“Neither Will I”

Swords cleave from heaven
Feet move as flowing water
All acts ripple out

- Mirumoto Kasumi, upon her official gemupukku at Shiro Mirumoto

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014 · 9:37 pm

The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – end of the Topaz Championship

17 Serpent 1189

Today was the Iaijutsu tournament, the final event of the championship, and a strange day it was.

The tournament was going well right up until the quarterfinals, when I came up against Hiruma Tamotsu-san. I saw through him. I struck first. But as I drew my ankle turned. My strike wobbled. Hiruma-san dodged it easily and defeated me. He then went on to defeat both Kakita Toshiaki-san in the semi-finals and Toku Jun-san in the finals, so I am somewhat mollified. I think, between Hiruma-san and myself, we may have broken Kakita Toshiaki’s “unassailable” confidence.

Grandfather had come to watch, though. He was stern as ever. I came in second for the tournament, by only two points, to Hiruma-san. (Ironically, if he had lost to Toku-san I would have taken the championship, but I think I prefer the smaller blow to my pride.) First he asked me “You’re not satisfied with this, are you?” Of course not! I came to win, after all. Then he asked if I might be tractable enough to join the clan army. I might have, had a better offer not come along that very evening.

I, and my companions from the road save Kakita-san (who appeared to have little interest in the “fate” Iuchi-san believes binds the five of us together), were called in for dinner with Bayushi Soushichirou-sama and Kitsuki Mai-sama – and Prince Tadashi-sama! I was very honored to have been a part of that dinner, as nerve-wracking as it was.

When I return home, I will have to convince Father and Grandfather of why I prefer to go on a musha shugyo, rather than joining the army. I expect they will understand.

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The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – the Topaz Championship (part 3)

16 Serpent 1189

Thrilling! Absolutely thrilling. Poor Hikari, though.

This morning was the mass battle, where the thirty remaining contestants were pitted against fifty (!) Daidoji Iron Warriors. Thanks to the efforts of Isawa-san and several others, Hiruma-san managed a groundswell among the contestants to secure the generalship.

(It should be noted that at the time he was doing this, I was having tea with Ryouko in preparation for the night’s challenge. I swear, Kakita Satoshi-san may be the only decent Kakita in existence. Kakita Toshiaki-san underestimated my guard, though; I think his sensei may have praised him over-much as a child.)

At any rate, the battle. Hiruma-san won the generalship, and gave squad command to Hikari , Akodo Takamichi-san, and Hida Ryouta-san. The Daidoji Iron Warriors were led by Taisa Daidoji Masatane – apparently an old friend of Hiruma-san’s father.

Hiruma-san only made one mistake in strategy, to my mind, and I think it came of mountain training. In the first round he kept Hikari’s unit back, most likely to shore up whatever weakness became apparent. In the open field, though, it meant that we didn’t hit the Daidoji as hard as we could have. In terms of position that was a rough start, but with some luck we turned it to our advantage. Hikari rallied the archers. Yoritomo-san got the banner. And I took on the Taisa.

He was leading from the front, so he was already heavily injured when I saw him. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, though, and never mind that as a Taisa he was sure to best me.

Except he didn’t. He couldn’t get past my guard, and with the guidance of my honored ancestor somehow I defeated him. The battle turned solidly in our favor at that point, and was actually over before the allotted time ran out.

I performed less well in the debate, and not as well as I would have liked in poetry, but that hardly mattered in the face of my performance in battle. In the debate I faced off against Nanbu Kaguya-san, and it predictably became my Akodo heritage against her Scorpion. I managed a tie, which is really as well as I hoped to do. In poetry I drew “nature” – which I believe may have been the broadest of the available topics – and was unable to do better than pedestrian with my offering. I didn’t do poorly, I suppose, but it’s rather bland.

After dinner, I went out drinking with some of my new friends. Kitsune-san insisted he needed to have a talk with the other Mantises first, so he and Yoritomo-san were late, and Hiruma-san apparently had a dinner invitation from the Daidoji Taisa, but otherwise we all went and had an excellent evening.

That does bring me to the other thing that happened today, the event that until this moment I wasn’t certain if I should write about at all. You see, before the battle this morning, Kitsuki Mai-sama brought charges in the murder of Daigotsu Kurami-san before the Shogun against Tsuruchi Kouji.

The evidence was damning, but when Kitsuki-sama asked that he be summarily executed – not even offered the option of seppuku – I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach – and justice is fire. When the Shogun asked if anyone would speak for Kouji-san, I did. I asked if he had confessed, and we were told he maintained his innocence. Yoritomo-san stepped forward as well; apparently, to her mind, Kouji-san’s honesty was his one good point. Kitsune-san also stepped forward. Notably, Watanabe-san did not.

Apparently, the Shogun was softened. He offered Kouji-san the option of seppuku or being cast out as a ronin – and he chose to become a ronin! I have had all day to wonder about this, and I still have no answer.

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The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 2)

15 Serpent 1189

Another day, another disappointing athletic performance from me. I did not even manage the top eight in the race, although I was close. My stamina failed me on the straightaway before the wall, and I could not recover. Then in jiujitsu I fell in the first round to Usagi-san. As much as I would like to blame fatigue, the voice of Mirumoto suggests even lack of sleep should not have dulled my reactions that badly. I attempted to recenter myself over lunch, but I could not concentrate even well enough for that.

It is worth noting that the Sumai tournament was won by Bayushi Mirai-san, who faced off agains Hida Haruko-san in the final round. I think everyone was surprised by this; certainly Hida-san was, and I think Bayushi-san was, too.

The afternoon was somewhat better. My companions from the road and I were all a part of the same hunting team, and I am now even more convinced that the kami have had a hand in bringing us all together. We also had Toku-san, Bayushi Mirai-san, and Daidoji-san on our team, and the eight of us hunted well together. Hiruma-san is an excellent tracker, and despite the interference of another group of ronin*, we managed to bring in three of the four wani in the field, as well as a clutch of eggs.

(new page)
*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.

I do not believe these to be actual ronin. While they wore Rokugani armor, and carried katana, not even ronin would behave in such a fashion.

Toku-san commented early on in the hunt that he thought we were being shadowed. I thought at the time he could have been noticing the Daidoji Iron Warriors who were refereeing the hunt, but that proved not to be the case.

On the trail of the second wani, Toku-san spoke up again. I rather like him, despite the way he tried to peep on us last night. He’s clever and brave, like one might expect of a Monkey, and if that is sometimes misapplied, well, he took his punishment with good humor. All of that aside, this time he was pointing out that the trail was far too easy to follow. Sure enough, the second wani was all-too-obviously bait for a trap.

Hiruma-san vanished into the bushes to scout the hollow; it seems the reputation of the Steel Hummingbirds is well deserved. When he returned, it was decided we would split into two groups and reverse the trap. They had killed one of the Daidoji shadows, and only Bayushi-san was willing to just walk away once we learned that. She’s all right, for a Scorpion, but she is still a Scorpion.

I must admit, a small part of me was glad of the fight. In some small way I feel like it redeemed my performance in the melee yesterday.

When we launched our attack, one of the “ronin” shouted something in a language none of us had ever heard before. Kitsune-san said it wasn’t the tongue of the Ivory Kingdoms, and it didn’t sound like anything Iuchi-san had heard among the Unicorn. I think they are almost certainly gaijin, and I worry that they have come to try and destabilize Rokugan. At any rate, they all fell in short order, like the dogs they were. They fought strangely, though, as though they were somehow able to attack while defending, which shouldn’t be possible. One of them managed to get a lucky stab in on me, but I put him down in my next strike.

While Daidoji-san’s team pursued the last living member of the ambush, Bayushi-san finished off the wani they had used as bait for their trap, and Hiruma-san noticed that the gaijin had a watcher who was out of range and running. I do not think we have seen the last of these foreigners.

Trouble piled upon trouble in that hunt. Hiruma-san tracked the third wani for us, but as we were putting it down a scream rang through the forest. My feet carried me to it before the coherent thought to help had formed, and my teammates were only moments behind. What we found was horrifying.

In a tiny clearing I found the body of Daigotsu Kurami-san, the lone Spider in the Championship. Four teal-green fletched arrows protruded from her back. According to Kitsuki-sama that fletching is characteristic of Tsuruchi arrows, but I do not think Tsuruchi Kouji-san dishonorable enough to kill another samurai – even a Spider – in such a way. I know little of the Kitsuki method, but enough to suspect that Kitsuki-sama believes that answer to be too easy. While there is no love lost for the Spider, the fact that a contestant has been murdered during the contest is . . . troubling.

Both my team and Hida Haruko-san’s team have been sworn to secrecy on this matter. Hopefully it will be unsealed soon, but I have my doubts. Perhaps I am being paranoid, but her murder so soon after the gaijin ambush suggests a connection to me.

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The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 1)

14 Serpent 1189

Noon

I have neither excuse for nor understanding of my poor showing in the grand melee this morning. Despite everything, I was caught off-guard by the starting bell, and before I managed to gather myself the Ikoma next to me had grazed me rather impressively. I joined Ryouko and Hikari in the center of the field, but my slow start continued to hinder me. My friends eliminated those in the center, and I took what I thought was a daring move to engage Daidoji Yuuka-san. I thought to eliminate one of the threats from the battlefield, and given the infighting among the Crane, clustered in their corner, I thought I had a chance.

I cut her, but I do not believe I cut deeply enough to trouble her, and not even Ryouko was quick enough to aid me. Daidoji-san knocked me flat in one blow, and my honored ancestor has seen fit to scold me all morning for it.

Ryouko and Hikari showed well, at least, even if Ryouko did lose her temper at Daidoji-san after I fell. She was eliminated nearly as quickly as I was by that woman.

Amazingly, the grand melee came down to Hikari and a Yasuki courtier. Hikari had been wounded by Hida Ryouta-san, though, and Yasuki-san had emerged thus far unscathed. When they traded blows it was Yasuki-san who remained standing, much to everyone’s surprise.

After my poor showing in the melee I decided I would prove myself in the horse race. It quickly emerged that the one to beat was Daidoji-san. Kakita-san says she has a reputation among the Crane for gambling and risk-taking, and after watching her race I believe it.

I nearly managed. Emboldened by my race to Tsuma yesterday, I took the course at a full gallop. I made every hit, I threaded the obstacles with the grace of a Shinjo (no, really, I watched Shinjo Khan-san go through, and everything I had done I saw mirrored in his performance) . . . but I could not make the final jump. In the end, Shinjo-san and I tied for second behind Daidoji-san. He seems like an interesting fellow. Perhaps if I can become friends with Iuchi-san and Shinjo-san, relations with the Unicorn will relax a little?

At any rate, I know now what my first goal must be on my path to proving the superiority of Niten. I must surpass Daidoji Yuuka-san.

To that end, Ryouko, Hikari and I all agreed to cram together over lunch today for law, history, and heraldry. . . and perhaps later tonight I will let Ryouko give me some pointers on jiujitsu. Practicing jiujitsu with Ryouko, though, can be a little hazardous.

. . .

Well. That was an eventful night. I’m glad nothing untoward happened to Akodo Takamichi-san, but I do wish I hadn’t had to go looking for him. It is now well past midnight, and the footrace is happening first thing in the morning.

At any rate, I managed to do passably well on the Law and History test, although I will forever be embarrassed about calling my wakizashi my “duty” instead of my “honor” like a Scorpion. I could have explained it away. Enten is my soul, and Hyoten is my honor, but honor – like justice – burns like fire. It is duty which is an icy bound. But saying that to the Herald . . .

I did rather better than I expected on the Heraldry exam, and won the full four points. I was somewhat surprised to realize that my performance there tied me with Asahina-san for the lead.

After dinner, just as I was about to suggest jiujitsu practice to Ryouko and Hikari, I overheard Daidoji-san organizing an informal girls-only match. That went well, and I feel a little more confident about the sumai competition tomorrow, but that was also where the night started to get eventful.

I was up against Daidoji-san in the ring, and she managed to suplex me. This was annoying, but it did put me at exactly the right angle to see up into the tree branches. Some of the boys had evidently decided it would be fun to spy on our match. We caught Kitsune-san and Toku-san, and Bayushi Mirai-san and Nanbu-san had a brilliant idea for their punishment. They spent the rest of the night hanging by their ankles from the eaves in nothing but their underwear, their faces done up like geisha. A suitable punishment, and one which would injure nothing but the boys’ pride. I let Kitsune-san down to aid in the search, so I guess it was only Toku-san who spent the whole night that way.

There was hardly a pause before I overheard what was about to happen between the Crabs and the Unicorns, and it sounded like something that might get people disqualified. I don’t mind if someone gets injured competing – that’s just a part of the game – but the Crabs were talking about luring Shinjo-san and another Unicorn outside the city to administer a beating, and that’s a different animal entirely.

I’m not going to defend Shinjo-san’s friend; drunk or not, it was a truly terrible insult he offered. However, I saw no good that could come of the planned beating. So I got the Crabs involved in a haiku drinking match. I am too tired right at this moment to recall exactly how I began it, but thankfully they were also drunk and the game was a sufficient distraction.

There is not much to tell about the search for Akodo Takamichi-san, I’m afraid. I wasn’t there when he was found, but Hiruma-san assures us that all was well and he returned to the Golden Carp without incident. And now I must sleep, or I will never manage the race tomorrow.

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The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – a Fated Meeting?

13 Serpent 1189

Well. Thanks to Father I was unable to travel with Ryouko and Hikari. I was annoyed at the time, but now I wonder if the spirits didn’t have a hand in that.

This afternoon I reached a checkpoint on the east-west road to Tsuma at the exact same moment as four of my fellow contestants, all of us coming from wildly different directions. Iuchi-san believes the spirits brought us together, and the events of the day do tend to reinforce that view.

Introductions went nearly as smoothly as one could hope. Even the Kakita seems like a decent enough sort for a courtier. After we had passed through the checkpoint he attempted to engage me in conversation about the weather. My remarks on the weather were as follows:

Mountains appear light
Fate hangs in air over plains
Journey to Tsuma

This elicited a chuckle from Hiruma-san. I can only assume he found some irony in the lightness of mountains. Kakita-san reply was passable, and he seems not at all like what I have heard of the Kakita. I do not expect to have to duel him, save perhaps in the Iajutsu tournament.

We elected to walk together the rest of the way to Tsuma to relieve the boredom of a long walk. There was some nastiness with a group of ronin*, but in the end no lasting harm was done, and as we waited to enter Tsuma we realized that we were all assigned to the same inn. Truly, Iuchi-san spoke with insight. We must have come together for some purpose of the kami. Father sometimes has insights of this sort as well; I wonder if this was something he anticipated?

Ryouko and Hikari were kind enough to reserve me a room between theirs at the Laughing Carp, and while Minori couldn’t make it I became acquainted with her fiancé over dinner that evening. I will have to remember to chide her for not telling me she was engaged, but Shiba Yuuji-san seems like he will be an excellent match and I wish them well.

After dinner, I managed to lose at Shogi to Ryouko, and win against Hikari. Truly, a topsy-turvy day. It has been a long day, though, and the grand melée begins the day tomorrow. I must be well-rested so I may acquit myself with honor.

(new page)
*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.

The road to Tsuma wound near a riverbank at one point, and a commotion by the river caught our attention. A large group of ronin in red lacquer armor attacked an unmarked palanquin, and the palanquin guards were losing.

I dashed toward the melee, but within moments the last guards standing had fallen. Horror clenched my stomach as one of the two remaining ronin sliced through the palanquin, and even as far away as I was I could see the blood. Hiruma-san shot well, and Iuchi-san’s boulder nearly knocked one of the attackers senseless, but ultimately at least one of them got away.

One of the guards still lived! The palanquin had been traveling for Tsuma, as well, he said, and asked one of us to go get Magistrate Kitsuki-sama. I volunteered, and thanks to the help of Mirumoto-sama I was able to catch the horse without trouble and race to the city.

Oh, impatience, my old enemy. The situation was urgent, true, but it was all I could do not to dance from foot to foot as I convinced the Tsuma guard of my identity and the importance of my mission. Magistrate Kitsuki-sama, thankfully, needed no convincing once she heard the gist of my tale. Mere minutes later I was leading her and twenty other warriors back to the site of the attack, once more at a full run.

When we returned, I discovered that Hiruma-san and Iuchi-san had managed to keep the man in the palanquin alive, and Kakita-san had discovered some letters bearing a strange wolfs-head mon no one seemed to recognize. It was then that Magistrate Kitsuki-sama swore us to secrecy and sent us on our way.

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The Cursed Throne: Or, my gaming group tries something new

So, a couple months ago our regular Pathfinder group suffered two TPKs (total party kills, for the uninitiated) over the course of roughly a month. Both of these were for the same essential cause: bad dice rolling. This was around the time DH discovered Larry Correia‘s wonderful posts of the Legend of the Five Rings gaming group he’s part of. At the time DH was trying to convince me to run an occasional L5R campaign, but after TPK #2 we took a vote on what to do next and I happily urged L5R. (I had two main reasons for this. One, to give our d20s a break, since they had obviously decided to go on strike. And two, because I hate GMing.)

We began with five players, although one of them quickly determined he didn’t care for the system and dropped out for the duration of the game, and just this week we’ve added two more, who I will introduce properly after they show up.

Because we’re a bunch of newbies on this system, DH gave us a tutorial story arc by way of the Topaz Championship (hat tip to Mr. Correia for the idea, and much of the implementation, since he couldn’t find another resource for what actually goes on in said championship). That said, he’s also playing fast and loose with canon, so if you’re a fan of the game (especially the CCG), the characters I talk about are probably only loosely connected to their official counterparts – sometimes they may share no more than a name.

One of the things my DH is doing is awarding up to two extra experience each meeting for quality writing to fill in narrative gaps regarding the events of the meeting. I have been writing a journal for my character, and those will become a regular feature of this site. (I know, content of any sort comes across as a feature right now. I need to get better about posting.) One of our other players has also expressed interest in having his character writing posted, and I will make that available as well.

So. Our original party consisted of Kakita Satoshi, a Crane duelist; my character, Mirumoto Kasumi, a Dragon Niten practitioner; Iuchi Iwao, a Unicorn shugenja; Hiruma Tamotsu, a Crab scout; and Kitsune Hitoshi, a Mantis warrior from a family known for their shugenja. We approached the Topaz Championship in the “village” of Tsuma on five different roads, coming from five different directions, and all arrived at the same checkpoint at the same time.

Kasumi’s journals and letters will fill in most of the story from that point, but before I post the first entry I’ll give you a little background about my young Dragon.

To begin with, she is overconfident, idealistic, brash, and driven to prove the superiority of the Niten style of swordplay. Yes, these are all actual disadvantages in game play, and in a way they serve to turn one of her advantages into a disadvantage: she’s a clear thinker, which in practice means that she always has excellent reasons to justify her insanely dangerous plans. This has nearly gotten her killed more than once. It is also worth noting that the original Mirumoto, her ancestor, has taken up residence in her skull. Most people don’t realize he’s actually talking to her and guiding her almost constantly.

She didn’t always get on very well with her parents (her father is the clan champion, see previous paragraph and following note) and her sensei think she’s an arrogant b*tch (again, see previous paragraph, especially since Mirumoto has given her the insight to know when they’re wrong but not the wisdom to keep her mouth shut).

Tomorrow, I will post her first entry (or maybe two) from the Topaz Championship.

UPDATE: DH is not playing fast and loose with cannon, as I originally wrote. In the first place, they’re hard to get a hold of, and in the second place, that would likely run us out of house rather quickly. Also, I was mistaken in thinking that Mirumoto Hojatsu was the original Mirumoto, and the Ancestor advantage is the original Mirumoto.

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Long time, no see

Wish I could say I had a good excuse for being absent for so long, but really it was just life. Late November/early December was spent editing my novel and crocheting holiday gifts. January: more editing. In December I’d started reading it aloud to myself, chapter by chapter, and that takes a long time – especially when you decide to do two passes. In January I also created a personal Wiki on the project. (Wikidpad can be a really useful way to organize your notes, and it’s hard to beat free. Hat tip: I learned about the program ages ago listening to Writing Excuses. Neither of these groups know me from Eve.) February had an unexpected trip out to Portland for family stuff, which is now sorted. And March was largely catch-up. So, in the spirit of catching up, here are some quick notes about what I’ve been up to.

Costume Pics

Months and months ago, I promised you pics of how my Isabeau costume turned out. So, here you go.

Me, wearing my (still incomplete) Isabeau costume on Halloween

This is the part of the costume I made, plus one of DH’s swords

I don’t have the boots or the greaves yet, and my intention is to spray-paint one of those telescoping lightsabers for the final costume. The obi needs a little work, but I’ve got time to fine-tune it before GenCon rolls around again.

Food

Back in December I went to a local library sale, and one of the books I bought was Food Heritage of India by Vimla Patil. (Again, the author has no idea I exist. I just like the product.)

I am loving this cookbook. I haven’t contacted the author for permission, so I’m not going to share the recipes today, but suffice to say the only recipe that didn’t turn out fabulous was the one I burned. Even it seemed to taste good, the little bit that made it past my eyes. Unfortunately, burned pureed spinach looks like toxic sludge. Stuffed tomatoes: very good. Pork (or chicken) Vindaloo: excellent. Make it all the time now. Santara ni Basundi: amazing. It’s what orange creamsicles are supposed to taste like. DH, who’s ambivalent towards citrus and doesn’t like cardamom, has said he “wouldn’t mind” having it again. You can Google that one; the recipes I saw were very similar to the one in the book. Sadly, I was in a rush so I didn’t get to take a photo the night I made it.

Novel

So I think I’m finally about ready to start submitting my novel to various publishers, and possibly agents. But based on what I’ve been reading about the publishing industry lately, I know where I want to start (and it’s not with an agent). Don’t want to say too much and jinx myself or something, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Linkage

What’s happening in Albuquerque right now is, quite literally, dreadfull.

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, this sounds like it came out of Hollywood. I’m just going to leave you this link and say it’s the most entertaining write-up I’ve seen of the story: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/03/28/leland-yee-super-villain/

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An Open Letter to Congressional Republicans

Let me be clear. I believe your tactic of using the budget bill to defund Obamacare was a stupid one, with no chance of passing (as, obviously, it didn’t).  So long as Obama is President, I do not believe we will be able to rid ourselves of that monstrosity in its entirety. However. Now that we’re here. Now that the Federal government has shut down, I beg of you:

Weeping Angel photo credit to Mike Chernucha on FlickrDon’t blink. Under no circumstances – not even the risk of a federal default when the debt ceiling kicks in – should you surrender.

Let the people of the US discover exactly how little most of them rely on the federal government. I was thirteen at the time of the last government shutdown, and if it hadn’t been on the evening news I wouldn’t have known it happened. I’m betting most people my age would say the same.

Let Treasury divide the money it has between the interest payments on all our sovereign debt, even if the amount each debt gets is less than interest. Many of us have student loans which the cost of a college education, inflated by federal subsidies, made necessary for attendance. Because of the job market at the time we graduated (caused in large part by federal policies and redistributions), we have jobs with subsistence wages and we are on income-based repayment paying far less than interest every month – but making payments every month. Perhaps, if Capitol Hill is forced to do the same, it might learn some restraint.

Stand your ground. Now that we’ve reached this impasse, it’s the single best thing you can do.

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GenCon Begins

And thus I will be largely incommunicado for the next few days… not that I’ve been posting much anyway. My honey determined he wasn’t in good enough shape to cosplay the demi-fiend this year, which meant I got an extension on the Isabeau costume I’d been working on. I’ve nearly finished the jacket, and I’ll post what I did and photos of how it came out once I’ve finished sewing. My new goal is to have it ready for Halloween, although the weather this year might not allow for a summer-weight costume in October.

Speaking of photo posts, I also intend to post photos from GenCon sometime next week. Until then, I hope you have a good weekend. I’ll be filling my head with Writers Symposium panels and catching up with some of the people I met at Mo*Con last May.

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