Sunday, September 8, 2013

Character of the Week. General Diamond : Do Good Guys Finish Last?

Storyline:  A Past Allied (APA)
Height:  6'8"
Weight:  260 lbs
Race:  Paonian
Birthplace:  Boofon Articia, Paonia
Theme Song: Capital H, Motion City Soundtrack

Youngest child in a family filled with military fame, General Diamond was pushed to follow this path from birth, but try as he might, he could never measure up to his perfect older sister.  He gained fame when he defeated Caliphus the Jaguar during the Muchovan invasion - in the same battle that took his sister's life.

With this accomplishment, it seemed only natural to the powers that be that Diamond take his sister's spot on the Elite City Guard, however her peers saw him as an opportunist and never fully accepted him.  He excelled in the Guard despite this and at 18 he became the youngest General ever appointed.  Now he strives to lead his hostile peers and keep order in the capital city of Paonia while order crumbles under the stress and suspicion that still resonates from the Invasion two years ago.

He was nicknamed Diamond for his hardness, but will he hold up with his every move being criticized?  Will he ever find the traitor that let Muchovan into the Kingdom and finally give D-City the peace of mind it so desperately needs?

There's no doubt he's a physical force to be reckoned with and both bright and skilled - but does he have the heart necessary to win over his Boofon peers?

APA Kamino 1.4 : How to Start Over Using Only Bugs and Berries

{Last Kamino Post} {First Kamino Post} {Kamino Profile}

Location: The Valley, Old Chikil, Paonia

Kamino glared at the piece  of succulent fruit in her right hand and the nut in her left.  Who swam ridiculous lengths on health food?

                She’d made it about half-way to the nearest town before reality broke through her hunger haze: She was currently broke and unsightly.  She would have to fix both situations before she entered a town.  For the time being, she would have to scrounge for food – but she swore that would not last long.

                This wasn’t Kamino’s first hand of cards – she always stacked the deck in her favor.  She’d landed in The Valley, a territory of Paonia rarely entered by non-Vallians.  This made it unlikely the locals would recognize her, but they had a long-standing and friendly relationship with Oceania.  Using the small pack of goods carefully secured to the small of her back, she’d be able to pass as that occasional Oceanian Trader.

                She simply had to look the part.  Hunger dealt with, she surveyed the resource-rich forest surrounding her.  People avoided the Valley because travel was difficult and dangerous, forgetting the jungle had everything a clever girl needed to start over.  One simply had to know the local tricks.

                Trick One: Never travel on the ground.  The brush on the floor is thick and thorny and its inhabitants poisonous.  Solution?  Climb a tree – they’re fairly close together, so if you have fair balance you can pretty much stroll from branch to branch.  Additionally, because all Valley towns are at least 20 feet from the ground that’s where all path markers can be found.  Which is how Kamino knew she was about 10 minutes from the Village of Vines.

                Trick Two: If it’s bright and pretty don’t touch it.  There are dangers higher up too, but most are well marked by glaring colors.  Even these have their uses, though.  For instance, while those glistening, plump blue striped fruits should never come near your mouth, if mashed together with some of those juicy rainbow beetles, they make a fantastic tinted hair gel (perfect for disguising the platinum hair of the Northern Plains).

Plus it gave her hair style extra hold and a nice shine.  However, this was only good for short term use as it washed right out with water.

For the long term disguises Kamino would need a skin tint – easily made using local flowers and the tiny little bugs that loved them. (And if you shudder at the idea of rubbing bugs into the skin, never research lipstick ingredients.)  She collected these wherever she saw them, keeping them in a hollowed out gourd, carried like a purse with a strap made of de-leafed braided vines.

After generously applying her blue bug-goop gel, adding a few more gourds to her load and rewrapping her clothing in the proper Oceanian style (no one would care the fabric itself wasn’t Oceanian in origin), less than 10 minutes later Kamino made a passable Trader.

She entered the Village of Vines to see the namesake vines forming walkways and ladders between square, skeletal tree houses.  The bright magenta hue of these vines was a surprise, but didn’t give Kamino a moment’s pause in her bee line for the local eatery.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

APA Kamino 1.3: Where to Find Motivation When you Can't Feel Your Feet

{Last Kamino Post} {First Kamino Post} {Kamino Profile}

Location: Paonia Shore

It’s said that scent is the sense most closely tied to memory.  Perhaps that was why Kamino would have sworn she could smell her homeland even before the shore could be seen in the pitch black.  She’d never missed Paonia in the two years she’d been gone.  It had been time enough to establish a new life – several in fact.

The strong wave of nostalgia caught her completely off guard.

            Maybe Paonians had some kind of deep genetic attachment to the land and that was why it was both illegal and nearly impossible to leave the Kingdom in the first place.  At some point the powers that be had decided to spare their citizens the pain of homesickness.

            Of course that was nonsense born of giddy exhaustion, but it was a happier thought than offered by reality.  All the barriers that separated Paonia from the rest of the world: The Wall, the Towers, the Ports; this was how the Kingdom kept a tight hold on the land she had left.

At one time history said that all the known land was ruled by either the Chikil Republic or the Kingdom of Boofon.  Then the Titans clashed.  Generations spent warring became generations lost in a bitter stalemate.  Meanwhile outside forces nibbled away at the unprotected edges.

It was practicality that replaced the feud with a begrudging alliance, but the damage had been done.  Both sides had lost nearly half their territories, along with the conquering spirit that could have enabled them to reclaim it.  All the newly formed Kingdom of Paonia wanted was peace, so it blocked out the rest of the world.

Safely locked away, Paonia had attained mythical status outside the wall.  What deterred most had now become a challenge to some.  War had returned to Paonia after nearly a millennia of peace, and if the rumors were true, that same foe had them in their sights again.

And that was why Kamino was returning.  She had alliances to honor, debts to pay.  With that heavy thought she flopped onto the beach, her limbs feeling like jiggly jelly.

Mmmm…Jelly.  Oooh, a jelly, bacon sandwich.  She  was STARVING!  And now that she was back in Paonia…she could have a Brillglen.  A real, authentic Brillglen!  How long had it been since she’d had a Brillglen? –With pink crumble cheese made from Creo Goat milk oozing over lightly simmered and spiced Plain apple slices, surrounded by crispy, bubbling pork skin and red lettuce.  Kamino groaned aloud at the thought.

Perhaps it was good to be home.

Friday, September 6, 2013

APA Kamino 1.2 : How to Take on a Ridiculously Improbable, but Stereotypically Heroic Task

{Last Kamino Post} {First Kamino Post} {Kamino Profile}

Three Weeks Later
Location: Madruga Shore

The barest wisp of a person stood vaguely silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky.  Most people would, to her aggravation and amusement, mistake her for a child upon first glance.  She hadn’t quite made it to 5’ and just about disappeared when she turned sideways.
            However, as she gazed steadily at the water of the Lamisti Gulf, her mouth set in a determined line, no one would mistake her face for that of a carefree child.  She reached her hands up to the sky, then to the right, left and down to her toes, focusing fully on the task at hand.  If she let her concentration slip –
            She ran to the nearby grass, falling to her hands and knees to heave up all that was left of the food she’d eaten the night before.  Kamino sighed, wiped the back of her hand over her mouth and returned to stretching, refocusing.
            Some 30 miles of turbulent open waters separated the Madruga states from Paonia.  This was at the narrowest point of the Gulf – slightest error of navigation to either the north or south…well, you didn’t make it, suffice it to say.
Paonia wasn’t known to other nations as the Walled Kingdom for nothing.  With the Wall to the North, the Towers to the East and the Ports to the South, all entrances were carefully blocked off.  The only reason the West was left open was that the Lamisti Gulf was believed to be un-sailable due to its temperamental weather and rocky shorelines.
However, Kamino was not just Paonian, but, as her azure skin declared, Oceanian.  Oceanians learned to swim before they could walk, and spent more of their life in the water than out.  Other Paonians (most of whom couldn’t swim a stroke) called them squids, not entirely kindly.  They felt their love of the Ocean was unnatural.  Which was probably why it never occurred to anyone that someone could swim the Gulf.
That and the fact that few maps existed with both Paonian and Madrugan shores outlined, showing this small chink in their armor.  Kamino had as a child seen one such map, carefully worked out as a delicately tiled mosaic.  The artwork in the room had been done eons ago when Madruga had still been part of the Chikil empire.  As a child, she’d wondered if the map was fact or myth.
Two years ago she’d been desperate enough to find out.  And here she was again.
Kamino pulled on the glass goggles she’d discovered near Beedar Lake – an area known for its divers.  No true Oceanian would ever wear goggles – but she was only part Oceanian, the ocean irritated her eyes and she’d given up the impossible task of trying to belong on the small, xenophobic island nearly a decade ago.  She’d had to adopt practicality over pride and tradition.
            Kamino raked her hands somewhat viciously through her amethyst streaked white hair – her father’s hair – pulling it tightly back.  No, she’d never be mistaken for a pure Oceanian – or pure anything for that matter – but now she’d made herself more than any one people.
First by studying under the High Warress she’d acquired the knowledge of Paonia – both Boofon and Chikil, a feat in itself. Then she’d done what few Paonians ever had done – she’d left.  This gave her the chance to live in Madruga and Mahsheean, learning their ways, adding their skillsets to her own.  She’d even studied for a time with an Arlainian instructor and been trained by a Vylnese guard.  She could do this.
            At fifteen she’d been strong enough, smart enough to escape Paonia.  Two years wiser now, she’d spent every moment improving, honing.  She’d hoped never to need that skill and knowledge.  Her stomach trembled.  Muchovan wouldn’t allow her any peace.
            Again Kamino fought back panic.  She could do this.  Yes, last time she had failed, but she wouldn’t do so again.
Couldn’t do so again.

Okay that wasn’t helping.  She couldn’t seem to find the steady, calm, peaceful frame of mind that Chikils strove for, so she decided she’d settle for anger, righteous indignation and pride – a trick she’d learned from the Boofon.  She found she liked the irony of it – it seemed appropriate.
            Kamino poked at all the old wounds she could think of, working herself into a fine fit, then puffing herself up by thinking of all the things she’d accomplished on her own,
She gracefully dived into the cold water.
She knew the anger wouldn’t last, but once it wore off she’d have the swim to capture her whole attention, and eventually she’d be too tired and numb to think of anything beyond her next stroke.  Honestly, she was looking forward to the swim.  It would grant her a peace she’d not known in the three weeks since she’d left Mahsheean.  The journey would be physically taxing, but didn’t worry her.
It was the idea of returning home that terrified her.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

APA Cringe 1.1 : Name Calling and Paper Cuts - A Practical Guide to Rubbing Salt in Wounds

{Last Cringe Post} {First Cringe Post}

{Theme Song: Repetition, TV on the Radio}

Current Time
Location: Muchovan Camp, Effenta


That’s what people did when he spoke to them, walked by, made eye contact…sometimes at the mere mention of his name.  He’d seen it as if his name were a command.

Muchovans didn’t use birth names – your name should say something about you before you say a word – so said the tradition.  So while a baby is given a legal name, your so-called “paper name”, it’s the name earned through action that matters.  Unfortunately, more thought went into Muchovan name theory than the clich├ęd, obvious names given.  Well, in most instances.

Cringe was actually quite good.  It was both accurate and descriptive and, the best part, intended as an insult.

Muchovan men sought to be named after fierce animals, but some were named for plants and even a few after inanimate objects – there was a fellow called Woodblock in camp; as you might guess, he was practical, but an idiot.  None were named after a reaction.  This was a statement – he was not one of them.

What was intended as an insult, the man in question took as highest praise.  He had no desire to be Muchovan.  Even in his personal thoughts he spat the word with distaste.

He’d received the name after winning the trials – he wasn’t sure his paper name had even been requested – not that he’d have given it.  He’d been a despised outsider from the beginning, but after a chaotic year of deliberation, the Prime Counselor had finally endorsed a candidate to succeed the Great Jaguar – him.  And you did not ignore Asp.  Just like his name suggested, he was a venomous, mean, treacherous old viper.  Cringe personally detested the man, but at that moment the Muchovan people had probably hated Asp even more.

Cringe was neither what they’d expected nor wanted.  They were a straight forward people:  they respected strength and fearlessness – even when it was stupid and shortsighted.  Cringe had his own view on things.

While no one would dare say he lacked these sought after attributes, he had won their competition through cleverness rather than brute force – and to a man every single defeated opponent had cried foul at his method.  By the end upcoming opponents had cringed when they heard they’d have to face him.  The battle had been his before it’d even begun.

But of course the losers didn’t want this knee-jerk reaction to be attributed to fearing him.  That’d mark them as cowards and that wouldn’t do at all.  No, they cringed at his rudeness, his lack of respect for their customs and traditions, his outrageous dress and manners, his sarcasm and secretiveness, etc., etc., ad naseum… Yes, to sum up, everything about him was an affront to good and decent Muchovan people.

Yet he’d won it all and now they were irrevocably bound by their own short-sighted tradition.  By law, with no option of appeal, he commanded their army, and they hated him for it.

Then he’d continued to win the real battles and suddenly being named for a fierce attribute was a compliment.

Monday, September 2, 2013

APA Cringe 1.0 : Muchovan Trials and Mortification; Punking an Entire Nation

{Theme Song: Don't Sit Down 'cause I've Moved Your Chair, Arctic Monkeys}

One Year Ago
Location: Muchovan

Stunned silence reigned over the crowded field.  The people’s hero, their final hope, son of Jaguar the Great, lay on the ground defeated.  Unconscious it was easier to look past his height, muscles and fierce energy to see him for the 16 year old boy he really was.  What a sad hope.

                The loser was lifted gently, reverently, and moved to lay on the bench of shame where the many who had previously been defeated already sat, clutching their injuries, faces full of murderous intent and barely restrained rage as their hateful eyes glared at their victor.  He was of unimpressive size and build, had the looks of unknown heritage and the styling of a punk.  He gave an exaggerated bow to his opponents, making a farce of the Muchovan tradition.  One man needed restrained by his more level-headed, bleeding companion.

                A tall thin man in fine clothes strode out to stand beside the conqueror. The appropriately called Asp, Prime Counselor of Muchovan, was now the second most hated man in the country.  He’d sponsored the detested winner.  No one knew why.  Even now as he approached his champion faint, aristocratic distaste painted his narrow, severe face.

                Asp did what was expected, though, bowing to the winner, placing the heavy, symbolic epaulets on his shoulders, then presenting him to the crowds.  The silence broke, erupting with boos and hisses and cursing, covering Asp’s privately spoken words.

                “You should have killed him.  He’ll hate you for winning and won’t stop until you’re brought down.”  The victor gave the counselor an ironic look.

                “As opposed to my adoring public?”  The distaste in Asp’s eyes grew to full-fledged disgust, his lip involuntarily curling.  The throng’s volume rose and threatened to mob the winner’s circle, gaining the counselor’s attention.   “Aww, are you worried about me?” His victor taunted,  “That’s sweet.”  Rather than responding, Asp turned sharply from him, fully facing the sea of unhappy faces.

                “Muchos, one and all!  Hear me!”  The shouting fell to murmurs.  One didn’t dare ignore someone with a reputation like Asp’s.  He was Prime Counselor for a reason.  “I present to you the new leader of all Muchovan armies.  For his victory and actions here today he will henceforth be known as General,” Asp paused to look back at him, a superior gleam in his all-seeing beady eyes, “Cringe.”

                This name stopped the murmurs for a split instant, only to be replaced by a glee filled laughter.  No Muchovan had ever received such an appellation, but how appropriate for such an unworthy outsider.

                The newly dubbed Cringe, gave a half laugh, his lips twisting into a smirking smile at the Counselor.  He liked this name; how appropriate indeed.  He stepped forward, chin raised defiantly, the smirk changing into the toothy smile of a tiger.  The laughter started dying in the people’s throats.

                With Cringe in power, they were just now realizing, they may have a tiger by the tail.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

APA Kamino 1.1 : Moonlight and Mushiness...Maybe

{Last Kamino Post} {First Kamino Post} {Kamino Profile}

Location: Mist, Mahsheean

Mishee shook his head at Kamino’s introverted ways.  His straight white hair caught the soft light from the brazier as he leaned forward, glowing like the moon against the midnight blue sky of his skin as his wide, indigo lips curved into a rueful smile.  His black almond eyes were just a touch troubled.

  Mishee’s mother ran the house and his father cared for the horses – the Mahsheean were known for their skilled horsemen.  Both families had served this house for generations.  However, despite the difference in station and common prejudice, they’d taken Kamino in like a little lost duckling.  This of course made Mishee completely off limits to her, but she did admire the graceful way his long, finely boned fingers held the book.

“This party is for you, lady.”

“This party was for your mother.”

“It’s expected to entertain your neighbors and others of your station.  Ma Ma wishes you to feel at home in Mahsheean.  Is that not best?” He gave her a surprisingly stern look.

Kamino in general received two types of reactions in Mahsheean.  The first type were intimidated by her reputation and a little wary of her foreign looks.  These typically stuck to polite greetings then gave her a wide berth thereafter.  The second group was fascinated by these same traits – particularly the fair aqua of her skin.  Men – after they realized she was not a child, despite her size – usually fell into the second group.

But not Mishee.  Instead he treated her much like she thought an older brother would.  She found it both charming and infuriating.

“I would rather feel at home in my home,” Kamino replied, meeting his stern look with raised brow.  He only shook his head again.

“Be that as it may, good has come of it.  I overheard news of your home, the Walled Kingdom.”  This brought Kamino to attention.  “The Muchovan army is again on the move, and heading that direction.”

“But they lost their leader.”

“It’s said they’ve found a new general, rumored to be more brilliant than Caliphus the Jaguar.”  He paused, considering Kamino.  She looked through him, frowning, lost in thought.  Lost in the past.
“You’ll go.”  That brought her focus back to him.  “Maybe after you deal with this, you’ll return, ready to truly settle here…and then, maybe, we could, you know, talk…”  Mishee handed the ancient text back to her, his hand grazing hers ever so lightly.

Kamino was caught entirely off guard and was momentarily frozen, eyes wide, mouth half open.  Mishee rose from where he sat on the divan, stepping towards the door, giving her a moment to regather her normal aplomb.

“But for now we should head back to the party.”  He turned to offer Kamino a hand up from where she sat on the floor.
Where she had sat.  “Lady?”

The breeze carried Mishee’s voice to Kamino as she slipped silently away.  Seemed now was the perfect time to head home – before Mishee smothered her to death.  Kamino couldn't handle clingy people.