Monday 29 June 2015

Reading Challenge 2015 - Tiffany Aching

I'm a huge Pratchett fan, so it's a little shocking that I hadn't previously read the Tiffany Aching books. Husbit bought and read the first and told me dismissively it was for children and it sat on the shelf and for the longest time I left it at that. 

And then this reading challenge came along and I got my hands on a copy of a favourite childhood book (Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak) and I remembered that I love children's books and thought I should at least try Wee Free Men. And then I had to track down the other three, and then Pratchett died and I was shocked and saddened but delighted to have finally read these incredible books.

All these books cover the following challenges:
    - unread book by a beloved author
    - funny book
    - book with non-human characters
    - book with magic
    - book that made me cry 

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Published May 2003

I mentioned Outside Over There above because this has a similar plot: younger sibling kidnapped by fey beings and needing rescue. It's a story I love - I made my big sister read Outside Over There  over and over again and Labyrinth is one of my favourite films - so it's probably not surprising I adored this telling of it.

Tiffany Aching is a wonderful character. She made me feel better about myself and she made me want to be better in myself. She's definitely the kind of role model I want to be able to point my future children towards. The talk of flint and chalk was exciting to me because I know a bit about stone (and remember nearly setting the carpet on fire when I was experimenting with flint-knapping when I was about Tiffany's age). Her memories of her granny had me in tears at the train station because I felt I was living them. Her common sense and logic and love of words made me feel close to her. 

I had a distinct feeling of a critique of novels where the main character is marked as special from birth and where magic is a gift rather than something earned through hard work.

Published May 2005
Additional challanges covered - colour in the title (skyblue - stretching slightly)

Apprenticed to an experienced witch - the curious Miss Level - Tiffany's introduced to the confusing and often cruel world of competitive acquaintanceship. Added to that, her abilities have attracted attention from a potentially dangerous source. But she's prepared to face her problems herself, using her logic and listening to the unspoken advice of those around her.

Granny Weatherwax is my favourite Discworld character and in this and later books I loved seeing this other side of her - and of Nanny Ogg too (I'd have liked a little more Magrat. I regret that she's faded with marriage and motherhood).

I love that even with the distance her heart remains in the Chalk. I love that she's not afraid of hard work - never a martyr to it, even if she doesn't want to do it. 

September 2007
Additional challenge covered - one word title

Tiffany is now apprenticing with Miss Treason, a wonderful character. Annagramma, one of the younger witches with whom Tiffany had a rivalry in the previous book - has matured somewhat but is still a good adversary and a stark contrast to Tiffany.

This follows the themes of the previous books, of being responsible and dealing with mistakes and of helping those less able to help themselves. This time, Tiffany has done something stupid with very serious consequences she could not have foreseen (although possibly someone could have given her a bit more advice beforehand...), so she has to clear up the mess. She can't shy away, can't complain it's not fair: she is responsible in both the sense that it's her fault and that she's in charge. But she's still young and is still being used as a pawn by the older witches, which is interesting as you watch them weave their intrigues from the other angle.

Published September 2010
Additional challenges - colour in title (midnight blue is maybe less stretch than sky?)

This is certainly the darkest of the four, and possibly the darkest of all the Discworld books. For a young adult book, it handles some very adult themes - with care, with compassion, with anger and, of course, with humour.

Tiffany is witching at home and in her own right now. This time, the greatest enemy comes in the form of fear-driven hate. It take the form of hatred of witches - or anyone who could be accused of being a witch - and resembles our world's witchy history, but the same effects of fear and hate can be seen in so many areas of the world today that it struck a very deep chord.

I found the interaction between Tiffany and the Kelda particularly touching in this book, given their previous relationships, and the new lady of the land and her family were beautifully written - Pratchett showing yet again that there are many different ways to present a strong female character and that what looks like weakness can be strength.

This book felt like a goodbye, but not one without love nor hope. Miss Smith was a delightful surprise.

I once read that Terry Pratchett had said: "The opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is not funny." That comes across very strongly throughout the series.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Musical A-Z - O

Obsessive Compulsive

These guys played the Alt May Ball one year when I was at uni (for me, a great deal - a fraction of the price of the actual May Ball and with bands and music I was actually interested in). Of the various bands who came, they were my favourite. Their music was fantastic and after their set they came and hung out with us and were really nice people. Really excited that they seem to be getting recognition. 

My favourite of their songs are actually from the ep I bought when I saw them, and their official YouTube channel doesn't carry any of them so I went with this because that line "I speak my truth, I wear my scars" comes from one of those songs.

The Offspring

Probably not much of a surprise to anyone that I love The Offspring - fun and upbeats tunes of the sort that are intrinsically interwoven into my summer. 

On a side note, was recently given a link to an article analysing the accents used in pop punk, which I found really interesting.


Another song of my teenaged summers. OK Go do some great fun videos - this one's visually very punny. There's something very satisfying about the videos, and I like the music.

Otis Redding

Having said that the kind of upbeat punk-pop epitomised by The Offspring, Blink 182, et al is the sound of my summer, this is also amongst it. This song is one of hot, sultry summer evenings, having a pint of cider and kebab in the back garden and watching the sun go down.

Our Lady Peace 

Our Lady Peace again remind me of being a teenager and particularly playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Pretty sure it wasn't actually on the soundtrack - think it was just what I chose to listen to when playing. But the two are pretty entwined in my mind.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Musical A-Z - N


Like a lot of people, this is the only thing I know by Nena. The first version of this song I heard was the cover by Goldfinger, and I loved it. Love this too.
Nina Simone

Her voice... !

Nine Inch Nails
Was unsure which song to go for - The Hand That Feeds is probably the one that gets me dancing most readily, but this is probably my favourite.

No Doubt

So many memories of mad dancing! Was never so fond of Gwen Stefani's solo stuff, but I enjoyed No Doubt.


My Dad raised me on The Clash and was always a bit sniffy about the punk-pop I loved (and still love!), but even he quite enjoyed this album. I saw them at Reading one year - the singer was teasing the bassist for wearing a Thundercats t-shirt and they went wrong and had a lot of fun.

Numidian Wish 

I don't remember seeing this local band live, but Husbit says we went together and I certainly know and like their music.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Devin Panesar - Pathfinder Bard

Been going through my roleplay folder and found the sketchy character sheets I made for Svetlana's friends - Devin, Piotr, Anya and Misha. I made them up as first level player characters because I really enjoy character creation - I find it strangely soothing - rather than to assist my GM, instead allowing him to flesh them out from the background I gave him as he sees fit (he received rather more pages than I shared here!). For a bit of info about the place they grew up, see here and for Svetlana's background, see here. (Update to add links for Anya, Misha and Piotr).

There's been a bit of talk again about how characters get their names: in Devin's case, I liked the name Devin. His surname is borrowed from a schoolfriend with the intention of invoking an image of Golarion-India for his father's family.

Devin Panesar - Chaotic Neutral Human Bard (level 1)
Abilities: Str9, Dex13, Con11, Int17, Wis14, Cha16
Skills: Appraise 1, Bluff 1, Diplomacy 1, Disguise 1, Knowledge (Geography) 1, Linguistics 1, Perception 1, Perform (Sing) 1, Sense Motive 1, Sleight of Hand 1, Spellcraft 1
Feats: Persuasive (bonus to diplomacy and intimidate), Deceitful (bonus to bluff and disguise)
Trait: Charming (+1 bonus to bluff/diplomacy and +1 bonus to DC on language dependent spells against those sexual attracted to him)
Special Abilities: Bardic knowledge, Bardic performance: Countersong, Distraction, Fascinate, Inspire Courage 1
Spells: Level 0 - Canny Effort (+2 bonus insight bonus to next skill check; 1001 Spells), Mage Hand, Message, Open/Close
Level 1 - Charm Person, Innocence (+10 bonus on bluff checks to convince others of your innocence; Advanced Players Guide)
Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Gnomic, Vudrani

Appearance/Personality: Average height and scarwny build, Devin's dark hair, dark eyes and dusky skin mark him out in this village of very pale people. He would like to be described as "moving with a dancer's grace" or "smooth, lithe as a snake" or "flowing like water" or other such comparisons as are given to the master-thieves of mythology, but it isn't true. He moves quickly and fidgets without noticing - although if he's focused on a task, he can stay almost impossibly still, as if his internal energy simply needs grounding.

He laughs easily, as often at another's misfortune as at something the other villagers would deem appropriate. This is not malice and he does not lack empathy but he does, perhaps, feel the world is his to play with.

Background: Devin is unusual in not having been born in the village - his mother Katya had been, but left as soon as she could and her experiences are a novel in themselves (one I'd like to write, one day). After hardship, she joined a travelling merchant family from a southern continent, falling in love with Vivek, marrying him and starting a family on the road. She returned with her husband and eldest children when she heard her brothers had both died and her parents were unwell. Vivek and their daughter Timpani settled happily into the sedentary life, but her second child - Devin - had inherited her restlessness and always seemed out of place. It was possibly their shared wildness that drew him to Svetlana. The two are very close, their Chaotic nature at odds with the Lawful predominance of their home, something Devin struggled against more fiercely than Svetlana because he'd experienced other places.

Devin can sing beautifully and can talk his way out of most situations; Piotr may believe he's the leader of their group, but the others have always watched Devin pull his strings. Whilst he often led the quintet into trouble, his charmed tongue could usually get them out of it again.

It was Devin who taught Svetlana to speak Elven. When they first met, he greeted her in such and was surprised that the young half-elf merely cocked her head in curiosity. He'd arrived a year or so after she met her father, and once he'd taught her the language she trusted him enough to tell him of that meeting - and in doing so was delighted to earn an ally who believed her. He vowed to fiind her father for some arbitrary vengeance, but she didn't believe him and didn't really care; she's believes she's at peace with the situation, but struggled to express that to her hot-headed friend.

His family is much closer and much larger - as well as his elder sister, he has many younger siblings named for friends of his parents from around Golarion, and whilst he never sees his cousins any more, he has many and was close to them before coming to the village.

His first kiss was with Svetlana, although they were both just playing and their attraction has always been more the closeness of siblings.

As well as charming, he is incredibly smart and this accounts for some of his restlessness: there simply isn't enough to fill his interest in the small and sleepy community he grew up in. When Svetlana told him of the call to clear out the Stolen Lands, he filled with excitement and swore he'd be there, already dreaming of his adventures and the way history would speak of him.

His father, quiet and calm, tried to dissuade him gently. It was his mother - his mother who'd run away herself younger than he was - who forbade him to leave. Could he not understand that she was looking out for him? That she knew the dangers and was simply protecting him from the risks she'd been lucky to survive?

No. No, he could not.

He arranged to meet Svetlana at the pub her adventure started in - promised to be there before the coach left. She waited for the second coach (and who knows how that would have gone if she'd left with the first and never met Alexei?), but he still didn't show.

Spinning the game forward, it was not until her wedding anyone would hear from him again: he was working as a guard in the Osirion region. Svetlana received this with mixed feelings: relief that he was ok, disappointment that he wasn't at her wedding and a little jealousy at what he was seeing.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Damson - Ballerina Spy

My week in London is over! Hotel wi-fi failed on me, so I didn't bombard you with posts after all. Thought I'd take a bit of an opportunity to go through a few more characters. This one was  designed for a Cyberpunk game that never got off the ground.

Street Name: Damson
Real Name: Isabella Paris
Role: primary Athlete/secondary Shadow

Intelligence 6, Cool 6, Move Allowance 7, Reflex 8, Attractiveness 6, Body 8, Tech 6, Luck 6, Empathy 5(/3)
Run 21/63, Leap 5.25/15.75, Lift 80/320
Humanity 30.5
Skills: Special - Prowess 3, Sneak 2
Attr - Personal Grooming 2 
Body - Endurance 2, Fitness/Body Building 2
Cool - /
Emp -  Lip Reading 2
Int - Awareness*/Notice 3, Education/Gen Know 1, Expert (poison) - 4, Navigation 2, Shadow/Track 4
Ref - Athletics 3, Blind Fighting 3, Dance 6, Initiative 2, Martial Arts (offensive) 2, MA (defensive) 3, MA (weapon - Sai) 3, Stealth/Evasion - 5
Tech - Pick Lock 2, Pick Pocket 2

* +2 visual, +1 audio with an additional +2 when eavesdropping

Height: 5'6", Weight: 10st (140lb), Hair: black tinted with dark blue, Ethnicity: American (gonna assume I meant European-American), Language: English-ish

Family: deceased
Traits: detached, anti-social
Most valued person: no one
Most values: independence
View on people: indifferent
Favoured possession: recording of the music from the ballet Giselle

Armour: balacalava (SP12), t-shirt (SP6), jacket (SP8), trousers (SP8), scarf (SP4) and gloves (SP4)
Carried possessions: mobile phone, mastoid comm-link, UV torch
Cyberware: Head - neural interface
Optics - anti-dazzle, UV night vision, image enhancing, dodgeball (giving +1 to melee/martial art skills)
Audio - phonesplice, bug detector (3m, 60%), level dampener, amplified hearing
Weapons - Sai, Kendachi mono-knife, 1m monowire

Isabella was born to middle-class parents in a nicer part of Night City. They had good, if fairly low-level, jobs as corporate-monkeys for the company who housed them and it was assumed she would probably follow in their footsteps if she couldn't make it as a dancer: her greatest love was ballet and it was how she spent all her free time until her parents died suddenly when she was 16. The company continued to house her but never explained how her parents had died, so she started investigating, ignoring requests and warnings to back off. In the process, she became romantically entangled Warren Barley. He'd had enough work done that she didn't realise how much older he was until his 22 year old daughter Louise showed up to warn her off.

She doesn't remember the 2 or 3 months leading up to the accident or exactly what happened, but she spent 8 months in a coma and required rehabilitation afterwards. At this point the company her parents had worked for felt their debt to her was paid and left her to make her own way. She ditched her birth identity and took the name 'Damson' - the affectionate name her parents had used for her when she had been very small.

The accident left her with a lower tolerance of other people but she did manage to make some close friends and contacts, who helped train her in martial arts and espionage techniques - the more physical of which she took to readily with her dance background.

Fate threw Louise Barley back in her path when she was 19. Now a successful lawyer, Ms Barley had worked her way up in the DA's office and called on Damson's abilities through a mutual acquaintance. Initially, the two were suspicious but soon realised they could help each other and their relationship has deepened to what might not be friendship but certainly involved trust and respect: Louise is the only person remaining in Damson's life who knows her birth name.

Dance remains important to her, although professional performance is now no more than a dream. She teaches ballet to the children of a nomad tribe and, whilst maintaining a degree of distance, is closer to them than anyone else, and they are prepared to take her as one of their own - up to a point.

Damson is prepared to take any job going - for the right price. She's done some wetwork and found herself curiously unattached, which she assumes relates to the damage done that caused her coma. Her primary goal, though, remains to find out what happened to her parents and bring justice as required. This drive has become a secret obsession, one she would not share with anyone and which probably has more to do with habit than actual desire. Not that she'd necessarily recognise the difference.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Learn to Fly

I'm away on a course for work this week. Train left at 05:15 this morning - 10 min walk to the station and I got there early because I'm a nervous traveller, so I'm pretty shattered now. Fortunately, a very yummy dinner and the discovery that the room does, in fact, have complimentary coffee for the morning has assuaged the worst of the homesickness that was hovering at the corners.

I suffer very easily with homesickness and this is also the first time I've ever been away by myself (if you don't count university, which is a special case), so I've been pretty anxious about the trip and have brought the laptop along for company. Depending how tired I am, this may mean a spamming of posts over the next few days. Sorry.

Another thing I'm anxious about is that I'm not going to be able to do circus this week, and whenever I miss sessions I end up stiff and sore. It doesn't help that I ended up at an awkward angle on the train (very full carriage and I didn't trust leaving my bag out of grasp) and then in a draft in the training room, so my neck and shoulders are already playing up. There is a gym in the hotel, so I may try to investigate that tomorrow evening...

But in the meantime, here's the hoop routine I've been working on in my private lessons - the very first time I've run through the whole thing. The end of the session and you can see how tired I am, but I'm really, really pleased.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Musical A-Z - M (updated)

Macy Gray (update)

This is one of those songs that I can't help but sing along to when it appears on the radio. I remember singing it in the kitchen and car with my little sister and step mum that summer it came out. I love her voice. I like how the lyrics sound like the song should sound sad yet the song always sounds happy to me.


Fun and upbeat. Gone for this song because it's been sung at me so many times in reference to my wardrobe.
Manic Street Preachers

I like the Manics. I know a lot of people think they sound dreary and I can't put my finger on why I like them, but I do.

Marilyn Manson

More teenage memories. Reminds me of friends I've not seen in years and may never see again but who still shaped who I am and so still matter in the story of my life - I'm always excited on the rare occasions I get updates. Manson himself has impressed me with his intelligence - I'm particularly thinking of this article.

Meredith Brooks

I love, love, love this song. Just love it. It was the first time I'd come across 'bitch' in a context other than swearing or a female dog and I think initially I didn't like it (I was very, very anti-swearing once upon a time), but the more I've listened to it over the years, the more it's come to represent a form of freedom to me: the freedom to be unapologetically yourself. 

This was the first dance for two of my very best friends, so a fairly easy choice because it makes me think of them and that makes me smile.

I got into Metallica a little late, I think. Most of my friends at the time - the ones influencing my musical tastes, anyway - were a few years older and had been fans of Metallica for a while. Then St Anger was released and my friends hated it, which I couldn't understand because (not having expectations) I really liked it. Anyway, it meant they didn't expose me to any more Metallica so it wasn't until I was at uni that I really heard any more. Really wish my other set of friends had forgiven them St Anger or at least played me their older stuff so I could understand their anger or whatever, because turns out I really like Metallica.

Michael Buble

 Of all the songs and artists I share, this is the one I'd say most stands out as different. I like his voice, though, and I particularly like his cover of this song. It's one of those songs I'll sing when I think no one is around (got caught out once - waiting at a bus stop late at night and singing with my eyes closed to end and open them to see a German family gathered around watching!)

Michael Jackson
The first album I ever owned was Michael Jackson's Bad. When I was little, my big sister bought it for my birthday and I nearly wore the tape out. I think this was my favourite song on the album. Oh, and watching the video is reminding me why I had a rather large crush on him when I was a bit older. And I'd forgotten how well he could move!

I can't help wondering how much of my current dress sense is as a result of this album... 


Another band I love. Saw them at Reading Festival and they were so good I enjoyed them despite the guy twice my age behind me who had pinned me against him whilst he fondled himself (and all hail the hero who saved me - a kid my age who saw my distress and tried to get physically between us and took me off after to get a pint of squash even though it meant he and I went from nearly the front to the very damn back for the Foo Fighters - and I never even got his name. In fact, the biggest reason I'm mentioning this now is in the vague hopes that some serendipity of the internet means this story will find him and he'll know I've remained grateful every day since).

I was really torn by what song to go for. Pretty sure it should be from Origin of Symmetry but have been very indecisive about which to go for. Ultimately chose this for similar reasons to the Michael Buble song above: it's one I'll sing when I think I'm alone.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Preparing the gaming space

I had an exam yesterday that ended a course I've been on, so woke up this morning with a bit of a lost feeling as suddenly I had no study to procrastinate from.

Instead, I helped Husbit prep our lounge for tonight's Pathfinder game, something I've not done often since starting the course. And it got me thinking about the ritual of preparing your gaming space.

I suppose first I should try to explain what I mean by 'ritual'. I don't mean chanting, robes and inscense (although...), but rather carrying out an act, a set of actions, that puts you into the mindset requried for the next event. It's a very human thing and we all have hundreds of mini-rituals we probably aren't even aware of - like I get into work, get my laptop out, turn it on, wait for everything to be running, fill my water bottle, make a cup of coffee. If anything interrupts that, my morning feels weird. Or if I wake in the night and cannot get back to sleep, I get up and repeat the steps I take before I got to bed and normally find I doze off again. Or the act of making a distressed friend a cup of tea: we talk about tea as curative, but for me it's more that the act of carefully making a cup of tea for someone else helps me listen to them sympathetically - the act of drinking tea together cements a friendship. I'm not even that big a fan of tea, but sympathy-tea is very powerful.

I could go on. Ritual fascinates me. But probably not something for here and definitely not something for now.

So, Pathfinder tonight. We normally play here and I prefer that (even though when we play at Paul's (Kieran/Sam) it's normally because there's a concurrant barbecue or roast dinner).
So this morning I forewent a favourite Saturday ritual (sleeping in until Husbit wakes me with a cup of coffee and a kiss on the nose, then drinking that and a subsequent coffee whilst reading before finally deigning to face the day) and got up - caffeine-free - at a vaguely sensible time.

Step one was vacuuming the lounge. It's a chore I particularly dislike, but Husbit & I are both long-haired and we have a cat so it needs doing and the game is good motivation. Step two was tidying away non-gaming items (including all the texts from my course - adios!). Step three was obviously play with the kitty. A very important step. She's now sleeping in the bedroom, so we can get on with next tasks without her underfoot.

The undisputed queen of our gaming table
Which, actually, for me should be brushing my hair. I'm dressed but so lazy about brushing my hair at weekends.
It just takes so long
So instead I'm writing this ;-)

Before the guys get here, we'll have something to eat and check our roleplay stuff is in order (dice, obviously, and I have a folder I always bring to the table in habit from spending years playing without a table and needing a flat surface to roll on. It's got character sheets from various games and the intro to a couple of novels I was going to write when I was a teenager. Finally, Jvala's notebook: our GM gives us books to make notes in not only to keep track of the game but also so he can see how we're interpreting things. I'm allowed to keep Jvala's because 90% of what I write in it is transferred straight up here with minimal alteration - I try to write her notes like a diary because that's the idea behind the campaign). Once they've arrived, we'll all chat for a bit, then the table gets pulled out and the gaming board fitted over it (it's purpose-built and turns our small 4-person table into a 6x4 gaming table), then the games begin!

Oh, gotta go. Lost track of time and the guys have shown up early - with chicken! 

Happy gaming everyone!

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Pathfinder Interlude - Skull & Spiked Chains (Jvala's Journal)

Corridor was long, getting closer. Led to dead end with large door just before on right. Thick double doors - checked around and seemed safe. Invisible Sam whispered he was going in, left door open and we saw a large room. Some undead types - skeletons, mummies, zombies - meandering round. Altar with 5 robed figures kneeling round. Another robed figure walking around. Writhing guy chained down to altar - thorned chains - chains led to large skull, through the eyes. Fuck, this isn't Rovagug, this is Zon-Kuthon. Could hear the sound of metal against bone.

Zabeel, Tanna and I waited outside. Zabeel really breathing down my neck, way too close. Can feel tendrils of spiked chain crawling up through inside me, wrapping round heart. Tightening, squeezing, piercing. Dimming my fire. Look down and Cinder and Flash are terrified, hissing, hackles up, ears back, whimpering. Try to calm them.

Then Zabeel's all yelling at Tanna just for kneeling down - drew guns on her. Wanted us to leave - leaving sounded good, but would be leaving Sam too.

Tanna closed the door.

Stepped in front of Tanna, but couldn't get my fire to start so had to draw a sword on Zabeel. He'd put his guns away, but clearly going mad. Started creeping back but he stayed right in my face. Swiped at him as he ran in front - got back between him and Tanna. Another drow appeared at the end of the corridor and shot at Tanna - but Zabeel wouldn't let me chase after. Threw gunpowder at me instead. Explosion all around - stop,drop, roll, tell Flash & Cinder same. Put out fire and Zabeel floats just overhead, just out of reach. My weapons have vanished. Did I have weapons? No pets here. Alone. Try snapping at Zabeel and he's gone too. I'm a child - small and alone, cold and seeking comfort. Bundle of clothes had some warmth in, so crept in. Found something harder in them - a body. Stood. Stepped back. Grew an age with every step. Watched as the market burned before me: watched the storeholders try to protect their stock, watching parents try to save their children, watching it all burn.

I remember this. I remember... Oh Desna! What did I do?

I never thought...

Felt a hand on my shoulder, then, and came back to the corridor. It was Tanna's hand. An absence of light behind with the sounds of a gun being cleaned - Zabeel. Once he'd settled enough to drop the darkness, explained we'd suffered some kind of illusion. 

Still feel confused. Hadn't thought about that side of the fire, always just focused on how it felt at my back as I ran with Flash to my chest and Cinder at my side.

It was Zabeel who shot Tanna, under influence of the spell. Tanna says he didn't hurt her - she hurt herself more touching me when it first took effect and I lit up. So I was burning when I thought my fire was out. Some comfort that it hadn't left me after all.

Z&T returned to Sam & the fight, but I needed to calm Flash & Cinder, and took moment to calm - held my butterfly necklace and begged for forgiveness. Will follow up with action when I can. 

Sam dealt with most of undead. The robed guy & the 5 kneeling figures were harder to deal with - was like kneeling people not really there - like slicing through jelly & no response. Sam muttered something about them being on another plane. They held crystals - these could be damaged. Robed guy couldn't be hurt, but realised hitting him damaged crystals faster - Sam said he'd fired arrows at him earlier and they'd hit the mummies til there were no mummies left.

Robed guy summoned some kind of asphyxiating cloud. When it cleared, was gone, kneeling guys were gone, guy on altar was gone. Found some shards of the crystals - carefully collected them. There was a robed guy on floor with throat slit, but not the one we'd fought. Body bereft of blood.

Set the bomb Ezekiel had given & legged it back to hill we arrived on. Explosion - column of fire followed by mushroom-shaped cloud. Shockwave nearly sent us flying.

Malliard came for us. He has magic cloak that can turn into a door to another place. Nice way to travel. Lined with stars when in use. Lovely.

M thinks he's heard of our robed guy by reputation, but doesn't know name. Known associate of cult of Zon-Kuthon. Reckons temple we explored pre-dated the Rovagug temple that had been above. Says the gem shards are from "soul gems" - capable of holding vanquished. Says these must have held powerful souls.

Was the ritual completed?

What was ritual for?

M says trapping of a god will have created a magical conversion ideal for certain rituals. Suspects the kneeling people were each on a different plane. Not many rituals require that; none good. Suspects plan was to corrupt remaining Star Towers.

Hope unsuccessful. No doubt will know soon enough.

M has arranged rooms for us at the palace.