Lamprocles (2021 Short Story)

The first man he had brought death to was his father. He brought it to him in a dirty golden goblet, stained purple with the earthy poison it often held. His mother had tried to take this burden, to go in his stead, but Athenian law was clear. Only Lamprocles, the firstborn son, could fulfill his family’s duty to the city. Today, that duty was to supply the poison for his father’s execution. Thus was Lamprocles, the fittest of his family, reduced to Death’s delivery-boy.

He was not a very fast courier: the large, uneven steps leading to the city center were difficult for his juvenile legs to surmount and he was in no hurry. With the goblet in his left hand and dawn in his eyes, Lamprocles fell into sun-bleached dreams and a rhythmic tread.

He imagined that he had already laid down his life. He had taken the hemlock himself as soon as he acquired it and was now floating above the city, disembodied. He saw his body delivered to his home and his younger brother pulling furiously at his limp hand, unable to accept reality. He saw his mother in unending sobs, crying over his body so loudly that the entire city knew her grief. The Archons were overwhelmed with shame and canceled his father’s execution. Even as Lamprocles’ ethereal spirit was pulled down to Hades, he saw his father released from prison surrounded by friends and revelry. Lamprocles’ ghost passed before the crowd and he saw a glimmer of recognition in his father’s eyes. His father stopped mid-stride and, for the first time, Lamprocles saw tears stain his father’s face.

A small crack in the stone widened as he stepped on it and Lamprocles found his daydream and his balance both overthrown. He leaned forward and threw himself against the lip of a higher step. It bruised his ribs but restored his balance and kept the goblet level.

Lamprocles tried to massage the pain away with his free hand. Indulgent self-pity. Childish. His lifeless body would not soften any hearts or save any lives. He had … Continue Suffering

Two Villanelles For Love

Villanelle: Love’s Declaration

I wish your life was mine to tell,
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspTo scribe each day with utmost care
And so I write a Villanelle!
Your eyes a dance of caramel
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspThat taste delight with every stare
I wish your life was mine to tell
I pen your laugh, a silver bell
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspAs bright as song, too soft to tear
And so I write a Villanelle!
Your voice, once raised, a righteous swell
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspYour hands, contrite, a bashful pair
I wish your life was mine to tell
One day we’ll build a citadel
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspInside our stained glass hearts may lair
And so I write a Villanelle!
I’ve writ your joy and its impel
&nbsp&nbsp&nbspEach line a cup for us to share
I wished your life was mine to tell
And so I write a Villanelle!

Villanelle: Love’s Rumination

I fear I might lose you as well
My ardent light in sinking lair
And so I write this Villanelle
The brightest stars only foretell
A blank page death, entropy’s snare
I fear I might lose you as well.
Your eyes of burning caramel
I wish to taste with every stare
And so I write this Villanelle
Your laugh, too short, a dying swell
Your hand and mine, too rare a pair
I fear I might lose you as well.
Upon your tears I wish to dwell,
Those sparkling mirrors to ensnare
And so I write this Villanelle
Anxiety, love can’t dispel
But which is ruler, which is heir?
I fear I might lose you as well
And so I choose a Villanelle

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We Left Him In The Wasteland

We left him in the Wasteland
Under canopy of mammoth bone
And the tepid remains
Of other species overthrown.
He fell, stumbled perhaps,
And faced the flooded grave
Of some dead and fallen star.
In the pool, not even a wave.
We left him there
For we could not see
What paroxysm seized his mind
And refashioned it an endless plea
What antithesis he found in reflection
What evil puzzle of the soul
He would not say
and we cannot know
The glee of his spite
His despair, like a vow
We could not eulogize
For none of us knew how
He was our brother 
By blood and by corps.
Now, a raw unending sough
Crying “I will bear this pain no more”

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A Nightmare of Speed

This nightmare has followed me for a long time.

The nightmare happens entirely in a car, and I’m the driver.

Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes there are others. Sometimes it’s my whole family, crammed and talkative in the back seats. Sometimes it’s a friend on the passenger side, telling me about his day. Sometimes it’s an old intimate, sitting right next to me, looking outside and thinking about what went wrong and what went right.

I am always driving. Driving fast to somewhere important. A dentist’s appointment that started ten minutes ago. Going to buy butter fifteen minutes before the supermarket closes. A meeting at work that can’t start without me.

I guess those things aren’t that important after all. I have other dreams about saving the world or meeting Her by chance at the beach. These destinations aren’t like that, not life-changing, just urgent. If I don’t get there in time, something bad will happen. So I’m driving fast.

I’m a terrible driver. In the dream and in reality. I got my license when I was 18, drove my dad’s old SUV to college and then didn’t touch a steering wheel again until I was in my mid-twenties. I just never got much practice, I guess.

I don’t see why anyone even likes cars: they’re ugly, expensive and bad for the environment. I don’t get the appeal. Besides, they’re dangerous. Did you know 37 thousand people die in car accidents every year? You know how many die on bikes? Barely half a thousand. For public transport? Less than a hundred.

So I’m in this car and I see a light coming up and I go to slow down, but I press the gas instead of the brake. The light stays green. No big deal, I think, just a little embarrassing. I try to brake a little bit just to make sure I’ve figured out where it is. I hit the gas again. Now we’re going even faster.

I’m starting to really move up on the car in front of me and it’s only a matter of time till we hit … Continue Suffering

Atlantis, A Player’s Guide

A player’s guide to a custom Dungeons and Dragons setting I’ve been writing: sort of an Ancient Greek/Science-Fiction/Fantasy mash-up. Ancient Greek Gundams, Communist Dwarves, and extraterrestrial Israelites abound!

Okay, yes, that’s a bizarre combination. No, I haven’t lost my mind (well, not recently); there is a method to this madness!

I wanted to run a game where the players had a lot of control over the aesthetic of the world: realistic, traditional fantasy, science-fictional, etc. My solution was to create a charming, but undramatic, world (“Inciting Incident”? bah to that!) and allow the players to define the central conflict themselves. Perhaps they’re the first to discover magic, the first to make some technological breakthrough or the first to radically change the political landscape.

This guide introduces the Mariners, effectively an adventurer’s guild for every walk of life: soldiers, scientists, priests, politicians, farmers, and so forth. Players make a Mariner and choose their qualifying accomplishment and a personal goal they had to surrender to join. These choices enable the DM to create an adventure where the players commit the Inciting Incident.

In any case, this is still very much a work in progress, but you may enjoy perusing it anyway (or, be forced to, if you’re one of my players :P). Sharing your thoughts and feedback is also very very appreciated. You can download it below or see it online at the source.

Current Revision Goal: Right now, my main goal is to get the word count down and add more reference art. After that, I may start reorganizing to highlight the good bits… when I find some.

Age-of-Atlantis-Players-Guide-v2Download

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I Wanted To Be a Writer

I wanted to be a writer
To tell tales and make fun
Of the world and all its peril
But I was the one undone.
I wanted to be a writer
To prove that I could hum
A tune of such beauty,
It could never be unsung.
I wanted to be a writer
But I never learned to sing.
And so I sit, miscounting meters, pondering
Why I wanted to be a writer
When all I can do is cringe.

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A Villain’s Backstory

I wrapped up running a very long Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. It’s been two years with the same characters, the same story, and the same goddamn unbearable amazing players.

For the epic finale, I wanted an engaging villain who would be more than just a hit point balloon- that would engage the players in roleplay, not just rollplay. Sadly, the adventure’s prefabricated villain wasn’t quite up to snuff. Azarr Kul, from the classic Red Hand of Doom third edition adventure, isn’t a bad villain but he’s not that complicated (think Napoleon, but he’s half dragon and worships Satan).

So I rewrote him. I kept the canon consistent, he still did all the things Dragon Napoleon did, but I wrote a backstory for him based on an incredible short story (find it free to read or listen to here) by Scott Sigler. The original story has an incredible economy of language: the paragraphs are tight, the sentences always moving the action forward. You almost feel out of breath reading it. I loved it so much, I wanted to try imitating Sigler’s style and story- so I wrote a short little origin story for the new and improved Azarr Kul.

If I did this right, it should stand alone as a mediocre (if unoriginal) piece of fiction. Enjoy (but probably not):

Coughing into the moonlit smoke around him, Angel was aware only of his fear. His eyes watered, but he could still hear. Shouting, marching, the crackle of houses burning, and, still distant, screams. The entire village was on fire.

Angel turned away from the chaos outside his home, but his mother held him at the threshold. He wanted to run behind her, hide his juvenile body behind her height. But she held him fast.

“Let go of him! We have to go and find Hector!” cried Angel’s grandfather, already peering into the fire and dark surrounding their home.

Angel’s mother would let neither of them pass. She breathed slowly, in rhythm with the pulsing light of the fires.

“My husband is … Continue Suffering

Sophistication Beyond Measure: The Limits of Railton’s “Sophisticated Hedonism”

It is a long and storied objection that moral philosophy is only a form of hostile autobiography- a way of dictating rules for the world without embracing it. Meta-ethical debates continue, but it is at least some proof against this claim that contemporary moral philosophy concerns itself deeply with how we live our lives, how friendships, relationships, and the demands of everyday life can be attended to while continuing to be moral. Alienation is just one obstacle among many in such efforts, but it is this obstacle which Railton believes he can dissolve by reworking the way we schematize and apply morality. Railton establishes a subjective/objective duality in interpreting a given moral philosophy and posits that by adopting the objective and dismissing the subjective we become sophisticated and avoid the problems of alienation. While Railton’s sophisticated consequentialism is an innovative and structurally sound approach, it fails to defeat alienation by being impracticable: no human being constrained by the limits of ordinary psychology could possibly live such a life.

If only for a fleeting moment of believability, let us admire Railton’s sophisticated consequentialism. His motive here is a worry that the moral points of view, being necessarily universal and impartial, tends to alienate one from life itself, to create “a kind of estrangement, distancing, or separateness resulting in some sort of loss” of that which “compels his allegiance to life itself” (Railton 134, Williams 18). The strict and upright consequentialist might do all the right things for all the right reasons, but he is still going through life as if following a handbook and a (very undependable) calculator- he has lost touch with humanity.

The solution to this alienation then, is to bridge universalized moral principle (in this case consequentialism) with actions that fully (emotionally and otherwise) acknowledge one’s “special relations” within the world (Railton 136). We begin on the starting embankment of moral law- Railton specifies a pluralistic consequentialism aimed at maximizing a set of goods but notes that the bridge he aims to construct “could be made, mutatis mutandis, by a deontologist” (148). From the bank of ideology we … Continue Suffering