Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rising Waters, Session 3

Evil Goblin by caoimm @ Deviant Art
Opening Song: The Sky is a Poisonous Garden Tonight, Concrete Blonde

So standing in the hallway, listening to the scrabbling on the roof, Uno calls Zeke and says that Heidi is going to host his party and oh, by the way, there's something weird going on and maybe they should come over. Zeke nods, everyone starts getting in the car, but then Adia realizes Eldi is missing.

Zeke goes looking for her and, with his keen eyes, realizes that she's pretending to be a flower in a flower stand. He goes to retrieve her, but she insists on being purchased, being a flower and all. Zeke rolls his eyes and buys her, then gives her to Adia, suddenly embarrassed because he's realized it looks like he's giving flowers to someone not his girlfriend. Adia stuffs Eldi back in her purse hurriedly ("Watch the wings!") and they all pile into cars. Dylan and Viktor ride in his car while everyone else goes with Zeke. When you let the kinetomancer drive, though, the laws of physics tend to work in weird ways, and although they leave together, the wizards get to Uno's brownstone first.

Dylan and Viktor get out of the car and walk up to the door. They're looking for weird stuff but don't see anything at first. Viktor looks around, though, and spots two goblins on the roof with bows and one over behind Dylan around the corner of the house. The ones on the roof fire arrows at Dylan and Viktor, but both miss. Dylan prepares a spell to deflect arrows in the direction he chooses, but when he looks back at the one beside the house, the goblin is gone. He holds onto the spell, though, as Zeke drives up with Adia and Eldi. Viktor uses his spirit/force magic to shove the goblin nearest him off the roof, which he successfully does.

Upon noticing that Dylan and Viktor were outside, Uno came out to join them. When the goblins see him, their focus shifts. Dylan still has his defensive spell in effect, but in the meantime he changes the friction under the fallen goblin and makes it too slippery for him to get up. Viktor tries to push the other demon off the roof as well, but this time it doesn't work. In the meantime, the goblin still on the roof shoots at Uno but misses as the changeling spins out of the way.

Zeke and the others pull up, just as this is happening. Zeke comes over to join the rest of them on the lawn, while Adia gets out from the car and hides behind it. Eldi, seeing other wildfae, goes over to see what's going on and see if she can make friends, or at least talk. Uno and Viktor both stand down a bit, going over to interrogate this goblin as well. He just grunts at them, though, and refuses to speak. Eldi tries to talk to him as well, but he just grabs for her. She flits out of the way, though, the slipper ground beneath the goblin aiding her escape.

While everyone's attention is elsewhere, however, the goblins attack. The one on the roof shoots again and Dylan's spell deflects it. Meantime, three more pop into being behind their targets: one behind Viktor, one behind Dylan, and one behind Uno, each with knives to strike their victims unawares.  Viktor and Uno manage to get out of the way, but Dylan's a scholar first, fighter second, and he gets stabbed in the leg and stumbles. Zeke shoots the one who attacked Viktor and hits, blowing a hole through his head, while Uno stabs his (but doesn't take it out) and Viktor stabs as well. The one on the roof vanishes, as does the one on the slippery ground.

The goblin on Uno attacks again unsuccessfully, as does the one on Dylan. Dylan creates a thunderclap and stuns the remaining goblins. Zeke shoots the one on Dylan and, between his and Dylan's efforts, he's taken out. The one on Uno disappears as well, leaving just the two on the ground, wounded and bleeding. Uno is trying to piece together what's going on (Eldi is very upset), and Adia throws out a bunch of change for Dylan to toss around, but there's no one left. A goblin appears atop the roof one more time and tells Uno that "his time will come, Summer Knight, and sooner than you'd think." And then they were gone.

The characters go inside and Zeke channels Sauriel to heal Dylan's leg -- taking those who hadn't seen it before a bit aback. Meantime, the goblins on the ground vanish -- nothing's left to show evidence of the battle. We'll see what happens next!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Rising Waters, Session 2

Opening song: Glory and Gore, Lorde

We pick up our story at Mo's, with a depressed Uno trying to justify ways to not get married, but kind of failing -- leaving the one reason that he doesn't want to, but more than that, he doesn't want to choose yet -- and he has to in order to get married.

The group ponders who would have sent them the items, but no one has any set ideas. They're sitting down to try to get through that when Zeke's phone rings -- it's work. They've got a strange local murder, and they're wanting him to come consult and take a look at it, if he would. Zeke takes off to meet the officer at the scene. Uno also takes off, as he wants to meet with his changeling posse and tell them the news.

While the rest of them are finishing lunch and preparing to go head off on their various plans for the day, Adia gets a text -- from her ex, Mickey. saying that he wants to talk to her and has some information for her. "Call me."Overruling the objections of everyone at the table, Adia messages him back, and he says he's heard some things and wanted to make sure she was okay. He wants to meet with her. She stews for a moment and then accepts the inevitable and sets up a meeting. She takes everyone else with her, though -- all other plans are cancelled when Mickey gets involved.

Zeke arrives at the crime scene over in Fell's Point, down at the water. The area is already cordoned off, and there's a tarp on the ground not far from the water's edge. He finds his contact there, waiting for him. "Don't know what the hell this is, but we thought since you deal with weird stuff sometimes, you might have some information." He pulls the tarp back to reveal two bodies, badly chewed and covered with an acidic slime, already decomposing, and with parts pulled off, scattered, and gnawed. Disgusted, he looks around the scene and consults Sauriel, who makes a deal with him to look through his eyes -- "Consent is important, Zeke. I can do nothing except by your will, as you well know." Zeke grumbles, but he needs the information, so he lets Sauriel share his body and power -- and what he sees is a horrible sensory experience. That clear acidic slime is tainted, and there's a trail of it coming up from the water... and then heading off in two separate directions. Something(s) came up, killed and/or ate this couple, and then left, but not the way they came. One headed down the block, the other into the grass at the edge of the parking area. Zeke picks up his phone and calls Victor via Adia -- "Yeah, I think there's something out here you should see. Come on over, would you?"

In the meantime, Uno has a talk with his besties. His closest confidant, however (a former changeling who turned fae) already knows, and she and the twins have their own invitations to the party. She's completely thrilled and wants to throw Uno a bachelor party in a week. She urges him to choose fae, thinking that it will influence the twins to choose as well. She doesn't know who sent him the chess piece, but remarks that it's the exact twin to a piece in a chess set owned by Queen Titania. He wants to go talk to his betrothed, but she informs him that it's completely against etiquette to do that -- they shouldn't see each other until the engagement, regardless of any other relationship they have. He reluctantly agrees to the bachelor party and she's thrilled, and gathers up the twins to go start making plans.

In the meantime meantime, Adia meets with Mickey at the national cemetery. He's charming and suave and polite to everyone, which makes everyone's skin crawl all the more. He suggests that Adia leave town for a little while to make sure she's safe, since things are shifting in unpredictable ways at the moment hereabouts, and he's not sure, given the company she keeps, how it's all going to play out. She asks why, and he refuses to say -- at least not here. But if she'd have dinner with him... well, that'd be different.

There's an art walk festival going on in Fell's Point, so she agrees to have hot dogs from a cart with him, in public, with everyone around. He accepts the deal, smiling, and she wants to kick herself for giving in, but doesn't go back on it. Mickey bades farewell to everyone until the evening and then heads off -- right before Adia gets Zeke's call. They trundle back into the cars and head around the harbor to the other side.

Once they arrive, Dylan and Viktor both end up using the Sight. Viktor is able to see the same trail, but he is able to identify it as ghouls. Dylan is able to track the origin back to a drainage pipe that flows out into the bay -- in doing so, however, he stares out at the harbor with it on, and he sees a storm and hears a deep bass voice laughing --- at him, he thinks. Everyone's struck by the idea of ghouls wandering around the city during the art festival, and gets a bad feeling. Eldi sneaks out of Adia's purse and goes over to a flower cart and hides, thinking little garden thoughts as she people-watches. No one realizes she's gone, though, in the face of all the ghoul-chewed bodies.

In the meantime meantime meantime, Uno's at his mom's brownstone, debating whether to call his intended and boss, the Summer Lady, or not. He's at the mirror and contemplating trying to contact her when he hears a scrabbling sound outside. He goes to check and doesn't see anything out the window. He can hear sounds on the roof as well, though, and he's suddenly got a terrible feeling. He grabs his sword and calls Adia, telling her there's trouble at the brownstone -- he hangs up, and listens to the noises coming from outside, and waits....

And that's where we pick up next time!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

5 reasons why getting married at 19 was a really stupid idea.

The other morning, I was tooling around Facebook (like you do) when I encountered a link to this article: 5 Reasons Why I Got Engaged Before 23. I was so moved to post that I went out and found that engagement picture, which is not mine, but which I chose because regardless of any associated aesthetic qualities, it was pretty obviously taken at the University of Oklahoma campus, which was also the setting for my own really misguided adventure into holy matrimony at a young age.

Disclaimer: I got married at 19 to a 19 yr. old guy. We were both each other's first official girl/boyfriend and had not dated, really, prior to our relationship. We had dated for a bit over a year before we were married, and a bit less than six months before we got engaged. We were married for fifteen years before getting divorced -- not a bad run time-wise by any standards, I think. We have two children together, and have both remarried since. I personally know people who got married at similar ages and are still together, some happily, some less so. Just because you were married at a young age does not mean that you are bad and should feel bad. It does mean, though, that there are some real challenges that ought to be addressed plainly, in a non-romanticized way.

It should be said, I do not begrudge the author of the piece his joy in his relationship. I think if he's happy and he has reason to bet on the success of the venture (and so does his partner), more power to them. I trust that while they may be only 23, they are not much younger than 23, and thus they've likely had a bit of time in the world to work things out. That being said, I must address this comment:
"Maybe, we're against getting engaged at an early age because we believe the wrong things about love.Call me a rebel, but I don't think love is dependent on my age."
Of course it isn't.  Love can be real and meaningful and impactful at any age. There is just a certain point before which the odds of it being long-term are stacked highly against you, and for excellent reasons.

The original article is full of reasons that are much of a type: Love is not an end [as in goal], love is not part of a checklist, love is not determined by age or your quantity of money, and love is an adventure. I do not actually disagree with any of those sentiments, but sentiments is exactly what they are. Love as you will, who you will, and may the odds be ever in your favor. But while engagement is often predicated on love, engagement is really about marriage -- and while marriage may be sentimental, it is a real, contractually binding, social, legal, and financial arrangement. So, with that in mind, here are my reasons why getting married at 19-23 (or younger) is a bad idea:

1) You don't have a career (or career path) yet.

At 23, if you've stayed on the expected USian adulthood timeline, you have just graduated college (most likely). You may have just obtained your first career-path job (or not). If you didn't go to college and you've had to good fortune to work in a field you like and stay there, you might be getting to adult-job-professionalism. Some few people get to it earlier than that, most get to it later. Even with a degree, underemployment is a huge issue for new college graduates -- it can take time to get into a real job. Either way, before that time, you're not there.

I'm not saying you should wait until you have enough money to get married. If you're poor, that point isn't going to come any time soon, and if you're not, it's really all the same either way. But there are careers that require a lot of time, energy, sacrifice, and even mobility in a person's early twenties in order to make them successful. Having a full-time partner can be a problem because while love is infinite, money and time are not. I'm not saying don't be in a relationship. By all means, if love finds you, jump at it. But don't get married or engaged yet.

2) You probably don't know what sort of sexual person you are (or they are) yet.

Sex is not supposed to be the most important thing in a marriage. Compatibility, ideals, values, companionship -- all of these things are crucial to making a long-term relationship go the distance. But, and I tell you this frankly, sexual compatibility is a big, big thing. When everything else is good, it makes the rest better. When everything else is bad, it gives you a way to maintain intimacy. People have things that turn them on, and sometimes it takes time to sort that out. Orgasms for women and figuring out how to get them is a process, and for some women it's a process they don't start on until they're in their twenties. We are physical creatures, and we have drives -- and there are few things sadder than two people who love each other entirely but have to resign themselves to never fully physically bonding with their partner. At 19-23, you likely haven't had enough adult partners yet to fully suss out your own sexual identity, your likes and dislikes, the things you need vs. the things you want. And if you haven't, then you run the risk of discovering them later with a partner who understandably has no interest in or ability to deal with the thing you realize you NEED in order to have a fulfilling sex life (and that doesn't touch discovering that your partner needs something you just can't give them). And that, my friends, is hard, and not in a sexy way. So don't sleep around indiscriminately, but do safely give yourself a variety of partners before you settle down, if at all possible. Your later self will thank you for it (and so will your partner's).

3) You haven't staked out your own identity yet.

Everything feels like you're an adult, but you're an adult who's still changing. The you of 25 will mostly likely be a hugely different person from the you at 19, if only because our lives change so much during that time. Part of that change is having relationship that are you're not required to keep. Part of it comes from living with people who aren't your parents. Part of it comes from developing friendships that can stay with you for the rest of your lives. All of these things are compromised when you marry young. That sounds dire, not to mention refutable, but much like when you have kids, that person you've committed to takes precedence in your life, and that means they are your primary time investment. You will make friends, and you may live with other people, and you will still have adventures -- but they aren't yours alone, and everything is run through a filter of that other person. And before this sounds like I'm rejecting that experience entirely, let me say that I'm not. But it is undeniable that the filters we choose in the forms of the people we love shape our experiences -- particularly when our own identities and preferences and likes and dislikes are still not altogether explored.

4) You aren't necessarily prime material for parenthood yet.

This is not to say that you are going to have kids if you're married. However, some not-insignificant percentage of people out there do have kids after they're married, and not all of them have them on purpose. Being in a committed relationship, particularly if you're married, when social and family pressure can start to build, can bring on a fit of children, particularly when you're younger. This doesn't touch the number of people who discover that they're with child, as it were, and then get married. That situation can work out but often doesn't, and I don't recommend it as the initial reaction -- you can always get married later if you want, and the child can be supported without being married. It's not the social stigma it once was.

The thing is, while there are some rare people who find that early adulthood is a great time for a family, it can also be a miserable time to be a parent. Kids are a serious commitment, and while they are joyful and awesome, they also mean giving up choices you might otherwise have made. They take precedence -- they have to, because you brought them into this world and now you're responsible for them. And what's more, unless you were highly involved with the raising of younger siblings during your youth, you have no way to know what the commitment load is like before you do it. Granted, that's true of a lot of things, like college and volunteering and the game design industry, but parenthood is in a class all its own in that you can't ever really get out of it. You're in for 18 years before you can transition to a remote capacity, hopefully with a collaborator, but possibly not, and there's a lot riding on your performance. It really helps to have some life experience and stability under your belt before you take on the job -- because it might not be a job you wanted at all.

5) Marriage is kinda forever.

I mean, yes, there is divorce. You can get out of it. But it follows you. "Divorced" is not the same thing as "never married" or "single," as all the dating sites and forms ever will inform you. A divorce does not wipe away your marriage and make it as though it never happened. It dissolves a legal and financial and contractual union -- largely by transforming the nature of that union into something else involving custody, possible alimony/support, and the dissolution of assets and sharing of debt. It takes feelings and subsumes them in legalese and money, which does nothing to make them go away. If you have kids, that person you marry will never not be in your life to some degree. If you don't have kids, that person won't be in your life as much, but you'll still possibly have to deal with them, even if it's just in explaining them to future partners. You might have to see them at family events. You might share a business with them. Marriage as a social and cultural institution intertwines your lives in ways that living together and being committed still doesn't entirely do, at least not until there's some number of years under your belt (I don't fully understand this, but I've seen it happen). (For gay couples for whom marriage is often not an option, it might be less a function of time, but that's me supposing and I have no evidence -- correction is welcome.)

Note that the above statement says nothing about religious beliefs in the sacrament of marriage or how it impacts the afterlife or any of that. That's not my thing, and I could not begin to address the myriad of beliefs regarding marriage even in Christian denominations, let alone other faiths. If you believe that marriage has a religious aspect to it, then that likely weighs even more heavily with you -- and should be all the more reason not to rush into it.

Conclusion

It may seem as though I'm down on the idea of marriage. I'm not. But these are the sorts of things I wish I'd been told when I was young. I would have pooh poohed them all, but it would have done me (and likely moreso my ex-partner) good to hear them. I had a lot of good years in my marriage and my children from that union are the lights of my life. That said, we did a great deal of damage to each other that probably could have been avoided if we'd just known a bit more. Hindsight 20/20, etc. Happily ever after isn't really a thing, though, and we all change and grow and adapt, and sometimes, this means that choices we made in our pasts aren't the choices we'd make now. If I could have gone back and done anything, I'd have had us live together for a year or two before getting married. Maybe we still would have, maybe not. But it would have been an eye-opening experience nonetheless.

I guess this is mostly meant to say that marriage is not the end-state of a relationship, but it is a binding process that has its own issues, and getting out of a marriage sucks and changes your life. Being married also changes your life. Not everyone needs to be married, though, and especially not people in their early twenties, who have so much still to do. Follow your hearts, as you will regardless of what a person on the internet says, but do so knowing a bit of what you're getting into -- and maybe live with each other for a year or two first.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rising Waters: Session 1

Rising Waters, Season 2

Session 1

Opening song: Team, by Lorde

Our setting is Baltimore, Charm City. The story opens with a concert at Moe's, which also is accorded neutral ground within the city. There's a group of changelings who've formed a band, and Duff from Charm City Cakes (a former changeling himself) is sponsoring their concert (about half the band members work for him). The band's name is Tempest, and their style is something like you might get if a ren faire, the Lumineers, and a goth metal band all had a baby together. That said, it's not bad... just wildly uneven.

All the PCs got an invitation to this, as really there were very few people who were friendly to Duff who didn't. He catered it, you see. So they all show up, including Zeke's new girlfriend, who is into local music and wanted to give it a try. Uno's working front of house, in an effort to stretch his human legs a little more and get some spending money, Dylan's making sure Adia doesn't get into too much trouble, Adia's hoping the music drowns out all the ghosts who want to talk to/at her, Eldi is interested in all this weird sort of stuff that people do, Viktor's at the bar with the occasional vodka shot, and Zeke is busy being amused by his girlfriend. That's when Moe taps Uno on the shoulder and says, "hey, somebody left these for you and your friends, go take them out, will you?" He hands Uno a series of small packages, each addressed to one of the PCs, all wrapped in smooth, heavy white paper and tied with silken cord.

Noting that Viktor is included as well, Adia retrieves him from the bar, and they flirt a bit, which is surprisingly cute. They let the packages sit until after the concert, but then they go ahead and open them to reveal the following gifts:

Eldi: a bonsai cherry tree in bloom (she can sit under it!).
Dylan: a pendulum kit, with a circular base painted half blue, half gold.
Victor: A silver dagger/letter opener that looks like a sword.
Adia: A painted sugar skull.
Zeke: A cross made out of rustic bent nails.
Uno: A white marble chess knight, warm to the touch.

Dylan starts putting together his pendulum, because what else would he do with it, and trying to figure out what he got. He starts to do a bit of magic, but then Moe clears his throat and taps the sign, and Dylan nods and let it go. Even without that, though, his experimentation leads him to believe it's not a regular pendulum, but that the gold and blue indicate the faerie courts. The concert breaks up and everyone starts finding their ways home, with Eldi and Adia carpooling with Dylan since Eldi can't very well be expected to tote a tree bigger than she is back home unnoticed. Uno hangs out inside to talk to Viktor and do a bit of bonding, but Viktor is uninterested, which annoys Uno to no small degree.

As Dylan and Zeke are saying their goodnights and everyone's gathered around the cars, Mouthpiece walks up. At first he asks for money, but then his eyes roll back in his head and he grabs for the nearest person, which is Adia. His hands on his arms, he sings "England Swings":

England swings like a pendulum do
Bobbies on bicycles two by two
Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben
The rosy red cheeks of the little children. 

He then shudders and turns to Dylan, and starts gesturing intently, declaiming Shakespeare's Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
He follows this performance by leaning in to give Dylan a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. He then shudders once more, asking for money again, like nothing had happened. Moved by pity, Dylan gives him a couple of bucks and Mouthpiece rambles off, expressing gratitude and mumbling to himself. Dylan and Zeke exchange looks, knowing this means something even if they don't know what yet.

Dylan and Adia take Eldi home, to the herb and import shop in Chinatown where she lives with a human named Mei. Mei treats Eldi like a princess, with a little house and doll clothes and seems very protective of her. She is interested in Dylan and asks about his work and whether or not he's married, and then proceeds to offer everyone tea. They ask about the cherry tree, as Dylan suspects there's magic involved in these presents, thanks to the chess piece. Mei isn't magical, but something about the scent of the cherry blossoms seems unusual to her. Eldi gives her the one's she's been weaving together for a crown and Mei adds them to some other herbs, then makes some tea that she sips. At first there's no visible effect, but then everyone realizes that Mei can see through one of Eldi's glamours, at least for a while. 

Dylan then excuses himself and takes Adia home, where he offers to ward her bedroom against spirits since she hasn't been getting any good sleep for all the voices she hears. She takes him up on it. He then goes out into her bedroom and unwraps the skull, and starts playing with it -- only to hear the voice of Josh, his dead brother, talk back to him from the skull's mouth. They have a conversation and catch up a bit, and then Dylan puts the skull into a circle of salt and power to keep it from being used, and Josh vacates the skull to let him do that safely. 

When Uno gets home, his staff alerts him to an envelope that was left, inviting him to the engagement party of the summer lady in two weeks time, in Faerie. He tries to contact his mother, who is thrilled to see him, and explains to his horror that he's the intended bridegroom, in an arrangement that was made when he was just a baby. Of course, he'll have to make the Choice and be fae in order to fulfil this contract, but she's sure he's ready. He'll also have to give up being the lady's knight, as only humans can act in that capacity. Uno's shellshocked and unhappy, but doesn't rebut his mother, who's off to pick out clothing and is in general thrilled with this turn of events. 

The next morning, everyone meets up to talk about what happened. Turns out Viktor and Dylan both dreamed of their items, with Viktor seeing himself in battle with a demon wherein the silver knife turns the tide of battle in his favor, and Dylan seeing the pendulum field as a tilting surface, moving this way and that with the flow of power. Adia shows up with Josh in the skull, and he is able to join the conversation and be heard by everyone, not just Adia. Uno tells the rest what happened to him, and suddenly it seems pretty clear that they're all supposed to do something in Faerie, and each has been given a gift to make that happen. Who gave them the gifts, though, and what are they supposed to accomplish? Should Uno get married or not, and who'll be the angriest no matter what? 

Tune in next time to find out!