Apr 16 2009


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The sound of rushing water brought Brigid slowly but persistently back to the land of the living; the room was dim except for a vague yellow light from under a nearby door, and the bright red LED “6:47 AM” that was poking her in the eyes. She blinked and pushed herself up onto an elbow, to discover that she was in a room she barely recognized, clad only in a blanket and her socks. The rushing water was now identifiable as the sound of a shower coming from the vaguely-yellow room.

My socks? she thought, and the evening came back to her. Oh yeah. Cole’s place. Okay. Why the hell am I awake at six in the morning? She gathered the blanket around her shoulders and curled into a tight ball, but sleep evaded her.

Within a minute or two the shower was turned off and miscellaneous bumps and shuffling sounds consistent with somebody drying off sounded through the wall; then the bathroom door was thrown wide, and Brigid’s skull was assaulted by a vicious, vaguely-yellow light. “Mmmrph!” she said, and curled up tighter.

“Hey,” said the silhouette of Cole, spiky hair going in every direction. He crossed past the foot of the bed and started rummaging around in his closet.

“It’s early,” said Brigid.

“Got class,” said Cole.

If I had class, would I be in this bed wearing nothing but my socks? Brigid thought. “Huh?” was what she actually said.

“Tae Kwon Do,” Cole said. “Belt test today. Gotta get there early and set up. You want breakfast?” Brigid blinked; he was already wearing sweats and a T-shirt that read “Leaping Tiger Martial Arts.”

“Ermph,” Brigid replied.

“Well, if you do, there’s cereal. Lock the door if you go, ‘kay?” He leaned over and kissed the side of her head. “Later,” he said, and walked out of the room, carrying a pair of sneakers.

“You hopeless romantic you,” Brigid murmured as she heard the front door close.

-The Gneech

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Apr 14 2009


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“I’ve got the Second Book Blues,” Greg said. “What pre-press reviews are trickling in for Funny Looks all bang the ‘not as original as the first one’ drum. But I mean, what did they expect, it’s the same characters in the same setting, just going through a new set of shenanigans.”

“Heh,” said Wenton Delaney, munching on a hoagie. “Don’t read reviews, Greg, it’ll just make you neurotic. Or more neurotic, anyway. The only feedback that counts comes from your readers, and at least half of that is going to be nonsensical junk, too.” He quaffed some beer, and added, “What’s more important, is how do you feel about your book.”

“Well, I must admit I wasn’t as pleased with Funny Looks, myself. Retrograde Maneuvers came fairly quick and easy once I got into it; Funny Looks had to be rewritten almost from scratch twice and I still thought it could use a better ending.”

“Which is why the reviews are bugging you,” said Delaney with a nod. “You agree with them.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” said Greg. “Part of the problem is the book kept trying to be all serious. Stuff about my parents kept creeping in and I had to pull it back out again.”

“We all do that,” said Delaney. “It’s just a writer thing. It’s part of why we do it, self-therapy. Maybe the book you wrote, isn’t the book you needed to write.”

“I don’t want to turn the world into my therapist,” said Greg. “I can’t stand that kind of self-indulgence.”

“Are you kidding? The world laps it up. You just need to change names and identities to protect the innocent. Hell, my wife and I went through a ten-year divorce. Ten years, can you believe it? So what did I do? I wrote a book about it. I shuffled all the participants’ ages, genders, and in one case sexual orientation, turned it into a murder mystery and added a subplot about South American drug-runners — but under all that makeup it was still about my wife and me.”

“Gah!” said Greg. “Don’t tell me things like that! Now I’ll never be able to read another of your books without wondering if that’s the one and trying to guess who’s who.”

“Have no fear,” said Delaney. “Once I was done, I shredded the only copy.”

“Whew, thank goodness,” said Greg.

Delaney shot him a dirty look. “Shut up! That was eight months of hard work down the drain!”

“Sorry,” said Greg. “But you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, that’s the bitch of it, I do. Why do you think I shredded the damn thing?”

-The Gneech

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Apr 08 2009

Life of a Bounder, Part XII

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“Hullo, merry friends! Maedhroc Thornhollow here, with more dispatches from the bounds.

First, it’s Spring Festival time!

Maedhroc rides to spring festival

Duty is duty, but even the most stalwart keeper of the peace must be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his labor from time to time. So it was that I rode to sunny Bree to enjoy the new Hedge Maze. Quite impressive, and fun to boot. 🙂 I managed to get my maze-racing time down to just over two minutes, much to the annoyance of the “maze-master” who sent me in there. And I won quite a nice trophy!

Maedhroc with hedge-hobbit

How do you like my festival hat? 🙂

Someone must have had a little too much Festival Wine, because they’ve been sending me a never-ending stream of blueberry tart recipes in the mail, signed “A Secret Admirer.” Honestly, if you’re out there, I appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t cook worth a tarnished penny and all these recipes are wasted on me.

Maedhroc's secret admirer

I have a sneaking suspicion it may be Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.

Eventually, the fun was over and it was back to work. I joined several members of the Valar Guild on a foray into the depths of Garth Agarwen, to finally confront and, if possible, redeem the Red Maid, once known as the river-daughter Naruhel. It was no easy task, as centuries under the dark influence of Angmar and Mordor had made her a creature of the most fell power.

Maedhroc meets the Red Maid

Corrupted and evil yes … but she was still more polite than the Blue Lady of Evendim.

The fight was long and bitter; at the end she seemed to melt away into a pool of water, leaving only her dress behind. Being a tailor in my off-time, I claimed this for study.

Maedhroc and Naruhel's dress

Interesting … er … weave?

I returned to Rivendell for a new mission and found myself sent to the abandoned dwarf-city of Helegrod, where the Nazgul I’ve been chasing for what seems like months had finally been tracked to.

Maedhroc ventures into Helegrod

This can’t be good. Even a Nazgul should know to let dead dragons lie!

Maedhroc witnesses the reanimation of Thorog

No, no, we’ll have none of that. CHARGE!

Maedhroc takes on a Nazgul in Helegrod

Remember ME, Mister Undead King? I’ve come a long way since our first meeting in the Shire! Back to your master in Mordor!

Maedhroc battling the Nazgul

Oh no you don’t! *BOOT!*

I wish I could say we were completely victorious; it’s true we sent the Nazgul fleeing home to Barad-dur, but the dragon Thorog was raised as a wight and flew off to wreak who-knows-what-havoc? I hate unfinished business, and I’m sure I’ll return to Helegrod sooner or later to deal with this ten-ton loose end.

Nevertheless, ridding Eriador of the Nazgul has provided a bit of respite and allows us to hopefully start making some headway against the enemies of the Free Peoples. In Rivendell, I was asked to see Mr. Frodo, Lord Aragorn, and the rest of their party off on a mission of some particular importance which had been waiting for this opportunity, although I’m sketchy at best on the details. I gather they’re headed south … possibly to escort Boromir back to Gondor?

Maedhroc watches Frodo and company depart

Er … you are joking, right Mr. Bilbo?

Little did I know that I was shortly to follow them to Eregion. But that tale will have to wait, as this letter is getting quite long, and I must leave you now to help a party of dwarves who hope to reclaim their ancestral home of Khazad-Dum.

Your friend in the Shire,
Honourary Shirriff Maedhroc Thornhollow”

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Apr 06 2009


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“All right,” said Brigid, absentmindedly sticking a chicken leg into her coleslaw and stirring it around. “This is it, soldier, time for your briefing.”

“Sir, yes sir!” said Greg.

“Okay, this wretched collection of goons you see meandering towards us with obvious intent is my cousin Julia and her family: her husband Herb the Evangelist, her youngest son Tom the Thug, and her eldest daughter, Tactless Charlotte.”

“Wretched Julia, Herb the Evangelist, Tom the Thug, and Tactless Charlotte,” said Greg. “Got it.”

“Julia is of the firm belief that the primary duty of all human beings is to make more human beings, as many more as possible. She considers it a failure she’ll always have to bear that her own ovaries gave out after popping out only the five loathsome spawn. As such, her first question is going to be when are we going to settle down, get married, and start having children. When asked that—”

“I remember,” said Greg. “Pleasantly noncommittal.”

“Right. Above all, it has to sound like we’d like nothing better in the world and are bursting at the seams, but have been prevented by cruel fate. No misguided attempts at humor suggesting impotence or infertility.”

“Hmm,” said Greg. “Time for Plan B.”

Brigid shot him a dirty look as the party of four who’d been slowly but surely coming their way finally arrived. “Well, Brigid, how are you?” said Julia. “So good to see you, it’s been ages. You missed the last two reunions, we were all getting worried about you.”

“Well—” said Brigid.

“And who is this? A friend you’ve brought along?”

“Yes, actually, this is my boyfriend Greg. Greg, this is Julia, her husband Herb, and Tom and Charlotte.”

“Hello,” said Greg, with a wide smile. “Nice to meet you! Brigid was just telling me what nice people you all are.” He shook Julia’s and Herb’s hand in turn. Tom, apparently resentful towards Greg’s existence, gave him a sulky frown, but said nothing.

“Wow,” Charlotte said to Brigid while this was going on. “You’ve actually got a boyfriend?” Brigid gave Greg a sidelong “See? See?” glance.

“Of course she does!” Greg said. “I had to beat off three others with a stick.”

“Well! That does sound serious!” said Julia. Giving Greg a conspiratorial leer, she added, “Do I hear wedding bells in the distance?”

Acutely aware of another “See? See?” look coming his way, Greg shrugged. “Anything’s possible,” he said. “Right now I’m still working on that Ph.D., so I can’t really support a family properly yet. It’s not the kind of thing you can do without being responsible about it, obviously.”

“Oh, you’re so right,” said Herb. “I was just saying that to our pastor, that he needed to be more selective about who he would officiate for. So many people get married without thinking it through. But you can’t do that. It’s a binding agreement between the couple and God.”

“I hadn’t really thought of it like that,” said Greg. “But all the more reason to do it right or skip it all together, eh?”

“Exactly,” said Herb. “You can’t be too careful.” Turning to Julia, Herb said, “That reminds me, I need to ask your mother if she still has those kabob skewers for next weekend. Let’s go find her, shall we?”

“All right,” said Julia. “Good to meet you, Greg, and nice to see you again, Brigid. I’m so happy to see you finally with someone. I was worried for you!”

“Yup,” said Brigid. “Me too. See you later.”

The four of them ambled on, Charlotte’s voice drifting back with, “All this time, I figured she was a lesbian.” Greg blinked after them for a moment, then he turned to Brigid.

“Why kabob skewers?”

Brigid just shook her head. “After a while, you learn not to ask.”

-The Gneech

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Apr 03 2009

Ding! 50 :)

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Okay, so it’s not as big a deal since Moria came out, but I’m still excited: my lil’ hobbitey warden reached 50th level last night. He also (thanks to the Auction House) gathered all the pages of his first book (Bullroarer’s Boy, how appropriate!) and gained his first legendary trait.

He’s also been defeated more in the past two sessions of play than in the past two months put together. 0.o The game has definitely gotten tougher! Not bang-my-head-on-the-monitor hard as it was with Galadhalion, but it definitely demands that I be more careful in my approach. Individually, I can take on orange elites and expect a fairly smooth victory — but against a bunch of normal-level foes, two blues and a white can take me down fast. I just can’t self-heal quickly enough to make up for the huge chunks of health blown away by being mobbed, especially if I also try to do damage. Spamming my health leech chain sometimes works, but it’s always iffy. And if an add comes wandering up (as they often do), or even randomly spawns right in the middle of the fight (as they also often do), I’m looking at a quick trip to Dread City.

Something I’ve learned with my warden, however, is not to attempt to flee. If things look bad enough that running is my best bet, the fight is already lost. I’ll get about ten steps away and be killed by the “stick-it-to-you” free attack monsters get when you reach the edge of their threat range. And with self-heals going, however feebly, you can occasionally pull out a victory by still have 5 morale at the end when your foe has 0. One of the warden mottos is, “Don’t run away, you’ll just die tired.” It applies to us equally as well as to our foes. (Which is not to say that I don’t kite occasionally, but in a mob-heavy area that can be even more dangerous than standing still and duking it out if you kite yourself right into another mob’s aggro zone. It’s a tactic that must be chosen with care.)

I’m currently working Echad Dunann, so I’m getting pretty close to entering the Hollin Gate instance and picking up my first legendary weapon. 🙂 Once that’s done, it’s back to Angmar for my class quest and Vol. I, Book VII. Town-Saver’s Armour, I’m cominagetcha!

-The Gneech

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