Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

image of Xenograg
(Art by Isaura Simon)

Forced Redemption

September 26, 2022
Lamont Cranston:
You know my real name?
The Tulku:
Yes. I also know that for as long as you can remember, you struggled against your own black heart and always lost. You watched your spirit, your very face, change as the beast claws its way out from within you. You are in great pain, aren’t you?
[Cranston leaps at the Tulku who magically avoids the attack.]
The Tulku:
You know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, for you have seen that evil in your own heart. Every man pays a price for redemption; this is yours.
Lamont Cranston:
I’m not looking for redemption.
The Tulku:
You have no choice. You will be redeemed, because I will teach you to use your black shadow to fight evil.
[Cranston continues to violently resist but only succeeds in exhausting himself.]
Lamont Cranston:
Am I in Hell?
The Tulku:
Not yet.

— “The Shadow (1994)

An unique and fascinating concept: a holy man forcibly redeeming an evil man—a lost soul, really —through both great compassion and harsh discipline.

Talents Beyond the Mere Physical

September 26, 2022
Abbot:
I see your talents have gone beyond the mere physical level. Your skills are now at the point of spiritual insight. I have several questions. What is the highest technique you hope to achieve?
Lee:
To have no technique.
Abbot:
Very good. What are your thoughts when facing an opponent?
Lee:
There is no opponent.
Abbot:
And why is that?
Lee:
Because the word “I” does not exist.
Abbot:
So. Continue.
Lee:
A good fight should be like a small play, but played seriously. A good martial artist does not become tense but ready. Not thinking yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself.
Abbot:
Now, you must remember: the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy. The “it” that you refer to is a powerful weapon easily misused by the martial artist who deserts his vows. For centuries now, the code of the Shaolin Temple has been preserved. Remember, the honor of our brotherhood has been held true. Tell me now the Shaolin Commandment Number Thirteen.
Lee:
A martial artist has to take responsibility for himself and accept the consequences of his own doing.

— “Enter the Dragon” (1973)

The Plunder of the Ages

September 22, 2022
And the plunder of the ages is in my grasp!

— “Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #81” (1987)

Used without permission.

Fool! A Mage’s Hoard You Enter With a Stick?

September 22, 2022
Fool! A mage's hoard you enter with a stick?

— “Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #80” (1987)

Used without permission.

Anti-magic

September 14, 2022

A roleplaying game topic I see regularly is the effect magic’s existence has/should have on historical architecture and, more specifically, their defenses against various threats. Namely, magic’s existence rendering them irrelevant. Some essays include how game masters should rethink/redesign castles, treasure vaults, prisons, et. al.

To me, the solution is obvious: add a nullification of all magic effects to the mundane defenses of any object or location. In short, anti-magic. For this to work, anti-magic needs to be available proportionate to the level of magic in a campaign world. Thus so, historical defenses require no rethinking at all.

The simplest answer is most likely the correct one.

Personal magical defense will be the subject of a later post.

To Fire Or to Water

September 13, 2022
Galen:
The answer is still “no.”
Dureena:
I didn’t say anything.
Galen:
That was the look you gave me the last time you asked me to teach you what I know. The answer was “no” then, and it is “no” now.
Dureena:
Why?!
Galen:
Because there is a time and place for everything, and right now is the wrong time. You want to learn for the worst of all possible reasons: the need for revenge.
Dureena:
The Drakh killed my entire race! And they will do the same to yours…and you don’t want revenge?!
Galen:
(sternly) When you have reached the end of the road, then you can decide whether to go to the left or to the right—to fire or to water. If you make those decisions before you have even set foot upon the road, it will take you nowhere. Except to a bad end.
Dureena:
I don’t understand.
Galen:
That’s why I said “no.” When you have grown out of your rage then we will talk. Not before.

— “Racing the Night” – Crusade, Season 1 (1999)

Life In Every Breath

September 11, 2022
Katsumoto:
…You do not fear death, but sometimes you wish for it. Is this not so?
Algren:
Yes.
Katsumoto:
I, also. It happens to men who have seen what we have seen. And then I come to this place of my ancestors, and I remember: like these blossoms, we are all dying. To know life in every breath. Every cup of tea. Every life we take.
The Way of the Warrior.
Algren:
(whispers) Life in every breath….
Katsumoto:
That is Bushidō.

— “The Last Samurai” (2003)

I’m a Wizard, Mind You!

September 5, 2022
Akira:
I’m a wizard, mind you! This place is kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings! Harm my flesh and you will have to deal with the dead!
Conan:
Can you summon demons, wizard?
Akira:
Yes! To strike at you, I would summon a demon more ferocious than all in Hell!

— “Conan the Barbarian” (1982)

To Be the Best, You Have to Face the Best

September 4, 2022
Walker Smith:
That’s what the game is all about. To be the best, you have to face the best.

— “TKO” – Babylon 5, Season 1 (1994)

Retinue Versus Followers

September 3, 2022

The retinue did not consist of only soldiers…but also of servants, artisans, professionals, estate officials, treasurers, stewards, lawyers and generally all that was needed by the normal operation of society. And, as the lord grew in status, so did the retinue; so that a sort of “bastard feudalism” developed, in which middle ranking figures under a king or major noble would compete for money, offices or influence…. The collective name for these retainers was “affinity,” which also happens to be a word that began in c. 1300 [C.E.] as “relation by marriage.” In a sense, the retinue were “kin,” or part of the “neighbourhood,” words that have developed other meanings over time. For this post, [we will] go on using the word retinue and retainer, but try to keep affinity in mind….

Obviously, this would mean that many persons outside the retinue would always be seeking to be a part of it, if they had no affinity of their own. This meant that outside the retinue were an amorphous group of general supporters and contacts, most of them completely unknown to the lord, but known to the various members of the retinue. Thus, even a minor lord could potentially affect hundreds, even thousands of persons, simply by their existence at the heart of his or her retinue. This made political maneuverings and the raising of an huge army a realistic possibility…. In [Dungeons & Dragons], we tend to think that to raise an army, we need to scatter out agents and interview people. In fact, the more likely truth is that there would be large numbers predisposed to our cause; we would need only to canvas our own connections, gain the support of other nobles and let them canvas their connections, and thus through specific persons already in our employ, we would dredge up the very people we needed from both our lands and from those wanting to be part of our lands. Thus, every war begins with a promise of land—which we will naturally take from the losers, when we win.

All this makes the retainer far, far more valuable than the follower—though, it must be said the retainer has less reason to be directly loyal. Ultimately, the retainer serves the office, not the individual. A lord is sure to be surrounded by trusted, reliable followers and henchmen, the “inner circle,” while sorting out the trusted members of the retinue from those not quite so trusted. In general, the retinue is expected to fall in line because the lord has the retinue’s general welfare at heart; if the lord fights to preserve the lord’s lands, he or she also fights to preserve the retinue’s lands. So all join together in the common cause.

Retinue vs. Followers – The Tao of D&D

Author’s emphases are in italics. Mine are in bold.

Herleva

September 1, 2022

William’s mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was also the most wonderful. She could bring down the moon and make the sun dance with her singing. Flocks of spirits followed her wherever she went; when she worked her magic, so many of them crowded about her that one would think she could barely move.

He loved to watch her work magic. He would sit in a corner, safely out of the way, and fold his arms on his knees and rest his chin on them, and watch while she made the world more beautiful. Sometimes she made medicines, filling them full of light and laughter as well as herbs and simples. Other times she sat at her loom and wove light and shadow into the threads of linen and wool, so that the cloth carried blessing and goodwill, and a little beauty, when it was made into a cloak or a shirt or a gown. And sometimes, though that was not often, she called on the great powers for some purpose that he was too young to understand, summoning the whirlwind and bringing down the lightning.

When he was very small, he had only watched, but as he grew older, she called him to her in the middle of the working, and showed him how to do what she was doing. Once in a while she would even let him do the working. She would tell him what she wanted, and he would do as she had taught him, and brew a medicine or summon a spirit or scry in the silver bowl that she kept, wrapped with great care in a scrap of silk, in her chest to which no one else had the key—because the key was made of magic.

Rite of Conquest, Chapter 6

Japanese Sword Etiquette

August 31, 2022

To touch another’s weapon, or to come into collision with the sheath, was a dire offense, and to enter a friend’s house without leaving the sword outside was a breach of friendship. Those whose position justified the accompaniment of an attendant invariably left the sword in his charge at the entrance or, if alone, it was usually laid down at the entrance. If removed inside, it was invariably done by the host’s servants, and then not touched with the bare hand, but with a silk napkin kept for the purpose, and the sword was placed upon a sword-rack in the place of honor near the guest and treated with all the politeness due to an honored visitor who would resent a discourtesy. The long sword, if two were worn, was withdrawn, sheathed, from the girdle with the right hand—an indication of friendship, as it could not be drawn and used thus—never by the left hand, or placed on the left side, except when in immediate danger of attack. To exhibit a naked weapon was a gross insult, unless a gentleman wished to show his friends his collection. To express a wish to see a sword was not usual, unless a blade of great value was in question, when a request to be shown it would be a compliment the happy possessor appreciated….

The Overlook Martial Arts Reader, pp. 44-45

Officials in a Baronial Household

August 28, 2022

By the middle of the thirteenth century [C.E.], however, certain features seem to be characteristic of all [European] baronial households. There was a seignorial council made up of both knights and officials which fulfilled the same function of advice and consent for its lord that the curia regis did for the king. There were auditors who normally travelled around the baron’s lands, overseeing and checking the complicated system of accounts. Two officials dealt with financial matters, receiving income and making expenditures. Their titles varied on different estates, and they might be known a treasurer, receiver-general, or wardrober. The keystone of the baronial household was the steward: he held courts, headed the lord’s council, occasionally acted as an attorney at the king’s court, supervised, and often appointed, such local officials as bailiffs and reeves, and acted as his lord’s deputy. These various officials were the important nucleus who carried on the day-to-day affairs of the barony. Their number and their exact function depended on the importance and wealth of the lord whom they served.

A list of officials for the barony of Eresby in the last quarter of the thirteenth century gives a good idea of the actual household of even a minor baron, and also suggests the large number of officials and servants concerned with purely domestic affairs. The lord of Eresby had a steward who was a knight, and a wardrober who was the chief clerical officer and examined the daily expenditures with the steward every night. The wardrober’s deputy was clerk of the offices, and the chaplain and almoner could be required to help write letters and documents or act as controller of expenses. There were also two friars with their boy clerk who could substitute for the chaplain. The purely domestic officials and servants were numerous. They included a chief buyer, a marshal, two pantrymen and butlers, two cooks and larderers, a saucer—the medieval term for the sauce cook—and a poulterer, two ushers and chandlers, a porter, a baker, a brewer, and two farriers. These men were assisted by their own boy helpers. This actual list has the great advantage of illustrating the dual character of the officials who made up the baron’s household, and the number of individuals who travelled with it on its many moves. The most important officials were only incidentally concerned with daily affairs. They dealt primarily with the long-range problems of the administration of the scattered lands and the collection of the various revenues of the barony, serving as the overseers and directors of such rooted local officials as reeves, bailiffs, or constables. But the nucleus of officials also included those whose total concern was with the daily domestic routine, and one man above all—the steward of the household—was primarily responsible for the smooth running of daily life.

A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, pp. 54-55

The Real Power of the Dark Side of the Force

August 22, 2022

[Count Dooku] called upon the Force, gathering it to himself and wrapping himself within it. He breathed it in and held it whirling inside his heart, clenching down upon it until he could feel the spin of the galaxy around him.

Until he became the axis of the Universe.

This was the real power of the dark side, the power he had suspected even as a boy, had sought through his long life until Darth Sidious had shown him that it had been his all along. The dark side didn’t bring him to the center of the universe. It made him the center.

He drew power into his innermost being until the Force itself existed only to serve his will….

Oh, [the two Jedi] were certainly energetic enough, leaping and whirling, raining blows almost at random, cutting chairs to pieces and Force-hurling them in every conceivable direction, while Dooku continued, in his gracefully methodical way, to out-maneuver them so thoroughly it was all he could to do keep from laughing out loud….

They didn’t even comprehend how utterly he dominated the combat. Because they fought as they had been trained, by releasing all desire and allowing the Force to flow through them, they had no hope of countering Dooku’s mastery of Sith techniques….

They allowed the Force to direct them; Dooku directed the Force.

He drew their strikes to his parries, and drove his own ripostes with thrusts of dark power that subtly altered the Jedi’s balance and disrupted their timing. He could have slaughtered both of them as casually as that creature Maul had destroyed the vigos of the Black Sun….

Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 3

Author’s emphasis is in italics. Mine are in bold.

Ultimate Sources of Power

August 11, 2022

“To a wizard,” Tenoctris said, “the sun is an ultimate source of power and Malkar is an ultimate source of power. But no one can reach an ultimate source directly. The forces that a wizard works with aren’t pure, any more than the water you drink is pure.”

“You’re saying that Malkar isn’t evil?” Garric said with a frown…. “That you serve Malkar?”

“No,” Tenoctris said, tapping her finger on the wall beside her with sharp emphasis…. “No one serves Malkar. And as for using the forces that stem largely from Malkar, I don’t drink seawater either. There are differences of degree.”

Ilna turned her head to watch the waves dancing in the sunlight. Near shore the water was dark, almost purple, but beyond that and as far as her eye could reach the Inner Sea had a pale green translucence like that of the finest jade. It was much more beautiful than the colorless fluid brought up from a well; but of course no human could drink seawater….

Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 18

Powers Beyond Human Comprehension

August 10, 2022

Tenoctris wasn’t a great wizard in the practical sense. She had a scholar’s mind and a jeweler’s soul; large-scale works were for other folk. She saw and understood the forces which had to be shifted; she simply didn’t have the psychic strength to manipulate them.

And perhaps she saw and understood too well. Tenoctris couldn’t possibly have struck the blow that the Hooded One had delivered; but she realized that actions of that magnitude must have consequences beyond those the wizard intended. Consequences that even Tenoctris couldn’t predict….

The Hooded One refused to give his name, but he’d claimed that the chair he brought to Yole with him was the Throne of Malkar. One who sat on the Throne of Malkar became Malkar, became the essence of the black power that was the equal and opposite of the sun.

Tenoctris knew the Hooded One’s throne was a replica, built according to descriptions given by the great magicians of ancient times who claimed to have seen or even sat in it. The original was rumored to be older than mankind; older even than life….

…Tenoctris knew that the Hooded One’s success was a much greater danger [to Yole] than ever [the enemy’s] flame and swords could be. A wizard who used powers beyond human comprehension could not have the judgment to use those powers safely.

Lord of the Isles, Prologue

Author’s emphasis.

A Period In Which Politics Did Not Exist

August 4, 2022

When we retreat from the early modern age into the Middle Ages the distinction between government, army, and people becomes more tenuous still. The term “feudal” implies this was a period in which politics did not exist (the very concept had yet to be invented, and dates back only as far as the sixteenth century [C.E.]) So closely intertwined were a man’s political power and his personal status that his ability to conclude alliances could well depend on the number of marriageable daughters he had sired. Politics were entangled with military, social, religious, and, above everything else, legal considerations; feudalism before it was anything else comprised a network of mutual rights and obligations. The resulting witches’-brew was utterly different from the one we are familiar with today, so that to use the word politics probably does more harm than good. The medieval context hardly even makes it possible to speak of governments, let alone of states….

The Transformation of War, p. 52

Emphasis mine.

Compelling Deities To Yield Their Boons

August 4, 2022

The means by which the priestly caste in India gained the mastery over the nobles—gradually, perhaps, but surely and securely—was the awe that they managed to inspire in all around them by the chanting, and apparent power, of their Vedic charms. In the earliest period the gods were implored. But when it was reasoned that since the gods could be conjured to man’s will the power of the conjuring rites must be greater than that of the gods, the deities were no longer implored but compelled to yield their boons to the warrior clans; and the magic of the Brahmins, the knowers of the potent spells, became recognized as the mightiest, and most dangerous, in the world.

The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, p. 189

Fictional Timeline Added

July 21, 2022

I finally put the time and effort into finding and collating the events of the “Xenoverse” into a definitive timeline. It spans almost 90 in-character years and almost 40 real ones.

The link is also in the sidebar under “Latest Pages” and thus available from every page for the foreseeable future.

Enjoy!

I Don’t Believe in Luck

July 8, 2022
Vinny Terranova:
I don’t believe in luck. I make it and I take it, but I don’t stand around waiting for it to happen.

— “Independent Operator” – Wiseguy, Season 1 (1987)