Monday, 5 December 2011

Short Story Part 3 The Graduation Ceremony

Judicator Hephaest glared at his compatriot.

"You had best use more subtle means with your Executor."

Judicator Salarus replied only with stoic silence.

"Aiur's hopes rest upon your shoulders, you have to rein him in before his willful defiance jeopardizes the expedition. Blunt manipulation of the Khala will not be enough."

Again Salarus was silent, deep behind his psychological fortress he was aware of Hephaest's true motivations. Both Hephaest and Salarus were aligned with the progressive Auriga faction, the difference between them was that Salarus would not be returning to Aiur if unsuccessful whereas Hephaest would endure a lifetime of shame and dishonor.

Salarus broke the silence, "I am well aware of what is at stake. My Executor will learn his place soon enough."

 "I also notice that you have delayed the warp jump..."

Salarus replied, "Yes it is set for 8 hours and we will make the last 30 minutes in real time."

Hephaest smiled, "I know what you are doing, Judicator... Do you think it will work?"

"Nothing is so pleasant as awakening slowly to the Khala. I will catch Executor Aeolus with honey*."

Executor Aeolus awoke to a honeyed whisper. His thoughts were slow at first as he tried to discern the speaker. He couldn't. He fell back asleep to the lullaby.

And awoke minutes later, this time the whisper was a chorus. It was gospel music, not sung by one but by millions of billions. The distance had muffled the voice but it was clear enough that his sleepy head knew the source.

Aiur... The Homeworld. His home. Where he grew up. A planet where everyone was empathically linked via the Khala, much like in the ship but on an incomprehensible scale. The emotions flowed in symphonic resonance, the Judicator Caste were the conductors, but all he could hear were the musicians. He surrendered to it and found himself swimming in it.

He completely forgot about yesterday's anger at the Judicator Caste for their manipulative ways. He was Home.

20 minutes later he stopped laughing and composed himself. Judicator Salarus was nearby, he felt him. No doubt Salarus was here to tell him the Ship had landed. He already knew. He felt it. The choir had been growing louder with their approach and now he knew that he was no longer a listener but just another choirboy.

"Executor, your Graduation Ceremony starts in... well it is starting now. I did not want to disturb your meditation but our Patriarch has almost finished his speech. All of Aiur is waiting for you."

The Executor nodded and approached his wardrobe.

"Oh yes, I had our armourer synthesise something more appropriate for the occasion," Salarus advised as he politely left the room.

The armour with it's gilded golden lustre was nowhere near as boastingly decorative as the ceremony. Salarus had even landed the ship behind the stage, so that the crowd could watch as they disembarked.

Executor Aeolus walked nervously on stage. Behind him to his left were the Patriarchs of the tribes of the Templar Caste, grizzled ancient paternal warriors and masters of war. Behind and to his right were Judicators of the Conclave, their faces expressionless and their age disguised as wisdom. All of them, he knew, could break his very mind in a millisecond with sheer psionic power.

Aeolus was beginning to feel impotent in the midst of these powerful figures until he saw the Patriarch who was at the podium. The Master of Ceremonies for this event was none other than his tribal Patriarch. The Patriarch of the Auriga Tribe, encrusted in emerald green armour with decorative golden spikes. He served as an anchor point in the Khala. As the Master of Ceremonies finished up his speech he glanced at Aeolus. Aeolus's nervousness disappeared as he could almost feel the Patriarch psionically shove confidence into his head.

".... Executor Aeolus"

Suddenly he realised that the Master of Ceremonies HAD finished his speech.

"Don't worry you don't have to say anything, just smile and wave to the crowd," Salarus consoled him telepathically.

And so he did. He was enthralled in the moment. But then a troubled thought raised it's head and whisked him away from the giddying Khala the crowd emanated. Every time he had seen the Aurigan Patriarch in the past he always wore the same piece of jewelry. Always. But not today it seemed. Despite all of his attempts to look handsome in his emerald-green armour, the MC was missing his Khaydarin Amulet...

*Protoss don't have honey, but the transdermal extract of Hastati Beetles could only be described "as sweet as honey", which is the literal translation of the Judicator's words

Friday, 2 December 2011


So if you are wondering where I have been for the last few weeks... It's all because of skyrim.
Hell even when they introduced a new patch that rendered half my armor obsolete, I didn't stop playing, I just told my lesbian lover to stay at home while I reforged some new overpowered dresses of doom.

Unfortunately this is not me. I guess I am just too much of a sucker for adventuring and killing dragons.
I should also mention that although I have always advocated certain games for being quite beneficial in creating real life transferable skills, Skyrim, alas, is not one of those games. Skyrim is a complete waste of time. An utter indulgence. You could be out there in the real world, making new (girl)friends and making bucketloads of cash but instead you are sitting in front of your computer with a grin on your face as wide as the 24inch screen your gazing into.

As such I have barely been able to force myself to continue to attend to social engagements and play some starcraft to fend off any possibility of my brain atrophying completely..

Unfortunately the former activity backfired somewhat. At my christmas work function, I immediately went into social chameleon mode and happily chattered away with bean counters and people from completely irrelevant departments until my own colleagues finally rescued me and my social apathy was allowed to run free without consequence.

That is until my 15th refill of wine came round. The waitress just kept giving me refills and I have a problem saying no. Luckily everyone else was suffering the same fate. It was quite hilarious seeing my boss drunkenly waltz around the makeshift dancefloor. Despite (or perhaps because of) the feelings that I fit in, I did end up grinding a colleague and performing a bit of mild flirtation. I didn't say much. I thought it had worked when I recieved smiles and intrigue in return.

Nevertheless I caught a cab home with just me and a bro without the aforementioned ho. I can't help wondering now if I played it too risky or too safe... Actually I probably shouldn't "shit where I eat" in the first place, but fuck it, I'm not going to be working here for that much longer anyway.

PS: Next post I'm doing up another sc2 story.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Storytime Again!

So here I am, it's 1:30 am, I have work in another six and a half hours and another half an hour until my copy of skyrim has finished downloading. I could sleep, but you and I both know that's not what's going to happen. Thankfully, I think I can function at work on muscle memory alone, but in the meantime I have half an hour to kill and what better way to squander it than with a bit of creative writing?

Flying Colours

He was tired. So very tired but in some ways that helped. The harsh training lesson was muted and he found his body and mind settling into a subconcious rhythm that his lessons had entrained into him. His mind reached out without effort. He felt the ship, it's sanguine hull bristling with psionic energy nestling in the safe coccoon that was it's powerful plasma shields. A solitary home and fortress in the void of space.

It was deliberate, he was to have no distractions until graduation. Hence why the ship's crew was skeletal in number, but he felt them nevertheless; the Khalai Protoss, the ship's technicians, their minds pulsating like a heartbeat.

Their feelings were transparent; unlike the two others who were in the simulation room. They were... enigmas, their minds did not seem impenetrable at first but his training had been very effective. Their minds were... layered. The outside was transparent, but they had a hidden wall separating the rest of their psyche.

Before he could dwell on it though, his thoughts were again interrupted by those ancient sapphire eyes gazing at him. He knew the Judicator could read his mind... and not just read it. He never used to feel uncomfortable about that fact, so why should it bother him now?

He spoke so as to banish his discomfort, "Judicator, you never told me you had such strategic prowess. Those last few simulated campaigns were... exceptionally challenging."

"Executor Aeolus, it was never my intention to push you to such limits. Truth be told, I find it... unethical," mirrored the Judicator, emphasizing his distaste at the word "unethical".

The Judicator continued but with a tone of pride, "A particular member of the Conclave took an interest in your training. I was reluctant, but Judicator Hephaest was insistent. He set up the last 2 campaigns for you and assumed the role of your opposing general."

On cue, the staunch Judicator Hephaest stood up to speak.

"When the Conclave selected you to be raised as an Executor of the Fleet they knew you were the best candidate to prioritize the survival of the military and civilian assets when completing objectives. However they felt there was a slight danger of you... "overdoing" it."

Hephaest continued, "After testing you myself, however, I am inclined to believe that their concerns are invalid." 

Hephaest then completely dropped the rest of his formalities with a lighthearted smile.

"Aeolus, you will be one of the best Executors we have ever been blessed with."

The Judicators let that last statement sink in for a moment before Hephaest let the other Judicator speak.

"We can see you are weary. Get some rest, young Templar and tomorrow we shall return to Auir for your formal graduation and immediate assignment."

The Judicators left him alone.

Aeolus lay on his bed. He was still tired but something niggled in the back of his head. The Judicators of the Conclave were always religious and political heroes. They were infallible, holy, they knew what was right and wrong and selflessly devoted themselves to making sure that everyone was on the Right path. Under the guidance of the Conclave, the people were one with one another; one gigantic happy empathically linked being.

Tonight though, he had discovered they had a hidden layer. He never knew that, never felt it there before, but then again never before in his life had he felt the ship. The Judicators had always preached the divinity of sharing your mind and all it's secrets with your brothers and sisters of the Khala, but the truth is they weren't actually practicing what they preached. And worse, they hid that little hypocrisy as a secret in itself.

This was a result of the training... he knew it. And Aeolus knew that those two Judicators already knew his little revelation...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Story Time!

I've been wanting to do this post or a week now, but work and procrastination has continually obstructed any attempt. That's ok, I'm doing it now so that makes it all better, I hope. Unfortunately this short story is going to be of the dreadfully common sci fi genre. I'm pretty sure every teenager went through that phase where they wrote a 214 000 word scifi/fantasy novelette. Fortunately for me, the floppy I used to store the story on became corrupted as did my dream of ever becoming a writer (well apart from the fact that my father seemed to think that "writer" and "homosexual" shared the same definition in the dictionary).

On the plus side though, I have learnt a thing or two since high school even though I haven't written anything but laboratory reports and technically inclined essays since. And that little nifty tool is to write about emotional responses instead of just a linear course of actions by two dimensional characters. And so without any further adieu, allow me to introduce you to the gman's first online short story...

Final Results

death, retreat, kill them all, gushing..blood, severed...heads, Victory

..and then a commanding voice as if shouted across galaxies: THAT WILL DO

He opened his eyes slowly. It was as if sandbags were weighing them down. His dream was still real in his head and playing across his mind haphazardly like a film reel with coffee stains blurring out every second frame. 8 hours... He couldn't remember all of it, nobody in their right sane mind could. But he definitely remembered the recurring themes throughout.

The deaths... billions of living beings slaughtered by his order. You can't empathise with that, and you cannot mourn for millions... sooner or later they all become a statistic and the only death you can empathise with is the death of your own compassion.

The retreats...Sometimes you had no choice but to flee. Strategically it sometimes made the best sense, but try convincing your comrades that. Every retreat he partook he had to fight the rising tsunami of hopelessness and humiliation that became pandemic across the ranks. It was infectious and the general had no immunity to the plague.

 "Kill them all," a phrase uttered so callously by himself so many times. When it wasn't him but the enemy doing the retreating he would scheme to turn the retreat into a rout. Masochism would turn to sadism as he avenged his own emotions and projected them on others. Viciously his heart aligned with his mind, for it always made good sense to hunt down the enemy when they are out of position and often times out of hope. Always, his men an extension of himself, echoed his insatiable bloodlust.

And the gushing blood... he was no stranger to the battlefield. Sometimes it wasn't even red; without oxygen blood is blue and when there is no red blood cells left flowing in your blood then it doesn't even take a color. You still know what it is, though, the lifeforce leaking out of the body.

Severed heads kept cropping up time and time again. Why tribal and warrior cultures seemed to take pride in putting heads on sticks, he did not know. But it enraged him and helped turn those millions of casualties on both sides into something... justifiable.

And finally the words victory and defeat were engraved inside his skull. Nobody ever had uttered those words. It was either his advisors informing him the "opposition had been killed with no survivors" or "we have captured the enemy general" or something along those lines. And every now and then, he slipped up and would pay for his strategical and tactical errors and would find a blade at his throat or a projectile weapon aimed at his heart and in a flash he was somewhere else commanding his men again in a new battle.

He had forgotten how many times he had died. In some ways he woke up being numb to the concept. He was afraid of death now though. Once upon a time he wasn't. He was a young zealot like the men he commanded in his dreams, it was sweet and fitting to die for your people. But now... it just scared him... just. scared. him.

He shut it out of his mind, with the rest of his dream and anchored himself back in reality; his eyes trying to convince him of what his mind could not. His surroundings were sterile, metallic and emotionally neutral. It didn't help, but then his eyes suddenly met those of his tormentor. The man responsible for the lucid dreams.

He lost himself in those ancient sapphire eyes and felt waves of admiration and pride gush over him in torrents. He was lost at sea.


The commanding compliment felt like a punch to the head. It didn't hurt though, it just put his emotions into a coma while his brain caught up.

"Your training is complete, Executor"

Monday, 31 October 2011

Stronghold 3 -Not fun for me nor fun for thee...

So Jess, did you really think that last post was a declaration of me making socially-relavent-to-15-year old girls's posts?


Nope that post was just Chuck Testa.

But I digress. the point is that I decided to write about what I know, and what I know is a small niche of RTS games. Last week I was silly enough to waste 50 dollars of my pitifully easily earnt cash on a game by the name of Stronghold 3. I was hoping it would be as good as it's ancient ancestor "Stronghold".

I was wrong... But to be fair it had high expectations to live up to.

The original stronghold was the first of it's kind. A medieval castlebuilding game with economic, military and aesthetic aspects of it. In free build mode you could run your castle like a medieval game of the sims, keeping peasants happy, or sad, building a nice big castle or a crappy castle with walls in awkward places. Absolute freedom. In economic missions you utilised the best tools medieval lords had at their disposal to ascertain a strong economy; food (by far the most effective; nothing motivates peasants like food) , religion, booze, torturing devices, dancing bears, highly variable tax rates and a rapidly expanding ghetto far away from the castle in a swamp because you didn't have enough room to fit all the peasants houses in the inner bailey.

And in the military missions you got to play with the most horrific yet fantastic killing machines they had at the time. Ballistae, catapults, trebuchets, crossbows, killing pits, mangonels, dogs of war and my personal favourite: burning oil. There were two delivery methods for burning oil; getting engineers to pour it from atop the ramparts or using archers with flaming arrows to light up pitch ditches. I preferred the pitch ditches.

Boiling oil was not nearly as popular though, as boiling water, hot sand and whatever else you had lying around... I'm not joking, this is actually what they did in those times.

The best aspect of Stronghold though was the story. Unfortunately computer games have a nasty habit of using monkeys with typewriters to write their plot arcs.Stronghold seems to have used regular humans on typewriters for their story. It's a classic tale of taking revenge in the midst of civil war. You play a medieval lord whose father died defending the king when he was kidnapped in a nasty cocktail of foreign invasion mixed with local treachery. The new regent to the throne is none other than the knight who killed your old man. You start with a hunting band of archers but by the end of the game command a whole army as the peasants you free from the lords you kill, mistake your thirst for bloody vengeance as an honorable quest to liberate the land and return it to the rightful divine rule of the king.

The story is rather empowering and is free from some of the other nastier tropes that plague modern games.

Stronghold 3's story was disapointing from the start. In all fairness though it was because my expectations were high. All the trailers were narrated by the "Wolf", the knight whose revenge you sought in the original stronghold and end up killing. I was willing to forego the implausibility of Wolfie surviving a sword in his stomach and a 50 ft fall off his keep under the pretension that I would be playing as the Wolf in his quest for vengeance in a glorious new segment in this saga of vendetta.

Sadly, you play that same character you did before but now he is playing the part of a typical goody two shoes. I wish the writers got their facts right. Anyone who knows their history knows that knights were not so holy and righteous and there certainly isn't anything chivalrous about rape (which was a universal activity in war amongst all soldiers).

Knights and lords had the added benefit of being able to legally rape women in peacetime too. If you don't believe me then go look up "droit de seigneur".

So apparently Wolfie has a new army and is terrorising the country again. How he managed to rise up from the grave and summon an army when he is universally disliked by his own countrymen and lost his treasury when he "died", I do not know.

On a positive note though, the story is definitely an improvement on "Stronghold 2" which had 2 bit graphics for cutscenes and characters so one dimensional that the 2 bit graphics described their personality frighteningly well.

Furthermore they did get the economic gameplay right. It has just the right amount of complexity and depth, nothing more. The military gameplay is stupid though; since when could men-at-arms kill archers on 20m towers with a thrown spear? And apparently archers can do similar gravity defying tricks. Of course it makes sense that archers could hit men on the walls, but some towers were too high to hit. Hence why they were built in the first place; so the defender could take pot shots at the attackers who couldn't hit them save with siege equipment.

The missions aren't too bad. They require time and patience. If you do not have any patience then don't bother playing them because you may find yourself vexed at losing missions for stupid reasons (eg gravity defying arrows). But if you can happily sit down and analyse and plan then this game is for you. Because rest assured, where there is a will and a brain there is definitely a way. And seeing your enemies fly off the walls with fragments of crenelations like shrapnel from your catapults?... well... that should be reward enough for your efforts.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

It's not you it's me...

It's not that I don't love you readers. I do, and for the very few people who are reading this after weeks of apathetic doldrums, you are looking very beautiful tonight.

It's just... with work, and esports it's hard to find the time and willingness to cover the ickiness that is the title and topic of my testament.

So instead of prolonging the struggle of keeping life in my poor blog, I am breaking up with blogging...
...about war, religion and politics.

Instead, this blog will just become my new personal blog. A bit like my old blogs on deviantart and the now ancient myspace, but hopefully with a bit more coherency and of course this blog will continue to be rated "G" for Gman, so no naughty things will be posted. I will just write whatever comes to mind, maybe put up a short story or two. Don't feel obliged to read. This is more of an exercise for myself than anything else.

As always though, your feedback whether it be positive or utterly cruel and constructive is welcome.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Battle of Tours

It's that time again, ladies and gents.

Time for me to stop rambling about endless political posts and off-topic trivialities and give you all a history lesson.

On this day (October 10th) 1279 years ago a major battle was ensuing. It would decide just how far Islam would encroach on western Europe and would mark the rise of a European power.

By 732 AD Spain had been consumed by the Moors. Islam was on the rise and threatening to spread further into Europe.

Remember learning about how terrible life in the dark ages was? It wasn't just terrible food, plagues, hard work and neighbouring warlords that were a problem, the Muslims had Europe in a vice grip too.

At this point in history there was no major power to stop them. The Umayyed Caliphate (aka the Moors, aka the evil forces of Islam) had already crushed the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) which had been held by feeble visigothic christian kingdoms and were poised add Gaul (France) to their list of conquests.

But as we already know, every story has a hero and today's hero, boys and girls, is none other than Charles Martel.

Stop! Hammertime!

Martel was the "Mayor of the Palace" of Austrasia at the time but don't let titles fool you; Martel was an autocrat ruling over Gaul and a rising general.

As it turned out, he had his work cut out for him. The Moors were slowly invading and ravaging the land with a cavalry-rich composition. All poor Charles had to work with was infantry, so he had to pick his battles carefully.

And pick carefully he did, he planted his army in between the Moorish army and Tours in the woods on high ground. If the Moors wanted to sack the juicy ripe town of Tours they would have to charge their cavalry through trees and up a hill. Moorish commander Abd-al-Rahman, was naturally afraid of fighting such a battle and against an unknown number (the trees made it difficult to judge the size of Martel's army), so he waited and called for reinforcements.

This was Rahman's first major blunder. By waiting for reinforcements, he gave Martel more time to prepare and call on reinforcements of his own. This was Martel's country, and so he had more reinforcements to call from in his countrymen.

When Rahman finally decided to bite the bullet and attack, the battle was already decided for him. He led cavalry charge after cavalry charge into a solid wall of trees and men clad in heavy armor. The casualties were heavy for the Moors. Nevertheless, eventually the cavalry broke through Martel's phalanx to the general himself, but Martel's liege men were quick to come to his aid.

Meanwhile, Martel had scouts sent into the Moor's base camp to create havoc. Rahman was forced to send some of his cavalry back to deal with the small threat, but his camp mistook the riding cavalry for a retreat. And so his whole camp began routing and it soon became a retreat.

Rahman attempted to stop the retreat and re-rally his troops and at this point Martel struck the killing blow, and surrounded and cut off Rahman from his retreating army. The Arabian King was slain and the battle was won.

For those of you who were too busy checking out the hot girl in front of you in Geography class.

Charles Martel's legacy continued in the form of the Carolingian dynasty. His grandson would become known as Charles the Great (aka Charlemagne) of the Holy Roman Empire.

But above all else Christian Europe was safe once more from Islam.

I for one find it interesting that for once the French were on the receiving end of a cavalry charge with an army of infantry when medieval history is littered with accounts of the mighty french cavalry. And also the stupidity of Rahman, all he had to do was continue his journey of pillaging the countryside until Charlie was forced to engage unfavourably.