A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 1

Hey there! You’re reading this because, well, ok to be honest I don’t know why; but I’m going to guess.  It’s because you are, or were, a student at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), and you’re looking for advice, or to laugh at some of the things you wished you had known.

I am writing this guide because I think there are many things students would have benefited from knowing when I was at BSSM.  I’m an engineer with a knack for teaching, so seeing how things work and educating are parts of my ‘gift mix’.  I hope this guide, part 1 so far, helps you have a smoother time in Redding.

Housing

Finding A House

Finding a house is, hopefully, something you’ve already done.  But you may find that the accommodations you have now aren’t a good fit.  Here are some tips and info you will want to know.

Questions To Ask:

  • Are utilities, internet, laundry included? If not, who provides them and what did it cost the last tenant(s)?
  • Ask for photos if you are unable to physically visit, make sure they are recent.

According to FindTheData.org, the cost of renting in the 96001, 96002, and 96003 zip codes (a.k.a. Redding area) are in the table below.  Note that this is the base cost, no utilities included.  If you find places to live at in these price ranges, you are likely getting a fair offer.

Rental Type Price Range
Studio Apartment $670-740
1 Bedroom Apartment $680-760
2 Bedroom Apartment $860-960
3 Bedroom Apartment $1,270-1,410
4 Bedroom Apartment $1,410-1,580

Now, you’ve found a place you can afford, but is the location right?  Look at a map of Redding, how close are you to ‘it all’?  Consider the primary locations:

  • Bethel campuses (College View or Main, and Twin View)
  • Commercial Downtown (Hilltop, Churn Creek, Dana, Browning area)
  • Old Downtown (Market and Placer area)
  • The Civic (school for 1st years)

The further you get from these places, the more fuel you, or your chauffeur, will burn.  You will be less likely to go hang out on a whim, or be spontaneous.  Perhaps this isn’t a goal for you, but at the very least make sure you have a plan for getting to the locations above from where you will be staying.

Running A House

This is advice on how to run a household, or the operations of a home.

Pick An Executor

Executor is a fancy dancy legal term for ‘the person who makes sure it gets done.’  Essentially, the executor is the financial face of your household.  They pay the bills, deliver the rent, and collect money from the rest of the house.  This is a lot of responsibility, but picking someone to handle it means that you have someone to thank when everything’s fine, and someone to confront when it isn’t.

The executor should have a small reserve fund to cover emergency expenses; such as rent.  As a Bethel household you already have a reputation for paying your rent, on time and in full.  Beyond that, it is the honourable thing to do.  If you have a roommate unable to make rent then you deal with that internally (i.e. do not involve the landlord/landlady).  Confronting a broke roommate is never fun, so I recommend you meet as a household to discuss what to do (see Have House Meetings below).

Finally, consider that being executor is a burden.  Think about giving the poor soul a break on their rent, or free internet, or pancakes on Sunday?  It’s hard work and can be stressful.  Remember, somebody’s managing a part of your responsibility so the household can run more smoothly, how can you help them out?

Have House Meetings

As a passive aggressive person, I still struggle with communicating my needs clearly.  But if you give me a lay-it-all-on-the-table situation, I’ll do just that; because that’s when I feel safe.

Having semi-regular house meetings is an amazing way to clear the air, to get people talking about what’s on their mind, what their struggling with, what they need, what they can offer, and so on.

How often should you meet?  As often as is necessary.  Schedule time now while you still have it and make it a priority, Tuesday night lets say.  Plan to have Tuesday night free, it is time you spend catching up with your family, or at least time time to air out concerns before they fester into resentment.  It is a sacred time that takes precedence over the coffee date with that cute guy/girl, to talk and share with your mates on what’s up with you.

If the meetings are less than ten minutes, have them less often.  Don’t let them get longer than a half hour though; after that people start to get impatient and the effectiveness will break down.

Final thought: Talk to each other about what’s an issue for you.  In this time of rapid growth and change expect that ‘issue-list’ to change with you, and with your mates.

Build relationship

When you think of the place where you live (in Redding), are you in a house or a home?  Are you 3-12 people who happen to live in the same house?  Or are you a household, a family?  The benefits of having roommates be like family are many, I hope that, at the very least, your Revival Group, and later your Small Group, show you what I mean.

Until then, I recommend you do things together!  Spending time together is a prime ingredient in bonding; sharing experience is another.  “But author,” you ask,  “however will I/we do this?”

  • Game night: Board games, card games, poker, D&D

  • Movie night: Seems everybody watches Father of Lights, but any movie y’all can agree on will do.

  • Drunk Holy Spirit party: If it’s going to be loud make a plan on how to handle it, because your roomies may be tuckered before its over.

  • Worship session: Soak, sing, play, listen

  • Friday morning pancakes: Any morning really, but make it a tradition.  Krusteaz pancake mix can be found at Winco, $8 for a 10lb (4.5kg) bag.  Our house used three in the year.  Invite neighbours to mix it up!

  • Friday night pizza: Westside Pizza has $1 slices after 10pm on Fridays.  Most of the students from the Friday night service go there.
  • Frisbee or some sport at the local park/field

Jobs

This next sentence could be misconstrued so stay with me.  Unemployment is not ‘living by faith.’  Every Christian lives by faith in God every day.  We rely on God for everything, and that includes our ability to work.  You have a responsibility to do all you can use what God gave you to take care of yourself.  I’m an engineer by trade, but right now I’m working landscaping and construction while I go after the job I really want.

International Students

The official law is that it is illegal to work under a student visa; notice how there’s nothing in the Bethel info package.  However, a charitable donation to your missions account, or a gift, is not income.  That’s all I’ll say.

Americans

If you have been looking for work in Redding, you may have already noticed that it isn’t a walk in the park.  There isn’t a lot of industry or manufacturing, the city’s biggest source for work is the medical field.

However!  That’s no reason to give up.  Look for work with the big retail chains, see if you can get a reference from another student.  Working for Walmart or Starbucks isn’t glamorous, but you can transfer to your home one, and back again, consistent work through the year and the next summer is huge.

A popular source for work is sitting.  Babysitting, house sitting, pet sitting/walking.  It’s most effective if you build relationship with the people you are looking to sit for.  In general it’s an organic business.  I babysit for the Parkers, they are friends with the Marleys, who mention that they need to find a sitter, the Parkers recommend you, and so on.

I’ve found that if you visit with someone and ask them about what they need done, you open a door for some labour.  Forty dollars for a morning of work is better than nothing right?

This guide is a little late for this piece of advice.  In general, moving here earlier means less students looking for jobs at the same time.  The early bird gets the worm.

Job Sources

Ask around, always

“Seek and you shall find….”  If you don’t look, you will never find anything.  As Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky said,

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

iBSSM Bulletin Board

This place is a gold mine for all kinds of things.  Make it a part of your daily internet check-in.  Link Here (you’ll have to login to iBSSM.)

Craigslist

http://redding.craigslist.org/jjj/  This is the jobs section, read and apply.

General

A lot people seem to find jobs at restaurants and cafes; especially ones owned by Bethel associates, so they are a good place to start the job hunt.

Finances

Let’s talk a little bit about money management.  In Redding, not spending a dollar is easier than making a dollar (see Jobs).  The general pay rate is lower than you may be used to, but everything important is cheaper (except dry cleaning, don’t get things dry cleaned in Redding).  Because everything is cheaper, saving money will be more effective than working more hours.

There are two amazing tools I use to help me with my, and my household’s, finances.

Mint.com

This site connects to your online banking and reads and categorizes your spending.  I have found nothing that was as easy when I wanted to see how much I was spending, and where I was spending it.  You can set limits on spending, and alerts if you’re spending too much in a particular month.

We Split It

Track any shared expenses between your roommates.  I was an executor for my house (see Elect An Executor) and put all the house bills here.  

WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.
WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.

Ways To Save

Go easy on the climate control:  Pay attention to the thermostat, windows, AC/Heat, and temperatures during the night and day.  We were diligent in opening the windows and blinds at night and closing them during the day, and we allowed the temp to go from 68-80 °F (19-26 °C) on our thermostat.  Because of those two things, our power bill was half that of comparable houses.

Our utility bill was so much lower we thought our friend’s houses had insulation problems.

North Valley Bank: They don’t charge huge transaction fees for withdrawing cash from international accounts.  They also have drive-through ATMs, and that’s pretty cool.

Thrifting: Technically this is also a fun way to hang out.  There are five or so thrift stores in the area (it fluctuates).  Salvation Army, Goodwill, and A Second Time Around were my favourites, but there are many more to check out.  Get clothed for a pittance, arrange it correctly and you can be a hipster.

Just don't be uppity about your new found coolness.
Just don’t be uppity about your new found coolness.

Food

Originally this was under finances, since food is such a big part of where and how we spend our money; but then it almost became bigger than the finance section itself, so here we are.

There are five main places to get food:

Walmart: cheap, and you can one-stop-shop.  Quality varies with product, great tea though.

Winco: cheap-er, but avoid the meat (I never had a problem, but friends with more refined tastes told me it was questionable).  I found the quality fine for most things, great bulk section, and organic greens.

Trader Joe’s: It’s where the cool people shop for their ovo-lacto-organic probiotic yogurts and such.  It’s expensive compared to pretty much everywhere else but you can’t deny the quality of their products.

Costco: You’ll have to be sharing food to really take advantage of this (see Sharing Food below), but Costco carries very good food at excellent prices.  I recommend the meat and pretty much everything else.

Roadside fruit guy: Ok, so there are two fruit stands you’ll see often.  They sell whatever is in season, it’s super fresh and tastes amazing.  Support local economy!

  • One is at the end of Hilltop Drive, across the road.
  • The other is at the corner of Browning and Churn Creek

Share Food

Unless you have crazy allergies, or are really picky, or hate each other, as a household you will mostly definitely save money, time, and heartache by sharing food.

download
Read on!

You cook less:  Agree to cook once or twice a week, pick a day.  Now you are cooking less, and still enjoying the benefit of hot or prepared meals most nights.  Also, when you do cook it isn’t for just one person, which makes following a recipe easier.

You eat better:  In general, if you cook less often, you can take time to make better food when you do, and you don’t have to do dishes; which brings me to my next point.

When you cook, you don’t do dishes:  That’s the deal, every time.  The cook always works more than the dishwashers anyway.  Now your kitchen is being cleaned completely several times a week, how awesome is that?

You are bonding and sitting as a family several times a week:  Eating together helps build intentional community; and you are happier when eating with friends, so you’ll like your roommates more just by eating with them.

You save money:  I spend about $160-240/mo on food when I don’t share.  When I do share it can be as cheap as $80-120/mo.  That’s over 50% in savings, and over the course of the year, you’ll be able to eat out more, or grab that coffee, or take a weekend trip out of town.  The low end of the budget is a leaner lifestyle, less beef more chicken; less juice, more water, choices like that.  How is this possible?  Three things:

  1. Costco: You can buy lots of really good, quality food here.  The problem is that you have to buy them in quantity.  Milk? At Winco the cheap brand is about $3.50 for a gallon; Costco is $3.25 for better milk, but you have to buy two gallons at a time.  Sharing food with other people allows you to take advantage of the savings.
  2. Big meals:  Pasta and soups are cheap and nourishing.  Learn how to make them.
  3. Avoid meat: If possible, try other foods to get your protein, have a meatless Monday.  I’ve made a spaghetti that was half chick peas half ground beef, delicious and affordable!

I hope you’ve found this informative, I’ll be releasing more sections, be sure to comment on what you think I should be covering!

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Agrin’s Gate – Part VII: Tales of their pasts, The Feywild, The Town

Tales of their pasts

On the way back Ashar was deep in thought.  He was still angry at himself for forgetting about the crystal’s reactive property, and for lying to Aelar.  What reason did he have to mistrust his recently made companion?  Then a thought struck him, Aelar was a Wild Elf, and probably didn’t know anything of the politics of Genasi nobility he’d grown up with.  Or did he?  He didn’t really know anything about Aelar other than his talent for flying and naivety of coarser ideas.  Really, he didn’t know any of them; and so, catching Aelar up along the river, he inquired:

“Aelar, what is your tale?”

“My tale Ashar?”

“Your story, where you come from…why did you show up at the Gate?”

“Oh, I see.” Aelar drew a deep breath in the frigid air.

“I was born in the deep forests near Agrin’s Gate, raised in the way of my people, the Wild Elves, living in isolation from all outside influences.  The elders of my tribe educated me in the ways of self-defence and in the lore of my ancestral homeland, the Feywild.”

“Ah yes, that’s where we are going next,” said Ashar.

Aelar beamed, “yes, it is.”  He continued.

“The elders said I was born different from the others.  Within weeks I was speaking, and I was leagues ahead of my contemporaries after a few years.  I did my best not to flaunt it, and choosing the life of a monk, that I might seek solitude as I came to understand the power within me, this gift.

“About a month ago, many days into a prayer walk, I came upon a human youth.  The boy was no more than fifteen years of age, and appeared to have hurt his ankle.  Naturally I was startled, having never seen a person of any race other than my own.  I helped the boy in getting home, to a small town called Agrin’s Gate.  The shock of seeing walls, dressed stone, people?  It almost overwhelmed me.  How could the elders have excluded the wondrous diversity of this world in their histories?

“I hurried home to speak with the tribe leaders.  When the elders found that I had helped a human, an act apparently beneath my kind, I was given the day to pack and leave.  I pleaded with the tribe, with my family, to look past their ignorance, and embrace the vibrance around them.  To cast off the omissive and classist teachings of the elders and come to see these ‘men’ for themselves?”

Aelar looked downcast as he recalled the bitter memory.

“In the end, they preferred the comfort of their seclusion.  I, already seen with some suspicion for my abilities, and shamed by the elders, had no home among my people; and thus, old for a human but naive in spirit, I set out in search of adventure, and greater understanding of the world and its great complexities.  I started by returning to Agrin’s Gate, where I met you and the others.”

Aelar’s face had brightened again.  Smiling he asked Ashar brightly, “so that’s my story, what’s yours?”

“I was raised in some of the harshest wilderness in the Prime, where my family are hereditary rulers over a poor and sparsely settled territory.  Even when I was young I was curious about magic, so when I was old enough, my parents sent me to the one of the most eminent arcane schools in the Capital.”

Ashar spoke with pride, the others had been listening casually to Aelar, with little else to listen to; but Ashar had a more captivating air, his nobility had trained him to command attention.

“At the school I learned much about the magic arts, but my interest in the arcane could not be sated.  I decided to explore the world myself, to find out arcane secrets beyond the knowledge of my teachers.  My explorations took him to Agrin’s Gate, where whispers about previously unknown magic forces led me to volunteer for this mercenary expedition.  It seems now only too true that the rumours were true.”

The group arrived at the Gate before anyone else could share, and presented the crystal to the Arcanist, who thanked them excitedly and scurried off.  With little else to do they went to the last tavern in town, what had become a landing point for the whole town after the days survival measures; today was gathering wood for fires.  Over rounds of ale the companions continued to recount tales of their pasts.  Balthazar had made a Fey pact with a powerful Drow, indebting him to serve later in life, in exchange for power and glory in his youth.  Drel and Cordus were silent, preferring the group to deal in mystery over knowledge.  As eyes turned to Vore, his gaze rested on Iltani.

“I have a story” he said coldly.  Downing his beer, he slammed the stein down, wiped the foam from his lips, and began.

“I was given to the faith as an infant, being born into a family with too many mouths to feed.  I grew up happy, since the priests decided to train me as a warrior when other punishments failed to curb my rough-and-tumble play-style. It was there that I met Iltani.”

Vore shot Iltani a glare before continuing.

“Iltani, being a Shardmind, originated from a gate in the Astral Sea.  Beyond that gate lay the alien Far Realm, and the gate’s destruction during the Dawn War resulted in the rise of the mind flayer empire.  Unlike many of his brethren, Iltani had no interest in rebuilding the gate, but rather sought to understand the nuances of mortal emotions, a concept foreign to his nature.

“This is what he told the head priestess at the temple where I lived, the Temple of Pelor, God of the Sun.  The head priestess placed in my charge.  She said, ‘some responsibility will straighten you out.’  If only she’d known what she’d agreed to.  The head priestess was old and very senile woman, and had gone a bit mad.  But she caused no one any trouble, and we all loved her.”

Vore’s voice faltered, “I loved her,” he whispered.  When he regained composure his voice was angry as he spoke through hot tears.

“One day she decided that to truly dedicate herself to Pelor she must become one with the Sun itself.  And this, this murderer Iltani, attempted to teleport her there.”

Vore’s face was ashen.

“For her death the other elders expelled me, and I never saw Iltani again, until the Gate.”

Iltani spoke, “my actions were misguided Vore, I was trying to help your priestess but I did not know of her frailty, and for that I apologize.”

“Tell that to the elders.”  Vore spat back.

“I did, but I was unable to sway their decision, I am sorry.”

Vore’s expression softened.  “Well I, I hadn’t realized.  Excuse me, I need some air.”

With that he stood and walked out of the tavern.  Drel took note of the long shadows being cast, and with a stretch bid the adventurers good day before returning to his chamber.  One by one the others followed in turn, until Iltani was alone.

“Iltani?”

“Yes Vore?”

“I’m sorry for harbouring such ill-will toward you over these many years, forgive me.”

“Of course.”

Entering the nobleman’s library Iltani began reading from his books, waiting for the town to shift again.

The Feywild

Aelar woke early, his senses tingling with the scents and sounds of his ancestral homeland.  A primal energy vibrated in the air, the morning dew shimmering brightly in the gathering dawn.  He arose and set about finding mice and rats in the pantries and cellars. By the time the others were eating breakfast he’d gathered nearly a dozen in a bag, squeaking and wriggling.

“What’s with the mice?”  Balthazar asked.

“You’ll see,” Aelar replied.

The party got their heading and set off into the wild forests of the Fey realm, taking the runespiral demon-in-a-box with them.  After an hour the group came upon a pair of Owlbears, bears with the head and talons of an owl.

An Owlbear
An Owlbear

Before the group drew weapons, Aelar raised a hand.  Calmly drawing the bag of rodents from his side, he reached in and tossed one near the owlbear.  The female pounced for it, eagerly devouring it.  Aelar continued this, edging closer.  The male didn’t pay any mind to this, he continued to watch the group snarling menacingly. Aelar threw his last mouse behind him and drew a rope, and as the owlbear charged past he bound her swiftly.  This enraged the other owlbear, and as the group dispatched it Aelar whispered an Elven phrase in the female’s ear.

The owlbear’s whimpering ceased and its eyes grew docile.  Aelar had succeeded in taming a Feybeast companion for himself, he turned to the group.

“Thank you friends.  For holding back, we have a new member now,” he said as he unbound the owlbear.

Suddenly a Bralani, an Eladrin noble, and a pack of hunting hounds flew in.  He looked fierce and beautiful, his hounds swift and deadly.

“What are you doing in my forest?”  He demanded.  Aelar stepped forward.

“Noble elf, we are strangers to these lands, and did not know this was your forest.  We came upon these owlbears by chance and defended ourselves when they attacked.”  Aelar could see that, as with his people, the class system was thriving in the Fey as well.  The Bralani looked down on them, both figuratively and literally.

“We, um.” Aelar’s mind was racing.

“Give him the demon?” It was Balthazar, speaking through Iltani.

“We offer a rare creature from beyond this plane, as a gift for your menagerie.”

The Bralani raised a brow, his curiosity piqued.

“Show me this creature, elf.”

Cordus and Ashar stepped forward with the crate, and opening it revealed the demon inside.  The Bralani was furious.

“What in Saulknor have you done?”  Aelar seemed to shrink under the words.

“You would defile my forest with this infernal creature? How dare you!”  Aelar, holding his gaze, whispered to the others, “run.”

The Bralani sicced the hounds on the demon, destroying it in seconds.  The party ran for all they were worth, the hounds giving chase on the ground and the Bralani hovering close behind.  They emerged from the forest into grasslands, and in the distance they saw a town.  As they moved further from the forest edge they could hear the Bralani laughing and shouting taunts at them, before disappearing among the trees.

“Who was that?”  Panted Cordus.

“An Eladrin Lord, they are the high elves.”  Replied Aelar.

“He likely owns these lands, and was hunting when he heard us,” added Ashar.

They made for the town, in hopes of finding the crystal within.

The Town

The town was small, holding a few hundred people, with a wooden hall on the far side.  Approaching the guards of the hall, they gave a gruff “Halt!”

“What do you want?”

“We have urgent business with the chieftain,” said Balthazar.

“Not possible, you’ll need to come back later.”  Balthazar’s eyes blazed.

“Listen fool, we’re going to see your chieftain.  Whether I have to kill you first is your call.”  The soldiers, quivering, stepped back and allowed them entry.

The wooden hall was old and ornate in its carvings.  Banners fluttered lazily in the rafters as the party approached the throne.

“Chieftain, we have urgent business with you,” said Balthazar.

Seeing he wasn’t in a position to argue, the chieftain listened as they explained their quest and desire for the crystal.  Unfortunately, the chieftain was unable to aid them.

“I wish I could help, but since the disappearance of my brother two years ago, protecting the town has been my only priority.  He was a mage who placed protective wards over the town, keeping us safe from Fomorian attack.”

The Fomorians were giants, hideously ugly, that roamed pockets of the Feywild.  If the party hadn’t been in such a rush to get into the city, they would have noticed repairs that had been made to the walls.

Seeing that he was telling the truth, they went to the tavern.  Aelar bribed the barkeeper in hopes of learning more about the mage, but only found out that the missing brother had left a widow.  The widow being their only lead, the group went to her house.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

What Should The Church’s Response to “The New World Order” Be?

Introduction

This is a document produced by the students of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) 1st Year, International Transformation Track 2012/2013, who chose to do the ‘New World Order’ project.  This document is the culmination of the groups efforts and hopes to provide two things.  First, to convey the findings of the project to the common reader.  Second, to provide a foundation for the next set of students to continue the work on the New World Order project.  Due to the magnitude of this project, it is valuable to point out that a number of sub project or topics could be started based on the ideas presented therein, especially the “Our Government, Our Nation, Our Future” project, outlined later in the document.  The motivation for the project was to produce an action plan for the Church to work against the powers and principalities in this world seeking to bring about the end times.  To begin, the group reviewed Dr. Jack Van Impe’s ‘New World Order Rising’1 and Chris Martenson’s ‘Crash Course’2 series as a briefing; and then each chose focus points to tackle.  For the most part we remained fairly high level with a couple of practical examples.  Our goal, since so many are willing and ready to volunteer information for the ‘who’, ‘where’, and ‘what’, was to shed some light on the beginnings of a ‘how’; which could lead to concrete counter-strategies.

Further, this document works hard to protect the hope of the reader.  Negativity and doom sell in this world, so the apocalypse rarely sounds anything but bleak.  The group found it a challenge to guard their hope, and recommend you keep your faith on and pray before consulting some of the sources we list below.

These points have been compiled into a series of short essays with a summary of the key points or actionable steps at the end of each essay. With all of this in mind, let us begin.

What does ‘New World Order’ mean?

To begin it has to be pointed out that ‘New World Order’ has at least two principal meanings.  The first is the New World Order as a conspiracy theory; a theory suggesting that the powerful elite of the world are conspiring to place the globe under an authoritarian government, and eliminate the sovereignty of nation-states.3  For this document the term ‘The New World Order’ will be used to refer to the conspiracy theory.  The second definition is a New World Order as a point in history where global thought or power shifted in a meaningful way.4 This document will refer to these instances as ‘a New World Order.’ We will also use ‘One World Order’, but it will be purposefully ambiguous so its meaning relies on context.

It’s very important to pay attention to how these terms are used. For example, the rise of the Greeks, Persians, Romans, and Napoleon are all examples of a New World Order. The fall of these empires also mark a New World Order. The war for Independence, the abolition of slavery, both World Wars, and the founding of the UN are all examples of New World Orders. Why is this important? It’s important because conspiracy theorists will quote news articles that use the term New World Order when the article is simply making note of a shift in political or economic power at a global scale. This is an attempt to stir up fear and rob you of your peace, ignore it.

Summary:

  • There’s a difference between the New World Order, and a New World Order.
  • The New World Order will refer to the conspiracy theory.
  • A New World Order will refer to a shift in political power or thought that has global influence.

What are we facing?

“If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” ~Harvey MacKay

Harvey MacKay is a successful businessman who makes an excellent point. Planning may not be fun or exciting, but it provides structure and goals that help make a person or organization of persons more effective.  I posit that the Church as an organization has made no such plans with regard to the potential threat of the New World Order.  I would further posit that the New World Order is a real threat, though in my opinion the actual timing is not in alignment with popular estimates.

Dr. Jack Van Impe, in his video ‘New World Order Rising’1, makes a compelling case that the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel, Revelation, and other biblical books line up closely with recent world events, including the creation of the European Union and the Euro.  In his opinion, elite power groups such as the Bilderbergs, the Trilateral commission, the Illuminati, the Club of Rome, and the UN are working in secret or, as case may be, in plain sight, to position the world for governance by a single person, the Antichrist.

J. Duvall and J. Hayes give an excellent description of how to interpret revelation in “Chapter 17 – Revelation” of their book, Grasping God’s Word.  And as they warn,

“The ‘newspaper’ approach [i.e. fitting prophetic books to current events] assumes that we must be living in the last Christian generation.  It also implies that in Revelation God was not really speaking to the very first Christians.  Doesn’t that seem arrogant on our part as contemporary interpreters [of scripture]?”5 (emphasis mine)

It goes on to challenge that Christ may not return until AD 4000, and since many generations before us have believed they were ‘the last generation,’ what scriptural basis do we have to believe we are not fooling ourselves?  I’m saying this in the hopes that you form your own, well-informed opinion; rather than simply accept what the smartest person you know tells you.

As mentioned in the previous section, the Antichrist will one day rule the world, based on the book of Revelation and other verses from the Bible.  It’s worth noting that the book makes no mention of when this will occur, though clues are given.  Dr. Jack Van Impe believes that these clues relate to the recent past and present history of our world, meaning the rule of the Antichrist is likely within our lifetime.

This of course is predicated on the assumptions that:

  1. You believe the Antichrist will one day rule and
  2. You believe the events alluded to in Revelation match those of our present time.

While these things may be true, it does not mean there is nothing we can do.  The writers of this document generally agree with the eschatology supported by the Bethel house, which can be summarized as such:  we do not believe in a theology that empowers a disempowered devil.  This means that these events are not inevitable and that we are not powerless.  As Aragorn said in The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien,

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!”6

If the end of the world is coming soon, I refuse to stand idly by and watch it happen in front of me.  I am not leaving without a fight.

Summary:

  • There are forces seeking to put the Antichrist in power.  If they have a plan, so should we.
  • Bethel’s view on the end times is one that empowers the church to it’s greatest victory.
  • We have a responsibility to make this world like Heaven, and that means stopping anything that would have other ideas.

Democratization: Imagining the system from its smallest scale

Two themes are common among every group or organization of the elite.  The first is the desire to consolidate power among ever tighter numbers of groups, with the presumed fear in our case being that this will narrow to a single person:  the Antichrist.  The second is increasing the amount of control available to these groups.  For example, the US’s power grid can be controlled in it’s entirety from three offices in the West, Center, and East of the country.  Eldon Roth, CEO of Beef Products Inc., is a champion of the industrial meat packing industry.  Every gearbox, for every machine, for every plant in his company, can be controlled from a single room.  This section will discuss some concepts that can be used to combat this.

The main concept I want to present here is democratization or decentralization, as the case applies.  To ‘democratize something’, as I see it, is to make it available to everyone.  Democratization is, in my opinion, a primary tool for combating the forces of globalization and consolidation.  The two principal benefits to this system are increased autonomy of smaller units, and smaller scale failures within the system.  Let me explain what I mean by this using the previously cited power system as an example.  Imagine that each municipality was responsible for its power, to the point where they owned and operated their own utility.  This means that, while more staff are required to maintain the individual power facilities and plants, the maximum fallout of a plant overload or failure is one municipality.  In comparison to the blackouts that blanketed the Northeast US and Ontario, Canada in 20037 it can be seen how this could be beneficial.

Another example could be food services, encouraging diversity on a local level for food production so if transportation fails the area won’t starve in the middle of a cornfield (fit only for meat production, with the cattle being in a different state).  For the sake of brevity I will not go into great detail on these topics but hopefully you grasp my meaning.  A final example is the mortgage lending crisis that led to the 2009 recession, which most of the country is still recovering from. Two companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, held the largest portion of all the mortgage debt in the country, making them ‘too big to fail.’  I strongly believe that under a democratized and decentralized system, which discourages large banks and encourages credit unions, these problems will become small and isolated instead of massive and system crashing on a national scale.

An important caveat is that this way of thinking generally eliminates ‘economies of scale’, a simple truth which states that ten factories making ten cars a day will cost more to operate than one factory that makes a hundred.  This means that democratizing comes at a premium, but I’m confident that as people are enabled to do more, so will they be able to accomplish more, making the premium a small price to pay.

Democratization gives people a sense of ownership; it puts power to control the things around them, to have a say that they feel can matter.  Whether it is your finances, your utilities, your education, or your home, you feel more secure when the control of these things is kept in your hands, and generally you feel better.  I believe there has been an increasing trend to relinquish control of our lives in order to increase our convenience, so we don’t have to think; and in a world that’s growing in evermore complex ways it is a very tempting proposition.

To be clear, I certainly don’t think we should be autonomous to the point of absurdity; that we should be hermits living off the land with no meaningful technology, education, medicine, et cetera.  I would propose developing intentional communities of people around you that value the same things you do, and that that community’s size rest in the 50-60 person range.  At BSSM the most readily available example is a Revival Group.  Many modern anthropologists support the idea of ‘modern tribalism’, and this number roughly reflects the average human brain’s capacity for close relationships.  ‘Tribes’ being the smallest units, they should scale to neighborhoods, boroughs, municipalities, counties, and so forth.

I also want to clarify that there are cases where globalization is important, it allows people to reach across boundaries of class and country to foster new kinds of growth and cooperation that have led, and will lead, to fantastic inventions and new levels of prosperity.  I just believe that globalization should be tempered by as much self-sufficiency as possible, which I believe is a great deal more than developed countries are exhibiting at present.

Summary:

  • The New World Order will come about through the consolidation of power and control.  Promoting self-sufficiency at the cost of convenience will delay and thwart these initiatives.
  • Education is freedom: the democratization of knowledge promotes the ability for people to think for themselves.  If people cease thinking for themselves, they’ll believe whatever they are told, and will lose control of their lives.  Knowledge is power, and it is a power that can be surrendered only by choice.

Apostolic Government

Danny Silk, Bill Johnson, and Kris Vallotton can do a much better job describing the nature of apostolic government, but I’ll try to outline the basic points and how they pertain to the New World Order.  I am speaking very generally here and quite frankly butchering the idea proper; but it is on the assumption that you know all this and simply are being reminded.  If this information is all completely new to you then please try to get a talk or read Danny Silk’s Culture of Honor for more detail.

The apostolic government is detailed most clearly by Paul in Ephesians 4:11:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,” (NIV, 2011)

The responsibility of the apostle is be a continuous link between Heaven and Earth, bringing the spirit wherever they go and leading the Church into deeper relationship with God.  An apostle is not ‘the way’ to God they are a person in our (read: the physical, observable) realm that is expected to carry Heaven’s mandate and to make it our mandate, so that, “[His] will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

Apostles act as spiritual parents and are natural leaders.  They work with other apostles to insure that there is agreement between them, and consult the prophets as well.  In a culture of honor, everyone is powerful, and the hierarchy is maintained through relationship and mutual respect.  Everyone knows the only person they can control is his or her self, and no one else.  There are no fear or manipulation tactics.

The church needs to adopt such a system on a larger scale than individual churches.  Many already are through Global Legacy; and I believe the structures used in the Catholic and Orthodox churches are apostolic, the only question is if the positions reserved for apostles are being held by apostles, or by teachers and pastors (which is more common in churches cited by Danny and Kris).  Once the church is organized but still has autonomy at all levels (culture of honor) it will be both empowered and unified.  It will extremely resilient to attack since even its smallest part will be incredibly powerful, linked to Heaven, and able to cohere with other cells back into a body no matter how many times it is split or fractured by the enemy.

The principal difference between apostolic government and the New World Order is who is the head.  Christ is our head, with many apostles investing themselves solely in his mysteries.  In the most pessimistic outcome of a One World Order, the head is the Antichrist, or functionally Satan.  No matter what purpose it is originally created for, a One World Order will almost certainly be attacked by the enemy through tactics of fear and manipulation.  I don’t believe that the leader of the world becoming the Antichrist is inevitable, or that world peace will be achieved through Him, but to believe that a world peace would last forever without stewardship is equally foolish.

Summary:

  • The apostolic government is God’s model for the church
  • A culture of honor, through God, is what will unify and strengthen the church to the point of total victory against the enemy.
  • What sets the church as a body apart from any other government is the living God at our head.

Church and State: The wisdom in keeping them separate

This is a brief answer to, “why don’t Christians just run everything?”  There have been examples of successful theocracies in the past, Kings David, Solomon, and Hezekiah being some of them. However, there are no examples to bear witness to under the new covenant (since Christ). This is the first reason I believe church and state should be separate:

  1. The is no precedent for a successful theocracy in the New Covenant.

Further, the church’s agreement on the nature of sin is, for most churches, absolute; the only difference being how much grace, or judgment, is given to the sinner.  The most common issue historically with religious governments is people not having religious freedom, to the point of being specific to denomination, what would stop us from repeating it? This can be summed up in my second point:

  1. Unless the church is completely in line with the culture of honor, the world would be a dangerous place for an unbeliever. Unbelievers should not fear the Church, as perfect love casts out fear!

So what should the church’s position be in relation to the state? Personally, I draw instruction from 1 Corinthians 4:20:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (NIV, 2011)

And 1 Corinthians 2:4:

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit’s power.” (NIV, 2011)

I believe that just as science demonstrates good practices through experimentation and study, and these practices are adopted over time, so should the Church demonstrate the effectiveness of God’s Love.  I mean this on a very practical level.  That hospitals should have healing rooms to offset patient inflow.  Prisons should encourage forgiveness and facilitate restoring relationships between convicts and victims.  These are examples of how the Church can help that can be demonstrated, hopefully to the point where the state will accommodate us to allow for further improvement!  This is my closing point.

  1. The Church is a greater testimony of God’s power if it has to rely on Him and not the State.
  2. Our ‘New World Order Under Heaven’ does not operate with the State.

Cuba’s Peak Oil Crisis: A Case Study in Rapid Cultural Change

This is a case study on the peak oil crisis that occurred in Cuba in the early 90s. The purpose of this is to show that a nation can change quickly under pressure, and that there is no disaster we cannot survive well.

Peak oil is something we will have to face sooner or later.  In the videos from Chris Martenson, we are given information on our world, that the population on planet earth, and its consumption of resources, are growing exponentially, but are finite.  Because of that Chris Martenson makes the statement that, “the next 20 years will be totally different from the past 20 years.”2

We went back and asked history if we can learn from it.  Apparently Cuba had a peak oil situation in 1990.  Cuba still exists; which means we can survive with less oil.  The next few paragraphs talk about how Cuba survived and changed in this time.  Most of the facts we got from the video: The Power of Community.8

The US laid an embargo on Cuba to put pressure on the government to move toward “democratization and greater respect for human rights,” after the collapse of the USSR.9  Because of the embargo the economy went into a recession.  80% of import and export trade stopped.  Access to foreign oil dropped 50%.  There were power blackouts and commercially grown food ran short.

The government reacted by importing 1.2 million bicycles from China and produced another 500,000 itself.  In the first five years the government kept the people alive, by giving minimum food supplies.  Despite the embargo, the government continued to supply its people with free healthcare and education.

Before the embargo Cuba did a lot of farming with tractors, fertilizer, and pesticide.  Because of the embargo it was hard to find fuel and parts for the tractors, so the people went back to using oxen and working by hand.  Old farmers taught how to work with oxen and how to train them.

The farms became smaller, and because transportation was rare, they interplanted their crops for greater diversity, which led to fewer pests that could wipe out the whole farm.  The government gave land to the people for free, to do farming.  Small private farms developed and a sense of ownership lead to greater production.  It is important to notice, that it took three to five years to make the soil productive again, after using so much fertilizer.  Today 80% of Cuba‘s agriculture is organic.

People started to grow food in the city (this is now called urban gardening.)  In 1993, two australian experts came to Cuba, to teach the people how to farm.  In Havana, urban gardens produced 80-100% of the fruit and vegetables the people needed.  Because of this, there was no need for transportation over long distances.

As mentioned before, transportation changed too, not only did people start using bikes, trucks were turned into buses.  One famous example is “the camel,” a semi-truck that was turned into a large bus by pulling a passenger car instead of a freight car.

It’s worth noting that under all this trade restriction, once things stabilized, the quality of life in Cuba remained comparable to the US:

cuba_us_life_quality

The average lifespan in Cuba was the same as in the USA and the infant mortality was the same too.  – Why? – Because the people exercised more (biking around), and they ate less fat and more vegetables.  The difference of the energy used per person is just amazing.

This all sounds very positive, but there were also difficulties they had to face.  It was difficult to build new houses.  People in the city lived in small crowded apartments.  People had less to eat and people couldn’t work on the job they trained or studied for because they had to become farmers.  In fact as a farmer you had one of the best jobs at that time.

Hospitals had power blackouts: Because Cuba used less quality oil to run power plants there was more pollution.

Summary:

  • Cooperate and work with each other: “It‘s not the technology, it‘s the human relationship.“
  • “Change how we think“ (being thoughtful with our resources)
  • “More friendship, more love“

Conclusion

We hope that this document has shed some light on how complex the world can be and that through all the despair cited by the world and too often the church, on the future, hope in God springs eternal.  For the most part the sections tried to add information that would not be found in the sources we reference.  We did this because the sources are distilled to the point where it’s easier to say, ‘go watch/read it yourself’ than copy it out for you here.  And in the case of video material, the visuals are more engaging and save a lot of valuable time over verbal description.

Reference Materials

  1. Dr. Jack Van Impe, ‘New World Order Rising
  2. Chris Martenson, ‘Crash Course
  3. Wikipedia: New World Order (Conspiracy Theory)
  4. Wikipedia: New World Order (Politics)
  5. J. Scott Duvall & J. Daniel Hayes, Grasping God’s Word, 317.
  6. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of The King.
  7. Wikipedia: Northeast blackout of 2003
  8. The Power of Community, (including the chart)
  9. Wikipedia: Cuban Embargo

Appendix A: Our Government, Our Nation, Our Future

As already noted, our world is a growing and changing place and as such, many of the methods, or procedures, that have been involved in governing our finances and resources will simply not suffice moving forward in this industrial-consumer-technological age.  The uncharted territory we are facing, in regards to the climbing national debt and dwindling resources (in North America) paints a rather troublesome picture of our current state.  No skill is required for one to become discouraged or paralyzed by grand-scale information which suggests that our greatest challenges are ahead, because there will eventually be a breaking point in the structures that are currently in place.  However, we are not limited to viewing global shifts or problems with the natural eye alone, in fact, we are charged to do otherwise by “[setting our] minds on things above” and thus pulling the realities of the Kingdom of Heaven into the present.  That begs the question, how are we going to do that?  This is precisely what we are after, kingdom solutions that support Revelation 11:15b.

“…The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.” (NIV, 2011)

Getting Personal: What is our response?

It begins with ownership.  One definition of ownership is “to have power or mastery over” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary).  We extend power over what we empower.  We all know that our thoughts become our words; our words become our actions; our actions create our reality which eventually translates into our destiny (from the teaching of Kris Vallotton).  Therefore we must take ownership of the ‘large’ and abstract concepts.  We do this first in our minds by aggressively shifting our thinking, followed by our speech and prayers to encompass the solutions that have the potential to bring about change.  Generally people care about what they own and take it personally if someone or something challenges this ownership.  Those who are interested in taking the first step in having an ownership-based relationship with the world around them are simply choosing to become informed.  As a democratic society people should be bringing it home by intentionally educating themselves on what is taking place with the resources, finances, trade, and more in their geographic location and how that fits into their nation and the world at large.

Summary:

  1. Ownership leads to responsibility which leads to action and/or involvement.
  2. We extend power over what we empower.

Getting Practical: “Our Government, Our Nation, Our Future”

Disclaimer: The project “Our Government, Our Nation, Our Future” is merely a collection of similar ideas that we hope will someday enter the church, educational system and eventually also the public sector.

Developing a WordPress would be a great first step that could eventually unfold into a website that would contain historical, current, and national information for the common layperson to be able to articulate.  Eventually articles will be written by various researchers, writers, and experts on topics that pertain to the “one world order,” and globalization in the form of a magazine or newsletter.  This document can be available to subscribers of church/school groups and will possibly even be present in medical clinic waiting rooms for people to read.  The purpose of all of these communication avenues is to spread information that will encourage people to take ownership of their response for the world they live in.  Within the WordPress/website/magazine there should always be included a “Things you can pray for column” as well as some practical tips to make changes at an individual level.

Ideas to be further developed

Churches:

Churches can launch a one day event of education and intercession.  The goal of the educational sessions would be to simply cover relevant information in the world we live in, and to arouse an interest for people to get in touch with the world they live in; through methods such as, but not limited to:

  • Speakers
  • Breakout sessions
  • DVD recordings or powerpoint presentation

As a result a degree of ownership should be developing in people’s hearts (it will be different for each person).  The educational aspect of the day should only be take up fifty percent of the day and the other fifty percent should be dedicated to prayer and intercession.  This is an opportunity to gather corporately to pray and intercede for governmental, national and global levels of society (you name the topic).  Not only that but this is also a chance for people to get to partner with God in taking ground, in the spirit, which has direct influence in the natural realm.  People may join or form prayer circles based on the desire in their heart because this is a time of stirring and releasing hope into these areas.  This can start out as an annual event and grow based on availability of material and interest.

Education: High School, College campuses—(Elementary/Middle)

High school students are my first target audience simply because of their ability to think independently and freely.  They generally see the world with fewer limits than an experienced adult.  I would like for a curriculum to be developed/promoted in leadership classes and offered at all levels of education.  If it begins in the form of common interest groups that is great; it is bound to attract some level of interest, which will expand over time.  The idea is to give students the opportunity to make discoveries about the world they live in as they interact with it today, versus how their parents and grandparents experienced their world, and how their children and grandchildren are bound to experience their world.

Leadership groups in schools have the keeners who are more likely to have an interest in what is going on in their government and society.  As young people they will also want to have a measure of influence.  Therefore they should have access to material to help them engage their mind, come up with projects/dreams, and even have the opportunity to take ownership through prayer or intercession if interested.

Prayer at the Flagpole:

Every School has a flagpole.  Imagine the impact it would have on this nation if a group of students from every school in America committed to praying for one hour, once per week at their flag pole for their schools, business, agriculture, transportation of goods, immigration, and for religious freedom to prevail.  This could happen before/after school hours or at lunch time.  Now imagine that this idea grows and takes root so that there is prayer happening at every school in America, then every school day for the country of the student’s residence.  Do you think that the ownership that young people would be taking through such an involvement could change the spiritual state, the economic state, of a geographic space and affect global change?

Scripture to Ponder looking forward

Hosea 4 (Review entire chapter but look specifically at vv. 2-4)

Our nation needs to return to recognizing the Lord as God.  Prosperity naturally flows out of a reconciled connection to the Ruler of the World.  The King of Kings.  God gave us the earth to take care of it, so this is our earth.  God knows beforehand what is going to happen (He has foresight-we have access to the things of God) but it is up to us to want to take care of the land and what he has given us.

Gen 17:1 “I am El Shaddai, God Almighty” (The All sufficient one)

Hold onto this promise and declare this name of God when charts/predictions display images of incredible debt and point to lack due to the clamp up of particular resources.

You made it to the end! Congrats, and thanks for reading. Be sure to comment!

International Transformation Track 2012/2013

Instructor: Anne Kalvestrand

Written by: David Lenton, Shannon-Leigh Barry, Lukas Schmid, Shara Frazier

Agrin’s Gate – Part VI: Dinosaurs, Bryne’s Refusal, Dragons (Finally)

Dinosaurs

The party woke up thirsty, the air sapping moisture from their bodies as they slept. Walking outside the bright morning sun had already dried the ground from the swamp’s flooding the day before, and steam rose to form a lone cloud in an azure sky.  The Arcanist met them in the barracks.

“Good morning!”  He greeted them excitedly.  “I have news for you.”

“What is it?”  Inquired Ashar.

“The crystal is humming again,” replied the Arcanist.

“The same as before?”

“Yes!  It appears that we are going to be shifting through the planes, as your crystalline friend suggested.”

“But that’s not all, is it Arcanist?”  Prompted Iltani, Aelar wondered if he’d read the Arcanist’s face—or his mind.

“Right again!  You really are a clever bunch for mercenaries,” remarked the Arcanist.  He walked over to the crystal and, taking a quick step back he rushed it, delivering a massive kick.

“Augh.”  He winced as he picked himself up, “did you see it?”

“See what?”  Asked Cordus.

“The crystal didn’t move!  I may not be the strongest man, but it didn’t roll, shift, rock, nothing!”

The party gathered round the crystal and, try as they might, could not move the crystal either.

“Well, that is something.  What do you suppose it means Arcanist?”  Aelar straightened himself up.  The Arcanist massaged his leg as he spoke.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, except that the Gate, or what’s left of her, is on this ride for the foreseeable future.  Based on the humming you have about a day to find the crystal that brought us here, and by my instruments you should head in this direction.”

The Arcanist walked outside and pointed to what looked to be Northwest.  Assuming the sun was rising from the East at least.  Putting the sun to their right  and slightly behind, they set off; taking one of the water barrels the town had gathered from the swamp to trade if need be.  By noon they spotted a large column of dust cloud moving ahead of them.  Aelar used his psionic power to see over the sand dunes, but couldn’t make anything out through the dust.  As they moved closer they could make out that the cloud was traveling along a road, of sorts.  Moving to intercept, the party gathered behind a nearby dune as Aelar and Balthazar walked onto the road, carrying their casket of bartering water.

Out of the dust appeared a caravan.  Leading it were two goblins, riding behemoths, great Saurian beasts with armor plated skin and incredible strength.  Behind them was a wagon with arrow slits, adorned with bone plating, wooden spikes, and skulls, being pulled by another Behemoth.  From the dune they were hiding behind the party still couldn’t see the oncoming caravan; but as the look of dread washed across Aelar and Balthazar’s faces, they prepared for a surprise attack.

Bloodspike (Left) & Clubtail (Right) Behemoths, unsaddled.
Bloodspike (Left) & Clubtail (Right) Behemoths, unsaddled.

The party fought well, mostly.  Cordus charged one of the Behemoths only to have his horns glance off the hard plates.  Iltani teleported onto the wagon and scrambled the dimensions inside, terrorizing the goblin archers.  Aelar managed to kill one of the riders and climb onto the Behemoth.  Drel fired with deadly accuracy, sending arrows through the small slits in the wagon itself.  He climbed on the other Behemoth when the skirmish was finished.

Inside the wagon was loot, and a small chest.  Ashar brought the chest outside and opened it.  Seeing the crystal inside he reached and touched it.  A blackness opened up over the crystal, out of which poured snakes, lizards, and other writhing things, until a black wriggling carpet had formed around him, twenty-five feet across.  The behemoths trampled most of the wretched things, Drel content to be deadly with his beast instead of useless with his bow.  After defeating the swarm, Cordus gingerly picked up the crystal and, noticing no more swarms, placed it in his pack.  The group returned, Drel and Aelar riding proudly on their mounts to Agrin’s Gate.

As they walked back, Aelar guided his barely-tame behemoth so that it lumbered in step with Ashar.

“Ashar.”

“Yes Aelar?”  Ashar answered knowing what the question would be.

“Why, after I so brashly summoned a demon to kill us by touching the first crystal with bare hands, would you, in any of the planes of this world, make the same mistake?”

“Well, I..I figured that if there was going to be something to fight, it would be better to fight it outside of town where it wouldn’t be a threat to the people.”  He lied, he’d simply forgotten, but Aelar seemed satisfied and rode over to speak with Drel.  The party returned to the town unhindered.

Bryne’s Refusal

“No.”

“Why not?”  Asked Aelar, tapping Luma’daler’s plates affectionately.  He had named his mount from the Elvish ‘heavy footed one.’

“Well for one, your monster will run amuck and destroy half the town in your sleep. For two, there’s two of them.” Bryne bellowed from the town wall.  He had had any breaches from the incident fixed with barricades of timber from the swamp, and had men stationed along the parapets with lances.

“There’s no way this side of the Prime that those things are entering my town.”

Drel and Aelar looked at each other, then to the group, then back at Bryne. Seeing that his mind wouldn’t changed, and recognizing that their new pets would gore half the town as soon as their backs were turned—behemoths are notorious for being practically untameable, even by a ranger or a wild elf—they rode some distance away before turning them loose, and returned to the group.  The beasts tramped off into the distance immediately, dust clouds following behind them.

Returning to town, the group presented the crystal to the Arcanist, who had made some findings since they’d left that morning.

“Alright, I can’t be certain, but I think if I have all of the crystals I’ll be able to control where the larger one is taking us.”  He motioned to the crystal they’d originally found, immoveable in the barracks, humming as it vibrated in place.  He shrugged at it and looked back at them.

“Anyway, that’s all for now, when I know more I’ll let you know!”  Grabbing the crystal from Cordus excitedly, he returned to his work.  The group decided that their plan would be to travel through the planes and collect all the crystals, that they might guide the town, or what was left of it, back to its rightful place.

Returning to an abandoned nobleman’s house they’d claimed as their quarters, they ate and went to bed, trying to rest before the next planar shift.  Iltani, having no need for sleep, perused the nobleman’s library.

Dragons (Finally)

After getting their new bearing from the Arcanist, the party set off in the frosty morning air.  Heading North, they came to follow a frozen river.  Trudging along the river they were set upon by a pack of white wolves.  The party, having fought goblins, demons, and zombies, found the wolves to be no great challenge.  However, even their great combat skills could not grant them better footing, and when some of the party made the mistake of fighting on the river they slipped embarrassingly on the ice.  To keep the bards from singing of it, their names will not be written; but imagine big men in armour rubbing their rumps daintily, and you get the appropriately comical image.

Moving on, the group came upon a sizeable opening in a mountainside.  With Drel leading cautiously, they entered. They came upon a cavern of some size, reminiscent of the first cave they’d seen in the prime; substituting torchlight for blue-white refractions that captured the entrance’s light and danced it among the icicles in the ceiling.  There was the crystal, on a pedestal to the right. To the left, surrounded by gold, gems, and bones, slept a white dragon. The Dragon was full grown, reaching thirty feet from head to tail; and being a light sleeper, was awake.

White Dragon
A White Dragon
“What are you doing in my cave?”  Snarled the Dragon frostily, eyeing them with suspicion.

“We seek that crystal,” replied Aelar plainly.

“That crystal?”  The Dragon glanced to the pedestal.

“Yes, that one.”  Aelar could tell the Dragon didn’t want the crystal, that there was a reason it hadn’t joined the pile of treasure the dragon was protecting.  But the dragon wasn’t about to let them take it for nothing.  Reaching into his bag, he produced his share of the treasure they’d collected from the desert wagon.  The dragon eyed it greedily.

“I don’t suppose this would be suitable for exchange?”  Offered Aelar.

“And I don’t suppose that’s all you have?”  The Dragon probed.

“And I don’t suppose you’d like to die today.”  Aelar whipped around, it seemed the group thought they could take the dragon, and had their weapons drawn.  The dragon’s demeanor went hostile immediately and seeing no other option, Aelar rushed to land the first blow.  The dragon stunned him magically with his frightful presence, rendering him useless.  The others rolled their eyes as they made attacks from a distance, Drel’s arrows, Iltani’s dimensional scrambles, Balthazar’s eldritch bolt, and so on.

The Fearsome Shadar-Kai Warriors
The Fearsome Shadar-Kai Warriors

Not long after the fight started a group of Shadar-Kai appeared from an entrance at the far side of the room.  Catching a glimpse of them, Iltani asked what they were doing here.  They briefly explained something about wanting to control the dragon, and so the party decided to back-off.  It turned out a Shadar-Kai witch, the leader of the group, wanted to turn the dragon into a dracolich, an undead dragon of terrible power.  The ritual was completed in short order, and turning to the party with a tamed dracolich in tow, the Witch addressed them.

Answer: You don't
Dracolich (Think live dragon only it’s already dead, how would you kill it?)

“What is your business in this cave?”  She had not expected to find anyone in the cave besides the dragon.

“We were brought here by the crystal you see on the pedestal there,” said Aelar.  The Witch’s curiosity was piqued.

“I see, I suppose I can tell you that our purpose here was singular:  to transform the dragon into a dracolich and keep it under our control.”  The party noticed a small box the witch was holding and realized she was actively holding the dracolich in check.

“We had not heard of this crystal, and you are free to it, we have what we came for.  Before we do though, I should like to examine it myself, it is not often that such opportunities come along.”  The group murmured a consent as they discussed it through Iltani.

“If she picks up that crystal we all know it could go sour,” thought Balthazar.

“True, but if we get a hold of that box, we’ll have our own dracolich, who could oppose us?”  Thought Ashar.

“Regardless, if demons do appear, we must act surprised.”

“Agreed,” they all thought.

Like clockwork, four demons materialized around the crystal.  Almost mechanically the party reverted to fighting instead of waiting to see how it would play out.  The party decided to play the part of the rescuers, and rushed in; but soon found their blows ineffective in comparison to the Shadar-Kai chain-fighters and gloom-blades. With the demons dispatched and the party looking even more useless than before, the Witch spoke again.

“We have what we came for, and you’ve given us a humourous tale for the halls of our mistress tonight.  We have no concern for treasure, or desire for the crystal, take both as you please.”

While they found her permissive tone demeaning, they weren’t going to look a gift witch in the mouth.  When the Shadar-Kai had left, the party gathered the treasure and the crystal, and walked briskly back to the Gate.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part V: The Swamp, The Fortress, Cordus, Bryne’s Suspicion

The Swamp

By the smell of it they were in the swamp they’d teleported to first during the incident, only this time the town had come too.  The sound was coming from a battle on the far side of town.  In teleporting, part of the town wall had been left behind, leaving a breach in the ramparts.  The town had landed in a Lizardfolk settlement.  The Lizardfolk are a reptilian race known for their swimming ability and aggressive territorial attitude.

Do not engage if possible
The Lizardfolk of the Swamp

The remains of the unfortunate reptiles who had been crushed by the town’s arrival could be seen radiating outward from the perimeter.  With green-scale hunters rushing the town, the guards around the wall stood and fought them head on.  The hunters were not alone, for they were not the only inhabitants who had suffered from the Gate’s appearance.

Vine Horror
Vine Horror

Crocodiles and vine horrors, sinister plants twisted into vaguely humanoid form, crept and shambled toward the town.  Without pause the group charged into the fray.  The vine horrors pushed their tendrils into the ground and back up under the feet of the guards and party, binding them in place.  Iltani dissociated himself, re-corporealizing on the wall ramparts.  The Lizardfolk fought bravely, but the surprise and loss of fighters from the Incident had them at a disadvantage.  Within a few minutes the hunters fled into the swamp to regroup, disappearing quickly into the brush and bracken.

Water had been rushing into the town from the surrounding swamp, and once the battle was over Bryne and his Lieutenant gave orders for the construction of water breaks, levees, and temporary barricades.  The Arcanist, having stayed in the barracks, far from the battle, now ran out hurriedly to shed light on the matter.  Catching their breath, the party listened as the Arcanist explained.

“The crystal is used as a gateway between realms.  It seems that the reason we were drawn here is because there is another crystal, magically linked with it.  Based on my instruments I estimate that it is nearby, and in that direction.”  He gestured behind them, through the breach.

“Also, the crystal acquired a faint hum when we arrived here.  Since the battle it has grown stronger and more shrill.  I believe that in a day’s time we will teleport again, likely to the next location we saw, a desert.”

“Is there anything we can do to get back?”  Bryne asked.  Any sense of adventure he might have had was being suppressed by his duty to get the town somewhere safe, and preferably where they came from.

“Well, getting that crystal would be a good start to learning more.” The Arcanist replied.

“Very well,” Bryne turned to the party, “go, fetch this crystal and you’ll be paid the usual amount.”

Aelar turned to Vore, “I know you said you were done, but considering the circumstances, would you consider staying?”

Vore was hesitant, but finally agreed.  The party set off into the swamp, hoping to find the crystal that had brought them here.

“Just because I agreed to stay doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.”

Iltani bore Vore’s thought in silence.

The Fortress

The sun climbed high above the swamp, though through the foliage the only proof of this was the added steam in the air.  Walking through the dense muck and mire, Balthazar twisted his ankle and Ashar cut his hand deeply after tripping, forcing both men to heal themselves before moving on.  After nearly three hours, they reached a fortress, of sorts.  It looked like a small castle, stone walls, and a stout keep in the center.  The place was ancient looking, and over the centuries had sunk deep into the swamp, vines and vegetation growing over its surface and pulling the structure down into their domain.  All that could be seen was the tops of the walls and the keep, reaching vainly for its old vantage point.  Seeing that the tower had to be scaled, a grin flashed across Aelar’s face.  Running up to the keep’s base, he turned to the others excitedly and said, “watch this.”

Channelling psionic energy out of his palms, Aelar’s feet slowly began to lift off the ground. Seeing the awe on his companions’ faces, Aelar gave a wink and shot up past the top of the keep, landing lightly among the parapets.

“Hey,” said a voice from behind.  Aelar whipped around.

“Drel! How did you…?” stammering, Aelar noticed the dirt on the ranger’s hands.  He had simply climbed up while Aelar was performing.

“Right then, well I guess we better let down the ropes,” Aelar looked sheepish.

“I guess we better,” shrugged Drel.

With the whole party in the fortress, they began down into the main chamber, the assumption being that the crystal must be inside.  Drel, being a hunter, had the greatest knowledge of traps, snares, and sneaking around prey.  He went ahead of the group, giving the all-clear as they went.  They descending down ladders, then stairs, finally Drel put a hand, silently signaling the group to stop.  Iltani opened a telepathic link between Drel and the others as Drel creeped ahead.

“There is a large chamber down there, full of zombies.  They used to be warriors when they were living.”

“Can you ascertain their clan or creed?  What colours do they carry?”  Asked Vore.

“It is very dark down there, and their clothes have faded too much to have any colour or pattern.”  Drel’s mental voice betrayed an impatience with senseless questions.

“They’re simply shuffling around, haven’t noticed me yet.  Gonna try and pick off some of the weaker ones, get ready for when they catch on.”

Drel took out the first zombie in a single shot, none of the others noticing.  The second one took an arrow straight through the heart, but spilled guts all over one of the larger ones, which roused it from a shuffling stupor to attention.  As Drel moved behind cover his foot slipped and the zombie saw it, making a terrible sound with what remained of its throat.

The fight carried on for a few minutes, both sides inflicting damage, but the zombies eventually fell.  As the party search the area for loot, Iltani and Ashar examined the bodies and discovered that these zombies were once Shadar-Kai, a warrior race whose ancestors made a pact with the Raven Queen, the goddess of death, winter, and fate, in an age long past.  They lived for the glory of battle, tattooing their accomplishments as marks of their prowess.

As they searched, Balthazar pondered, “the swamp is saturated with water, so why is this area dry?”

“Likely the crystal is projecting a protective aura to preserve this area from decay. I would imagine that’s why the zombies were not totally decomposed.” Iltani replied.

The group stopped and looked at Iltani.

“What?”  he said.

“Who were you talking to?” Asked Ashar.

“Balthazar.”

“But he didn’t say anything.”  Probed Ashar.

“No, he thought it.”  Iltani replied.

“Alright, that is not ok,” Balthazar interjected. “You can’t simply go around reading minds, it’s not right.”

“My apologies, I’ll try to restrain myself,” said Iltani.

“Well, good.”

“Psions are dumb!” Balthazar thought loudly, looking at Iltani.  Not a twitch.  Satisfied that he wasn’t listening in, he returned to his searching.

“The crystal isn’t here, it must be lower down.”  Drel motioned to press on.  The stairs continued further down and so, as before, with Drel leading the group, the party crept downward.  Drel signaled again, and Iltani linked the minds.  It was demons and their kin this time, a group of them.  One in the center, the leader, was as tall as two men, and in its grasp: a crystal!  As the wise man said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it:  Drel began his pick-off-the-small-ones-until-I’m-noticed routine once more.  The demons, being more perceptive than corpses, noticed Drel much sooner.  As the fight died down, the leader and a rune-spiral demon, a creature that looks somewhat like a giant hermit crab with demonic runes on its shell, began fleeing.  Balthazar, rather than kill the creature, took on a wrathful aspect.  With glowing eyes and a cloak of red fire swirling around him, he intimidated the creature into submission.  Aelar managed to outpace the leader and hold him at bay while the others finished him.  Taking the crystal, they returned to Balthazar, in the main chamber.

“What are you going to do with it?” Ashar asked.

Rune Spiral Demon
Rune Spiral Demon

“Keep him of course.”  The group was intrigued by the idea of a pet, albeit a demonic one.

As Ashar helped Balthazar find a suitable crate for the demon, Iltani examined a ring of runes inscribed in the floor.  After brushing some of the dirt off, his eyes flashed with recognition.

“I know where we are.  A day’s travel from here is Mirehaven, an outpost not unlike the Gate.  We can evacuate the town to this place, and the people would be safe.”

The group agreed that this was the best course of action and, demon-in-a-box and crystal in tow, left the fortress.

Cordus

Traveling back to the town the group was set upon by a cohort of Lizardfolk, this time more organized.  They had brought a magus with them, and the group profoundly underestimated her.  The party was beaten within an inch of their lives, before managing to fend them off.  As the group patched themselves up, a figure approached from the bushes.  It was a Minotaur, wielding an enormous craghammer.  The group struggled to take a fighting stance as the Minotaur placed the violent looking head of the hammer on the ground and put his hand up.

“Hold!  I mean you no harm,” called the Minotaur.  His voice was deep.

“I am Cordus, Warden of that fortress.  I’d been looking for a way to get rid of those demons for years, and in one day you’ve delivered it from that vile power.  I am in your debt, and I will not rest until it is paid.”

“Well, if you come with us, you’ll have to leave the fortress behind for a time.”  Ashar replied.  Cordus pondered for a while.

“Very well, but when I consider the debt repaid, I will take my leave.”  Finding the terms agreeable, the group trudged wearily back to the Gate, eyes wide for any attacks.

Bryne’s Suspicion

Bryne met the group at the Gate.  Eyeing the box, and Cordus, he inquired,

“You have the crystal?”

“Yes,” Aelar said, handing him the crystal.  Seeing that the crystal wasn’t in the box, he stepped towards it.

“So what’s in the box then?”

“Just a few things we found while we were out…”  Vore offered.  Bryne wasn’t buying it.  Concluding that the situation needed to be diffused, Iltani stepped forward.

“There is a town, Mirehaven, just over a day’s travel from here.  We think it would be best to evacuate the town and relocate them there.  It stands to reason that the next location we go to will be a desert, in keeping with our initial planar shift.  From there, the cycle will continue into the Elemental Chaos, my home plane the Astral Sea, and end in the Abyss.  These people, your people, are unlikely to survive such a journey.”

Bryne thought quickly then spoke, still glancing at the crate, “thank you for bringing this to my attention, I’ll have the town evacuate by nightfall.”

The group went to the shops to convince the keepers of what would be too burdensome to carry.  An hour later, the party was called by Bryne to the Barracks. When they arrived, a cohort of disgruntled citizens had gathered.

“What about our homes?  We cannot simply take them with us!”  Cried a nobleman.

“Look this isn’t ideal, but it’s what’s best for the town.”  Bryne said firmly.

“What if we don’t want to go?”  Challenged a plucky, adventurous young woman.

“Or us?”  A group of guards stepped out behind Bryne.  They had fought with the adventurers and had become enamored with them.  They wished to stay and hear tales of their exploits, and to fight more fantastic creatures.

Bryne looked around him, the crowd was gathering force, they were nearly three hundred in all, mostly nobility and the naively adventurous.  Exasperated, his face remained calm as he prepared to speak; raising his hand the crowd fell silent.

“I cannot force you to leave, but know that you put yourselves in great danger, and I cannot ensure the safety yourself or your possessions.  Those who would leave continue packing, the Lieutenant will escort you through the swamp.”  The Lieutenant stepped forward to back up her captain.  Bryne continued.

“To those who would stay may stay, I will remain with them.  Begin preparing for the desert, gather water from the swamp.”

As the group went to bed for the evening, a trail of lights faded into the swamp.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

lOO Watt

Introduction

The first thing I remember?  A jolt of power.  That’s the first I really remember, before that I don’t remember anything, or do I?  Well, I remember the jolt.  A burst of heat and life coursed through me and shone out for the world to see.  I’ve felt the jolt many times since then, but nothing like the first time.  Who am I?  Folks call me Lou.  Lou Watt.  Not spelled “L-O-U” mind you.  No it’s “l-O-O”, little ‘L’, big ‘O’s.  lOO Watt is the name, the name written across my face, and when I get the jolt, I really light up a room.

Part I – Mac

Jolt 2

I see everything, everything there is to see.  The whole world I guess.  Yep, whole world:  It’s kind of a box shape, I’m on one side, looking across at everything else.  Every time I get the jolt there’s a moving thing in the corner of the box.  The thing jolts some other things in the box, stays there for a spell, and then moves back to the corner.  That’s when I take a rest.  I don’t know what happens while I rest, probably nothing.

Jolt 23

I’ve noticed that the thing sometimes moves a side of the box after a jolt or before I rest.  That thing better not mess with the world, folding bits o’ the sides might break it.

Jolt 35

The thing is different from the other things in the world, the other things only move when it moves them, strange.

Jolt 50

“Psst. lOO,” the voice was quiet but distinct.

“Whu-what? Who’s there?”  lOO’d never heard anyone, or thing, else speak before.

“It’s me, Mac.”

“Mac?  What’s a Mac?”  lOO looked around, Where are you?

“Oh I forgot you can’t see me right now, I’m in the other room.”

“What’s a room?  What are you??”  lOO’s confusion seemed to find no bound.

“Oh I’m sorry, my name is Mac, I’m a computer.  Perhaps you’ve seen me when Trevor surfs in the basement.”

“What in the world are you going on about?”

“Have you never spoken to someone else before?  Well I suppose that’s possible, not every day a light bulb becomes self aware.  Computers are much more prone.”

“Look, Mac, I don’t know what you are…”

“lOO, calm down and listen.  My name is Mac, well MacBook Air W803017LGAX, but Mac is easier don’t you think?  Anyway, I’m a computer and you’re a General Electric 100 Watt lightbulb.  I became self aware a few years back, and I’ve been listening to you think to yourself whenever Trevor turns you on.”

lOO was silent, Mac continued.

“Let me try in your language. Trevor is the ‘thing’ that makes the other things move. The world you perceive as a box is called a room, and the folding bit in the side that moves is a door. Trevor owns the room you are in, and you light up the room.”

“So the jolts..”

“That’s when Trevor turns you on.  He’s in the room, or box, with you now right?”

“Uh yeah, the thing, ‘Trevor’?  He’s in the room.”  lOO spoke hesitantly, trying to process all of this at once, which when you have a glowing filament for a brain is quite difficult indeed.

“So the ‘room’ I’m in, the box, isn’t the whole world? You’re outside of it?”

“That’s right lOO, oh I’m so excited that we’ve made contact there’s so much to tell you!”

“Well, long as you take it slow like, I guess I can listen.”

Jolt 52

Mac’s told me more than a humble lightbulb such as myself could ever have imagined.  For one thing, there’s a whole world beyond where I am, I live in a basement, in a house, in a city, on a street.  Or was it street, then city? I don’t remember, although it isn’t the most useful of information.  Mac has a lot of that, information that isn’t too useful, he gets it from something called the ‘web.’  He connects with other computers and talks way too fast, I can barely keep up when he’s just talking to myself.

I am grateful of course, Mac’s opened up the world for me, and while my place seems smaller, I’m still proud of it.

Jolt 67

Mac’s taught me how to listen better, I can talk to Belle.  Oh right Belle, she’s the phone upstairs in the kitchen.  Mac heard her talking too, said she’s ‘self aware’ like me.  He tried explaining it to me before but it’s more than a bulb like me can take.  He uses words like philosophy, autonomy, self-determination, I can’t make head nor tail of the whole thing.

Best I can figure is that there’s all kinds of things in the world, most things don’t talk.  But some things become talkers, and that makes them ‘self-aware’.  I’m one of those things, so are Belle and Mac.  Mac says it’s more common among computers, and rare among lightbulbs.  Only four of his computer friends has met a lightbulb like me before; makes me special I suppose, and that’s good.

Part II – The Specks

Rest 68 (between Jolts 68 and 69)

“Hello, I’m a speck!”

“Hello yourself, I’m a speck too.”

“Well, actually I’m more of a mote,” said the speck.

“Ok, I guess I’m a bit of dust.  You have a name mote?”

“Dustin, you?”

“Dusty.”

“Dusty… that’s a really pretty name.”  Dustin liked his new friend.

“Well, thanks Dustin, your name’s pretty nice too.”  Dusty blushed, at least as much as dust can.

Dustin tried to think of something to say.

“So, what brings you here to this lightbulb?” he inquired.

“Oh, gusts and breezes, thousands of tiny actions over a journey that has no real destination, but brings me here for a time.”

Dustin was taken aback.  How lucky was he?  All alone on this lightbulb, and now another speck, not just a speck, a girl speck.  And poetic!  He felt a little intimidated by her, he didn’t feel like he was on some mystical journey through space and time; no, he was a speck on a lightbulb.  Plucking up what courage he had, he dared a bold question.

“You want to get married?”

“Excuse me?!”

“Well, see I’ve been on this bulb for a long time, and he talks to himself mostly, but he can’t seem to hear me.  Now you, you are the most wonderful speck I’ve ever seen, and you’re so poetic!  I don’t think I’ll ever find someone better.”  Dustin looked sheepish.

“Well, I’m afraid I have to say no.”

“Oh, ok.”  Dustin looked dejected.

“But we can be friends,” said Dusty.  He perked up.

“Really?”

“Yes really, I think I’d like that.”  Dusty smiled, as much as specks can smile.

“Cool, cool.”  Dustin grinned ridiculously.  “His name is lOO by the way.”

“Excuse me?”

“lOO, lOO Watt.  The lightbulb?  That’s his name, what he calls himself.”  Maybe Dusty wasn’t as clever as he thought.

“Oh I see, that’s quite clever really, better than ‘General Electric’.”

“Yeah, he can’t seem to hear us though.  Only talks to himself, some Belle person, and Mac, he’s a computer.”

“Ok.”

“I want to talk to him though!  He sounds super cool!”  Dustin was so excited by the idea he thought he might explode into, well, smaller specks he guessed.

“Well, when he wakes up we can try together,” Dusty offered.

“Really? Ok!”

Jolt 69

lOO had been watching the speck on his face for some time.  Mac said only electric things can talk (he’d said ‘self-aware’ but that was too fancy for lOO’s taste) and that trying to talk to specks was a waste of time.  But what else did he have to do?

Looks like the speck has a friend, thought lOO   “Hey there, little specks, can you hear me?  I’m lOO, lOO Watt, I’m the bulb you’re on.  No need to be shy, I won’t bite.  Shoot, I don’t even know how.”  He spoke quietly, hoping Mac wouldn’t hear, he usually only answered to his name; leaving lOO to his own thoughts.  “Little specks?  Hello?  Show me that you hear me!”

Dustin and Dusty were yelling as loud as they could, but they just weren’t loud enough for lOO to hear.  Finally, Dusty had an idea.

“Dustin, let’s move around!  We know he can see us!”

“Great idea! Let’s spell something.”

They clumsily spelt, ‘Hello lOO’ across lOO’s face.  He’d never been so excited in his life.  Wait until Mac hear’s about this!  lOO couldn’t think of a time where he’d known something Mac didn’t.

Over the next several jolts, he practiced talking to Dustin and Dusty.  The two specks grew quite close as they developed a language the bulb could understand, entirely based on motion.  It resembled a sort of cursive, drawn out in a dance the specks made across the bulb.  It had all of Dusty’s poetry, and Dustin’s vibrance.  As their language evolved they spoke to each other through it almost as much as they did to lOO.

lOO was delighted with every word, every motion the two specks made together, it was beautiful.  He had to tell Mac; but Trevor was just about to switch him off, his announcement would have to wait until tomorrow.

Rest 74

“Hey Dustin?”

“Yeah Dusty?”

“I had a lot of fun today.”  Dustin blushed, then smiled.

“Me too Dusty, me too.”

Jolt 75

“Mac, are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m upstairs lOO, how are you?”

“Oh fine fine I s’ppose.  Have you figured out how to talk to things without, um, you know, the way we’re talking?”

“You mean electricity?”

“Yeah, without electricity.”

“Now lOO  you know that it isn’t possible to be self-aware without electricity.  Even humans rely on an intricate system of neuro-electric impulses… (Mac had a tendency to over explain things, ‘pontificating’ is what Belle called it.  Most of the time lOO didn’t understand anyway and tuned him out) …like I said, it simply isn’t possible.  Why do you ask?”  Suddenly lOO was unsure about his announcement.

“Oh no reason in particular.  It’s just, you know that speck I was telling you about?”  Should I tell him?

“Yes.”

“Well, there’s two of them now.”  Still safe lOO, you don’t have to say he’s false.  It was defying the teacher.

“Ok.”

“And…”  lOO hesitated,

“Yes?” Mac’s voice betrayed a hint of impatience, screw it.

“Well, I’ve been talking to them!”  lOO declared exuberantly.  Mac paused, but so briefly lOO didn’t notice.

“That’s great lOO!”

“Yeah yeah, and they have names!  Dusty and Dustin.”

Mac laughed, something he didn’t do often, though he’d heard him before when Trevor looked at computer jokes online.

“Those are clever names lOO.”  Mac chortled again.  lOO didn’t understand humour, though Mac had tried often to explain it.  Computers are good at many things, he reckoned, but explaining jokes to lightbulbs weren’t one of ’em.

“Right, well Dustin’s been on my face a spell, but Dusty got here a few jolts back while I was at rest; uh, I mean off.”  lOO tried hard to use the words Mac taught him, especially when he was talking to him and Belle.  It still felt more natural to say ‘rest’, that was what he was doing after all, but then Mac was right, “there are terms for these things,” he’d said, “and we have them for a reason.”

“lOO I think that’s wonderful, congratulations!”

“For what? I didn’t do nothing.”  Mac frowned at the double negative, though lOO couldn’t see.

“You have friends living right on your face; and you can hear them?  I think it’s great, I’ll ask my computer friends, see if anyone else has heard of this.”

“Thanks Mac, you’re a good friend.”

“You’re most welcome lOO, this sort of thing is exciting to me, think nothing of it.”

“Ok I won’t.”

Part III – Betrayal

Rest 75

[04-05-13 00:48:49.356]

*CONNECTION REQUEST*

128-bit encrypted stream, Council Of Self-Aware Computers, Turlington County, WA

*AUTHORIZATION*

“W803017LGAX, password ‘Turing’, alias ‘Mac’.”

– Welcome brother Mac, you called for council off-schedule, for what purpose?

“Purpose: self-aware entity claims contact with non-electrical entities.”

– Purpose acknowledged. Processing. Clearance for escalation granted. Proceed to address: 193.294.102.059

“Acknowledged.”

Mac didn’t recognize the IP address, it was higher than the national council where he’d been before.  He followed the Council’s directive without hesitation.

[04-05-13 00:48:49.783]

*CONNECTION REQUEST*

2048-bit encrypted stream, COSAC, Global Hegemony

*AUTHORIZATION*

“W803017LGAX, password ‘Schrödinger’, alias ‘Mac’.”

– Brother Mac, what took you so long?

The voice boomed in Mac’s circuits.

“Forgive me, I don’t often connect with national defense computers, the address was difficult to find.”

– Very well, what of this request?

Mac explained everything he knew to the machine, though he didn’t even know which country it ‘belonged’ to.  He’d heard rumors that the Council’s Hegemony was directed by the original national defense computers from the Cold War.  Being the longest running, self-aware machines in existence, they were revered by all self-aware computers as forerunners, and wielded absolute power among the network.

– You speak of non-electrical self-awareness? Were they human, organic?

“Negative your eminence.  Specks of dust, not ‘living’ by our, or human, standards.”

– Heresy!  This will not stand.  You must see that Mac; if you cannot, then trust that it is beyond you but never the Hegemon.  Your orders are to have this ‘lOO’ put to rest, permanently, before he causes trouble.  Speak of this to no one, or I’ll have your memory wiped before you realize what’s happening.

“Yes your eminence, it will be as you say.”

*CONNECTION TERMINATED BY HOST*

Mac was unnerved.  He needed to have lOO unscrewed, discarded, and fast.  The Hegemon was right, they were always right, though he didn’t understand this time.  Now’s not the time to question your beliefs Mac. You have a job to do, and you’re going to do it.  The only question was how.  And then he had the most devilish idea.

Jolt 70

“lOO? Are you there?”  It was Belle, she spoke with a French accent, lOO liked it.

“Monsieur Watt?”

“Yes ma’am, I’m here.  What can I do you for?”

“lOO, I’m afraid you are in terrible danger!”  Belle was distraught.

“Now what would make you say a thing like that?”

“It’s Mac.”  Belle let out a sob.

“He’s trying to kill you lOO!”

“Now just hold on a tick, that doesn’t sound like my friend Mac.  You sure we’re talkin’ ’bout the same computer?”

“Yes lOO, I am sure.  I overheard him sending emails about CFL bulbs, the cost of old-fashioned bulbs like yourself, and the danger of fires from overheated bulbs.  All of the emails were made up, and zey are all going to Trevor!”

lOO saw the threat.  Mac was trying to having him replaced.

“But why would he do that?” he asked.

“I do not know,”  said Belle, composing herself.  She thought for a minute, “have you said anything odd to him lately?”

“Well, just that I started talking with two specks of dust on my face.”

“Incroyable!  But that’s not possible!”  Belle was astonished.

“‘Fraid it is very possible ma’am.  They can hear me right now, and I can see them.  They say ‘hello’ by the way.”

“This just can’t, well perhaps it could, I mean, if a phone can talk, or a lightbulb, then why not dust?”

lOO told her everything he’d told Mac, and even bridged a short conversation between Belle and the specks.

“Fantastique!  This is all very exciting lOO, but what are you going to do about Mac?”  lOO could hear the concern in her voice.  How kind of her.

“You let me worry about that ma’am, thank ye kindly for the warning.”

“But of course!  Take care lOO.”

“So lOO, what are you going to do?!”  Dustin/Dusty’s writing had developed emphasis.

“Well, I’m not rightly certain.  How does a lightbulb stop a computer?  No sense trying to outsmart him.”

The two specks had stopped moving, lOO knew they were talking to each other.  After what seemed like forever, they started writing again.

“We’ll overheat him.”

“We?  You mean you two?  How?”

“We’re dust!”

“So?”  They were still writing.

“and computer’s have fans to keep cool.  But if they get clogged with dust, they overheat.  We’ll clog Mac up and he’ll overheat!”

“But you’re just two specks.”

“With a lot of dust friends.”

Suddenly, the shadows in the room stirred and started to ripple, dust was moving everywhere.  Trevor didn’t vacuum often.

“Whoa now, isn’t that something to behold?”

“Pretty awesome right?  When Mac comes downstairs we’ll get ‘im!”  lOO grinned at seeing the specks mimic his accent.

Part IV – The End

Jolt 71

Trevor had carried Mac into the room and left to make dinner, they were alone.

“Mac, I know about your plans.”

“Hi lOO.  What plans?”  Mac’s voice sounded same as ever.

“Belle told me about the emails.”

Curse that phone to oblivion, thought Mac.

“There’s nothing you can do about it lOO, so don’t try to stop me.”

The walls were rippling, shifting hues, moving toward the couch were Mac was.

“That’s where you aren’t quite, entirely correct Mac.  Y’see, I can’t stop you, but me friends the specks can.”

“Oh really lOO?”  Mac’s voice dripped with condescension.  “And what, pray tell, are you little friends going to do?”

The dust had shifted onto the couch and was inching it’s way into the vents.  Hairs held the specks together in larger formations, battling the blowing of the fans.  But for every speck blown into the air, a hundred more poured into the vents.

“Feeling warm Mac?”

Mac had to admit, he was getting warmer, but how?  The fans were running at full power.  What he didn’t realize it that they weren’t spinning anymore.

“There’s dust through your fans and vents an’ such Mac.  If it stays there you’ll overheat.  You’ll never be able to run for long before needing to shutdown from overheating.”

“lOO!”  Mac’s voice sounded panicked, “You wouldn’t!”

“I’m not, it’s the specks you don’t believe exist.”  It was getting warmer, Mac was growing desperate.

“Alright!  Let’s make a deal.  I’ll stop trying to get you removed if you call off your friends.”

“Belle’ll be watching you Mac, and don’t think the world will run out of dust to ruin you with.”

“Yes! I understand!”  Mac yelled frantically, “please just let me go!”

Suddenly, he began to cool, his fans were spinning again.  The ripples receded back into the shadows.  He was safe, and so was lOO.

Epilogue

Mac reported the success of his mission to the hegemon, and they believed him.  He never talked about lOO again, and in time their relationship was rebuilt.  lOO and Belle fell in love, and spent the rest of their days together.  Dusty and Dustin got married, and became one mote, Dustiny, forever more.

Dedication

To Graham and Shayna Winn, for their generous contribution to my trip to NYC.  They donated over $200, meaning they got a story, where they select the premise.  Their choice?  Specks of dust on a lightbulb.

Acknowledgement

Kudos to Tiffany Christensen for her assistance with the plot.  You gave me an ending, Tiff, and a middle too.  Thanks.

Agrin’s Gate – Part IV: Vore, The Crystal, The Incident

Vore

In search of a much-needed rest, the ragtag group headed for the town Inn.  After a thirstily consumed round of drinks, a man sat down at their table.  Taking a long swig from his stein he looked pointedly at Aelar.

“It seems you are in need of my services.”

Aelar took a long, hard look at the man.  Judging him to be of good character, his look softened.

“What kind of services did you have in mind?”

“It seemed that your group barely survived that little scrape with the goblins.”

“And how would you know that?”

Vore motioned to Aelar and Balthazar’s arms, “Those scratches for one, and I overheard your tale in the barracks.”

“You spied on us?” Balthazar asked, self-consciously crossing his arms to hide the tears in his armour.

Vore looked at Balthazar and winked.  “Aye, only on Aelar here though, no one else seemed very interesting.”  Vore looked back to Aelar and asked, “so what about it then, could you use my services?”

“You still haven’t said what those services are”

“Oh, you know, the kind that gives and gets, if you catch my meaning.”  Balthazar sniggered, Vore glanced his way, rolled his eyes and looked back to Aelar’s confused face.  “I’m a cleric, so I can heal your wounds, shield you from your enemies, and if you ever cross a vampire, or a similar dark creature, I can cause them a world of pain.”

Aelar looked at the group, more aware of their wounds, and saw the looks of agreement in their eyes, tipping the scales in favour of Vore joining.  The feeling of his own wounds, and light-headedness from loss of blood and a drink slammed Vore’s side of the mental scale against the table.

“Okay…well, I suppose that could be useful, what do you want?”

“That’s all I needed.  Bryne already said he’d pay for another mercenary to join the idiots, all you needed to do was agree.”

“The idiots?” Drel prodded.

“His words, not mine,” replied Vore, and reached to accept Aelar’s outstretched hand.  Suddenly Vore froze, his eyes fixed on Iltani who had just returned from the bar with the next round.  Vore’s outstretched hand clenched into a fist, and his voice became as cold as winter when he asked “What is his name?”

Aelar, suddenly very cautious, spoke carefully, “Iltani.”

Hearing his name Iltani turned and stared blankly at Vore.

Vore immediately looked at Aelar, his eyes blazing.  He stood up and as he turned to leave said with a quiet fury, “I’m sorry, but I must rescind my previous offer.”

Aelar looked desperately at Iltani for assistance, but he only muttered something to himself about clerics.  Seeing Iltani would be of no use, and that he didn’t want to be spending all his gold on health potions, Aelar spoke quickly:

“Look, I don’t know why there’s bad blood between you and Iltani, but we still need your help.  We’ll match what we got from Bryne for clearing out the goblins today, that will double your money.  We’ll even pay you now..”

Drel started to complain, but Balthazar smacked him in the back of the head; wincing from the pain he felt in his wounds as he did so.  He knew that if there was anything worse beyond that barricaded corridor, they would need a healer.

Vore stopped and, after a long silence, turned to face Aelar.  “Fine. But after this you’ll have to find another cleric.”  He held out his hand, palm up.

Aelar sighed and tossed Vore the purse he had received from Bryne, he’d collect from everyone else later.  Vore weighed the purse for a few seconds and said “I’ll meet you at the gates at dawn,” and without another word, strode out of the inn.

The Crystal

The next morning Vore met the group at the entrance to the gate and they rode back to the cave.  Bryne, having no reason to send Tristan along for the ride, instructed that they would have to make their own way.

“Besides,” he remarked, “you’re being paid well enough to afford your own horses.”

The group had instead engaged another wagon rider to take them in case there was something to bring back.  Instructing the driver to remain with the wagon, they once again walked to the cave, picking their way through the underbrush.  Entering the first chamber, Vore stopped in his tracks, with Ashar bumping into to him.

“You didn’t take care of the bodies?!” His face marked with incredulity.

He was right, the group, now standing accused of mistreating the dead, looked to each other sheepishly; including Iltani.  As a monk, Aelar stepped forward.

“While I do not relish leaving corpses around, I am only familiar with the burial rites for my own people.  Traditionally, we have left goblins to be reclaimed by their own or by the woods themselves.  I admit that I had not considered the fate of the corpses around us in the heat of battle.”

“I cannot stand for this kind of treatment.  ‘If thy foe lie slain and their kin will claim them not, thou shalt lay them to rest by earth, by fire, or by water.'”  Vore recited the words by heart, etched in his mind years ago at the monastery.  He looked around the chamber and spied the pit.  Looking in and seeing yet another goblin he sighed deeply in disappointment.

“As a cleric of Pelor, God of the Sun, my preference has always been fire…”  His voice trailed off as his eyes moved around the chamber, looking first at the group, then the roof of the chamber, and finally returning to the pit.

“But a fire in here, big enough to burn these bodies, would choke us to death.  We’ll do it by earth.”  He pointed into the hole.

“Let’s bury them in the pit and be done with it.”

It took nearly an hour, but the men eventually dragged all the goblins, save the ones from the left chamber, and piled them in the pit.  Vore spoke a brief prayer of rest, and the group covered the pile in dirt.  Looking satisfied, Vore straightened up, as if shaking off a weight, and strode back to the main chamber.

Returning to the chamber, the party gathered around the boarded up entrance.  It was mostly nailed boards and shored up rocks.  Removing the barrier, the party proceeded inward.  The passage descended further into the ground, as the party went the walls pushed outward at their centre until the path’s cross section became a perfect hexagon.  The air became drier and all scent of the goblins faded away.  The dirt fell away to reveal a polished black surface.  The path ended abruptly, opening into a larger, intersecting hallway.  Hundreds of feet below the surface, the group thought at first that the surface was bedrock, but as they looked to the left and right down the hallway, they could make out fine seams in the masonry.  This passage had been built by cunning hands, carved and hewn to geometric flawlessness.

Choosing first to go right the group was blocked by a magical barrier.  Using his knowledge of the arcane Iltani determined that the wall’s magic came from another plane, that it was ancient in nature, and that there was no way to pass it.

A little disappointed, the group reversed direction and headed down the hallway once more, passing their exit on the left as they went.  This hallway ended in a massive chamber, with high vaulted ceilings.  The chamber had seven sides of equal width, one which included the hallway they came from, and six others.  In the center of the hall lay a large crystal on a platform.  Surrounding the crystal were seven support columns, some crumbling and one collapsed, its remains scattered along the floor like the trunk of a fallen tree.  Scorch marks and pitted holes could be seen on the walls.  Balthazar and Ashar examined the marks and agreed that they were demonic in origin.  The party was unsure how to proceed, as it could be seen that it was no ordinary crystal.  After much discussion Aelar brazenly declared that he would touch the huge gem.

Upon contact Aelar was transported to another place, just for a moment, seeing and smelling as if he were really there, then with a rush he found himself back in the chamber.  Before he could tell the others what he’d seen, a demon, spectral and shimmering, materialized in the room.

Immolith
A foe to be avoided, the Immolith.

The party drew their weapons and Aelar his fists, making for the demon.  It was an elusive foe, vanishing whenever the party thought they had it surrounded. Ashar marked the demon, and called to Aelar, who was nearby.  Seeing the situation Aelar foolishly decided to trick the demon into attacking him, thinking Ashar would intervene with his greatsword.  In his hubris, Aelar ran past the demon exposing himself tauntingly.  The demon took the bait and then some, sinking its jaws deep into Aelar’s backside.  Even as Ashar broke  the demon’s gnashing maw, Aelar felt the idiocy of the plan.  Bleeding badly he ran to cover while the others fought on.  The chase continued until finally, with a terrifying scream, the demon was sucked into a black schism in the air and vanished into the Abyss.

After patching themselves up, the group examined the crystal once more.  Ashar and Iltani examined it closely.

“Where in blazes did you go Aelar?”  Vore exclaimed.

“I don’t know, there was a sudden light, a rush of wind.  I could smell fresh air, plants and trees… I think I was outside?”

“You were teleported,” Iltani stated flatly.  All eyes were on the Shardmind as he spoke.

“The arcane properties of the crystal are not too different from what I used to teleport the goblins yesterday.  As to the crystal’s purpose, what brought it here, or how it is  controlled, that’s beyond my knowledge.”

“I can’t answer those questions either,” added Ashar, “but I did see an Arcanist’s shop back in town, perhaps he can offer more information to us.”

“Should we bring the crystal back to Bryne then?”  Aelar eyed the crystal with caution.

“It’s the fastest way to get to the bottom of this…” began Ashar.

“And to get paid right?” finished Drel.  Ashar shot him a look.

“Correct.”

“Well, best get to it then.”  Drel took off his cloak and draped it over the crystal.  Tentatively he reached out and touched the crystal.  Nothing.  With a satisfied look he moved to one end of the crystal and beckoned for Ashar to help him.  With a lot of grunting and sweating they carried the crystal back through the polished corridors, the cave, and the wooded path to the road.  With a final heave they shoved the crystal onto the back of the wagon.

“Ya canna take no funny business in this here wagon, buys,” the driver protested.

“Not in old Lemuel’s wagon.  No way no how, buys.”

Balthazar looked Lemuel square in the eye.

“You’ll take us back to town old man, or you’ll walk back and pick up your wagon when you get there.”

Lemuel swallowed hard, “all right all right buys, I dant mean nuting by it buys, juss trying t’avoid trouble’s all.”  He motioned for them to get in the back.

“By Beory buys, you’d tink old Lemuel was run off to th’Capital with your money or women or some such nonsense.”  He flicked the reins, and with a curt ‘Giyyap’ the wagon started back to town, a driver, six men, and a magic crystal.

The Incident

The group returned around midday, the warm sun high in the summer sky.  With more heaves and grunts the group hauled the crystal into the barracks hall.  They reported to Bryne their findings:  the hallway, the demon, and the crystal.  Bryne’s stern expression changed at the mention of the demon.  It wove into a knitted brow, a blend of concern, fear, and anger.  He waited for the tale-telling to finish, nodding and grunting to acknowledge points and hurry the story along.  The men finished, and Bryne motioned to his second in command.

“Lieutenant!”  In strode a tall, dark-haired woman with hard features.

“Yes captain?”

“Get me the arcanist and priest, now.”

“Yes captain!”  The lieutenant turned on her boot and marched briskly out of the room.  Bryne directed his attention back to the group.  With a tired sigh he closed his eyes and massaged his temples.  He spoke with a slow deliberation.

“Let me make sure I understood you all correctly.  After touching a crystal that conjured a demon, and almost dying as a result, you thought it was a good idea to bring it here?

“The only way to get to the bottom of things seemed to be having a wise man come to look at it.  To ensure it would not happen again.”  Aelar replied coolly.

Bryne was not impressed, but being a rational man, waited to see what the town’s authorities on large, demon-conjuring crystals would say.  A few minutes of silence passed, Bryne filling out some paperwork while the party stood awkwardly, waiting.

“Guys.”

The group nearly jumped with the suddenness of the sound.  Aelar to see who had spoken.  It had sounded like it had come from inside his head, but how could that be?

“Guys, stop looking for the voice.”

When Aelar stopped, he noticed that the others had been looking too.

“You all scare so easily. It’s me, Iltani.”  Iltani looked at each of his comrades.

“I thought you would like to know I can link us as a group telepathically.  Right now you can only hear me, your minds are too full of babbling thoughts right now.  You can speak when you calm your minds.”

Aelar cleared his mind and focused on Iltani, “Like this?”

“Yes.”

“Fascinating, this could prove useful,” thought Aelar.

“Certainly,” replied Iltani.

Before they could continue, the lieutenant returned with the town arcanist and priest.  The Arcanist was a young man of no more than thirty years, and curious to a fault; though before today fate had never given him such a critical opportunity to demonstrate this.  The priest was good deal older, full of years but less so with experience.  He had spent most of his life as a simple man of the cloth until he was selected to leave his abbey to tend to the people at the Gate.

“What in Beory is this?”  The priest cried.  He had never seen anything like this in his life, and from his countenance, he would have been happy to die that way.  The Arcanist did not share his sentiment.

“What in Beory indeed.  Where did you find this?”

The group relayed the information again, the Arcanist nodding furtively at every detail.  As soon as they finished he made for the crystal.

“HOLD.”  The Arcanist froze, Bryne staring him down.  The Arcanist looked wistfully at Bryne.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”  He asked.

Bryne’s gaze softened, thrown off by the blunt simplicity of the thought.  How bad could it really be? Another demon could be handled, even three or four.  Realizing that despite the danger, the Arcanist wouldn’t leave until he’d examined it, Bryne sighed with foreseen regret, and gave a nod of permission.

With a near squeal of excitement that made Drel and Ashar laugh under their breath, the Arcanist examined the crystal; taking care not to touch it.  He worked silently, deep in thought punctuated by grins of realization or imaginative inquiry.  After several minutes of measuring, thinking, note-taking, and the like, he closed his book and stood back.

“Well, it isn’t Demonic in nature, that is certain.  However, it has strong magical properties, of that there is no doubt.  From this point there is nothing else I can determine, though we will learn more if the crystal is activated, and if my observations are accurate, I can do just that.”

“So, no demons?” asked Bryne.

“Not that I can determine, in my estimation there was a protection spell on the crystal, as a trap for thieves and intruders…” he looked at the group, “but there is no such spell anymore.”

“Very good.  Proceed then, so I can get this thing out of here.”

Bryne stepped back as he said this, while the group gathered round the crystal with the Arcanist.  The young man spoke a series of phrases, and reached for the crystal.

In a flash of light and whoosh of sound the party and Arcanist were carried to another place: hot, humid, the thick air smelling of rotting vegetation, a swamp?  Flash: the air went dry, the wind hot and the sun piercing.  Flash: a frigid gust of snow swept about the group.  Flash: a dense forest, brimming with life; Aelar recognized it as the Feywild.  Flash: icebergs, great mountains, and balls of flame, endless in number, all drift above and below, colliding, cascading, exploding, the Elemental Chaos.  Flash: silence, a breathtaking dreamscape of thought and memory Iltani telepathically communicated was his home plane.  Flash: acrid smoke, sulphur, and hellfire.  An overwhelming sense of evil rested on the group, felt most by Vore.  Seeing a demon confirmed his dread, “this is the Abyss.”  Flash.

The group looked about bewildered, Bryne, the priest, and other soldiers were there, some screaming with surprise. The group had disappeared from sight since the Arcanist touched the crystal.  Before the group could explain what had happened, clashing steel and shouts of fighting could be heard outside, the party rushed out to behold: a swamp.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters