Worst Controller, Best Controller

I can still remember when the Nintendo64 came out after so many Nintendo Power magazines of anticipation. What was once code named the “Ultra 64”, which I though was a cooler title at the time, was finally released. Sure, it was supposed to be a CD system, and turns out it was cartridges instead. Being a steadfast Nintendo loyalist I didn’t question this.

I didn’t question this until I played the system.

Worst controller ever.

I felt so completely let down. All of my willpower tried to enjoy the Nintendo 64 the way I did my Nintendos before it. Alas, I found myself wanting to go home to play some Super Nintendo or a PC game.

I have small hands, so I rationalized several minutes of trying to figure out the best way to get my hands around the damned thing to control Mario by blaming myself at first. How many buttons are on this thing? Do most of these even do anything?

Controllers should be comfortable. I did end up playing 007 and Super Smash Brothers with people who had the system and my fingers and palms ached more than the blisters from playing Street Fighter II with the Sega Genesis controllers (Why did they put a ridge around the buttons? No, I don’t know either.). The controller was too wide, had too many buttons, for no reason had some like phallic symbol in the middle. Don’t get me started on the d-pad and analogue. Making characters move has been effortless since the invention of the joystick. It’s pretty hard to screw that one up and, yeah, they managed it.

Controllers should be intuitive. There are buttons on that thing that I never bothered to reach and I’m not sure what were for. I don’t think the game designers knew either.

I know I’m not the only one who was left feeling unsatisfied with this system. Many people put them on the shelf or tried to sell in to get a Playstation.

Me? I got a Playstation. Their controllers were essentially a next generation version of the Super Nintendo controllers. Also it sported the disc media that Nintendo had promised and then backed out on. Nintendo so completely dropped the ball, I never thought to look back to see if they were throwing it again.

Best Controller Ever

Years later, there is a Nintendo product sitting next to my old, old SNES. This next generation of consoles has a lot to offer. Not one of the systems sucks… well, the PS3 is too expensive for anyone’s tastes, but people would probably say it was a good system if that weren’t the case (likely doomed to be clumped with the Atari Jagar, 3D0, and Dream Cast before it- all good systems, but overpriced- but since it’s a blue ray player too, maybe not). The Xbox360 is probably the first true online gaming console to even take a chip off of what PCs have been doing for years, and its hardware is nothing short of sweet (with the exception of a very noisy fan and lower end version).

And the Wii is just something else.

The original Nintendo was revolutionary not because of its hardware. Few people realize this, but it was actually a step back for its time. Look at any game that was a port to the system (and most of them were) and you’d see what I mean. It was graphically inferior to an Atari or Commodore of the times. And yet, it stole the heart of the average household.

The Wii is in that category, but it’s more than that. The Wii came out at a time when it seemed like the only place for console technology left to go was to become more similar to a mini, cheap, gaming PC.

Nintendo proved us wrong.

The Wii reminds me of another console that Nintendo tried and bombed. Did anyone else have a Virtual Boy? I think my parents threw ours away (after buying it for us for $30 with several games). It was awkward, clunky, very red (no color), and kind of dangerous to the eyes and body. Video games do not make me dizzy the slightest, but this thing made me light headed and wobbly after playing. The warning in the manual said not to play for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I think that’s why it mysteriously disappeared into the closet and then from the closet to video game heaven. By then, we had kind of stopped using it anyways. It was like a novelty item, extremely cool for a limited time only.

The reason why the Wii reminds me of this is because that’s the attitude I cautiously approached the system with. I played it over people’s houses many times before I was convinced it was more than a novelty item. I’m still a bit worried that game developers will fail to step up and make games for it that take advantage of the power of rethinking video games it’s put in my hand and head.

I admit, I gawked at the price of the Wiimote and Nunchuck as much as I gawked at their names. Since then, I keep finding out what else this controller can do.

It’s just a controller… or maybe it’s a ball of potential masked as a controller.

Look at me, I’m a Nintendo controller. I’m a laser pointer. I’m a sword. Woah, it just talked, is there a speaker in there? Pull my trigger. Punch me out like I’m brass knuckles. Put me up to your ear, twist me to control this, bump into you, and perform the most fluid fighting moves ever.

This controller is the most intuitive yet complex thing of it’s class I’ve ever seen, a true marvel of design. The intuitiveness carries over to the point where one game and another have very different controls and uses for it, yet I can pick them up in a few minutes. And the ways I’m controlling and number of controls are learning I’m realizing are more than for any other console I have in the past. Without thinking I’m switching the thing around, and using all of the buttons. There are 9 buttons (including the home button) and 2 d-pads. It doesn’t feel like it when I use them all. I was surprised when I counted.

This is what they were maybe thinking about when they made the Nintendo 64 controller, arguably the worst controller of all time.

And here it is my beam katana, my master sword, my light saber, my platforming controller, my boxing gloves, my steering wheel, my phone, and whatever else the game designers will think up.

The phone was the latest ‘woah didn’t see that coming’. But, with the built in speaker, makes sense. Way to add that much more game flavor.

You taste that? That’s a win.

FourmRuler & Writing is Born

I attribute my writing to a natural result of reading so much, but the internet surely played a large role as well. I started writing once upon a time in the (then) magical land of Compuserve. Sure, before that I wrote long posts and emails and even sort of ‘message role played’- but it was just communicating thoughts and words. It didn’t occur to me that I was writing stories, poetry, and essays.

The lame story of how I figured this out was an encounter with a luser with the handle of “ForumRuler” mocking me even though he didn’t know me. I was about ten and not going to let it go. I had a “Well, I rule more than you do.” attitude and online persona. We went back and forth and finally he threw the gauntlet down. He challenged me to a contest of words. The rules were that we write a poem about our own awesomness. Who ever wrote the better one would be the true forum ruler. I think he was expecting an easy win because I was “Huh… never wrote a poem before”.

We were working something close to real time, both online, so I wrote:

You first hear footsteps,
Then the smile,
You know you will be dead,
In a little while,
You say why me?
You whine and run,
But you know what will happen,
She is the one,
She is the one I say,
The one you despise,
She is strong and charming,
and she is wise,
Whom is she you say,
Why has she come?
It doesn’t matter,
Your life is done.

He admitted it was ‘not bad’ having posted four lines of clever ‘roses are red I rule ‘n stuff’ and I never heard from him again. He probably had to change his handle and start over. I, on the other hand, found it very satisfying and started writing for the sake of writing actual works for the first time.

Notepad and I would sit down and write poems, story lines, dialogs, beginnings, middles, ends, and scenes. I wrote about taverns without ever have been drunk. I wrote about dueling with swords and sorcery, even though I’d never fenced. The real bits were always in the poetry and the characters. I only wrote about emotions, motivations, and interactions as I understood them. This was the a part of writing I fell in love with.

My true motivations for writing were somewhere between escape and expression. I felt better after all the jumbled thoughts in my head came out and made some sense on paper. Those thoughts didn’t have to be me, they became characters in far off worlds with much more important things to accomplish. They had much bigger trials to face.

The stories in my head were no longer just bedtime stories to myself after closing my eyes. They bore some sense of importance that I might one day get them down properly and share them with others.

Interviewing: The Real Life RTS Game

I’ve been doing this interview song and dance, and it’s an odd game. You think ET for the Atari 2600 was bad, or Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 for that matter, but this is right up there only with better graphics.

Geek translation: it is hard, not because you are not skilled at video games (or the job you are interviewing for), but because the process itself doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense.

I’ve been corresponding a bit with Rory on this subject matter, asking advice, which is a bit ironic considering he’s currently unemployed. However, he’s had some really great things to say that have made me a bit less nervous about interviewing and answered some of my WTF questions.

It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!
I wanted to share some of the wisdom he’s given me, passing along wisdom to you like the old man in the cave in Zelda giving Link his sword. He gives great advice, telling you not to go alone, and giving you a sword. Link, now sharing the company of a sword that shoots lasers, is better equipped to deal with the issues.

Do not go alone. Allow me to arm you with a laser shooting sword. It will be like carrying Rory with you, only not literally. I mean, technically you’ll still be walking in there and facing moblins and octorocks all alone, but it’s a metaphor you see (not a bad translation of a video game developed in Japan).

This is super applicable since Rory has been poking at readers to apply for a job at Microsoft, working for the JeffSand team.
So, below you will find some excerpts of emailed advice I edited together. Enjoy!

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Technology Job Interviews: The Real Life RTS
as told by Rory Blyth, edited by Cindy Chiuchiolo
– – – – –

– – – – –

PART A – Sure, certify, but don’t look like a jerk.
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Get a few certifications – not tons, as it’ll make it look like:
1. You’re trying too hard
2. You’ve been out of work so long that you’ve had time to get every certification in the book
I used to consult for hiring managers, and I was always suspicious of the people who had tons of certifications. In my mind it translated to “No real world experience.”
Experience + A few certifications = always good.

– – – – –
PART B – Don’t be too cool for school.
– – – – –
Attending courses and seminars is important. The best way to make connections and find work is to sleaze your way into an extensive network.

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PART C – Pwn. Don’t be pwned.
– – – – –
If you don’t feel comfortable, then treat it like a game. It really is a game, anyway. You’re playing an RTS (Real Time Strategy). Your goal is to amass as many resources as possible so you can stomp all over your enemy. Your enemy is, of course, your potential employer. Your employer is not your friend. Your employer will try to get as much work for as little pay out of you as possible.
…when you’ve successfully sold yourself.
If you get an interview, then walk in with confidence bordering on hubris. Demand pay that’s well above what:
1. They want to give you
2. What your experience dictates
Demanding more makes them want you more. You won’t get what you demand, but you’ll get more than they would have given you otherwise. You also suddenly look more appealing than the other applicants because you have confidence, can back it up, and will stand your ground when they try to screw you.

– – – – –

PART D – Fuck up, but do it with confidence.
– – – – –

Be willing to totally fuck up. Go in to your first few networking opportunities without your inhibitions. Make a fool of yourself, but not too much. Do it enough that you’ll feel confident when it’s time to approach people “For Reals”.
Where ever you are, target the person in the room with the most influence. People, especially geeks and creative types, are afraid of eye contact and what they perceive to be alpha males/females. Don’t be afraid of these people. Approach them. Ask questions that display your knowledge, but will also appeal to their egos. Anyone who teaches anything, or does any public speaking needs other people to approve of them on a constant basis.
The insecure crowd, of which I’m a part, will take every opportunity to talk about themselves, what they know, and how great they are.
The people I always remembered from giving my talks were those who approached me afterward, asked a couple questions, taught me something new, and did so without the slightest bit of supplication.
Showing nothing but humility to people in charge, especially managers and other morons, will bump you out of the running. They’ll use you for their own purposes for the duration of the interview. Then they’ll either hire you on as a low-paid sycophant, or they’ll never see you again, their personal needs having already been met.
When selling yourself, this is what you need to communicate:
1. You’re confident because you have every right to be.
2. You’re charging what you charge because you’re worth it, and although there are cheaper people out there, they’ll just fuck everything up. You’ll have to be brought in anyway to clean up their messes. This is true. I made a lot of money when people gave in and brought me in to repair all the damage wrought by the unworthy.
3. You’re an equal, but not disrespectfully so. You don’t want to appear prostrate. If you do, people sense it, and they will enjoy stepping on you. Put yourself on the same level as them, and use that to fuel your confidence. You aren’t lording your amazingness over the hiring manager, but you’re also not begging.
4. MOST IMPORTANT: You can and will make the company money. Demonstrate your value through whatever means you can, and always focus on how you can make them money. That’s the point of hiring you. Applicants get hung up on how much they will make, forgetting that the purpose of the job isn’t to pay people, but to turn them into cash for a business.
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PART E – Binary Truth
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While you don’t “have to” lie to get a job, you’re much more likely to get a good job if you mangle the truth a bit. I’m compulsively honest. I’ve shared extremely private thoughts with hundreds of thousands of people, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. So, when I tell you all of this, keep that in mind. Like Celes, and maybe you, I’m freakishly devoted to honesty.
However, in binary, 10 = decimal 2.
When you search for a job, you aren’t operating in familiar territory. You’re working in binary, or hexadecimal, or octal, or whatever. The same basic rules apply, but the representations of the values have changed.
Tell a child that 10 = 2, and you’ll have a hell of an argument on your hands. But 10 does equal two in the right context.
You aren’t lying when you say that 10 = 2. Under normal everyday conditions, 10 = 10, but when you’re working in unfamiliar territory (like binary), 10 = 2 is true.
Job seeking takes place in its own pocket of the universe. You deal with humans (kind of), and you probably use English to communicate (here, anyway), but because everybody lies, the baseline for truth is altered.
Understand as well that honesty and truth are only barely related.
Honesty is what happens when you provide what you believe to be the case without intent to deceive. Truth is absolute.
If your code of ethics tells you that being honest is the right thing to do, then being honest is right.
Regardless of your personal values, however, you will never be correct in this case.
Right and wrong are moral decisions based on those personal values. They’re like honesty.
Correct and Incorrect are absolutes like truth. And given how little we really know about the universe, the likelihood that you’re ever going to be correct is infinitesimal.
So, you can be right while being grossly incorrect.
To map it back to the discussion, you can be honest without telling the truth.
The truth is slippery, anyway. Most people would agree that the sky is blue, but, in reality, the sky most certainly is not blue. What’s blue is the light in the shorter wavelengths of the visual spectrum that didn’t get filtered out on their journey down through the atmosphere.
You could be honest and say, “The sky is blue.” It wouldn’t be the truth.
Now, apply this to the job world. The fact is, you don’t know what other people know. That is, you don’t know where their skill levels truly lie. How do you like that double-meaning? You don’t have nearly enough information to determine how qualified you are or aren’t for a job. Based on the interviews I’ve helped to conduct, I can tell you that the hiring managers sure as hell don’t know what the job is about or whether you’re qualified. They’re lost as anybody.
Yeah, they’ll do some talking, and, if they’re smart, they’ll bring in some of their employees who do the same or similar work to what you’d be doing. Even in that case you can’t assume anything. They may have hired entire teams of people who bullshitted their way through the interviews. Most of those people will have some skill, some knowledge, but usually no natural aptitude for their work. So when they question you, they won’t ask the important questions. They don’t know what the important questions are. They just don’t know what in the hell they’re doing.
– – – – –

PART F: Creativity works
– – – – –
Now we’re going to get you a useful context in which to operate while conducting your search:
1. Assume the worst about other people. Most people are average. That’s what average is. They don’t have creativity, and they fake their way through life. If you are creative, like Celes or I, you have novel ways of looking at things. Even if you assume that these people have a decent set of skills, creativity is something that can’t be faked. It’s in high demand right now. People are learning that creativity is much more important than many other qualities.
This is true.
When searching for test pilots to become astronauts, a bunch of pilots with extremely high IQs were rounded up.
It was thought that these pilots would do the best job of reacting to the unexpected, and since the unexpected is what awaited these people, an aptitude for handling crazy situations was required.
When these guys were tested, it was found that they reacted horribly. IQ tests are based on certain basic perceptual faculties, certain intellectual abilities, and so on. It’s all very linear.
These tests don’t measure creativity. There’s a French version that gets into creativity, but where logic and math puzzles can have “correct” answers, creativity isn’t so easy to measure.
The guys up in those planes could think their way through a situation, but they couldn’t feel their way through. And when the world is going terribly wrong terribly quickly, thinking through a problem is too, too, much too slow.
The high IQ pilots were replaced with a bunch of nuts. It turns out the wild, crazy pilots did much better. These are guys who had probably never tied their shoelaces the same way twice. They came up with new approaches to problems as a matter of daily routine. They were built for the unexpected.
Creativity is huge. Anyone can learn the linear aspect of assembling projects, but nobody can learn to be creative. You either are or you aren’t. If you have it, have confidence in that and value it over experience.
– – – – –

– – – – –

2. Assume that the hiring managers don’t know what they’re talking about. This is nearly always the case. Even at Microsoft, managers sweat like mad over hires. It’s because they do not know what they’re doing. This is the corporate world. This is the business world. If the hiring managers are asking you what you want or what you’d like, it’s because they’re looking to you to provide guidance. They don’t know what to do, so they’re letting you run part of the interview. Take this and run with it. Or create this situation. But do your best to make it feel like it was their decision. That is, pick up on hints, questions, and so on, and work them into your game. Expand on their ideas for them. Where they drop off, pick up.
3. KNOW that you’re every bit as capable, if not much more so, as the other employees. Every job is a learning experience. You are NOT expected to know everything. You just have to demonstrate that you’ve got something going on and that you have the aptitude/skill/interest/determination to turn it into something bigger and better.
– – – – –

PART H: Conclusion
– – – – –

4. Don’t forget that 10 == 2. Job Hunt Reality is different than Reality. The values are changed. People have lied to the point that colors are swapped, humans breathe methane, dogs speak Italian, and so on. It’s all very Alice in Wonderland. You aren’t lying when you present a falsehood. You’re being honest in an unfamiliar context. Ask yourself what you believe about the situation. Do you believe that you deserve the job? Then you do. Do you believe that you can do the job as well or better than anyone else on the team? Then you can. It’s that simple.
Have fun. Treat it like a game. Look at your life as an experiment and take risks. If you’re already unemployed or have a job you don’t like, can it get any worse? Give new things a shot and trust yourself. Follow through even when you’re nervous. If you’re nervous, it probably means you’re taking a risk. Taking risks is the only way to stand above everybody else. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes you get stabbed in the face by a narwhal. That’s what risk is: it’s a potentially big win or a potentially big loss. It isn’t random or entirely up to chance. It’s up to you, your discretion, and your abilities whether a risk can succeed or not.
Don’t feel down because you fall on your face a few times. You’ll do that, maybe a lot. But there are jobs out there, and people need people to work them. People work jobs. Tons of people have jobs.
If those people have jobs, then you can have a job, too. There’s nothing magical about it. You just do it.

Waywards Wandering – Chapter 3: Would Fall

Just in case you didn’t notice, the navagation bar above now sports a “characters” tab. This is to help you to keep track of the major characters in stories. This way, even if I get sidetracked and don’t write the next part of a story for awhile, you don’t need to reread what has come before to get a refresher on who the main players are. I’ll do my best to keep it up to date.

Speaking of next parts, this is the third chapter in a novel I’m writing called Waywards Wandering. You can click here for the first chapter, or click on the Waywards Wandering catagory link above and scroll down to where ever you left off.

As always, comments are welcome! This is not a final draft by any means, so criticisms could be very helpful.

Thanks for reading!
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Lashea Fallenwood held her bastard sword firmly with both hands in spite the slickness of her sweaty palms. Calluses had formed over the blisters that had first formed when she had been left at the temple with the monks of Brihaad many years ago.

“Are you well, sister? Would you rather we continue this when you are less tired, perhaps?” the bald, round-faced priest smiled and mocked as he circled with his mace held firm in his right hand. Lashea forced herself to ignore his comments as she knew he was trying to goad her into loosing focus.

Not this time. Lashea has been practicing, studying her master hard. She was surely beyond his tricks, even if they were tried and true in the past. Lashea allowed a small, sideways smirk to appear on her fair-freckled face.

Today is my day. The clerics will come for his wounded body.

Without giving Clavus the benefit of a reply, Lashea stepped forward and swung her heavy sword down in a mighty arc is if to cleave the middle-aged monk in two. Clavus started to move forward and to the side, to strike at Lashea’s now exposed stomach. Lashea’s smirk broke into a grin as she knew he’d fall for the bait, thinking that she was enraged and unbalanced. Lashea reversed her momentum, not having thrown everything behind that swing, and brought her sword sweeping to the side, one-handed to cut off Clavus’s advance.

But rather than strike him as Lashea has expected, the sword passed through air as the monk took to the air and leapt over the low swinging blade to kick Lashea square in the face. She fell back and somersaulted, landing in a crouching position. Blood trickled down the side of her face, bringing out the fierce green in her eyes as she glared at her master. Clavus stopped his advance to let out a light-hearted chuckle.

Lashea ran, full tilt at the apparently distracted monk, stabbing strait at his solar plexus with her oversized blade. The monk parried it aside easily with his mace and kicked out, hitting Lashea’s hand. To her credit, she did not loosen her grip on the sword. Instead she swept out her right leg hoping to trip the off balance monk.

Not only did her use of martial arts not catch her master off guard, but it allowed him to again leap over Lashea’s low blow and score another series of strikes to her already bloody face with his fists.

This time, however, her master did not come out unscathed as Lashea was able to bring her sword to bear and swing in time to place a deep gash along one of his forearms.

Sensing an advantage, Lashea let out with a series of swings and thrusts. Though her attacks were slightly slower than the monk’s dodging, it also did not allow Clavus a chance to counter-attack without risking loosing a limb. Lashea had him backing into a wall of the training hall. She hoped to back Clavus into a place where he could no longer dodge, but he surprised her by turning after one such dodge, and running at the wall and up it several steps. He spring-boarded off the wall and launched himself at Lashea with an outstretched foot. Surprised, she barely dodged the attack, not having time to bring her sword around. She retreated several paces breathing heavily.

Again they circled each other. Clavus’s arm was bleeding more freely now, but he still maintained an air of superior calm. Conversely, Lashea face sported only a few minor wounds, but she struggled to not show her excitement. Never had she scored such a hit. She felt an urge to rush in claiming victory, and yet she recognized that time was on her side as her nose bled but a bit, but Clavus’s arm would weaken him the longer they circled one another.

Lashea also recognized that any mistake would be enough for Clavus to end the fight as he had so many times before, with Lashea on the floor of the training hall and Clavus admistering the healing powers of Brihaad.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lashea saw a door open to the training hall and Father Salane, the high cleric of the temple, walked in. He was followed by a diminutive robed figure, who Lashea did not recognize.

Sensing the opportunity for an audience in high standing, Lashea, swung her sword above her head and in back of her waist one-handed, handing it off to her opposite hand. She then brought the sword back in front of her to two hands. The gesture did nothing to phase her master, if anything he seemed even more amused as a wide grin adorned his lips through the display. Lashea had expected this reaction and was not distracted by it. She allowed her display to give her momentum into a series of wild swings, linking one-handed and two-handed styles. This was a routine she had been practicing in the private of her own chambers for months, never near her master. In training she had allowed him to continue to believe she was still too weak to handle the great sword one handed for more than a few seconds. If this took her master at all by surprise, he did not show it, being there to parry, dodge, and even slip in a few attacks of his own! Still he did not score a hit either which allowed Lashea to continue with some measure of pride and keep her mounting frustrations at bay. She was beginning to tire, but was inspired to press on.

Her audience murmured at her change in style. Lashea again allowed her smirk to surface, and even indulged in another glance over towards the door as she and Clavus began to circle each other again.

Lashea couldn’t help but let her guard down a moment as she saw another figure had since entered, and he sported a thick, green tail trailing out behind him!

  * * *

Lashea, her humiliation complete, allowed herself to be introduced to Kanji Takimura and Deathwish, two adventurers, the former a monk of Brihad from the Eastlands. Lashea was not very tall herself, and yet the top of this monk’s head placed barely at Lashea’s neckline. Even so, he handled himself with the grace of a practiced warrior. He had also revived her after the conclusion of her mock-battle with brother Clavis, a conclusion which Lashea did not remember.

However, Lashea assumed it had not ended in her favor.

“Lashea was orphaned after the plague swept through our fair city some ten years ago. Alas, our temple was unable to save almost a hundred in that breakout,” explained father Salane a bit sadly, “Since then she has been one of our finest students, being one of the very few sisters to bear a Sword of Brihaad!”

Lashea was able to stand a bit straighter at that. It was true that very few of the holy order at all were able to handle the large bastard swords that Brihaad was often depicted holding. Even fewer were the women that could train their muscles the kind of endurance necessary to control the blade’s heavy swings for very long. Lashea had been brought to the temple as an angry, a vengeful spirit without a foe, having lost her parents to the sickness. Every other weapon they placed in her hand was often soon in too ill of a condition to use, as she broke staves, dented maces out of balance, and shattered lesser swords. When they placed the large blade in her hands she swung the sword about and nearly toppled over much to her own embarrassment. The sword forced her into discipline as she had to learn to control the awesome power of each thrust. In turn she learned to control her own wild flashes of anger with the same smoldering patience. The fires of her anger forged her fierce ability with this weapon, and it turn it taught her many things about the dual nature of justice. Just as she had to bide her time with this weapon to reap its rewards, so too would she have to wait for the right time to avenge her parents and put an end to the evils of this world, in service of The Great Protector: Brihaad. Brihaad would give Lashea the power she needed to fight the cruelties of the world.

Lashea suddenly realized in her recollection that she was staring at her sword and had not been listening to the rest of her introduction.

“This, Lashea, is entirely up to you whether or not you decide to accompany these two on their quest into the Eastlands,” Father Salane was saying solemly, “We know that it is a long way to ask you to go on your first journey, with strangers no less, but know that you would be in fine hands. These two were the slayers of the Lord of the Undead to the north in recent times, but also have been party to many great deeds to the present. Above all, they are followers of Brihaad. Kanji is a monk, meaning that he has been trained to use his body as his weapon. Deathwish here, if you look beyond his appearance is actually a paladin. Though you walk a slightly different path as a acolyte priestess, you would learn much from them, Lashea, much that we cannot teach you here in the temple.”

Lashea’s breath was stolen as she was looked at expectantly by the high cleric, a large, imposing looking human-reptile, and a small, serious monk. She was compelled to yell in affirmation and run to pack her things. Yet much to her own surprise, she protested, “What about the rest of my training? Beating master Clavis and learning more of the priest-powers of Brihaad and…”

Lashea was cut off by Salane’s waving hand, “You are more than ready. You more than demonstrated that this afternoon in the training hall.”

Yeah, you would’ve had him if you hadn’t gotten so distracted by my good looks.

Lashea suddenly drew out her sword and spun about at Deathwish’s mental communication.

I’m over here. No need for another demonstration. I think you can swing that thing around well enough for now.

Lashea’s jaw dropped as she regarded the scaled, armored humanoid waving at her and speaking directly into her mind. She then suddenly remembered herself and picked up her mouth and put away her sword. She stood up strait and nodded.

“I would be honored to accompany such fine warriors.”

Continue to Chapter 4

Waywards Wandering – Chapter 2: Babysitting

Here is the latest installment of Waywards Wandering- the novel I am writing. Click here to read the first chapter. To refresh those of you who are not new to our story: Kanji Takimura and Deathwish are two long-time, mismatched friends who have received a summons from their mutual friend Lial Pelung-Kionen. Kanji and Deathwish are both followers of the protector Goddess Brihaad and are sworn to a life of helping those in need and ridding the world of its ills. One obstacle in their path is Deathwish being a humanoid reptile who often unintentionally frightens others with his sharp pointy teeth and telepathic communication. Trying to get some breakfast before leaving the small city of Prima leads to an accidental tavern brawl. Our heroes may be apt at slaying goblins and the like, but winning a tavern brawl is apparently out of their league…

And now, resuming our story…

After a stern scolding by the town magistrate and with their purses considerably lighter, Kanji and Deathwish trudged away from their prison cells sometime that late afternoon. They were a bit battered and bruised after the brawl at the inn and terribly hungry, but otherwise unscathed. However, frustrations were beginning to consume Kanji and it showed clearly on his face and in the quick gait of his walk.

Slow down, I’m trying to keep this cowl up and my tail tucked in.

Kanji slowed and sighed.

“I’m sorry… I just was thinking, the entire time spent we incarcerated, that situation could have been easily avoided had we been better prepared. Remember back when it was you, me, and Lial? Lial and I together would very easily draw attention away from your…”

Deathwish turned his hooded head and stared at Kanji pointedly.

My charming character and ravishing good looks.

“T-that’s not what I meant, people- they just-” Kanji cut off his stuttering when Deathwish raised a scaly hand,

I know what you mean, Kanji. I also know that if we continue this journey we’ll be hard pressed with just the two of us if danger faces us. Like… say we get attacked by roving beasts in the Wastelands-

It was Kanji’s turn to raise his slight, pale hand, nearly lost in the loose folds of the robes he wore, “We’ve discussed this before. We’re not traveling through the Wastelands. It is an unnecessary risk when we can take a well-traveled road all the way to Highen-Po.”

Dangerous? How dangerous will it be when every town and city starts to expect a great, green monster coming to their town.

Kanji winced at that point.

Besides, we’ll make better time.

“If we don’t get delayed by monsters, dehydration, loss of direction, or death,” muttered Kanji sarcastically. He coughed then and quickly changed his harsh tone, “Either way, the conclusion is the same. We need help.”

But we need a warrior, emphasized Deathwish, not an extra person I need to defend. As it is, I have my arms full with you.

“Well, we could put that as a top priority if I didn’t need someone to help me baby sit the likes of you,” Kanji shot with Deathwish with a mischievous smile. They shared a laugh, meaning Kanji laughed openly and Deathwish smelled of mint leaves, the ridges around his nose wiggled, and he projected telepathic chuckles.

They chatted, sometimes more seriously, but more often easily as they made their way back to the center of town. Thankfully, no one took more than passing interest in what seemed like two robed monks, one small and talkative, the other large and silent. By the time they reached the main road, the sun was starting its descent down over the grassy hills of Prima. Finally Kanji stopped and turned to Deathwish.

“We need a new place to stay for the night, and not being the biggest of cities, we’ve used up our only obvious option,” stated Kanji.

Why don’t we just be away from this this Brihaad forsaken place and onto the road? Deathwish smelled slightly of mildew, showing his irritation.

“Leave without having even eaten, our coffers now low, and a decided need for an additional companion?”

We could get some dogs. Eat a few. Have a few fight for us in the Wastelands. They don’t cost much, they’re ferocious fighters, and a portable self-sustaining food source.

Kanji’s jaw dropped and he rose his voice in an agitated stutter before he detected the scent of mint and realized his friend had been joking. He sighed and pointed at a large, though modestly made stone structure down the road.

“There’s a temple of Brihaad here,” Kanji smiled, “and, last I checked, we were some of her most devout followers and bearers of her divine powers.”

Great, we’re going to hire another one of you?

Kanji shook his head, “No, we’re going to explain our position to the head clergy and hopefully he’ll assign someone to our charge, as well as feed us and give us a place to stay the night.”

Deathwish smelled horrible, like socks that had been worn through a bog and left in a moist place to grow, Assigned to our charge? We’re going to take on a novice priest? How will that solve our problems? The last thing we need is to watch some child!

“Rather than an overgrown reptile?” Kanji quipped, shook his head, and continued down the path to the temple. “Just trust in Brihaad, Deathwish.”

At that Deathwis nodded and was humbly silent. He knew the compassion of the lady protector, as well as her strength. Inspite his sarcasm, Deathwish truly believed that the Goddess Brihaad would help him find his path as she always had, since he had first come to this world.

Brihaad had led Kanji to him and gave him a place to stay within the walls of a house of her worship. There he was trained with warrior techniques and faith in her powers. Before Deathwish, the brothers at the Wenga monastery had said there hadn’t been a paladin of Brihaad in centuries. Priests, yes. Monks, plenty as that was their specialty in Wenga. However, a special blessing was reserved for those particular warriors of Brihaad. They were not apt with a variety of powers as were the priests and monks. However, they could heal wounds and diseases with their touch, will, and strength. Deathwish had begun by being able to make gashes shallower and fevers abate with a simple extension of will and prayer to Brihaad. Now he could heal much more major wounds and terrible diseases. He could also sense evil within a person, so that he better knew how to serve Brihaad. In addition he attained a level of mastery with his chosen weapon like a spiritual bond. This is how Deathwish was with his broadsword fashioned by his own people. It was the only thing that came with him into this world.

Deathwish missed his people very greatly, but he knew it was likely that he would never see another of his own kind again. Brihaad comforted him, gave him purpose, and he jested that she was the only ‘woman’ Deathwish felt he would ever need. Still, he knew the longing for his own kind would never abate.

Continue to Chapter 3

Waywards Wandering – Chapter One: Breakfast

This is the current draft of the first chapter of my non-existent fantasy novel called: Waywards Wandering. I will periodically post chapters that I feel are ‘pretty done’. That’s not to say I wouldn’t appreciate any suggestions and feedback (and other comments) from the peanut gallery. I like cashews better, but any nuts are okay with me. :)

Chapter One: Breakfast

“It’s been fifteen years, old friend.”

No. Sixteen.

The words that resounded in Kanji’s mind were deep and undoubtedly masculine. Less could be said for the strange figure in front of him. His scaly hide, vaguely snake-like head, and sizable tail gave away no indication of gender- not that his broad sword or polished armor were at all feminine.

“Whichever,” Kanji shrugged, looking up at the reptilian man and smiled pleasantly as he often did. When he did his mother’s ancestry showed through with his slanted eyes. His western father had given him his small pointed nose, his large ears, fair skin, and unrelenting ambition- but it was his mother that gave him his small, peculiar dark eyes that slanted to slits when he smiled. She also was kind enough, and ironic enough, to give him his slight build. The top of his small frame barely reached up to his friend’s chest.

Yes. It’s about time we returned home.

Home. That word must have a different meaning for us, thought Kanji. But he bit his tongue. While Kanji grew up in a monastery in Wenga, this creature was not of this world. One summer when Kanji was still a boy there, he had been out playing with his friends as he was often allowed on the hottest days of the summer when the masters said it was too hot for heavy training and too nice out for a boy’s wandering mind. There was a secluded valley along a nearby river that Kanji and his band of ‘warriors’ would set out to in search of adventure. They were to battle bears, and goblins, and yes, even dragons!

However when faced with an actual scaly beast all of them had fled, most screaming, some soiled.

All but Kanji… Kanji and…

“It will be good to see Lial again. We will have many tales to tell her.”

Lial was the reason for Kanji and Deathwish’s desire to return to the eastern lands. She had sent along a message to them- it was terse at best. It had told news of being married and being with child, and had requested that they visit. While the subject of the letter had been about happy things, the letter itself seemed strangely short and almost emotionless.

It had left Kanji feeling restless. When Deathwish had insisted they go immediately, Kanji wholeheartedly agreed.

That is if we finally get to tell her anything. It seems as if the Gods themselves are throwing boulders in our path.

Kanji grew grim, “I hope you’re wrong, Deathwish. For if that is true, and even Brihaad blocks our way. That would mean only serious trouble awaits us in Wenga.”

Deathwish smiled, Does anything else ever await us?

Deathwish’s stomach growled as if answering.

“Something to eat, hopefully.”

They descended the steep narrow stairs of the inn and into the stuffy haze-filled common room below. Kanji did so gracefully and silently, his many years of training and sneaking through dank dungeons showing through. Deathwish grabbed the ceiling overhanging the staircase to steady himself as he bent over and crept down precariously, his talons and scales scraping, slipping on the worn wood. He briefly regretted foregoing putting on his oversized, custom-made leather boots, but realized they may have not of helped at all.

“When you die, Deathwish, it will not be at the icy touch of the undead nor in the fangs of some beast, it will be at the bottom of a stairwell.”

Well that’s all well and good as long as its not in this over-priced, dung-ridden excuse for a-

“Mornin’ yer holiness- shall I be fetching ye some breakfast.”

Even though Kanji knew the woman had not overheard Deathwish’s telepathic comments, he blushed and stuttered as he turned towards the voice and stared strait into the young serving girl’s cleavage which was a mere few inches away and right at eye level to Kanji‘s small frame. Kanji continued to stutter as he quickly corrected his line of vision by tipping his head up at an awkward angle to stare at slightly confused pair of eyes.

-excuse for an inn and it’s with a *real* woman, one with firm scales instead of over-ripe melons-

“Uh- uh- Deathwish!”

-melon… now wouldn’t that be nice for breakfast-


What? Did you want melon too?

Deathwish looked smug- or at least he looked smug to Kanji who knew him well enough to translate the combination of odors and facial twitches he emitted.

The serving girl had backed off a few steps and started to edge away looking frightened.

“N-no! You don’t understand! Deathwish is his name!” Kanji pointed at his reptilian friend which did not seem to help the mental state of the young woman. She tentatively looked up the staircase to what must have looked like a dragon to the eyes of a sheltered serving girl. She stood eyes wide and paralyzed in place.

Hi there.

That single projected thought into the woman’s mind was all it took to send her off screaming to the kitchen, a tray of some patron’s breakfast launched into the air. Other patrons turned to look as Kanji’s training sprung him into action, quite literally. He leapt kicking to the side, sending back up a plate of potatoes, catching a sloshing mug in his left hand, and the tray in his right, which landed a moment before the potatoes again touched down upon its surface.

Now that’s what I call service.

A round of applause quickly followed, but just as quickly ceased. Deathwish finally finished his descent down the stairs and stood by his diminutive friend. A moment’s silence followed before Kanji thought it best to take the attention off of Deathwish, his largely imposing form no doubt emphasized by Kanji’s opposite stature.

“Who ordered the potatoes and cider?” Kanji asked as casually as he could muster. A hand tentatively rose from a table by the bar and Kanji gracefully hurried over to set the tray down. He tossed and spun it the air on the way over for added effect as Deathwish slipped into a seat at the end of the bar with only a bit more than a few worried glances. Kanji soon joined him holding a few copper pieces.

“Well, if nothing else we once again avoided a major incident,” Kanji began with a sigh as he slid into a stool, “and I got tipped. That doesn’t normally happen.”

Deathwish nodded a bit perplexed, Yes, but what about the serving girl?

He barely finished forming that thought as the kitchen door swung inward and an irate cook carrying a mean looking meat cleaver stalked into the room. He took one look Deathwish’s way and growled, wiping a plump, greasy palm on a meat-sauced stained apron and passing his meat cleaver over from hand to hand over his pot-belly, “No one messes with Miss Bessy without answerin’ to me- be ye a devil spawn or not!”

“W-wait,” sputtered Kanji, nearly falling out of his stool, waving his hands, and approaching the man, “There’s been a misunderstanding!”

The cook eyed the small, simple robed man with an unrelenting glare and grit his teeth, “And who might you be? The monster’s sympathetic mid-mornin’ snack?”

Deathwish’s stomach growled in the following moment of Kanji’s stuttering. The enraged cook boiled over at the sound, pointing and waving his meat cleaver in Deathwish’s direction, “I’ll have no hungry monsters in my inn, licking their chops at ladies- I’ll have none of it!”

“Now, now,” Kanji patted the air nervously, “No one is licking their chops at anybody-” Kanji again was interrupted by a loud growl from Deathwish’s stomach.

Sorry, Deathwish shrugged helplessly at Kanji, I‘m hungry and you said chops. Like lamb chops…

“We are but two weary travelers,” Kanji began again in a soft, non-threatening tone, blocking out Deathwish‘s thoughts best he could, “looking for a warm bed and fine food to fill our stomachs- food from your kitchen, not your patrons!” Kanji was quick to clarify.

The cook looked skeptically to Deathwish who attempted a smile, but instead only succeeded in showing off a row of pointed canines. It was then that Deathwish noticed the barmaid peeking out through the kitchen door, when she saw him looking at her with his teeth bared, she shrieked,

“Kill it, Dell! Kill it, kill it, kill it!”

It? Deathwish projected loudly to the entire common room. I’m not an it. Furthermore, I am not going to be killed by anyone, Deathwish rose from his stool and placed has scaly palm on the hilt of his broadsword, Not by anyone here.

“Deathwish, please!” was all that Kanji got to say before the common room erupted into a combination of shrieks of fear and shouts of challenge. The inn door opened and patrons rushed out, while others took to the common room furniture.

“If yer thinkin’ were the type ‘o folk to be pushed around by some scaly, slimy, arse-sucklin’ demon-spawn, then yer thinkin’ wrong!” shouted the enraged cook, shaking his meat cleaver.

Kanji attempted to answer, but was forced to cut off his train of thought as a chair began its descent towards his head. He sidestepped it easily, hopped up onto the chair still being held by a disgruntled patron. The patron didn’t quite register that he’d missed before Kanji lept over him and kicked him squarely in the back. It sent him tumbling into a table, sending the table on its side, flipping drinks, and launching food flying into the air. In general, it began an old fashioned common room brawl.

While Kanji was coping with the brawl, one patron weilding furniture at a time, Deathwish was engaged with the meat cleaver and the cross man who owned it. The cook crossed the cleaver over his mound of a belly back and forth as if it were a nervous twitch. Deathwish stood calmly, not bothing to draw his sword. This seemed to only anger the short, fat man and he flew up a stool and ran down the bar to swing his knife into Deahwish’s skull.

Deathwish had other plans as the cook came for him. Deathwish easily backed off from the blow and backhanded his opponent’s large overbalanced body off the counter and careening into the floor with a loud, satisfying fwap.

It was then that Deathwish felt a sting of pain in the back of his neck and shook off shards of crockery from his scales and shirt. Behind him Bessy hovered over the broken pieces of pottery. She panicked and screeched,

“Oh, what did ye do to Dell ye demon?”

Deathwish sighed, picked up the screeching girl under his arm, and made his way back into the kitchen. A few patrons tried to stop him, probably thinking he was going to cook her or worse. Deathwish grabbed one man by the shirt and threw him across the bar, leaving him to slide several splintered feet across it face first. Another two he swatted with his over-sized tail into the inn wall where they caused a goblin head trophy to fall into one of the poor men’s lap. He shrieked like a small girl when he looked into his lap and saw the goblin staring back. He went to stand, making the trophy fall to the floor and his head connect with a mounted over-sized spider carcass that had been magically hardened and preserved. He senslessly slid back to the floor. The other seemed to know better than regain consciousness.

Once in the kitchen, Deathwish put the kicking, screaming, biting woman’s head into a sink full of luke warm soapy water she had been scrubbing pots in all morning. He then pulled her greasy, sudded head out of the water to ask if she had cooled off yet.

She sputtered and shrieked, and again Deathwish repeated the process adding how all he wanted was breakfast and what did he do to deserve such poor service.

“Don’t eat me!” was all the woman managed to sputter out with a sob. Deathwish dropped her to the floor.

Like we said- I don’t want to eat you, Deathwish turned to leave the girl and return to the common room, Don’t flatter yourself!

When Deathwish returned to the common room the situation had worsened a hundred fold. Kanji had all but his left arm pinned and a large semicircle of locals was closing in on him with ropes, “Where in Brihaad’s name have you been? I could really use some help here!”

Deathwish felt something really solid connect with his skull before he sank to the floor. Bessy, with a cast iron skillet, stood over his scaly hide victoriously. She flung her hair back with a defiant snort,

“Yer order’s up!

Continue to Chapter 2