.  She had unnaturally red hair, red eyes (just the iris, not the whites), and a birth mark that appeared to be flames upon her forearm.  Well aware that their bloodline had been mixed with the Firelord in their earliest days, the Sultan called for the priests of Kossuth to verify his daughter’s signs.

The priests quickly confirmed that the baby was blessed by Kossuth and would grow-up to be something not quite normal.  With that they offered the family a tutor, to appear when the child became five years of age.  That person would help guide Melisante to the path she needed to follow.  They explained that children blessed by the Gods directly had predestined futures, and that she should be allowed to pursue the path she wanted.  Kossuth would guide her steps and the family should obey those whims.

With those loose restraints, Melisante became quite wild.  At the age of five she received her first tutor from the Temple of Kossuth and quickly ran through four others until one was able to rain her wild spirit in.  Kalistin the Red Crone was an elderly priestess of Kossuth that had no patience for children.  She had a firm hand and was allowed the freedom to use it.  Melisante fought in those new restraints, but eventually succumb to the Crone and started to learn at last.

Though as the girl grew up, it was apparent that she was becoming vain and believed she was superior to those around her.  Melisante also showed some ability with divine magic and even at a young age was starting to grasp some orisons.  But she was beginning to be unreasonable in all things and perhaps a bit delusional.  At the age of eleven Melisante believing that the fire was at her control, stuck her hand into a religious pyre and kept it there through the pain; until she nearly lost it.  That lesson shook her world and the grasp of her abilities.

The Red Crone noticed each of these flaws.  In the wake of the Melisante’s stupid attempt, she believed it would be best to remove the child from the family and country.  A priest of Kossuth and more importantly a student in training to be a priest must be live a life without.  Until she acquired a middling rank within the church she would never be allowed to own possessions of her own.  Aside from what she was given, she would own nothing personal.  She also would have to obey all her betters within the religion.  Calimshan would not be a place inductive for her to learn such lessons.  The power of her family, and position within the countries politics would never allow her to fully become accepting of her duties and the obligations that came with them.

Melisante’s hand was forced to heal naturally, to teach her a lesson.  When she was fully healed, the Red Crone brought her on a pilgrimage.  The two of them went to their faith’s greatest temple, the Flaming Brazier within Thay, based out of the city of Bezantur.  Thay had many of Calimshan ideals; strong magic, slavery, harsh leaders, and political undercurrents.  But it was far more intense and had a much more dangerous Kossuth upbringing.  Students and priests would live or die by their choices.  The Red Crone believed Thay to be a perfect proving ground for the child and that the hardships she would endure there should make her that much stronger; if she lived.

Those years were quite dark.  One does not survive to the higher echelons within the religion of Kossuth if they are meek, weak, or kind hearted.  All acolytes fight for places within their superiors eyes, and often there is blackmail or freak accidents when insults fly or jockeying for position gets blocked.  The faith believes in burning away the weak, some students and teachers take that to heart.

By the age of fifteen, Melisante had been poisoned, beaten, burned, stabbed, raped, and had been forced to endure many other degradation.  But she had survived and had become stronger for it.  Many whom had committed acts against her, even priests, had not lived long after.  Because of this many began to fear her and believe that she was touched by their God.  Such were the rumors that spread, with the help of Melisandre and the few close friends she had made.

That year was also the first year she was deemed suitable to go out representing the temple.  Her first mission was to provide healing support for the invasion of Aglarond.  Melisante joined hundreds of others to work for the armies of Thay.  The faithful worked always in groups and were a vital part in the support services.  Melisante began to practice daily with her weapons, and watched many of the soldiers who did the same thing.  She found a thrill in using them more and started to see the real reasons in why she needed to know how to wield larger weapons.  Melisante soon found some teachers among the troops; most would claim it was their duty to disabuse her of the priests “wrong” fighting styles; so they all said.  But she enjoyed their attentions and took what she could use from the lessons, which improved her combat immensely.

Melisante worked in and out of Thay for years.  She continuously proved herself and always returning from deadly missions made her stand out.  Those people blocking the path of power she walked seemed to falter or die.  After ten years of struggling to advance as a priest, she finally achieved a middling rank among the temples acolytes.  With this new status, she was finally given the freedom all the lowest priests desired.  Now she would be able to acquire her own wealth, power, and all of the things she desired in life.  A life of poverty and complete acceptance to all her superior actions was over.

Not too long after achieving her new rank, Melisante and the Red Crone returned to Calimport.  Her father and family soon swept her back into society, praising her return and her fast advancement among the faith.  Melisante began to teach a few classes at the local temple and quickly embraced her new place within society.  She was even courted, by the low and the powerful alike.  A life of wealth and power was at her fingertips if she only was to take it.

But soon she began to grow uneasy and untested.  During that time, she began to have vivid dreams and daytime visions.  Melisante saw a land of cold, with blizzards leaving travel nearly impossible and a cold that seemed to crack the very trees that lived there.  It was a land without much and in desperate need of fire.  But she knew that in a land such as this one, fire was life; especially within winter.  She began to gather information about the churches reach within the lands of the north and found that it had nearly no temples in the far north; like the land of the silver marches.  The land was rugged; overridden with orcs, giants, and dragons; there was little high society and political rankings.  But the more she read about this backwater place, the stronger her dreams were and the more numerous.  The people and places became so real to her.

Melisante studied up on the people, the places, and the languages common within those areas.  She plotted out the route she would take to get there; most likely leading her through the well-known city of Waterdeep, where her family had some businesses as well.  But it would be easy for her to get to Waterdeep, and then she would have to find a way to travel northward.  With this new adventure driving her and the knowledge that she was being led by Kossuth’s fiery hand, Melisante began to grow at easy again and started to feel determined more than anything.  After months of plans and studying, she finally departed her home.  The trade ship Flaming Sands, one of the ships from her family’s northern fleet took her north to her new life.

 

Melisandre3

 

Written by TJ Winter

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The Incredible! Jhango Khalas

I Jhango have never been one to stand still when others are acting. When you consider what to do before doing it, you most aptly will turn up dead. And who wants that? Why is Jhango so special when compared to these other people around himself? It is true that his breeding had much to play in who he is today, but it is also the case that he is a trained killer; reformed of course! Jhango does not kill for sport or pleasure, he try only to kill when he is angry. This is good! We all think so Jhango is sure!

So Jhango’s story must be told in quick fashion, we all know that he is just stopping by for a drink and nothing more. –chuckles– The town guard are most likely going to blame Jhango for the fires in the Wardens Corner. Why is this? Well it is simple, he is who he is, and because of that people will fear Jhango! It is fine, Jhango does not worry about such things. So he drinks and tell you his story!

Twenty-five years ago, Jhango was born in Tyraturos, Thay; the city of spices! Yes, the place with all the evil wizards! It is true! Jhango’s mama and papa were both esteemed members of the noble cast within Thay; but they were normal. That is to say that they were not casters, so within Thay they were still under the Red Wizards authority. But here comes their pride and joy! Jhango was born and so loved; he was also gifted with the magic of the world!

Now… this is where the story gets interesting! The wizards identified Jhango’s talent early on, and stripped him of his beloved parents to become more! It is true, Jhango was taken away; do not despair for his parents gained much power for having a son join the order. Some say that they road his coat tails into higher societies then they had once known, even as nobles.

You must now understand that to become a Red Wizard one must train under other within the order until they are ready. There is also much trails and subterfuge; it is true, this mean that Jhango had to fight for his life among the other apprentices! Yes! Little children fighting for power and placement among their betters! Such things today that tears at Jhango’s soul, and makes him a better man; NO! a good man for the rest of his days!

For years Jhango faught for his life, and learned all that he could. At the age of 19, he was ready to be inducted into the order! He was tattoo’ed and given the gifts… that all Red Wizards enjoy on the night before their induction. It is true! These gift, are gifts of the flesh, the drink, the soul, or whatever perverts the wizard. Some you know can be quite sick! No Jhango will not speak of his own, was private you understand!

So is Jhango a Red Wizard? He sees your eyes thinking this question! Do not fear, drink drink! Jhango is not a Red Wizard, well perhaps technically he is; but he was never inducted! Just so! He never said the words! Which means, it is not so! Ahh he sees you understand now, Jhango is right! So why did he never say the words? He did not want too!

Jhango was not about to be tied down, so he snuck out! Yes Jhango is quite sneaky when he wishes to be. He would sneak out all the time in his youth. Getting around the masters and other apprentices was a key reason Jhango made his way to the top! It is so Jhango’s new friends! It is so!

Jhango sees you wish to know what he does now!? He sees you do! He does! Jhango is a hero! It is so! He saves beautiful woman, children, and on the occasion ugly ones as well! He has no real preference, he just would rather save the pretty woman. Jhango can see that you understand! What man would not want to? So Jhango fights evil, banishes warlords, steals the hearts of all woman and pretty men, and is incredible at doing so!

But always remember that heroes are never given their due! Particularly from guards, other jealous men, and legal systems. Jhango knows that the best place to be after doing an incredible good act, is somewhere else! It is so! At times, yes… Jhango must say that he has to throttle guards, but think of all the good that he does; Jhango cannot be locked up! It would allow evil to triumph!!! It is so! So… Jhango remains free at all costs!

So Jhango’s friends! Remember about the hero you met! Jhango does not do appearences, remember this is not so! But he must go, or else he will have to throttle more guards. Jhango does not want this, it would sadden his big heart! Next drinks on Jhango!!! –Tosses some gold at the bartender and sweeps out of the bar with his cloak swirling behind him, and the scent of saffron in the air–

Written by TJ Winter

The Nightsong

 “Most people are afraid of the dark.  You can see it in the way they move at night; always searching for movement, always looking over their shoulders, and jumping at every noise.  It is like they see figures in every shadow and hobgoblins under every bush or box.  Others would scold them for their ignorance, but those same people do it to.  What do I say to those people?  That is, what would I say to those people if I cared?  That they should beware of the night and they should run from the shadows.  For I know above most men, what lurks in those debts; and it scares me too. “ 

Bastious Nightsong

I will make my tale short, for I am a musician and not a storyteller.  I will try to spin this story as well as I can, without too much obfuscation.  My name is Bastious Nightsong; but I have been called many things, some not quite names and others mostly masks.  But of those names, I was Derrek Fistoss, Asial Fifner, Len Tarrock, and finally my birthright; Kesurt of House Duskwood.  I am noble born and breed, the 5th child of Edis and Patreece Duskwood.  Ahead of me in the birth order, was my oldest brother Boron, whom loved books and scholarly ideals.  The twins Landon and Derdin were next in line; and both pursuing a life that would keep a sword in their hands as much as possible.  My big sister Elistre, with her high ideals and stern demeanor was closest in ages to me, not but two years older and many more in spirit.  She was my closet kin, and rival after a fashion.

My sister and I inherited our families’ talent for magic, though as I say this I scold myself.  Let me explain…  My grandparents, rest their souls were great masters of the arts of magic.  Their four children became masters of the arts as well; my father Edis was the oldest of those siblings.  Yet, of his children and too his dismay, only we two had shown that inherent ability.  My sister, had that inheritance, but while she had a bright mind and quick wit, she worked ten times harder for every scrap learned, then I.  And she cared with a deep passion for it as well.  While in respect, I had the talent!  But not a hint the passion was in me, at least not for magic.  When the spark came to me, magic wise, I pulled off tasks that she herself had worked months on, in only days or hours.   And while they tried to mold me, I was too carefree.  But isn’t that only natural?  I was a child of only six at the time.

While as bright and clever as my sister, I enjoyed my youth and found my passion within music.  Being of a wealthy house within the high nobility made bards and other musicians easy at hand.  My mother loved to sponsor such people, and she bore a gift for music as well.  I marveled in those things and found a talent for that growing in me as well.  My young soul was wealthy!  I had a family full of love, privilege, and power.  I had a talent for magic and music; and for getting into trouble I must say.  Being the youngest did have its privileges and I abused such thing.  For many years after I became an adult, looking back at those days would bring tears to my eyes.  Those were the days of my youth, and a month after my ninth birthdays I became an adult.

You ask how I could be an adult at only nine.  That was very easy, for when we are young, we live in the moment and think nothing of the future.  But on the day we begin to think about the future and our own safety, we become an adult.  From that moment on, our childhood is shattered to the wind and can never be brought back.  Our eyes become opened, and our minds scream for its loss; and all is changed forever.

Every summer we went into the country to live away from smell and heat of the city.  It was only when things began to cool that we would move back and joins the pleasantry of court once again.  But that was typical of many families with our means.  But on the summer of my ninth year, I woke one night to loud noises.  Looking back, and remembering from the eyes and ears of a child.  Those noses came from every direction, and the walls of the house shook; I sure I imaged monsters around every corner, breathing fire and lightning, and eating bad children like me.  At least, that is how I saw it then.  Though now I look at it more rationally; quite simply my families’ estate was being attacked by a large force that had the aid of destructive magic.  That would account for my monsters, and did from what I had learned in later years.

At some point that night my sister Elistre rushed into my room, fully dressed for travel; with a pack at hand.  Elistre was always well together, 11 years then and more than 30 in spirit.  She helped me dress and rushed me into our families lower wine cellars; a place I had played hunter and prey on more than one occasion.  Yet she opened a door I did not know about and lead me into darkness.  I can only remember now, that the darkness was ever so peaceful from the chaos that engulfed the house upstairs and I found comfort in it.  That was the first time I realized, that even in the darkest depths of shadows one could find beauty and protection.  We must have spent an hour in that tunnel.  Do not get me wrong, it was scary and I was terrified; but I do not think it was because of the darkness, it was in not knowing where we were headed and what we were leaving behind.

Sometime later, we left the tunnel and found ourselves within a thick forest.  The moonlight on that night shined through the trees casting an eerie glow upon the land; but only in patches every here and there.  I remember how cold my sister was that night, and our brisk conversation.

“Where aw we going sissy,” I asked.

“Safety,” she answered while walking with a staunch determination.  She held my hand like an iron vice, and it pained me.  Elistre glanced briefly at me, without breaking stride and said, “Grandmother told me where to go, just before she was killed.”

“Mammy was k… ki… killed!” I screamed, too shocked to think of our situation and the peril we might had been in.

That is when I found myself on the ground, dizzy, with a pain on my head.  My sister had struck me down, and was then glaring down at me.  No love touched her features, and not only a little hate.  Then she spoke to me softly, and with a terrible tinge to her voice; “You shut your fat mouth, our whole family is dead or dying… we might have people after us right now.  So you shut your mouth or I’ll leave you for them!  You will not talk, cry, or do anything other than nod your understanding to me!”

That was it, I did understand her in some way, and I was afraid.  I walked silently at her side through the woods and we stopped a few times to rest or hide I believe.  Though I was in a daze and remember very little I am embarrassed to say.  I do not know if it was a couple days or even a week later when we finally reached the city; perhaps it was even hours.  I can remember expecting to see our compound around every corner, but it never came.  Elistre told me our new names were Lisu and Len Tarrock if anyone asked.  She of course told me that she would speak for us, and I was to keep silent.  But she did continue to drum those names into me while we walked, and I believe that training might had even started on those days in the woods.  Again, I remember little.

Once in the city we stopped at many compounds, I remember that they were places I had been when I was younger.  They were friends of our family, and I believe Lisu hoped to find protection with those that had called themselves friends to House Duskwood.  But word of our families fall had preceded us, and those… noble people seemed to want nothing to do with the pair of us.  So the children of House Duskwood were now shunned, ignored, and in some cases chased away by those noble peoples.  Whether out of fear or hate, I have never found out.  But my families’ enemy must have had an iron reach.

We visited a dozen houses that night, and soon after Lisu believed we were being followed.  It took me even longer to hear the noises behind us; both footfalls and metal rubbing against itself.  Dangerous sounds, especially at night, when you are young, unarmed, and scared out of your wits.  We ran, with all the vigor of youth; and those footfalls pursued us for many streets.  But before I knew what was happening, I was dragged into the darkness by strong arms.  Those arms held me hostage and covered my mouth until I was completely immobile.  Not seconds later, I heard those sounds from our hunters drawing nearer, and then they passed wearing all the livery of the royal guards; there was at least a full dozen of them.  Darkness had protected me again, and I lost consciousness to its sweet embrace.

Two years later found me and my sister fully intergraded into one of the city’s largest thief guilds.  We had taken on new names again, I was now Asial and Lisu was now Sara; we had remained siblings with the last name Fifner; since we looked so much alike.  I believe we had grown closer in those years, but I am not sure if it was out of a sense of mutual protection, the fact that we were all that was left of our family, or that I had changed so much.  I had hardened and shred the skin of my youth, I let go of my innocent, my ignorance, and my arrogance.  In all respects, I was just like Sara then.

The guild took us in and taught us their trade.  And while it seemed that there were large bounties on our heads, Lacindra, the master of the guild took pride in the fact that she owned us and hide us under their noses.  You heard me right, she owned us and we put our tallies towards a debt that she long ago told us would be the cost for our salvation.  Sara’s star rose in the guild, her sharp intellect and calculated actions allowed her to run her own crew, and all knew of her temper.  That temper was when her magic flared to life and broke like a river breaking free from a dam.  At least that was the rumors at the time, I suspect it was not always that bad, but kids will express things and bolster them to a greater degree.  It was those displays that soon found her sold off to a wizard whom happened to view one of those moods.  From what I know, Lacindra made a good deal and she soon found herself with other business deals with that very same wizard was well.   After that, my sister and I saw little of each other, but she would come to visit on occasion.  And I found out that she was free and no longer property; and how I envied that freedom.

My path was quite different in respect, I started out a teaser; which meant I would distract others while the crews I was assigned too pulled off their tasks.  In those first two years, I grew a lot and eventually was larger than most of the boys in my age group.  Those were dark days for my soul; I had lost my talent, it hid itself deep within my memories and behind some wall that blocked it all away.  Anytime I heard music I would shy away from it, and the only thing that seemed to bring me any passion were my fists.  I slowly grew to have a short temper, and I got into many fights.  To my embarrassment, I also had a cruel streak.  When my sister left me, I felt alone, and abandoned by the last person whom I expected; by the last person that knew truly who I was.  I passed through many crews in those years, not many enjoyed the mean boy I had become.

When I was 13, Mistress Lacindra gave me to a weapons master named Karn.  I believe she hoped to focus my temper and my fighting spirit, and perhaps to beat the meanness out of me.  It worked, and I was reined in; in the most violent manner of a strict teacher.  I spent three years living in Karn’s school and training with other students that he was given.  I learned the art of fighting, and tactics from his hand and other teachers at the school.  But eventually Lacindra wanted me back.  You see, I was an investment and she had been my benefactor in those years of training.  I now owed her more than I had before.  I would also like to point out, that I trained alongside many of the youth born from noble families and merchants alike.  Those people and other wealthy families who did not have their own trainers went to Karn for his experience and reputation from battles past.  I have always thought Lacindra had a gift for irony, hidden in plain sight I shined for all to see.  For Karn regularly held sparring events for the families to view their children’s progress and I won many such tourneys.

Oh yes, I was brought back into the folds of the guild.  But now, I was taller, lean muscled, and appeared much different than I had once been known to be.  She herself gave me my new name before I returned; I was then called Derrek Fistk.  I was now in control and focused; and within a few months I came to lead a crew of heavy hander’s.  We would bully and push vendors for protection; and we would handle other business as well for the guild.  Coming into my own was a new experience, and I reveled in that!  The gap between my skills and others around me was self evident; maybe it was worse that I knew it.  But I do not believe I was arrogant or underestimating of anyone.  I just knew myself well, but perhaps that was only an illusion.  For I was still a shade of what I could become.

But this chapter in my life was soon over, in the most dramatic way!  I guess I just gave part of my story away; a big change came to me when I was 19.  Lacindra assigned three crews to protect her daughter Elendra, on a trip between cities.  My crew was placed under the command of one of the guilds most experienced leaders, a man by the name of Gerin.  I had sparred almost daily with Gerin, and he had my full respect.  Elendra was Lacindra pride and joy; she had been training in the next city for some years.  It would be our job to escort her home.  The trip was quite fun actually, we had gone early to enjoy a bizarre that entered that city every fall.  That was Gerin’s idea, and the crews loved him for it.  He was ever beloved for his generosity.

As an escort mission, all was quiet and we made it back to our city without issue.  We were making it through the streets of our city, back to Lacindra’s estate when we were attacked by a rival guild.  The battle was too quick; they did have the numbers and surprise on their side.  They also had magic at their command.  All others were killed, but for Elendra and myself.  I would have been too, but I believe I appeared to be dead and maybe should have by most accounts.  Elendra though, was beaten and raped, and left amidst the other bodies of her escort.  She was a message, and the greatest insult they could had made to Lacindra.

Lacindra blamed me, and I was used as another message, not only to our guild, but to all other guilds.  I was beaten even further, and I was tortured; then I was burned alive at the end, in the middle of a city park.  That was a night of fire and blood; when guilds warred, guards ran, and the cities populous coward behind their walls preying to any power that would listen…  hail the night of blood, and the week of shadows; where the kin ruled the city.  That was my deathday! My deathright!

Wrapped in darkness I woke falling with no body, my mind was beaten, and I could feel the fires still burning like a phantom clinging to my essence.  I believe some time passed in that darkness; maybe it was weeks, months, years, or just a few seconds.  A whisper of a voice called my given name.  That voice was like a whiplash to my consciousness, and suddenly I remember being fully alert.  It then spoke again, and that whisper tore at my soul and shredded my mind; the voice was pure power.  This voice said many things, it offered to let me live again, and break the walls that I had put up so many years ago.  I grasped at that chance and even begged for it.  I wanted to live, pure and simple.  But that voice asked if I was willing to pay the price; a larger price.  I would have given up anything and everything for it, I had nothing and I knew it.  So I agreed to pay whatever I could.  And so I was remade, through darkness, shadows, and a fire that would burn your very soul to ash.

I woke, though it could had been years later for all I knew.  My body felt warm, and as I looked at it, I found it was not what I had remembered it being like.  I looked and felt… foreign in many ways.  Though I could not really point out how exactly.  But before I could adjust, a voice as smooth as silk spoke to the side of me.  It said to me, “I have been told of your choice…” I could then see who was speaking, it was the shadowy figure of a man, and he walked between pillars that were just at the edge of my vision.  “I am now your master, to train you and prepare you to leave this…” as the figure passed behind the next pillar, it was now a woman and she continued on without stopping.  “Sanctuary, we are in the veil of shadows between…”  As she passed the next pillar, still circling me, she stepped out as a child of about eight years of age.  “Worlds and nobody can breech this place…” the child began to walk towards me, wearing what appeared to be a black robe that seemed to move on its own, or perhaps the shadows played tricks on my eyes.  “For this is a holy temple, to him the Raven, to him the Shadow that Searched for Wronged Souls, and in this divine place, you will learn your talents again, for some have been taken from you, and others have been given back.  If you learn quickly, you might enjoy your time here, if you do not… you will see brutality…” the child came into view and stole my breath.  It was a young girl, that had no eyes, and yet her gaze was unmistakable, and her smiled would chill a fire.  “But when you leave here, maybe years from this time, you will thank me for each act that I put upon you.”  The girl stopped in front of me, “and then you will be free to live in your world once again.  To stalk the nights, and hide in the shadows embrace; for they have always been there to protect you Kesurt.  You are shadow blessed; my name is Zeo and let us begins.”

After spending years in that place, I stepped out of the shadows and entered the world once again.  I took the name Bastious Nightsong as my own, and I was a new man; body, mind, spirit, heart, and soul.  I had my talent back, both music and magic; and I had a new talent.  That new talent had taken me years to learn.  It allows me harness, the very shadows of this world.  For they are a gift from another realm, and a sign that shows that realms dominance over our own.  So I sought out a new life… and that is the start of my tale.

shadowcast

Written by TJ Winter

My Geek Cred: (Part 3) The Final Years Till Now

It was my expectation that the last post would be the final on this subject, but it seems that I am older (or much more long winded) then I had though.  So I hope that I do not sound too pretentious when making what I hope to be the last post finishing out my geek resume.  With my humblest apologizes, I will begin now and wait for the flames to find me.

After reading my past two posts, or perhaps after remembering my history; it seems to me that I might had left certain topics.  Like watching each and every science fiction or fantasy movies that I could find, or even my love of comics for a time or more.  Then I asked myself what topics would truly encompass being a geek? And frankly I came down to the opinion that for some people that could be computers and technology, for others it could be comics or anime, or perhaps fantasy movies and books, maybe it is gaming for some, or even mixed of all of the above.

Still that seemed limited to me!  Yes “geek” culture now encompasses technology with science fiction and fantasy type combinations.  But perhaps it should just be passion that drives one person to be a geek over another.  Could someone be a nature geek?  I believe so, and I am one of those people.  Because of it, I have recently went back to college and gotten a degree in Forest Ecology and Conservation.  Could someone be a NASCAR racing geek, If you’ve ever meet my aunt and uncle, and then seen them off to a race; you would think that they look and seemed incredibly geeky.

But I derail from what my goal today had been.  Let me gather myself, and continue with my life.

Where I had left off, would put me close to 2004.  So I will pick up there, with the first and brightest light in those years.  Do you know where I am heading, it is quite obvious to me of course; and will be to many of you after.  In November of 2004, Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft, and the face of MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) gaming was changed forever.  Perhaps not that drastic, but they did become the new big boy on the block quickly enough.

Though I will first say that I did not buy the game when it first came out.  I had years before tried Everquest, and found myself unhappy with the game.  It was not the size or the time it took to level, for me it was the similarity of characters appearances.  I laugh at that now, but I can be a picky bastard when it comes to my games at times.  Because of that, I never got into many MMO’s at first.

Around 2004 I was playing several games, along with the my MUD’s.  The one game that I spent hours and hours on was then Planetside.  I think I had been playing it since its release, and I had at many times considered playing Star Wars Galaxies as well.  Many of my fellow players on Planetside were also playing Galaxies.  I believe that it was free to those who played Galaxies (though I could be wrong).  But I was so entirely hooked on Planetside that I did not give Star Wars a chance.  I regret that to this day, people still talk fondly about that game.

Then in August of 2005, Planetside became a ghost town.  If you played the game in those days, I am sure you know why.  Sony released a new expansion for their Star Wars Galaxies game, completely destroying their franchise.  In one utterly stupid move, they recreated the entire character system, and took away the one thing that made their game loved.  I do not believe there was another action by a game company as devastating, at least in my option.  So there I was, with nobody to play with on Planetside and in a game that was dependent on other players; it became another failed game.

I left soon after that change and decided to try my hand at World of Warcraft.  I had heard good reviews from both friends and online communities.  It had been many years since I had my disappointment with Everquest and I thought things must had changed since then with fantasy MMO’s.  Well I was surprised and delighted with what I found in that game.  Soon enough, my time online became devoted to WOW and I had discovered that a huge portion of those Star Wars Galaxies players had found their way to the same game.

Many years were devoted to World of Warcraft.  My first and main character had been a paladin.  Like many in those days and now, I tried my hand at Ret Paladin (Retribution).  That satisfied me for a while until I discovered the magic of the reckoning bomb; and from them forth I was a Pro Paladin (Protection).  I must also state that I was not a snob about keeping to my spec and naturally had build up gear for all facets of being a paladin (Healing, Tanking, Fighting).

The entirety of my time playing WOW can be made into a separate section of posts itself.  So let us just say that I PVP’ed my heart out and obtained Grand Master of the Alliance, before it became easier.  I raided with a top 100 guild through Burning Crusade, up through the Sunwell.  Then when Wrath of the Lich King came out, I raided for many months as well.  It was there that I lost steam or even the passion to play.  I retired from World of Warcraft and have only gone back a few times to see if I could rekindle some of that passion again.  It has yet to happen.

I have tried many other MMO’s after World of Warcraft: Everquest 2, Rifts, Age of Conan, Warhammer, Darkfall, Planetside 2 (love this still), Star Wars The Old Republic, EVE, and so many more.  But it seems that WOW has stole the passion for MMO’s from me.  I have since dove more completely back into other things like reading and social gaming.  But I continue to search for a computer game that will allow me to enjoy that type of playing once again.  If not in a more moderated allowance, for I believe MMO’s can suck the life out of a person and the people who want or need their attention.

With the loss of my addiction to MMO’s, I had a gap to fill.  I probably could had filled the time with much of the same things I had done before.  Such as reading, writing, role playing, and all of the things that my geeky heart thrives on.  But I decided for many reasons to head back to college; the time was right and I had gotten put on disability from work.  Oh yes, I did do all of those other things as well… haven’t you been reading?  I am an addict after all.

After 3.5 years, I walked away from college with my bachelors degree and an offer to join a master program.  That masters program will start in a month and a half (as long as I can get the funds required).  As I stated earlier, I received my degree in Forest Ecology and Conservation and hope to begin a masters in Water Sustainability.  I might expect that if you have been reading that these seem to be odd choices for me to have made?  But let me say this… always let your passions guide you and let things that bring you the greatest happiness mark the paths that you walk in life.  It took me a long time to see these things, even with their direct opposition staring me in the face daily.  But we do not always open our minds to what our eyes see and complacency follows, obscuring the difference between what is and what could or should be.  I choose to smile; I choose to walk the paths that I decide and not let them decide for me; and I choose to love: myself, someone special, family and friends, work, hobbies, and of course the most important thing to love, that I am alive (again).

My Geek Cred: (Part 2) Years Into the World(s)

So I spoke of my years up through high school. But I am almost thirty five years old, and I have lived a bit since those days.  Although I have truly had many years past then, I have existed in a haze of depression and fantasy indulgence for a good amount of that time. I have moved past some of the worst of those obsessions and hope for changes that will be more constructive to my life.  But I will leave those explanations for another day and continue my geek cred post with those remaining years past those of my youth.

When high school ended, I like many other kids when away to college.  For the next year I found my new home to be Morgantown, West Virginia and more specifically West Virginia University.  It was over five hundred miles away from my New England hometown, had a football team I loved, and so much natural beauty touch my soul.  I majored in girls, parties, drinking, and oh yes we must not forget Engineering.  It seems odd to this day that I chose that major.  Though perhaps not with the way I excelled in math and my technical drawing classes.

My year at WVU was fun, exciting, and took me out of a shell I had lived in.  Though I cannot say that I was as studious as I should had been; not in the least.  I quickly became the computer expert in my dorm and gained many friends through those first requests for help.  Without the quiet demeanor I had in high school or the nerdy edge that comes with some computer people (especially in those days); I caught many dates and late night… adventures through some of those connections.  But I guess I did not write this blog to talk about my college exploits, so I will leave that for you to fill in.

While I have told you that I have always been a natural with computers, I should explain a few things that make me laugh at that point.  Especially after what I have just said about becoming the computer expert within my dorm.  Yes! I did own a Tandy 1000 EX, but that was the first and only computer that I owned until I moved into college.  Computers were excessively expensive back then, and some would argue they remain still today (not I though).  My parents were both blue collar workers (and one eventually on disability), and did not have the ability to buy me all those luxuries.  So for the years after that Tandy, I used computers mainly through friends and school.  My next computer did not come until I was leaving for college, my uncle and aunt decided that they would co-sign a credit card from an electronics store for me.  With that they paid for most of the computer and let me put some on the card as well.  I only had it out of the box one day before leaving for college, but I loved it and spent many late nights wasting hours on it for years to come.

That computer was a Compaq Presario 4704.  It had a 133 MHz Pentium processor, 1.6 Gig Hard drive, 8 MB of Ram, and Windows 95. I cannot say it was the best or brightest computer for that year; but it would had been top of the line for a production computer then.  Through that computer, I started learning how to work on hardware.  It began with the need of an Ethernet card, to be able to access the college network.  I quickly bought that and installed it without much issue.  I later helped the installation of many more that year, making a few bucks (from the guys) and other things as well.  Since that computer, I have never gone without one and eventually never gone without several at hand.

With that new beautiful piece of equipment, I journeyed into a new world of computer games.  Diablo was my first adventure into online gaming, and one I quickly came to enjoy.  I must now admit that I eventually became an asshole on that game, I would PK (player kill; griefing) anyone and anything.  I had entire guilds hunting me mainly because I was one of those cheating bastards that could get around a few of the mods that kept players from being PKed.  I do not know why I enjoyed it so, but in years to come my PKing become somewhat more honorable on other games.

I started MUDing (Multi-User Dungeon; text based gaming) that year as well.  A friend from high school led me to his MUD, and I took it up with a passion as well.  Eventually I started building areas for that game.  I took it upon myself to make the biggest area I had seen, and to my horror that area was junked by the implementers of the game out of spite for leaving their game for another.  Building was a kin to writing for me, allowing me to build adventures for others to experience and enjoy.  I believe text based games are still underrated, and offer so much for people to experience. If you have yet to experience one, go try one out and see what they are like.  I support one such game today, though I am sure others are just as great: http://www.kotl.org  (Telnet to kotl.org:2222)

The biggest gaming change for me in Morgantown was the lack of Dungeons and Dragons games.  The majority of people I spoke to played GURPS, and while I had played the system in the past… I did not like it.  But to my surprise the other thing that was popular was live action role playing.  They played Mind’s Eye Theatre based off of White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe, which if you’ve been reading, I had loved.  So I delved into live action to fill my need for role playing, and can still say it was one of the best experiences I had with gaming.  We played on the streets of Morgantown, and caught many odd looks to be sure.  The experience is not one I had captured past that year, but will be one I still admire.

Before my year at that college was over, I had finally gathered a group of D&D gamers.  It took what I consider an excessive amount of work on my part.  I from the second month of college there began to put up gaming flyers all over college and in parts of the town.  Each flyer eventually had the tags removed or went missing themselves, but I would get no calls or emails.  It was not until the last months of school within the spring semester when interest was shown and by then school was almost to an end.

After that first year, I was unable to go back to WVU.  I began to work full time, and tried community college for a time.  I eventually landed a job with a major telecom company that was expanding itself.  Specifically I landed a job in their new internet department, working as a technical support agent supporting dialup and DSL customers.  The best part to that job, was that I ended up on third shift working with a small overnight crew.

I assume you must be wondering why I would think that would be a benefit?  After all third shift is a life sucking hole which causing most people to have issues eventually.  It was the team of people that I ended up with, I believe there were eight of us on that shift when I started and since the work days overlapped we always had at least six at a time in house.  Out of those people, at least four were self-proclaimed hackers who loved UNIX and Linux with a passion, would code all night long, and spend hours doing things in external shell accounts and making printouts of nonsensical data (for those not in the know). The other four members of the team, including myself with gamers, all computer gamers (well the hackers too), at least three role players, and all around online/computer junkies.  I learned a lot from those people, am still in touch with a few, and still hold one as one of my best friends to this day.

The job required a medium amount of computer knowledge to start.  But with such influences around me I began to feed on knowledge with a frenzy.  While there I acquired an A + certification, and a Networking + certification.  I learned a lot about UNIX and Linux, and began my studies for a CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate).  The design of websites also became in my view, and I learned HTML and a little more coding (I had learned some C and C++ in high school and college). Let us just say that I became quite proficient in many aspects of computers.  But as time went on after leaving that job behind, much of that knowledge as faded like distant memories.

I bought my first domain in those years, and it is currently pointed at this blog; for I have not used it in years (http://www.darkreality.com).  That site was my first big step past a fortunecity or anglefire website that I had used in the past for fun things.  Darkreality.com started as a place for people to post stories, poetry, music, art, or anything creatively inclined with a darker (gothic, metal, edgy) foundation.  That was my goal at least, to bring people together and have a place for sharing that material.  The site was a hit!  To my great surprise and delight, I had thousands of hits and hundreds of people giving material.  I had at least two music labels asking for me to write reviews and post songs from their bands; after which they sent me free cd’s to do so.  And one book publisher wanting the same for a soon to be released book.  Let us just say that I was overwhelmed with the amount of material and response; I did not have the resources or skill to bring that site to the level at which it was climbing.  If I had only sought out help in that endeavor.  That is still one of the biggest disappointments of my past, especially now knowing I could had made a living off of that site.

My work friends and I founded our main gaming group during those years.  That group has been gaming (not with the same people other than us two) for about twelve years now, we rotate game masters every year or two to give others a chance to play.  While I do have other groups and have played in many other games; that one brings me the most joy out of all of them.  Perhaps it is because I helped found the game and am the one who actively searching for players when others leave.

The other passion that I quickly picked up; once my college pursuits were over, was reading again.  For the first time ever, I read with delight and enjoyment! I just could not get enough and I still cannot to this day.  Soon I found two of my favorite authors, Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin.  I found that I liked long epic stories and searched out more, and found a weakness within myself; I could not stop reading a series that I liked, and had to have each book that followed.  Since those years, I have read hundreds if not more books.  I have found that I mainly enjoy fantasy, but am willing to try science fiction titles as well.  On occasion I have ventured out into historical fiction titles or other fiction that seems almost historical like that of Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian.  So I became addicted to a new form of fiction, and one I will never give up completely.

My Geek Cred: Years Through High School

If I ask myself how I became addicted to fantasy, I need only to look back into my past.  I was born in 1978, within a year of the Atari 2600 game console release.  While I cannot tell you when my earliest memories of that game system where, I can say that played Pitfall nonstop and that game came out in 1982.  So that was the start, and it has been all an obsession from that point on.

In 1985, I was seven years old when Nintendo released its first game system.  Who could forget blowing into those cartridges to make them work and eventually thinking that blowing into them would make them perform better as well?  A year or two later, my parents bought me my first computer and it began to draw my time away from my Nintendo. It was a Tandy 1000 EX running DOS 2.11.  I remember the keyboard was built into the computer, and it had a side insert for the last true floppy disks; the 5.25 inch floppy’s.  So at nine years old I was mastering what I could about DOS, and then diving into computer games like The Black Cauldron, Donald Duck’s Playground, and the King’s Quest line. At the time, those games (well not Donald Duck’s Playground) seemed so complex, and amazing.

Let us just say that more gaming systems came after these, but these were my beginnings.

I began writing stories of my own creation somewhere in my preteens.  Though all I can remember of those stories, is that they usually involved a boy like me in some fantastic adventure.  In those years I had little to no sentimentality for the stories I wrote, and more likely than not they found their way into the trash after I was through with their distraction.  But I did enjoy imagining myself in others worlds, in other lives and still do to this day.

When I was in sixth grade I moved up from the Cub Scouts of America (Webelos) to become a Boy Scout. I found that my new troop played a particular game quite a bit and that game became the single most addictive hobby in my life.  The game was Dungeons and Dragons, or more specifically; TSR’s AD&D.  That was around 1989 and by the time I decided to pick up the first books of my own, we were all ready playing the newly released 2nd edition.

Dungeons and Dragons redesigned my imagination; and soon my writing included monsters, magic, and heroic deeds.  I began early on a process that would eventually annoy and delight my Game Masters for years to come.  For each and every character I created, I would write an extensive background.  It has always been my opinion that to truly grasp what it means to be a character that you are to play, you need to know where they come from, their virtues and vices.  Those backgrounds today can be beyond thirty pages long if I do not edit myself.  Though I am often forced or asked to write short backgrounds by those Game Masters that know me all too well.

In Junior High School a teacher of mine saw me writing, and inquired what I was working on.  He must had thought it was for another class, but when I explained that I was writing a story about a wizard character of mine from a D&D game; he became very interested.  I came to find out that he himself played Dungeons and Dragons, and soon enough he asked what types of books I read.  I quickly explained that I did not like reading, so outside of school assignments (and my D&D handbooks); the answer would be nothing.  That is when he gave me a book to read, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks.  After reading that book, I found that a book preceded it and another followed it (The Sword of Shannara & The Wishsong of Shannara).

You must understand at that age I had no idea that fantasy books existed.  Frankly I hated reading with a passion and never cared to look around libraries or books stores.  That was always funny to others because I wrote so much.  It had been commented on often in those years, and by that teacher along with others before him.  But while I ate those books up and was made aware of that new outlet for fantasy material; I still did not read much until after high school was over.

High school came along, my knowledge of computers grew, my writing hit its first milestone, and my role playing became a deeper obsession.  The first thing I ever hacked into was my schools network and I barely understood what I was doing.  It was the year before they made it active for the school, but I knew the administrator of the network and was able to guess how to access it.  I seemed to be a natural with computers, easily understanding and using any program that was put in front of me.

To this day, I will say that the single most useful class that I took in high school was a typing class.  Through that I left behind the pencil and threw away two finger typing for good.  As a sophomore, I took a creative writing class and took on a larger project for myself.  While others were writing movie reviews, poetry, short stories; I began my first novel.  At the end of the class, I had I believe forty something chapters and close to twenty thousand words written.  The book sucked of course, but it had what I believed at the time to be unique in fantasy.  Though not widely read myself, I knew that the hero always won in movies, and most likely in books.  But my book was to end as a tragedy, and I had killed off main characters.  Today we would call this very George R. R. Martin like, and I would say I am now a big fan; though disgruntle.

In high school I expanded my role playing social groups as well.  While my primary group was made up of people that I was in scouting with still, I found other groups of people that gamed too and joined them.  That is when I broadened my gaming resume to include GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System), and White Wolf games.  White Wolf’s, World of Darkness became a big hit between my friends and I. We could now play vampires and werewolves, and become the monsters that we had only fought till then.  That system was a masterpiece, and White Wolf marketed it brilliantly.