Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Seven: Dragonborn To Run

I left the Jarl's keep as the sun was just starting to set, raining pouring down and my pack heavy with loot. I swung by the Merchant's Square to lighten my load a bit Sadly, most of the merchants had already closed up for the night, but I did have a most interesting encounter with one of the street vendors - a very attractive young lady, who was just closing up shop.

Carlotta: So, another wastrel has come to try and "score a quickie" with the single mother?
Me: Uh... no?
Carlotta: Oh, I'm sorry. It's just that so many men in this town have been proposing to me.
Me: How many of them were proposing marriage?
More than you'd think. But Mikael the Bard is the worst of the lot.
Me: Sounds like he has trouble respecting women. Perhaps if I were to have a word with him, man to man.
Carlotta: Would you do that for me?
Me: Yes. And then we can totally have a quickie!
Carlotta: Ha! That's a good joke.
Me: ... yes. Joke.

Unable to sell anything yet, I followed the trail out of town and moved after the Jarl's troops toward the West Watchtower. When we got there, the tower was aflame and a dying soldier told us that a dragon had attacked. There was a great flapping of wings and a now familiar roar as the dragon swooped down on us.

I stayed out of the way, for the most part. Hey, I'm no warrior and protecting the city isn't my job! But I did still get a few shots in as I established a line of retreat back toward Whiterun. Suddenly, as I shot one arrow at the beast as it landed before me, something miraculous happened! The dragon burst into flame as another wave of energy - like that which touched me in the ruins - washed over me. I screamed in pain, my shout emerging as a wave that shook the ground in front of me! As the flames died down, the soldiers ran up and looked at me in shock.

Whiterun Guard #1: ... Dragonborn!
Me: Huh?
Whiterun Guard #2: You! You are... Dragonborn!
Me: I am not! My mother and father were both human!
Whiterun Guard #1: No, no, no. Dragonborn are blessed by the gods! Legend tells us are chosen ones granted the power to slay dragons, claim their amazing powers and shout really loud!

Me: You have some really screwed up legends in this country.

Whiterun Guard #2: You must return to the Jarl at once! He must know that The Dragonborn now walks among us!
Me: Well, I would love to... but I had a bard I needed to go rough up because he won't stop hassling this babe I just met.
Whiterun Guard #1: You desire to defend children does you credit. Surely you are the chosen one we have awaited!
Whiterun Guard #2: Aye. I'm sure the Jarl can wait to heap honor and gifts upon him for saving our city.
Me: ... gifts?
Whiterun Guard #2: Oh yes. The Jarl is quite generous to those who defend the city from dire peril.
Me: On the other hand, I wouldn't want to insult the Big Man. Let's head back to the Jarl's hall!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Be Right Back

Due to some unexpected computer issues at home, My Geeky, Geeky Ways will be on hiatus until such time as I can freely write from home again.

I will continue to post on Twitter as time permits, as I can do that from my phone.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Six: Take The Money & Whiterun


The trip to Whiterun was difficult. Even with a clear road, mostly free of dangerous animals, a sudden rainstorm made my journey all the harder. But in time, I finally made it to civilization. What the great building was, I had no idea. Was it a temple? The house of a great lord? And then I saw the barrels stacked outside - barrels filled to the brim with the life-sustaining liquid I needed to survive. With my heart full of renewed hope, I struggled to open the great doors. And so it was that I saw the master of that place and I knew my prayers had been answered.

It WAS a brewery/tavern!

Refershed for my journey, I headed west, having spied a farm I hoped might be willing to feed a hungry hero. The sound of conflict filled the air as I moved on. I stopped to investigate, having time enough to see three heroes fell a frost giant.

Aela The Huntress: Well, that's taken care of. No thanks to you.
Me: It looked like you had it under control.
Aela The Huntress: Hmmph. We did. But a true warrior would always be ready to prove his worth.
Me: And who are you that I should feel the need to prove myself?
Aela The Huntress: I am Aela The Huntress - proud member of The Companions.
Me: The Champions?
Aela The Huntress: No, The Companions.
Me: *singing* Yooooou are The Champions, my fri-ENNNNNNNND!
Aela The Huntress: I am not your friend and we are not The Champions!
Me: *singing* And you'llllllll keep on fight-tin, TIL THE ENNNNNNND!
Aela The Huntress: Well, yes we will, but we are NOT The Champions!

After giving me some recruitment speech about The Champions being a local group that was routinely hired out for monster control , I moved on and headed for the gates of Whiterun proper. The guards required some convincing but I was able to convince them that I was delivering news of the dragon attacks to the Jarl. It was then I got my first look at Whiterun proper.

Me: What a festering rat-hole! You'd have to burn this place down just to condemn it!

Deciding not to waste any more time here than I had to, I made my way to what was obviously the home of the Jarl, being the biggest house on top of the highest hill behind the city walls. Night was beginning to fall as I made my way inside. I was quickly taken into the Great Hall to stand before the Jarl himself.

Jarl Balgruff The Greater: You had best bring important news to be asking for me directly, boyo.
Me: Well, that depends. Do you consider an entire Imperial outpost on your southern border being destroyed by a dragon to be important?
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: ... yes!
Me: Well, there you go then.
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: So the rumors were true! I had thought the guards at the West Tower had too much mead, but now... the dragons have returned!
Proventus Avenicci: With respect, Jarl, I do not think you can trust the words of this so-called messenger. He wears the armor of a brigand and carries himself as a wastrel.
Me: Well, with respect... sorry, who are you?
Proventus Avenicci: I am Proventus Avenicci - Imperial adviser to the Jarl!
Me: Well, with respect Pretentious...
Proventus Avenicci: Proventus!
Me: Whatever. With respect, I don't think the Jarl can trust you as you are clearly an evil vizier!
Proventus Avenicci: What?!
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: He is a piece of women's clothing?
Me: No, Jarl. He is a servant of evil, plotting treachery and wickedness! How many times have we seen this story? A lone messenger comes in bringing warnings of doom to a leader. The leader's adviser dismisses the messenger as a trouble maker, knowing full well that the danger the messenger speaks of is real as the adviser is a servant of those dark powers. And so he keeps the leader complacent, assuring him that all is well up until... *makes a throat slitting motion*
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: Hmmm... he raises a good point, Precious.
Proventus Avenicci: PROVENTUS!
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: I was joking, Proventus! Gah, you Imperials have no sense of humor. Clearly our messenger is a bard of great humor.
Me: Uh... yes! Well spotted, Jarl!

After calming down his adviser (who I'm pretty sure IS an evil vizier), the Jarl escorted me personally to speak to his court wizard, saying that he had been researching dragons and that my expertise (i.e. I had seen one and lived) might help him with his current task.

Farengar Secret-Fire: So the Jarl thinks you can be of use to me? Oh yes, he must be referring to my research into the dragons.
Me: Yep. I'm something of an expert.
Farengar Secret-Fire: In what respect?
Me: Umm... I've seen one. And I didn't die.
Farengar Secret-Fire: ... seriously? That's it?
Me: Well, it's more than anyone else has done so far!
Farengar Secret-Fire: Sadly, this is true. But I need more concrete information. But there is still a way you might help me. I just need you to fetch something.
Me: Fetch something?
Farengar Secret-Fire: Well, when I say fetch I mean "delve into a dangerous ruin full of various traps and undead abominations to all that is holy in search of an ancient stone tablet that may or may not be there at all."
Me: Ah. Adventuring.
Farengar Secret-Fire: Yes. It is in a place known as The Bleak Falls Barrow, some cubits to the southwest of here.
Me: Oh, do you mean this old stone? *pulling stone slab from backpack*

Farengar Secret-Fire: ... The Dragon Stone! How did you...?
Me: Eh, I was in the neighborhood. It looked valuable. Funny story, really.

Suddenly, a dark elf woman ran into the room. I found out later that she was Irileth - another of the Jarl's advisors, this one a war leader. It seemed that once again a dragon had been sighted near the West Tower. The Jarl asked me once more, as the man in the city who knew most about dragons, to go forth and aid them in seeking the beast out.

I agreed. But not before helping myself to the Jarl's silverware. Hey, a hero has to eat!

(EDIT NOTE: For future reference, I have no problem with being corrected on details of the game I unintentionally get wrong, such as wrongly recalling the name of a group as The Champions rather than The Companions. If nothing else, I can probably work that into a joke later on. I do, however, have serious problems with anyone who attempts to insult a person by using technical terms for mental disabilities starting with the word "r". It's just rude and disrespectful. Rant over. Thank you.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Paid For By The Skyrim Board Of Tourism.

Hullo.  I am Ralof - proud warrior of the Nords, asking you why not try a holiday in Skyrim this year?

See the lovely lakes.

And many interesting furry animals

Including the majestic moose.

A moose once bit my sister...

No really! She was carving her initials on the moose with the sharpened end of an toothbrush given to her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - a Whiterun barber...


Mynd you, moose bites Kan be pretti nasti...


Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Five: Unfinished Business


With Sven on his way, I turned to the business of looting the bodies of the hired goons, looking for valuables but also for some clue as to who had hired them.

Me: Orgnar? The barkeep?! But what did I ever do to him? Besides steal an apple that was already half-rotten! Oh, there will be a reckoning... oh yes...

But that reckoning would have to wait. For in trying to help out the local shopkeeper, I had been distracted in the cause that had brought me here in the first place - getting everything I could from a reportedly generous sister.

Me: Hail, fair maiden!
Gerdur: Hardly a maiden, but hail to you too, stranger.
Me: You are Gerdur, sister of Ralof? Your brother and I escaped from Imperial imprisonment and certain doom.
Gerdur: Yes, he's been in my home for a day now. But he spoke madness... something about a great dragon.
Me: Oh, that's no madness. A huge dragon totally destroyed the Imperial outpost.
Gerdur: Really? If this is true, you should go speak to the Jarl of this right away!
Me: The Jarl?
Gerdur: Our warchief. He rules us from the keep in Whiterun to the north. You can't miss it. Just follow the road.
Me: Ralof said that you might give me something...?
Gerdur: Yes, you are welcome to anything our home has to offer.
Me: Well, not quite what I had in mind, but that will do.
Gerdur: Also, if you seek honest work, my husband could use some help at the mill.
Me: Oh, no, no... I couldn't impose that much. I'll just take whatever I need from your home and be on my way... pressed for time and all that.
Gerdur: Well, if you come back this way you might speak to our trainer. He might be able to teach you a trick or two with that bow.
Me: Well, I might be able to spare time for a quick lesson. Who is this trainer?
Gerdur: Oh, you can't miss him. Faendal is the only elf in town.
Me: ... D'oh!

Faendal: You want to talk to me? After everything you've done?
Me: I think you have me confused with someone else.
Faendal: Oh no! Camilla was quite clear about how it was the stranger who delivered the "love letter" that got me banned from her store.
Me: To be fair, I just delivered the letter. You can't shoot the messenger.
Faendal: Bad words to be saying to an elf with a bow.
Me: Look, would it help if I said I was sorry and paid you for a lesson?
Faendal: Oh, I'll teach you a lesson alright... at the severely hiked up rate, of course.
Me: Of course.

I stopped by Gerdur's house on the way out of town and helped myself to everything I thought was reasonable for my time - i.e. everything that was not nailed down. After "harvesting" some fish from the river on the way out of town, I was on my way to Whiterun.

Small Ironies - Frank Miller and Occupy Wall Street.

SOURCE: - Anarchy

Now, I personally find the assertion that anti-American terrorists would take joy out of American citizens expressing their Constitutional right to free speech to be ludicrously ill-informed. Particularly as the main target of their protests is the corporate interests whose actions made The World Trade Center a target for those terrorists in the first place. But last I checked, this is a free country and Frank Miller is just as free to speak his mind as the Occupiers.

But I am free to speak my mind as well. As are all of my friends.

Friends like W. J. Walton of The, who noted the irony of a man who made his living in the comic book industry playing the "parent's basement' card.

Friends like Roy Buckingham of Sassycast, who noted the irony of a man who became famous writing stories about idealistic outsiders trying to fight the systematic corruption of government, big business and the military is now telling idealists to shut up, get a job or put on a uniform.

Mr. Miller, incidentally, has never served in any branch of the American Armed Forces.

And me? Well, I find it ironic that the character who Frank Miller is most famous for writing - when you get right down to it - lives in his momma's basement, doesn't have a real job and... well, I think I'll let Mr. Miller's work speak for itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Four: That Was Sven, This Is Now.


After breaking my fast with some fruit "procured" from the back room of The Sleeping Giant, Sven and I headed north back to the ruins.

Sven: You know, Matthias - this adventuring is turning out much more different than what I learned in the songs.
Me: How so, Sven?
Sven: Well, all the old songs spoke of brave men, facing great dangers and winning glory.
Me: And have you not fought more undead creatures today than you have friends?
Sven: Oh aye... it's just... I thought there would be more of the fighting and less of the carrying all of their heavy stuff while you keep all the gold.
Me: Ah, but I'm letting you use that big heavy sword AND that nice armor.
Sven: Well, that's true...
Me: And is valor not it's own reward? Far greater than any riches?
Sven: Well, that is what the tales say...
Me: Exactly! So by keeping all of the gold, I'm letting you reap the far greater spiritual rewards of heroism.
Sven: So... what you're saying is that by taking on more of the more tangible benefits of adventuring, you are indirectly ennobling me by forcing me to be altruistic?
Me: Yes!
Sven: Oh, well that's alright then. Say, did you hear something behind us?
Me: GAH!

With Sven's help, the rest of the dungeon proved little challenge, with his... unique talents helping even the odds in battle and my own skills in spotting and avoiding traps doing the rest. Even the odd puzzle rooms, which required rotating symbols on doors proved no challenge as we finally came to the great treasure chamber.

Sadly, there was little treasure to be had. Indeed, the only thing of note was a strange wall that - when approached with the golden claw - yielded some strange symbols glowing in an odd script. Sven did not react but I could swear I heard voices singing and an odd shouting before the light faded away. Deciding that some other thieves, long ago, must have already looted the barrow, we made our way back to town.

Sven: So that was an adventure, eh?
Me: Pretty much. Except there's usually more money or a magic sword at the end.
Sven: Well, I had hoped to fight more worthy opponents than a few rotting corpses.
Me: Well, who knows? Maybe someday you'll get a chance... hold on, I don't think I've seen them before.
Sven: Nor have I.

Hired Thug #1: Excuse me? Are you Matthias The Bastard?
Me: Who wants to know?
Hired Thug#2: Uh... we do. We're supposed to kill him.
Me: Ah. Then HE is Matthias The Bastard.
Sven: What?!
Hired Thug #1: Get him!
Me: So long, suckers!
Hired Thug #3: Wait... that weaselly one trying to run looks like the description we were given! And he just called us suckers!
Me: Oh poopie!
Hired Thug #1: Get HIM!

Me: Fast escape.... fast escape... I know! The river!

Hired Thug #1: Did you see that?
Hired Thug #2: He jumped over the bridge and went into the water!
Hired Thug #3: What?!
Hired Thug #2: Just... letting it all run over him!
Hired Thug #1: And he's still standing there! Go after him!
Hired Thug #2: What? You mean... into the water?
Hired Thug #1: Yes!
Hired Thug #2: I'm not going in there.
Hired Thug #3: Me either!
Me: Of course! Bathing! The one thing that no Nord warrior can abide!

Knowing their weakness, it was an easy matter for me to move from the shores, drawing them close before sending them running as I showed them that clean water and hygiene held no terror for me and peppered them with arrows as they ran. Curiously, they ignored Sven after that, even as he collapsed in the street after a meager half-dozen blows.

Me: On your feet, Sven.
Sven: Ouch... so that is what a real fight is like!
Me: Yes. I'm sorry for the ruse but I needed a distraction while I ran for the river.
Sven: Nah, tis fine... though you must have powerful magic indeed to survive the water.
Me: Well, you know what they say about we Bretons and magic.
Sven: Aye. Well, this was fun and all but I think I'm not cut out for this heroing business. And I do have Camilla to think of. But rest assured - I shall tell all who pass through about... what was it they called you? Matthias The Bather?
Me: ... yes. Yes, that's it exactly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Three: There And Back Again. And Again. And Again.


And so it was, well rested the next morning, I went to the general store.

Lucan: And I say you are NOT going to the old ruins to try and get our claw back!
Camilla: But we know the bandits are up there! Who else could have stolen it? I mean, it's not like a thief just came waltzing into town!
Me: GoshwouldyoulookatthatsundialIreallymustbegoing...
Lucan: Aha! A customer! Please forgive my sister. She isn't usually so hellbent on getting herself killed.
Camilla: *blows raspberry*
Me: Yes, I heard you got robbed two nights ago?
Lucan: There's a gang of bandits hiding out in the old ruins. It must have been them that done it!
Me: Wouldn't bandits have taken everything in the store if they'd managed to get in here instead of just one valuable doodad?
Lucan: Not these bandits! They've been after my golden claw for years!
Me: Well, that is a shame. Still, if you won't go and defend your own property...
Lucan: I'd pay all the gold we have to get that claw back!
Me: ... I'll gladly go and recover it for you for exactly that much money!

Me: Say, that reminds me. You are Camilla, yes?
Camilla: Yes?
Me: That elf bastard - ah... ah...
Camilla: Faendal?
Me: Yeah! He asked me to deliver this to you.
Camilla: Oh, a letter? He's never written me a letter before!
Me: Oh, really?
Camilla: *reading letter* Oh! Why that's.... The very nerve! He calls me a round-eared strumpet who never bathes and goes on to say that he wouldn't marry me if I was the last female of any species on all of Tamriel!
Me: That elf bastard!
Camilla: Indeed! Though, this doesn't sound like Faendal...
Me: Well, many put their words differently on parchment than they do when speaking.
Camilla: Yes, but this looks nothing like his handwriting...
Me: Clearly he was in such a rage that he could barely hold the pen steady.
Camilla: It's written in crayon.
Me: Obviously he did that to suggest you were childish!
Camilla: And he signed the letter "That Elf Bastard" and then crossed it out and wrote "Faendal", Spelled F-A-Y-N-D-L-E.
Me: That's how you spell Faendal in Elvish.
Camilla: Oh! Well, you can tell that Elf Bastard that he's no longer welcome in my store!
Me: Is that what you call it?
Camilla: Well, yes. But I meant this shop.
Me: I'll be sure to pass that on next time I see him. Now, where are these ruins you were talking about?

Camilla escorted me to the edge of town and pointed out the ruins on a nearby mountain top. I snuck my way along the treacherous mountain path, surprised as the relatively cool grasslands suddenly transformed into jagged, rocky earth, covered in snow.

Most of the animals had already gone to ground. The only predators that stalked me were the humanoid kind - presumably part of the gang of bandits that had robbed the store or perhaps other random outlaws. I usually didn't like fighting my fellow thieves. But if these idiots were trying to rob people on a deserted mountain road or breaking into shops to only steal one item, I figured I owed it to the profession to cleanse the job pool.

Getting into the ruins was easy enough. I walked in on two of the bandits arguing. A bolt from the shadows silenced the first. The other fell to my sword easily enough. They had a nice camp set up, which I decided to make use of in gathering up my loot thus far - the gear I'd liberated from the bandits on the way up the mountain was already pushing me to my limit.

I made a quick trip back to town to sell what I had taken so far before returning to the tomb. I found another bandit and several giant rats but nothing too difficult for a thief of my skills. It was not until I got further into the cavern and saw large cobwebs that I began to worry. And then I heard the screams of a dark elf.

Thankfully, the giant spider that had claimed him proved unable to fit through the cavern mouth I fell back toward. The beast eventually fell to my arrows and I was able to turn my attention to the bound and webbed thief.

Arvel The Swift: Get me down from here!
Me: Hand over the claw first!
Arvel The Swift: I can't move my hands! You'll have to cut me down first!
Me: ... fine! *SLASH*
Avrel: Ha-ha! You fool! I'll never share that treasure with anyone! Let me show you why I am called Avrel The Swift!

I pulled my bow and shot an arrow after him. Swift he was but not swift enough to dodge a cloth-yard shaft through the back of the head. I searched his body and found the golden claw as well as a journal. Reading through it, I discovered why Avrel and his companions had only stolen the claw - it was the key to a great treasure in the center of the ruins!

With visions of a great vault full of gold coins I could swim through filling my head, I pressed on. Suddenly I heard a great groaning behind me. I had assumed it was just the bad cooking at the Sleeping Giant but spun around just in time to avoid the blow of a zombie clutching an ancient greatsword. Two more of the beasts joined their undead brother and it took all my skill to evade and down the monsters once and for all.

Finding myself overburdened again. I returned to town once more. I was faced with a serious problem. I could sneak past traps and decipher old scripts easily enough. But fighting the undead was not something I was trained for. In order to have a chance at winning past the last of the tomb's guardians, I was going to need a companion. A compatriot. A meatshield to stand between me and the slathering undead hordes at the very least. I mulled this problem over in The Sleeping Giant as I ran into my new best friend.

Sven: It worked! I spoke with Camilla earlier and she's much more agreeable than she was before.
Me: Well, I'm happy for you, Sven. Really.
Sven: Here's the cash I owe you! And if there's anything else I can do for you, just name it.
Me: Anything?
Sven: Anything!
Me: As luck would have it Sven, there is something I think that would benefit us both. You see, it's one thing to tell about great sagas and sing of adventure. It's another to have one of your own! So I'm thinking... maybe you should come on a quest with me. Just to get experience for your own ballads.
Sven: Really? You'd have me as a companion?
Me: Well, you're no Rose Tyler but you know which end of a sword to hold, right?
Sven: Oh yeah. I took fighting classes at Bard College.
Me: Well then... we leave at dawn!

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Two: A Cunning Forge-ry


After dropping another armful of loot in the woods, I finally made my way to the village of Riverwood. No sooner had I walked through the gates than did I hear an old woman scream.

Sven's Mother: A dragon! I saw a dragon over the hills!
Sven: Really, Mother! You're just seeing things again.
Me: Uh, actually there was a dragon.
Sven: What, really?
Me: Oh yeah! Giant thing! Black scales! Which I totally killed. Cause I'm awesome.
Sven's Mother: See? Why don't you believe me?
Sven: Well, to be fair, mother you were wrong about the invisible mole-men come to steal your hair to make wigs for their brides.
Sven's Mother: Then explain why my hair keeps disappearing?!
Sven: (whisper) Sorry about this. She hasn't been the same since I dropped out of the militia to go to Bard College.
Me: There's a bard college here in Skyrim?
Sven: Well, how else is one to learn the legends of one's people and sing bawdy drinking songs?
Me: I'd think you could just hang around a bar, listen to people tell stories and sing and then repeat what you learn.
Sven: ...
Me: Something wrong?
Sven: No. No. Just thinking about my student loans... Camilla will never marry me instead of that elf bastard Faendal, I'm so deeply in debt.
Me: And she is?
Sven: The prettiest girl in town. Well, the only girl in town really, but that's besides the point! That elf archer is always hanging around her. I've told him to back off but he won't stay away from her. But I have a plan! I wrote an insulting letter to her and signed his name to it!
Me: That's... that's a plan, alright.
Sven: But I need someone to deliver it to her so she doesn't think it's a fake.
Me: Well, I could do it.
Sven: You would? Oh, thank you! I'll give you all my tips from the bar last night!
Oh, I'd do this in the name of general bastardy.
Sven: So you don't want the money?
Me: I never said that!

Tracking down Camilla was easy enough. She and her brother ran the town's general store. But before I got there, I had one stop to make first... the one place a wandering scoundrel can always unload all that heavy metal armor he doesn't want and can't use - the town forge.

Alvar: Welcome to my humble forge, stranger.
Me: Well, thank you humble smith. Might you be willing to buy some of my excess metal?
Alvar: I might be able to use some of it, aye. I trust you just happened to *ahems* "find" all this Imperial armor in the middle of the woods? Wink-Wink?
Me: Oh yes. Fell off the back of a donkey cart. Wink-Wink.
Alvar: Well, then. Here's your coin. Perhaps I might interest you in some of my wares? Or mayhaps you might want to borrow my forge for a while?
Me: ... seriously?
Alvar: Of course! I have to keep the fires going at all times, but I don't really do much work. Mostly I fix parts for the mill and mend farming tools. Making weapons is much more fun!
Me: It is?
Alvar: My, yes! Here... let me show you how to make a dagger and then you can try it.


Me: I finally got that dagger made, Master Alvar.
Alvar: Yes... that's a good start. But you must sharpen the weapon as well! Use that stone over there and grind this to a fine edge!


Me: There. A fine dagger! Nearly a keen dagger, even!
Alvar: Hmm... yes, yes. Say, while we're at it, would you like to learn how to make a helmet?
Me: Would I?!


Me: Uh, Mister Alvar?
Alvar: I hope you have some reason for coming into my home at dinner time!
Me: You told me to bring you this Fine Hide Helm as soon as I was done refitting it.
Alvar: Oh yes. Hmmm... yes, yes. That's a good start. You're well on your way to becoming a Master Smith yourself. Perhaps you'll remember me when you're forging dragon-scales some day?
Me: Oh, I sure will!
Alvar: Good. Now go away!
Me: But what about the dagger and helm?
Alvar: Eh. Keep them.
Me: But aren't these valu-


Realizing that I'd been patronized, I decided to teach the smith a valuable lesson about locking up your tools. Sven had told me a rumor of how the general store had been robbed the night before... yet the next day everyone was curiously silent as to how all of the steel and iron ingots had been pilfered from the smithy, along with several iron weapons. With dark falling, I decided to head for the local inn and explore the rest of the town tomorrow. When I arrived at the Sleeping Giant Inn, Sven was already in the corner, plying his trade.

I looked around the place and found myself the only patron, apart from a large gentleman who asked what I was looking at when he caught me staring at him. Making a note to pickpocket him later, I struck up a conversation with the barkeep.

Welcome to The Sleeping Giant! Have you come for room, board or to use our alchemy lab?
Me: You have an alchemy lab in the middle of your common room?
Orgnar: Well, it was originally a "Brew Your Own Ale" kiosk.
Me: What happened?
Orgnar: Turns out that expecting drunkards to be able to manage a still after the first round of gutrot was a bad idea. And that's why the place is so empty now.
Me: I had wondered about the smell...

After selling off some of my excess foodstuff and some of the reagents I gathered on the way into town, I found my room and retired for the night.

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter One: Another Fine Myth You've Gotten Me Into


My name is Matthias and I am a prisoner. Close as I can figure, the year is thirteen hundred A.D and I'm being dragged to my death. It wasn't always like this, I had a real life, once. A job. One where I got to dress fancy and use a chainsaw!

I was a courier. I remember a desert. A vast, endless desert. I remember my one companion - a quiet man whose spoke softly but carried a big rifle. I remembered fighting a wicked tribe of cosplayers and LARPers who took their love of ancient Rome way too far.

Mostly, I remember becoming a king by my own hand. King of a radioactive wasteland, true, but a king nonetheless. And I remember her by my side. A fire-haired wench with lips like wine who really, really liked punching stuff yet still appreciated feminine things like a pretty dress. My queen. My Valkyrie. My Felicia.

But she, like everything else, was in the future. The far future. My immediate future was looking rather bleak. I quickly found that the other men in the prison cart with me were rebels against a tyrannical empire. Well, most of them were. Apparently I was in the wrong place at the wrong time... as per usual, along with an unfortunate horse thief. Also, as per usual, The Powers That Be decided it was easier to kill me and be done with it even though they had no record of my name on the bounty list of undesirables who needed killing. Story of my life. Lives. Whatever.

Fortunately, a sudden dragon attack made cutting my head off less of a priority. Unfortunately, I was still bound and weaponless in the middle of a quickly collapsing keep. Thankfully, my instincts for knowing when to walk away and when to run served me well. I wound up falling in behind one of my would-be executioners and then ran into the rebel leader, Ralof Both told me to follow them to safety.

Hmmm... follow the Imperial who wants to see me dead or run away with my fellow prisoner? REAL tough choice.

Ralof was generous enough to let me have all the gear of his dead companion. We fought our way through the keep, killing what meager Imperial forces remained, arriving just too late to stop a female rebel from being tortured to death. I quickly found my pockets growing heavy with all the surplus loot I was taking from the dead Imperials and was forced to leave a small fortune in fancy armor behind as we found a collapsed passage leading into a secret tunnel. How giant spiders and a bear were able to set up camp in what was clearly meant to be a well-traveled path out of the keep is a question best answered by Ralof, who I found out served the heir to the throne of Skyrim as a personal guard.

Ralof: Ah, we're free of that dank dungeon! Just feel that balmy Skyrim fall weather!
Me: *shivering* Balmy?
Ralof: Oh, aye! Snow hasn't come down to the lowlands. The river hasn't even frozen yet!
Me: ...
: But I do owe you my life, Breton! I'd never have survived in that place alone. But now I must leave you.
Me: What?! Why?!
Ralof: The Imperials will be chasing after me soon. We'll stand a better chance of getting away apart.
Me: You mean YOU'LL stand a better chance of getting away. I have no idea where we are or where I'm going.
Ralof: Ah yes. Well, my sister runs the mill at a village not far from here. She will give you some help.
Me: Really?
Ralof: Help, in this case, meaning food, gear and perhaps a job.
Me: A job, eh?
Ralof: Get your mind out of the gully! *

* In the medieval realm of Skyrim, it is, of course, impossible for one to have one's mind in the gutters on account of the lack of paved roads and sewers.

Parting ways with Ralof, I headed in the indicated direction, sneaking quietly in the hopes of avoiding more of the dangerous animals I had encountered in the caves. The good news is that there were no giant spiders or bears on the path to the next village. The bad news is that there were wolves. Numerous wolves. Thankfully, the wolves proved little challenge with the gear I was packing at that time and I figured the skins would bring a fine price once I found the market.

Me: What the... how is this wolf wearing a ring? Unless it is a werewolf! But then why would it be wearing a silver ring? Gah, this world is so confusing!

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Prologue: The Eternal Bastard

It is written in the scrolls and books of a thousand worlds that in times of need, when the balance between Order and Chaos is threatened, that a hero will arise to restore it. They will appear in many guises and be known by many names but all of them are but one aspect of a universal hero - an Eternal Champion.

This is not His story.

Because what is less well known and even less frequently spoken of is another figure. A trickster figure. One who is marked for great things by destiny yet totally incapable of or unwilling to grasp the fate that the universe has thrust upon them. Scholars have no idea why this should be so, save that the gods are unjust, unfair or - more than likely - are in need of a good laugh as much as anyone else.

Hither came Matthias The Bastard, brown-haired, sunken-eyed, knife in hand, a rogue, a schemer, a liar, with gigantic ironies and sarcastic smirks, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his booted feet just before prying the jewels loose with a crowbar and heading for the hills.

This, unfortunately, is his story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 (1969) - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969

I find myself unable to think of any phrase which so neatly sums up the spirit of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman series as that of “intellectual pornography”. I use this phrase not because these stories contain a good deal of sex and nudity but because these books seem to have been written to drive the reader towards a sort of self-inflicted mental climax. None of the LoEG books are meant to be read lightly – they are meant to be grappled with and wrestled into submission as the reader puts his wits against the author and the artist. It is fun exercise if one has the stomach for such rough sport.

Set nearly sixty years after the events of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #1 – 1910, our book opens with the titular League returning to London after the death of popular rock star Basil Thomas. Thomas died under mysterious circumstances and The League fears that the followers of their old enemy – the dark magician Oliver Haddo – might be involved. As they search for leads among the overlapping counter-culture and magic-using communities of London, The League find evidence that Haddo’s followers, having abandoned their attempts to facilitate the birth of an Anti-Christ after that affair with the Rosemary woman, are out to create a “moonchild” that will inherit all of Haddo’s old power…and more besides! At the same time, a confederation of East End gangsters sends one of their “problem solvers”, name of Jackie-Boy, out to investigate the murder and deal with those responsible.

Author Alan Moore is in fine form, though it is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing LoEG story to keep up with him. There’s a ripping action/adventure/mystery yarn at the core of this book but one does not read Alan Moore without reading the subtext as well. Moore said that as he moved along the time-line with this series, he would be encompassing all media – not just literature. So in addition to our League made up of the immortals Mina Murray (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Allan Quatermain (H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines) and Orlando (Virginia Woolfe’s Orlando: A Biography), we have cameos by Benny Hill’s Professor Peach character from The Italian Job, The Second Doctor from Doctor Who and “Jackie-Boy”, though never referred to by name, is obviously Michael Caine’s character from Get Carter.

Longtime Moore collaborator Kevin O’Neill handles all these cameos with his usual pluck, bending his usual style to create the most colorful LOEG book yet. While one can still see the style that originally lent itself so well to the earlier penny-dreadful inspired books in this series, O’Neill’s characters seem more wide-eyed and expressive in this outing. Every page is filled to the brim with details upon details, to the point where I nearly missed the John Cleese cameo on one page. He is, of course, doing a silly walk toward the reader.

Like all the previous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volumes, this is a challenging novel. It will challenge your wits, as you struggle to understand all of the in-jokes and references. It will challenge your perceptions, as your eyes are assailed by Kevin O’Neill’s attempts to artistically recreate an acid trip. And given the amount of nudity (both male and female, full frontal), sex (both heterosexual and homosexual), drug use (both real and fictional drugs), violence (both physical and sexual) and vivid depictions of black magic, this may be a challenge for you to defend adding to your local library. Definitely a Mature Audiences title but also a damn good read.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969 #2
by Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O’Neill
ISBN: 978-1-60309-0
Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout, 2011
Publisher Age Rating:

Tricky Journeys Series - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Tricky Journeys Series

Like chocolate and peanut butter are mixed to create a sweeter dessert treat, the Tricky Journeys series of graphic novels combines the classic trickster tales of various mythologies with the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books to create something truly unique and wonderful. Numbering six volumes at the time of this writing, each of these books centers upon a different mythological trickster animal – Coyote, Rabbit, Fox, Raven, Monkey, and my personal favorite, Anansi The Spider.

Each of the books reads like a traditional multiple-ending novel. The reader starts at the beginning of the book and reads along until they reach a point where they can make a choice. For instance, Monkey – who is a Prince –has grown bored with his life of luxury and decides to go off on an adventure. But where should he go, he wonders? The reader is given two options; should Monkey go into the mountains or should he go out to sea? The reader then skips ahead or goes back to the indicated page and continues reading along until they get another choice. Eventually, the reader will reach an ending for the story. Not all the endings are happy, however, as Monkey has the chance of becoming a pirate captain, getting arrested, winding up trapped under a mountain forever, or even getting turned into an ice cream sundae as a punishment for his rudeness!

Each volume has at least six potential “journeys” for the reader to take with the trickster hero. Interestingly, the Fox and Raven in these stories are women, so this series is no boy’s club, which is a nice touch given the male-dominated bent of most trickster stories. But what truly sets this series apart from other collections of trickster tales is the illustrations.

While this is not the first time the Choose Your Own Adventure format has been used in a graphic novel, it is the first time I have seen the concept executed so well. While the novels aren’t made entirely of comic pages, there is an even mix of comic pages and pages with text and illustrations, with only the “Choice” pages being made entirely of text. Each volume has a different illustrator, but all of them use a cartoony style that is sure to appeal to young readers.

Author Chris Schweizer deserves high praise for what he has accomplished with these scripts. Each book represents a sort of “best of” album for the hero in question, with most of the most famous stories for each character being retold depending on the path taken. The final page of each volume also discusses the original tales, the morals they teach, the lands that they came from and the people who told them. While this is educational and a nice closer for those children who want to read more about a given mythos, parents and educators should be prepared to discuss the realities of slavery and race issues as several of these conclusions do briefly discuss how various stories made their way to America through the oral legends of slaves without explaining precisely what that entailed.

This series is a must have for any graphic novel collection. Each volume is a wonderful introduction to the wonders of mythology for young readers. But more importantly, the stories are fun, well-illustrated and teach valuable moral lessons in a format that can slowly introduce those readers to more difficult books.

Tricky Journeys Series 1-6
All volumes written by Chris Schweizer
Lerner Publishing Group, 2011

Volume 1: Tricky Coyote Tales
ISBN: 9780761366010
Artist: Chad Thomas

Volume 2: Tricky Rabbit Tales
ISBN: 9780761366072
Artist: Zack Giallongo

Volume 3: Tricky Fox Tales
ISBN: 9780761366058
Artist: Shelli Paroline

Volume 4: Tricky Raven Tales
ISBN: 9780761366034
Artist: David Witt

Volume 5: Tricky Spider Tales
ISBN: 9780761366096
Artist: Courtney Huddleston

Volume 6: Tricky Monkey Tales
ISBN: 9780761366119
Artist: Chad Thomas

Garfield & Co. Volumes 1 & 2 - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Garfield & Co. Series, vol. 1-2

Garfield has always held a special place in my heart. I was born the day after the famous feline first premiered on the funny pages and the Garfield and Friends cartoon was the high point of my Saturday mornings. The only thing that got me through dental appointments as a child was the collection of Garfield dolls my dentist decorated his office with and the reasoning that nobody who liked Garfield that much could possibly be that bad. And yet, despite a fondness for all things Garfield-related, I could not bring myself to embrace his most recent animated incarnation – The Garfield Show.

Why? Because in this carton Garfield actually talks! His lips move and he vocalizes all of his sarcastic musings! In fact all the animals, except for Garfield’s doggie pal Odie, are capable of human speech and can be clearly understood by the humans around them! It’s a sacrilege! It’s an outrage! It just… looks weird.

I freely admit this is a silly point for a grown man to get hung up on – even one who reads as many comics as I do. But that point of discomfort is likely to color the opinions of any fan of the Garfield comics and cartoons who reads the Garfield & Co line of graphic novels.

Similar in format to the Ani-Manga of various animated series which TokyoPop made several years ago, this series of books creates comics by taking still shots of The Garfield Show animated series and adding cartoon balloons with the dialogue transposed upon the artwork. Each volume of this series contains three stories, taken directly from the cartoon. The stories vary in subject matter, but will be familiar territory for most fans of Garfield. Most follow a broad plot centering upon Garfield as the trickster figure, using his considerable wits to try and steal food, take a nap or play a prank on someone who annoys him. This inevitably ends with Garfield getting into trouble and then trying to fix his mistakes, either to make amends for the trouble he’s caused or to save his own sneaky self.

The artwork, as taken from the show, is made up of three-dimensional computer graphics created by French animation company Studio Ellipsanime. The studio did a good job of capturing the essence of Jim Davis’ original designs though the characters (to my eyes at least) looked odd rendered in three-dimensions. This is a common complaint to most 3-D representations of a cartoon character, but I must say that Studio Ellipsanime did a better job than most and that the “wrongness” that I saw when I watched the cartoon seems less obvious in this “flat” format. Perhaps it was the way the characters moved that made me feel uncomfortable?

Your enjoyment of these graphic novels will depend entirely upon your enjoyment of The Garfield Show, for the one is equal to the other. Librarians and teachers might consider this for their collections if they have a large population of young Garfield fans among their elementary school age students or reluctant readers who enjoy cartoons.

Garfield & Co Graphic Novel Series 1 & 2
by Cedric Michiels (adaptor), based on characters created by Jim Davis
Art by Studio Ellipsanime
Volume 1 ISBN: 9781597072663
Volume 2 ISBN: 9781597072670
Papercutz, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

52 Pick-Up - Week Four

AQUAMAN #2 - Another solid issue, which gives a little more development to Aquaman's wife Mera, reestablished as a fiery redhead with water-control powers for those new readers who missed her star-making appearance in Blackest Night. While Johns' cracks about how Aquaman is perceived by the public at large in the DC Universe are starting to become wearying, the action of this issue - in which Cthulhuian horrors from the deep come to the surface looking for food - is well-executed and amazingly drawn by Ivan Reis. This is going on the pull list.

GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #2 -The plot thickens as Kyle Rayner escapes Earth and heads to Oa, taking with him six rings he doesn't want. He goes to seek the console of the Guardian Ganthet, who it seems has been radically changed by the other Guardians, his old personality having been entirely erased! Bedard does a great job pacing this issue, delivering some good action scenes while explaining away the special relationship between Kyle, Ganthet and The Blue Lanterns for new readers. The one stumbling block is that while Bedard has a good grasp on the character relationships, he fails to explain some of the special ring powers - such as the presence of a Blue Lantern super-charging nearby Green Lantern rings. This too, is going on the pull list.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #2 - This issue wouldn't be so bad if I at least had the sense that it was building toward something. As it is, we get a lot of random scenes as our team STILL hasn't come together and isn't showing any signs of doing so anytime soon. The two pages with John Constantine, for instance, seem to have been accidentally pasted into this issue from this month's issue of Hellblazer, having no relation to anything else in the issue! Even the art - supposedly by Mikel Janin throughout the comic, looks totally different on those two pages. This one is off the list. Not even going to pick up the trades.

The Shade #1 - A Review

I've been reading comics long enough to have seen James Robinson write a lot of different stories. I've seen him write some of the greatest comics of all time in Starman. I've seen him write some of the worst comics of all time in JLA: Cry For Justice. I've even seen him write a Gen 13 story where Fairchild wound up in more clothes than usual! But as diverse a writer as Robinson is, it's been rare for me to see him write a comic that was instantly accessible to new readers.... until now.

Richard "Dickie" Swift is an ageless man who gained both his immortality and the power to conjure, manipulate and animate shadows as a Green Lantern controls light after an incident he is loathe to discuss. Going by the nom de plume of The Shade, he has been both a super-villain and a savior - frequently at the same time - for the better part of two centuries.

As the issue opens Shade is meeting with Mikhal Tomas (a.k.a. the alien hero now known as Starman), discussing Mikhal's return to Opal City. Mikhal notes that Shade is in a dark mood, even by his standards - a fact that Shade dismisses as being related to the anniversary of his "creation". Shade's girlfriend, OCPD Officer Hope O'Dare, thinks there is something more to it, having noticed the same mood for several months now. She suggests that The Shade should find something to do with himself to shake himself out of his malaise, like go have an adventure. As he ponders this,while taking a walk around town, Shade is approached by the assassin Deathstroke. Naturally the call is not a social one and the issue ends as the fight between the two seems to end suddenly.

Robinson is quick to establish the status quo for those old-timers like me who are wondering the fate of the old Starman series in the Brave New World of the New 52. Rest assured all is as it was! Jack Knight took up his father's name and became Starman and now alien hero Mikhal Tomas (most recently seen in Robinson's Justice League) has returned to Opal City to fight crime under the same name. Robinson also neatly explains away the surprise revealed in the Blackest Night tie-in Starman #81 , which revealed that Shade and Hope were now dating. So even if you're a Starman fan who missed that issue (and if you did, shame on you!), everything is neatly explained away so that new readers and old alike have some feeling for who The Shade is, what he's capable of and who is important to him.

Cully Hammer is a more than suitable substitute for long-time Starman artist Tony Harris, whose duties on this series are thus far limited to several stunning covers. Hammer's art is more stylized than Harris's photo-realistic approach, but it suits the story well. Of particular note is the inking, which is suitably thick and dark as one would expect in a Shade story, but it does not fall into the trap of being dark to the point that it looks like ink was spilled on the page - a trap too many artists working on a weird or (pardon the pun) "dark" book fall into.

Long-time Starman fans rejoice! The James Robinson we know and love is back in force! And for those of you unfortunate enough to only know Mr. Robinson from his more recent work on Cry for Justice, I urge you to give this title a shot. I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Long Halloween of Starman

My apologies for not having updated in a few days. Between National Teen Read Week and our hosting the Overdrive Digital Bookmobile at work and my troupe, Amber Does Dallas (the professional, premiere Rocky Horror & Repo! The Genetic Opera cast of Dallas, Fort Worth & all DFW) doing three shows in 26 hours last weekend... I've been a bit swamped.

Comic reviews coming Friday. Promise!