Another writing that grew from The Battle of Bad Galeth was this short Mannish analysis of that most common foe of the more prominent races of Eurychra, Goblin-Folk of the Talamor. It is written from the position of a learned Udanian sage, who apparently has had a peculiar fascination with these foul denizens, even to the point of managing a rough etymology of their given names. Among the finer points presented are a more detailed account of the origin of orc-kind, and some ideas behind their particular enmity against the Elves.


Conath Ovidan, Legist and Sage of the
Court of Magdal-Ayin

Throughout the history of Talamor, known to the learned Elves as Eurychra, many races, and their variants have come into being. A common element throughout has been that of the urganach, those foul creatures commonly described as “goblin-folk”, due mainly to their most common representatives. It has been said that there are more goblins warring beneath the surface of the earth than fires amid the Walls of Night, but that remains to be properly debated. What is known about them is that while they may very well exist in such numbers, their kin exists in many, much more deadly forms unknown to the commoner. The purpose of this writing is to not only delineate these creatures and their relation but to properly place them within the overall scheme of racial history, which currently includes the many sub-races and derivatives of Elves, Dwarves and Men.

While their exact entrance into Talamor’s pre-history is not known, many theories have been posited by the historic writings of the Hylenic, or wood-elven scholars. Most concern them with being minions of the earth, to a lesser degree not unlike the Dwarves or Giant-kind, that were perverted into evil servitude by the fire-god Esh, whom the Elves name Ignar. While his influence has long since left the world (outside of rumored cults), his minions still run rampant across and deep within the whole of Talamor.

Goblin. The name is derived from the Kedanic gobbeling , or “(one) from the gobbel”, that word meaning a depth of the earth. Similar is the Hylenic term kobold, however it tends to be used as blanket term for their ilk. The Dwarves, their closest adversaries, know them as the huldir, or “hidden ones”. The creatures specifically mentioned here are slight (4’ in height typically), with umber to ochre skin, large pointed ears (comically so, when compared to those of the Elves), prominent noses and small, seemingly ineffectual eyes. As could be perceived, their senses of hearing and smell are considerable, while their eyesight, at least amid the surface-world, barely so. However, in their dark habitat below ground, they can sense the differing graduations of heat (including that coming from interlopers to their dim lairs) perfectly well. Therefore, even in the least lighted conditions, the goblin can function as effectively as a Man in sunlight, with ranged as well as melee weapons. Accordingly, the light and heat of the fully sunlit world disables them to a great degree, so they are rarely seen in such locales unless at night or in darkened conditions. They garb themselves in everything from rough-hewn cloths to leathern armors sourced from the likes of giant rats (which they are known to breed as livestock) to grazing animals that have been drug down to their dismal homes. In emulation of the Dwarves they are fair miners and smiths and manage to cobble fearful blades and missiles, some of which are poisoned with any number of stagnant fungi. Goblin society is tribal, with any number of them led by either a chief or king, who is often the largest and most repugnant of their given number. This loathsome creature is either a hobgoblin proper (see below) or some terribly wily individual who has managed to manipulate the underlings into a state of reverence, or at least mindful dread.

Hobgoblin. The term was once specifically associated with a leader caste, or “head-goblin”. While that is indeed the case in some instances (hobgoblins leading goblin tribes), it has since been revised in citing a larger variant strain of the creatures. While they appear in many ways like their close cousins, the hobgoblin is larger (averaging at 6’ tall), broader and considerably more brutal than their lesser relatives. They are also adept at wielding two weapons at once, making them dangerously dexterous foes, and are markedly better miners and smiths, with their armors and weaponry on par with most Mannish fare. They are often led by orcs or bugbears (see below), or one of the more advantageous of their own kind.

Orc. A truly separate strain of goblin-kind is the orc (the name is supposedly derived from the Dwarvish nork or norker, meaning “foul (one)”. Their origin lies relatively recent to the others in that they were the product of the mad wizard Golgamed’s endeavor to create a servant race of creatures to attend his liege Jehar the Usurper at the fortress of Bad Galeth some 250 years prior. The fate of Bad Galeth, and that of Golgamed’s madness need not be recounted here, but it is important to say that while the experiment was ultimately a failure, it resulted in a proliferation of creatures that bred faster than any other of their kind and maintain a considerable number to the current day. Being the result of repugnant act of breeding goblins with heavily drugged human females (supposedly the females were first slain and partially devoured by the deviant creatures, until Golgamed devised a proper slurry of fungus, fecal matter, and grime which managed to convince the fiends that their prey was at least somewhat like their kind), but little did the wizard know that the final female subjects in question were, in fact, were-boars, which resulted in their mutant progeny bearing the porcine snout and jagged tusks associated with orcs today. They are likewise covered in a thin coat of wiry black hairs, thickest at the back and hindquarters, where the base of the spine results in a short tail. Like their cousins the hobgoblins, they stand around 6’ tall at full height, and many of them are as broadly built through selective breeding. Unlike their cousins, however, they are more prone to have other, “lesser” creatures perform acts such as armoring and smithing — enslaving the likes of other goblin tribes, or even Dwarven or Mannish thralls to tending to such menial business in their behalf. A curious subject is their hatred for Elves, being more inclined to slay them on sight than treat them as chattel like the other races. Some relate this to the Vale-elves’ participation in the Battle of Bad Galeth, but no obvious correlation can be made of this supposition. Elven flesh and organs are also considered among the greatest delicacies in the orcish diet, especially after elaborate and horrific torturing of the prey. Some old orcs are known to treat Elven blood not unlike fine wine and keep it in airtight casks for sharing in celebrations. They are viciously competitive, and the veterans of their many civil struggles are large tribes of keenly militaristic opportunists who strike fear in their many foes across Talamor.

Bugbear. The largest of goblin-kind, they stand at a massive 7’ to 9’ tall, and are typically covered in a brackish fur. The name is from the Kedanic bu-gebur, meaning “lurker from below”. Not the most intelligent of their race, they nonetheless are remarkably dexterous for their size and are unrelenting once induced into attack. Some say they are the product of hobgoblins mating with giant-kind, such as ogres or ettins, but this remains to be undocumented and is guesswork. Regardless of their exact origin, when wielding heavy arms such as axes, spears, and morning-stars, they can be devastating when encountered. Their might is respected among even the orcs, who often enlist bugbears in the front lines as savage infantry among their troops.

The variety of urganach present in Talamor represent a significant threat to its free-peoples, not only due to their great number but to their cunning organization. This writing is thus put forward with the only sincere leverage against such a threat — that of knowledge. Only when we learn further of such races normally only seen through the rough lens of legend and lore can we come to understand their weaknesses and limitations.


I Blame Fallout 4.


Yes, I know — it’s been a while. But my conscience is clear. I was abducted, swept away into an alternate world filled with harsh radioactive storms, dangerous mutated denizens, and (even more threatening) wall prefabs that didn’t sit just right. Yes friends and i-neighbors, I blame Fallout 4 for my absence. The game has managed to suck up just about every hour of my free time, and has even predominated my daily thoughts. I spend most of my time away from home trying to remember where I left my many companions, or reviewing what junk I may be low on before beginning my next building project. And don’t even get me started bragging about Ramona, my magnificently tricked-out gauss rifle. She’s a beauty, I tells ya.

Mind you, I’m not about to review the game. I even concede that it is riddled with glitches and bugs, and is only a moderate step up from the games before it as far as visuals are concerned (even though I love the lighting overhaul and superior atmospheric effects). I also agree that the Gamebryo engine that has been used since Oblivion needs to be let out to pasture to die a noble death, since surely with this latest venture Bethesda has wrenched every bit of possibility out of it, along with same twitching debris and floppy corpses we’ve come to know and love. Nothing is as satisfying as damn near dying before finally dispatching a Super Mutant Overlord, only to see it softly collapse to the ground like a giant Cabbage Patch doll. Aww.

However, unlike most critics of the game, I wasn’t opposed to its story mechanics — mainly due to the fact that the story isn’t why I play a Bethesda game, anyway. I’m that guy Todd Howard talked about back when he previewed Skyrim and casually mentioned how you could even climb to the top of that mountain way off in the background in an particular shot. Such statements always get a emphatic yiss from me, since the massive playgrounds the company always manages to produce proffer untold hours of explorative joy. And while the real estate of Fallout 4 may be less than that of their last effort, it is nonetheless action-packed with both peril and loot. I didn’t even start the core part of the storyline (contacting private dick Nick Valentine) until reaching level 50. Yes, I was that distracted with random adventures, settlement development, crafting and building, and trying to avoid that damned nuisance of a man, Preston Garvey. I had also stumbled into the Railroad, and my broheim Deacon (who never fails to crack me up: in the middle of one encounter with the Gunners that ended up setting off a couple of nuclear-powered cars, Deacon remarked, “This just in, WORLD EXPLODES. News at eleven.” I had to pause the game). It’s easy to imagine him and my character as Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in a post-apocalyptic version of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, casually cutting in a few holes of golf in the middle of a crosswar between the Synths, Super Mutants and Brotherhood of Steel. Needless to say, after defeating both the Institute and Brotherhood, we’ve got a lot more time to hit the back nine, and are still having a blast (sometimes literally).

With three DLC on the way over the next three months (yes, I’ve already got that Season Pass fired up and ready to go), it seems like my Fallout 4 addiction will continue, which may be bad for blogging, but good for my ongoing fascination for the game that may honestly replace Oblivion as my all-time favorite Bethesda title. As long as I’ve got enough electromagnetic cartridges and Rad-Away, I’m good to go.

The Return of the Magnificent Seven.

I  (the cackler third from the left, above) don’t know if it’s either because you change most during the years of junior high, middle or high school, or simply arrive to the destination of what “you” happens to be, but the friends you have at that time are usually the best ones. Maybe it has something to do with the commiseration of school drudgery through the week, or the expectation of the weekend and its promises of glory. Maybe it has something to do with innocence, its bliss revealing nothing but limitless potential and Good Times Forever. Whatever their cause, those relationships are the most enduring, if only in memory. People who, when simply mentioned, bring an immediate smile to your face, prompted by that time and that place. Do you remember when? Yeah, me too.

It’s not often that you get a chance to revisit those times. Life unfortunately becomes cluttered and complicated, filled with ornate processes and schedules. We become embedded in our own lives. But every once in a while, a hand comes out of the blue and manages to pull you out of that everyday schlump. In my case, that hand was attached to the arm of one Kenneth Dockery (third from the right). He, like every other man you see in the above picture,  is without a doubt one of those people I just mentioned. Always a fiercely energetic and genuinely generous guy, Kenny is one of those “go-to guys” who would drop anything he had going to help anyone out in any way he could. And when he asked me to come down to Georgia and spend the weekend with him, I immediately said yes.

Next thing I know, I’m sharing a van with none other than David Roger Hatfield Junior (far right). Yes, I’m going to spell every bit of that out, if even that could do justice to the man. The Sancho Panza to my chaotic Quixote (and often the reverse, depending on the situation), Dave is my best friend of all time. Noone else makes me laugh harder or feel better than the Brother Marquis (or Marquis My Brother, depending on who sees who first). We sojourn from the confines of Seymour to the gracious land of Maryville (pronounced MAR-vul, in the local dialect) Tennessee, and the abode of one Forrest Pittman (second from left). A gregarious and generous soul, Forrest is that guy you often find yourself in awe of — but never jealous of, due to his modest relatability. He’s one of those people whose life is full of stories, simply because he goes beyond the perimeters most of us set up during our lives. Needless to say, the five hour drive to Georgia was eventful with the three of us aboard. I shall say no more, to protect the innocent.

Upon our arrival to Warner Robins, GA and the domicile of Ken-Ye South (as Kenny had been dubbed for the occasion), we met up with two more of our party — Andy Thompson and Jonathan Moral. I first met Andy (center) through Dave and Forrest long ago, and have always admired him for his discipline (Andy is still an accomplished runner, as he was then) and personal drive. And he’s damned funny, too. Jon (far left) has been a constant source of wonder for me, since even from our youth he’s always been the most productive and “together” of us all. A professional photographer, he took the majority of the pics during Kenapalooza II — as the event has since become known — including the one above (with a timer, durr).

Our initial confab covered a myriad of topics, from the goings on of friends not present to the incurring mystery of Bahama Bob’s Mama. But instead of satisfying our collective curiosities and visiting the aforementioned trailer-turned-bar (and the patron’s mother, if possible), we decided it best to pursue another venue for that night’s entertainment. Thus the evening was spent with beers, pool cues and some local band that spent the entire length of a performance tuning up. But none of that was really important. It was like no time had passed for any of us.

The next morning we reassembled under the banner of Ken-Ye South, and followed his lead within the confines of Robins Air Force Base. This was particularly exciting for me, as I had never visited such a place before. While security was certainly maintained, the place seemed quiet and relaxed — it was a Saturday, after all. It wasn’t long before we reached our objective — the Cobra Helicopter Simulator. Imagine that one whole wall of your family den was replaced by a giant projector screen, which curves around your position, and that instead of a meager handheld controller, you’re seated inside of an actual helicopter cockpit, replete with all the controls, meters, panels — and simulated weaponry. Yeah, the whole “whao factor” is pretty much a given at this point. Needless to say, by the end of the afternoon, we had a new respect for the men and women who are able to pilot a real Cobra — not to mention a distinct envy of Ken, who actually gets paid to work with the simulators. But if anyone deserves it, that distinguished Gulf War veteran does.

It wasn’t long after that we were finally joined by that remaining member of the Magnificent Seven, one Jeff Gebhardt (second from left). If I had to describe Jeff in one word (not that I could begin to, or any of our fellow attendees for that matter), I would say earnest, which honestly isn’t something to be taken lightly. While the rest of us tend to blurt out whatever happens to be wriggling our cortices at the time, Jeff has always had a more thoughtful — and dare I say intelligent — mode of expression. Not that he hasn’t had his share of “inspired” moments, it’s just that his tend to stand out more because of their impact. And I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look the exact same as he did in high school. Keanu Reeves has nothing on The Gebhardt.

With our number complete, we returned to Robins for another turn with the Cobra simulator, then later descended upon yet another local bar (still keeping a respectful distance from Bahama Bob and his maternal parent), the description of which had me sold at “Guinness on tap”. After some among us (myself included) made a brief segue at a nearby steak and sushi place, we soon regrouped at Ken-Ye South Central before retiring for the night.

The next morning we gathered and parted ways yet again, but not without many hugs, handshakes and sheepish grins. The road back to Tennessee was calling, but not before giving many thanks to our host. One thing made obvious to me (and to the others, I’m sure) was that nebulous sense of enjoyment we had in each other’s company had been undiminished by the years, and if anything had been fed by the short time we had together. For a while, we were the same bunch of goofy guys we had always been, and to some degree will always be.

We were the Magnificent Seven. And we expect our number to grow in the future.


Decoding the Voynich Script.

I blame Professor Tolkien. Ever since reading his books (particularly Return of the King, with its enticing appendices), I have been fascinated with the construction of languages, and the way in which they truly create the backbone of a culture. After all, nothing’s worth anything if it can’t be communicated, right? My D&D campaign world of Eurychra (which I’ll be getting into soon — I know, I keep saying that) has a few faux naming languages, which borrow heavily from the likes of Greek, Hebrew, Gaelic and Welsh, but nothing close to Professor T.’s magnificent work. I am no philologist,  but nonetheless have the bug. I’m the guy that sits and shuffles phonemes around, sounding them out to himself to see if the combinations are cool or not. Nerd much? Yes I do, thanks.

Anyways, I was mystified a few years back when I first read about the Voynich (so-named after Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased the script near Rome in 1912) Manuscript. Carbon-dated to have existed since the 15th century, the throughly illustrated codex appears to concern itself with subjects such as herbs, astronomy, biology, cosmology, and some alchemical and pharmaceutical elements. The only problem is that the writings that make up the bulk of the manuscript is of a hitherto unknown writing system. From its appearance, the script appears to be made up of nearly 30 “glyphs” or written phonemes (or basically, word-sounds — such as the word baker is made up of b/ay/k/ur, the combination of which forms bake + er, or “one who bakes”), but their precise nature and meaning have alluded many cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from World Wars I and II.

That is, possibly, until now. Enter one Dr. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics for CRELLA (Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment) at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK. His linguistic background is in the Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew languages, along with Akkadian, the early language of Iraq. Using a process similar to Champollion and Young — who managed to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs — Bax proposes to follow their approach with finding and isolating the construction of proper names (individuals or specific objects), and in breaking down these (as I sort of did with baker, above) to create a scheme of definitive sounds for the written symbols, recombining them in other orders to define more glyphs and their sounds, and provide further meaning.

Bax’s cursory passes with the Voynich Manuscript have involved identifying certain planet genera and the most plausible words used to name them, as well as identifying the Taurus constellation, and using these discoveries as a groundwork in defining what sounds the glyphs represent. Bax has made a video which outlines this process and his discoveries, which I present below:

I’m aware that to most people this will sound like so much drudgery, but to anyone as fascinated with the form and function of language as I am, it’s a thrilling expedition into an ancient tome of mystery. I cheer on Dr. Bax wholeheartedly, and hope to hear of more discoveries associated with the Voynich Manuscript soon.

The Elder Scroll MMO.

I’ve always said if there ever was an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) that I would even consider shelling out cash for (mind you, this is in the Age of Star Wars: The Old RepublicStar Wars, mind you), it would be one based on Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. For one, it would at last be the chance to have several of your friends along for adventure in the lands of Tamriel (something unheard of until now — and rightly so — since the first five games were only intended as single player experiences), and have that meticulously written and storied world, now ripe with wonder and history, laid out for me to meander in as I will. Well hush my pie-hole if that hasn’t finally been announced.

According to Zenimax Online Studios, the game is due in 2013, and takes place a millennium before the fifth installment of the single-player games, Skyrim. The overarching storyline concerns the daedric prince Molag Bal as he attempts to pull Tamriel into the demonic realm. Color me excited.

Supposedly soon a teaser trailer and screenshots will break on the internets, not to mention the game being Game Informer’s cover story in June. Meanwhile, join me in sitting on my hands, and readying my wallet.

My Latest Hero.

Jesse Thomas, 55, was noted for leaping upon a police vehicle in the Noralto neighborhood of Sacramento, CA, wearing a puffy jacket, a sombrero, and one boxing glove. According to the policeman in the vehicle at the time, Mr. Jackson leapt upon the car, screamed his own name,  jumped off and ran into the early morning. He was later found lying on the street nearby, and was arrested for public drunkenness.

And all I ever manage to do is maybe eat dinner and watch a movie on TV. I tip my sombrero to the man.