barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
"You have any experience fighting nonhumans, kid?"

I hesitated for a moment, wondering how much I should reveal. "A little bit. Three years ago we took out a wizard in Salamanca going by the name of Diego en Fuego, and before we reached his inner sanctum he sicced some sort of hellhounds on us. They put up quite a fight; we managed to put them down but the Security agents carted off the bodies under wraps before I could get a good look at them."

"Huh," said Molly. "I read through your file last week; you've done great work in Mage Control, by the way; but I don't recall any mention of en Fuego having any sort of summoning ability."

"Yeah, uh, our team got another visit from Security after the mission," I explained, feeling a little embarassed; "they informed us that our official report was required to say that en Fuego had only elemental magic, and that no summoned beasts were present during the entire mission. Special orders from higher up. So I'd appreciate it if you don't tell anybody I told you about the hellhounds."

In the darkness, I heard a case being opened

"What hellhounds?"


Molly pulled something out of the case and began plucking strings. Under the whir of the helicopter's engines, an ancient-sounding melody formed, at a fast pace in a haunting minor.

"Is that... a banjo?" I asked incredulously.

"Banjo ukulele. It's small. We're allowed a few personal items on missions, right?"

I shrugged, and Molly started to sing.

There is a wild hog in these woods,
Diddle-um-down, diddle-um-day.
There is a wild hog in these woods,
Diddle-um-down a-day-o!
There is a wild hog in these woods,
He'll kill a man and drink his blood.
Run him down, cut him down, catch him if you can.

We tracked that hog down to his den,
Diddle-um-down, diddle-um-day.
We tracked that hog down to his den,
Diddle-um-down a-day-o!
We tracked that hog down to his den,
And found the bones of a thousand men.
Run him down, cut him down, catch him if you can.

"Well that's cheery," I said.

"My da used to sing it to me when I was young, back in the hill country long ago," Molly replied, silencing the strings. "I thought he made it up, but later I learned it's old, very very old. At least Arthurian, maybe older still."

The helicopter touched down with a thump.

"We're here," snapped Molly, unbuckling and standing up. "Eyes open and have a look around."

I removed my blindfold and was dazzled by the bright sunlight. Through the now open door of the chopper I could see desert from horizon to horizon, a few big quonset huts and a variety of tents scattered around the landing pad... and one big shimmering obelisk stretching towards the sky, its true height difficult to estimate in the stark surroundings. Next to it was a pile of rubble that could have been the ruined foundation of its twin.

"Sorry to keep you in the dark on the way here," said Molly. "I figure at this point you're ready to learn a few company secrets, but the exact location of this site ain't one of them."

We stepped down onto the sand-strewn concrete. A small man in a lab coat and dark goggles greeted us.

"Good morning, Captain Clebban. This is the guest you mentioned?"

"This is Jackie, from Mage Control. I figured now's a good time for her to learn a little more about what we do here at Tower."

"Very well. Did you get my report on the field reading fluctuations yesterday?"

"I did. That's one reason we're here. Jackie might learn something useful."

"I see." Lab coat looked perhaps disapproving, but it was hard to tell with the dark goggles. "I shall leave you to it, then. You know your way around the base."

He returned to the nearest quonset hut, and Molly started walking towards the obelisk. I followed.

"What was that all about?" I asked.

"I'll explain in a bit," said Molly. "First, though, let's see... how much do you know about the Deluge?"

"Just the usual story from Sunday School. God creates Man, Man displeases God, God sends flood to drown Man and start over with one righteous family."

Molly chuckled. "That's one way to describe it, sure. Noah, or Noach, or Nuh, or Utnapishtim or Deucalion, depending on where you're from."

As we approached the towering structure I noticed scaffolding covering parts of it, with more workers in lab coats and dark glasses studying it and typing away on smartpads. I noticed for the first time that looking directly at the surface made my eyes feel uncomfortable.

"Do you know anything about the Pillars of Seth?"

"I think you've hit the limits of my Sunday School curriculum."

"Seth was one of the children of Adam and Eve. The story goes that he gathered up all the knowledge of the world at that time, including prophecies about the future of humanity from Adam himself. He knew from the prophecies that the world would soon be destroyed either by fire or by flood, but he didn't know which, so he built two colossal pillars, one utterly fireproof and the other utterly waterproof, and inscribed a copy of all his knowledge on each pillar, that the knowledge of the world would not be lost."

I let out a low whistle. "So this is the accumulated wisdom of the antediluvian world?"

"That's what the hieroglyph-jockeys up on the scaffolds tell me. They've still only just begun to translate it."

"So what happened to Seth?"

"Supposedly he hollowed out a room in one of the pillars, hoping to ride out the end of the world. Of course, there was only one Seth..."

"...and he guessed the wrong pillar?"

"Bingo." Molly gestured broadly towards the crumbled ruins near the surviving obelisk. "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

"Ozymandias?" I felt a sudden insight. "Did Shelley know about this place?"

"Not directly. He might have dreamed about it. Some other artifacts from this era act as psychic broadcasters under the right circumstances; we don't know if this one does or not."

Molly stopped and took a swig of water from her canteen.

"So why me? What does all this have to do with my experience with Mage Control?"

"You're good at what you do. And like I said, you're ready for a few more secrets. Here's a big one for you: how many times do you think God has destroyed the world and started over?"

I was taken aback. "One? I mean, assuming that the flood myth is true, and that all the different flood myths are referring to the same global event."

"Yeah. That just means one that we were permitted to remember. The Eden story--any creation myth, really--could just as easily be the 'and started over' half of a story that lost its 'destroyed the world' half."

"I... I guess so. But what difference would it make? If the whole world was destroyed and remade, there would be no evidence of the previous world."

Molly nodded meaningfully at the obelisk. "Some things survive." A dark look passed over her face. "Some things survive that shouldn't."

She shook her head, and asked "Have you noticed anything funny about that obelisk?"

"You mean like the way it shimmers, even in places where the sunlight doesn't hit it directly? Or the way it hurts my eyes to look at it for too long?"

"Yeah. And the corners don't add up to the right number of degrees, and rocks dropped in its vicinity don't fall straight down, and the whole mess just don't look right."

"Why is that?"

"Because it was not built using the laws of physics we have today."

"Oh, come on!"

"No, seriously. As far as the researchers can tell, every time the cosmos is destroyed and remade, the laws of physics change slightly. The pillars were made using the laws of the previous version, so they don't quite work the way they should in the current version. The physicsts working for us have figured out ways to tell how many times the 'destroyed the universe' counter has been incremented by examining antediluvian artifacts like this one. Apparently statistical analysis of numbers in various sacred texts supports their findings."

"So how many times?"

"We are currently living in universe number five hundred forty seven."

"Five hundred forty seven??"

"At least."

I ran my fingers through my hair in disbelief. "That is one indecisive Creator."


(That's as far as I got so far.)
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
"What's that movie with Lady Gryffindor and the owl?"

"Um... the entire Harry Potter series?"

"No, the other one! With the fakey owl!"

"Fakey owl?"

"And all the other people up on Olympus!"

"...Is it possible you mean Clash of the Titans?"

"Yeah, that one!"
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Have you heard stories about "wild boars"? The Caledonian Boar from Greek mythology, Twrch Trwyth from Arthurian legend, the Wild Hog in the Woods from Appalachian folk song? Do keep in mind as you read these tales that the wild boar is not just a little pig with extra fur.

The wild boar is a primeval beast from the Pleistocene; larger specimens can be four feet high at the shoulder and weigh up to 700 pounds. It can sprint at 25 miles per hour and jump nearly five feet in the air, with enough force to knock down anyone short of Hercules. Snake venom has no effect on a boar; wolves run away from it; tigers that try taking one on will probably have a very bad day. The males have razor-sharp tusks, and during certain times of the year are covered with stiff bristles and an inch-thick extra layer of subcutaneous tissue. Good luck getting a spear through that. And if you do, I hope you're using a specially made hilted "boar spear," because if not, it will just keep charging up the shaft that's impaling it so it can bite you anyway.

Is it any wonder that the boar was spoken of with such fear and marvel in old songs and stories? These are legendary monsters brought to life.
barnabas_truman: (army)
"Are there any puns about Arthurian legend?"

"Hm... Oh! I've got one: who made all the musical instruments for King Arthur's minstrels?"


"Luthier Pendragon!"

[awkward pause]

"I don't get it.

"Arthur's father was Uther Pendragon. I thought that was common knowledge?"


"Aw, do I have a twisted idea of what 'common knowledge' is because I grew up with Arthurian legends?"

barnabas_truman: (dwarf)
Every once in a while somebody asks why Gandalf didn't just have the Eagles carry the Ring to Mount Doom.

Even if we ignore the fact that the Ring is a tool of corruption that entices its bearer--especially a powerful bearer--towards betrayal, and that therefore giving it to an Eagle would probably not be a good idea,
    AND the fact that the entirety of the plan to destroy the Ring relied on Sauron not finding out about it and a flight of giant Eagles is not exactly subtle,
        AND the fact that Mordor is a long way from Rivendell even if you do have wings,
            AND the fact that the Eagles are not Gandalf's personal taxi service,

we still have to consider

• Sauron's air force (flying dragons, fell winged beasts, Nazgul, some birds)

• Sauron's anti-aircraft artillery (the ancient Numenorians had aircraft; presumably they also built weapons that could shoot at aircraft, and I would assume Sauron might have kept a few in reserve just in case--beyond that, I'm sure Shelob could probably fling a web pretty high)

• Sauron's ability to control the weather itself (just try flying over the mountains in hurricane-strength winds, or finding your way to the landing zone in a country filled with volcanic smoke)

barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
"Hummingbirds are so tiny. They make their nests out of tiny leaves and bits of lichen and moss and hold them together with strands of spiderweb."

"Are we sure they're not actually faeries? That totally sounds like something a faerie would do."

Dwarf Tea!

May. 11th, 2014 03:47 pm
barnabas_truman: (dwarf)
Types of tea that sound like monsters from Dwarf Fortress:

The deep oolong is a colossal creature that dwells in underground lakes, pale, hairless, and nearly blind, shaped something like a seal and something like a worm.

The melon oolong is a smaller domesticated relative of the deep oolong; its name comes from the Elven word for "friend."

The orange pekoe a brightly colored jungle bird that can learn to mimic the speech of sentient creatures.

The golden pu-erh is a small flightless dragon with metallic yellow scales.

The Lapsang Souchon are diminutive gnomes with dark skin and great wisdom. They live solitary lives in rock huts on mountaintops, contemplating the stars and making maps which they sell to travelers.

The rooibo is a giant tan-colored rat with powerful hind legs built for jumping and a pouch in her belly to carry her young.

(Feel free to challenge me with other tea names.)
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Wow, this is one heck of an origin story.

False Face Society


Jul. 17th, 2012 11:52 am
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
From another discussion regarding depictions of Adam's navel:

The belly button thing is actually just a small part of a much larger theological issue called the "omphalos hypothesis" (Greek for "navel"). The whole point of the belly button argument is that the existence of a belly button is normally an indication of a past event (gestation), so if the first humans were created from scratch as adults *with* belly buttons, then the creator was essentially creating false information about their age.

(Personally I find this argument somewhat silly, as from a biological perspective the very EXISTENCE of ANY part of a human body is an indication of gestation in the past, and there's nothing special about the navel.)

But this raises a flurry of other questions that are even deeper, as the belly button is by no means the only (supposedly) created thing that is normally an indication of a past event. Some other examples:

Was Adam (and the other higher animals) created with intestines already partly full? (If not, digestion wouldn't work properly; if so, what were the contents made of?)

Were the first trees created with or without rings already in place? (We have tree-ring evidence of trees many thousands of years old, so in a young-Earth scenario, "with" is the only option.)

Were landscapes created with valleys already showing signs of milllennia of erosion?

Were all of the stars created with entire pathways of pre-extant light already en route to Earth?

...and so on. Ultimately this leads to one conclusion: if the creator was able to create false evidence suggesting past events before creation, then NO evidence regarding the age of ANYTHING can be trusted. Indeed we may as well claim that the entire universe was created in roughly its present state last Thursday, and that any memories you have of, say, Wednesday are false memories implanted in your brain while it was being created.


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