Monday, 31 October 2016

Gawain 1 - 59, The history of Britain and the joyfulness of Arthurs court

I got bored and depressed so I tried translating part of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.

I might keep doing it.

(Needless to say, its a very personal translation.)

Since the siege and the assault was ceased at Troy,
The burg broken and burnt to brands and ashes,
The turd that the strands of treason there wove,
Was tried for his treachery, the truest on earth.
It was Aeneas, the earl, and his high kind,
That since deposed provinces, and patrons became
Wielders of all the wealth in the west isles.
For rich Romulus, to Romes riches he speeds,
With great bobbaunce that burgh he builds upon first,
And names with his own name, as it now has;
Ticius to Tuscany goes and there builds,
Langobard to Lombardy, and lifts up homes,
And far over the French flood, Felix Brutus
On many banks full broad, Britian he sets
with wynne,
Where war and wrath and wonder
By shifts hath worked therin,
And oft both bliss and blunder
Full swift have strike'd there since.

And when this Britain was builded by this rich Baron,
Bold breeded therein, a strife-loving kind
That many a troubled time catastrophe worked.
More frights on this field have fallen here oft
Than in any other that I know, since that ill time.
But of all that here built as Britians kings
It was Arthur the highest, as I have heard tell;
For an earth-actual fact I have now to show,
(Not a salley in jest, as some men it hold)
And an outrageous adventure of Arthurs wonders
If you will listen this lay but a little while,
I shall tell it as-it, as I in turn heard,
with tongue
As it is said and spoken,
In story stiff and strange,
And with Light's letters looked-on,
Has long been in this land.

This king lay at Camelot upon Christmas,
With many lovely Lords, leaders of the best,
Reckoners of the Round Table, all those rich brothers,
With wealthy revels-royal, and wrathless mirth
There tournied Dukes by times full-many,
Jousted full-jolly these gentle knights,
Then careered to court, carols to make.
For there the feast was alive full fifteen days,
With all the meat and the mirth that men could devise;
Such gladness and glee, glorious to hear,
There song upon day, dancing by nights,
All happiness upon those in halls and chambers,
With lords and ladies, as liked them best.
With all the will of the world they wined there together,
The most kind knights under Christs kingdom
And the lovliest ladies that ever life had,
And he the comliest king a court could hold.
For all was this fair folk in their first age,
and still,
The happiest under heaven.
King, highest man of will.
It were now hard so to namen
So happy a host on-hill.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Marvel Endings Reviewed by the Antiphoenix

I, the Antiphoenix, saw Dr Strange recently & thought that it had an unusually good ending for a marvel film, which I seemed to remember being mainly about big grey things falling from the sky, so I decided to look through ALL the MCU films, and review the endings one by one to see if I was right.

All the quotes are from Wikipedia, I gave them $5 this year when they begged for it so don't whine about fair use.


Iron Man - "Stark fights Stane, but is outmatched without his new reactor to run his suit at full capacity. The fight carries Stark and Stane to the top of the Stark Industries building, and Stark instructs Potts to overload the large arc reactor powering the building. This unleashes a massive electrical surge that causes Stane and his armor to fall into the exploding reactor, killing him."

Technically a win through smarts plus GF assistance but really a shithouse evil-version-of-yourself fistfight. Jeff Bridges does his best but even he can't improve on this one. He has a really really bad line at the end that I can't quite remember. This is almost the template of the bad marvel ending. 1 out of 5.

The Incredible Hulk - "After a long and brutal battle through Harlem, the Hulk defeats Blonsky."

Oh god this is bad. No points.

Iron Man 2 - "Stark and Rhodes together defeat Vanko and his drones."

Maybe half a point for power-of-friendship, but conceptually dull as dishwater.

Thor - "Thor arrives and fights Loki before destroying the Bifröst Bridge to stop Loki's plan, stranding himself in Asgard. Odin awakens and prevents the brothers from falling into the abyss created in the wake of the bridge's destruction, but Loki allows himself to fall when Odin rejects his pleas for approval."

Hero having to smash up a culturally important piece of technology, (we're going to see that again), plus a bit of self-sacrifice, plus baddie doing character-supported resentment-driven pseudo-suicide. A solid 3 out of 5.

Captain America - "Schmidt physically handles the Tesseract, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The Tesseract burns through the plane and is lost in the ocean. Seeing no way to land the plane without the risk of detonating its weapons, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor but is unable to locate Rogers or the aircraft, presuming him dead.

Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing from an anachronistic radio broadcast that something is wrong, he flees outside and finds himself in present-day Times Square, where S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury informs him that he has been "asleep" for nearly 70 years."

Looking back on it, this is actually a really good ending. The stuff with running around the base & fighting on the plane is boring as shit, but the baddy dissolving into light while alternative dimensions are glimpsed THEN the fated crash into the ice which we knew was coming from the opening THEN the 70-year sleep and the MODERN WORLD with a black Nick Fury..

You get the opening possibilities of cosmic weirdness fading into semi-Arthurian sleeping warrior stuff then the-adventure-continues NOW with a kicker of 'your friends are dead' with each thing moving seamlessly into the other.

Plus you get the primal charge of 'he's lost his girl' without a "you can't save them both!" women-in-refrigerators ending.

It's true the comics kinda wrote this ending for them a long time ago, but it was well carried off and actually more interesting than the film that preceded it, and did open up new imagined realities for the world and new emotional space for the character and audience. I think I will give this a tentative 4 out of 5, or maybe even 5 out of 5.

(Also I am holding out for Hugo Weaving to come back at some point, probably in disguise as someone else.)

The Avengers - "The Hulk finds Loki and beats him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the wormhole generator, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's scepter can be used to shut down the generator. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Midtown Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the wormhole toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the Chitauri mothership and disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power, and he falls back through the wormhole just as Romanoff closes it. Stark goes into freefall, but the Hulk saves him from crashing to the ground."

Pffff. Back down the drain. A bit of hero self-sacrifice and a cool 'earthbound hero witnesses horrors of the cosmos' bit. Some points for finding almost everyone something useful to do, but still not a great ending.

Functional. 3 out of 5.

Iron Man 3 - "Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian."

Stark can you fucking kill a guy without your girlfriend helping? Also, wow you really fucking *kill* your enemies don't you? Well you are a weapons dude.

This gets a technical plus for use of technology and again for the GF assist, but its still not great. Still a kind of evil version of yourself, still just blowing a guy up & dropping them in an explosion. 2 out of 5.

Thor the Dark World - "Thor battles Malekith through various portals and across multiple worlds until one portal separates them, leaving Malekith unopposed on Earth. Thor returns in time to help his mortal comrades use their scientific equipment to transport Malekith to Svartalfheim, where he is crushed by his own damaged ship."

Piss poor. Piss piss poor. Shameful. He threatened the cosmos and got whacked by his own ship. Looks bad for everyone. Maybe 2 out of 5 for the running around alternate worlds stuff and the friend-assist.

Winter Soldier - "Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D's database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public...... Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River."

Points lost for CGI-fuckfest, grey-things-falling and some slightly overcomplex whedoning-about of the characters & fighting-in-a-collapsing-base, but some gained for poor fucking Steve Rogers having to fight the only friend he has left in the world and being a super fucking good guy about it.

I will give this one 3 out of 5 just for the secret-power-of-friendship ending, but that's me.

Guardians of the Galaxy - "Ronan emerges from the wreck and prepares to destroy Xandar, but Quill distracts him, allowing Drax and Rocket to destroy Ronan's warhammer. Quill grabs the freed Stone, and with Gamora, Drax, and Rocket sharing its burden, they use it to destroy Ronan."

Ehhhhh, ok. Imaginatively a bit pedestrian get-the-magic-rock ending. Both gains and loses points for the simple and overwhelming embodiment of the power-of-friendship ending, it's never been more literal. Some extra for the extreme purpleness, at least it wasn't too fucking grey. I give it 3 out of 5.

(Maybe an extra half-point as they got me to briefly care about someone destroying an alien world. "He's going to destroy Xandar!")

Avengers Age of Ultron - "The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass."

Grey robots, grey city, big grey object falling from a grey height. Grey. 2 out of 5. If that.

Ant-Man - "Cross takes Cassie hostage to lure Lang into another fight. Lang overrides the regulator and shrinks to subatomic size to penetrate Cross' suit and sabotage it to shrink uncontrollably, killing Cross. Lang disappears into the quantum realm but manages to reverse the effects and returns to the macroscopic world."

Points added for the originality and invention of the final fight, for the final contest being a battle-of-smallness and for the cosmic weirdness. BUT, take back one khadum for the boring blonde daughter in danger and for it still being essentially a resentment-fight and an evil-version-of-your-own-powers opponent. 3 out of 5.

Captain America - "Civil War - Satisfied that he has avenged his family's death in Sokovia from the Avengers' actions by irreparably fracturing them, Zemo attempts suicide, but is stopped by T'Challa and taken to the authorities."

Bad guys win motherfucker! Good work Zemo. Damn Cap gets good endings. Dramatically and emotionally resonant but un-cinematic and a bit disconnected from the rest of the film. Could have been television. This ending will not reveal the Well of Souls. 4 out of 5.

Doctor Strange -  "Dormammu kills Strange, but realizes that Strange has created an infinite time loop with the Eye of Agamotto that makes him give in to Strange's bargain of leaving Earth in exchange for the souls of Kaecilius and his minions."

Cinematic-as-fuck. Points added for hero making the Ultimate Sacrifice to symbolize and embody their personal growth AND it actually being a smart move. More points added for a hero who is meant to be smart actually doing something smart in a film & outwitting an interdimensional god, which is a Pure Comics Strange ending. Fuck it, I'm going 5 out of 5.

(I may have to remove half a point due the the presence of time-travel as it's poison for serial storytelling.)


Nothing! Except maybe these things;

- Captain America both suffers like a motherfucker and also gets consistently good-to-excellent endings to his films.

- Captain America's films are also the ones where the good guys are most likely to lose,  or to win a phyrric victory.

Cap 1 - Saves western world, trapped in ice while friends age & die.
Cap 2 - Saves freedom but BF evil & world security fucked.
Cap 3 - Saves BF but Avengers fucked.

- Tony Stark consistently wins everything but gets kinda shit endings until he doesn't.

- Also, Stark can't win without Pepper.

- Multiple dimensions can be a powerful force-multiplier to the emotional power of a story IF the emotional power is there to begin with. So, Thor The Dark World had a dull ending and the multiverse was just an empty gilding to it, but Captain America The First Avenger, Ant Man and Dr Strange had good-to-great endings and painting those emotions across realities of pure imagination actually intensified and improved them. A lesson Marvel learnt in comics a long time ago, human emotions on a cosmic scale.

- Fuck grey CGI fuck it fuck it fuck it.

- But blowjobs for colour. Colour gets head all year, well done colour.

- Marvel can't do villians that well. I'm not sure why. They just seem to lack emotional power, I never feel compelled by them. Robert Redford was good in Winter Soldier, but more becasue it's Robert Redford I think, rather than anything else.

- Black Widow doesn't get her own film because she just solves her shit before it even reaches the point of drama. A Black Widow film is her discovering the enemy plot 60 minutes in, subverting it and then killing them by minute 70. The end credits scene is her assassinating another supervillian before they get their shit off the ground and  preventing the events of another Avengers movie taking place. She is, paradoxically, too competent to be a dramatic hero.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Wirral Pictures

Went for a walk in Wirral and a cycle path just off a strange and isolated station lead me to the kind of industrial wierdscape that pretty much defines the Wirral. Was old natural wilderness, then farmed, then becomes strange industrial wilderness in the lee of Birkenhead.

This wasn't on the path but there was no sign to say not to go there.. 

The sound of cars rushing overhead was continual.

The place was utterly and overwhelmingly empty of life. Reminded me of that Ballard story where a guy falls into a kind of gap in the motorway and there's no way out so he lives there like its an island.

Which reminds me, there's a roundabout where the New Chester Road meets the Rock Ferry bypass, and there's a copse of trees on it. I wandered into it while exploring and an angry man and woman came out & scared me off. I'm pretty sure they live there in the trees. 

This bridge leads into Bidston Moss, a long time ago this was a swamp entered by a bridge of whalebone jaws, smugglers would use it to move goods away from a pub called 'Mother Redcaps' which had a confirmed trapdoor just inside its entryway and secret passages. Bidston Moss became a landfill in the 1970's and since then has been re-purposed as a nature wilderness. A giant fucking hill made of trash covered with trees.

There's another hill near Port Sunlight which was originally a giant tanker for 'Operation Pluto', then also became a landfill, then also became a giant hill that was also a park.

Always drop an obelisk I guess. I mean, why wouldn't you?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Imprisoned Moon Seven - Sad, sad skeleton.

Captain Jepta Crunt awakes from her depressive fugue to find her ship has escaped the harbour of Gapu in Sula-Phrang and is heading for the open sea with a following wind and a cannon ball embedded in the stern.

Bastian Blank the ships boy finishes securing the crewmen that were picked up during the escape and finds that they have accidentally pulled up a Flores, or 'Flower' Man from his small canoe.

Ours is wearing clothes and is not carrying a giant rat but otherwise looks pretty similar.

He is also carrying a mighty Klewang and Salawaku.

Eko Eka the cannibal Flower Man hails from Tennggara-Phrang. He introduces himself to the Captain and swears his loyalty, which she accepts.

Eko asks about the whereabouts of 'Rashel Vore', He has heard his master the Rakasa Hupudio Supardi discussing this woman and thinks if he finds her he will be richly rewarded so he has broken the sacred law of Tennggara-Phrang and left the island, betraying the rule of the Pale Eye in the hopes that he will return and earn great glory.

Jepta lies to him and says she has never seen this woman, she orders the crew to secure the ships secret store of Zombie coral and also to being her 'that thing no-one's talked about for a bunch of sessions' (she means the basket of moths hidden somewhere on the vessel).

Hearing this, Karvash Bloom beckons Bastian Blank towards the rear of the vessel, he takes him to the store room where the moths are hidden and asks him for aid in hiding them from the captain, he swears he will owe Bastian a great deal if he helps

As the ships crew search, Eko takes the time to familiarise himself with the vessel by poking his nose into everything, he is stopped from entering the area around the Captains cabin by the China Golem of Tranquility Zooth.

Bastian, being a conniving little shit, agrees to this and they successfully hide the moths in his hammock. Bloom tells the boy that the Moths are not truly moths, but are on a diplomatic mission to Selenium, one its best the captain doesn't know about.

At the same time, Eko Eka has fallen into conversation with Juglangsing Leptoblast. The naturalist is a much less adept liar than Captain Crunt and eventually gives up (some) of the truth about Rashel Vore, admitting that he has seen her and that her current position is somewhere out in the Nightmare sea, but he will say no more than that.

Crunt finally notices the single surviving skeleton who has been hanging around since the opening of the campaign and tells it to "start swabbing the deck, or do something, I don't want to see you standing around doing nothing again".

Unaware that almost all of her crew are currently intriguing against her, Crunt orders the Falling Star to sail counterclockwise along the coast of Tennggara Phrang and within the shadow of that island. With no lights running, they will (hopefully) be hidden from any other vessels they encounter.

Meanwhile, captain Crunt takes a short tone with the failings of her men and orders a Conclave of notable NPC's (and PC's) to decide their next move.

Busla rant argues that they should head for the Black-Path dominated side of Tien-Phrang and steal the Jade Monkey of Pan-Chu-Mai, as she arranged to do with King Galerian, who wears an Iron Mask and is served by a Crow in the doorless city of Athenoptica on Uter-Phrang, but she is overruled

After quizzing the rest of the NPC's the Captain decides to make a run past the allegedly demon-haunted island of Lembata-Phrang to the isle of Alo-Phrang, ruled from the port city of Marlinkio.

Just as they leave the coast of Tennggara-Phrang, the crew do spot a gleam of ice out in the moonlit water beyond the shadow of Tennggara-Phrang. Eko tells the captain that the ships of that island are made from the frozen tears of weeping women, she decides to avoid the vessel as she suspects the Falling Star will be boarded without cause.

After only a 24-hour run across the Phrang Sea from Gapu, The Falling Star makes it to Marlinkio and Busla calls out the crew and dimensions to the officials that raise and lower the bridge/lock which governs entry to and from the inner dock.

The crew see a wide variety of ships at harbour, Borobodurs, Phini's, Double-hulled canoes, Junks from Yaag-Sien and even one giant paddling a canoe the size of a small ship.

On one of the onion domes in the city, they see a Quetzalcoatlus wearing a strange saddle, perched on the top of the tower.

They go to the Domu Rada to pay their harbour fees and get into a slight argument with the functionary Iwan Wiranataatmadja. Busla fails to talk him down on price and they end up paying the full 15 shilling per-day price, they do learn that the Snakeman Sorcerer Khuthiva, who rules the citadel of Kefamenenui on the Moonward sie of Tien-Phrang, is meeting with Lady Szarza, the de-facto 'executive' of Marlinkio.

Eko notices that Wiranataatmadja is embezzling a significant chunk of the payment and tells his captain who throws her arm over his little shoulder and says that they will get the money back from him later. The two have bonded over their mutual dislike of being stiffed on fees. Jepta leaves the skeleton obtrusively watching the door of the Domu Rada, with orders to follow Wiranataatmadja home after his shift.

The Captain returns to the docks and starts arranging the repair of the ship, the acting first mate Suharto Ary Setiawan (Barlang Rift still being passed out in his cabin) says that some available Fire-Wood (not 'firewood) can replace the damaged planks and they begin repairs, the Captain starts personally carving symbols of MANPAC along the hull of the ship to ward of ghosts, spirits, or just people who don't like MANPAC.

Busla and Eko decide to attempt Carousing in Marlinkio. They opt to succumb to the offers of 'Psychic Visions' in the Yare Domesman contrada and, balking at the staggering price of such journeys, end up placing a bet with drug-addled pseudo-hipster Aloysius Lele Madja, who is clearly less experienced than he would wish to admit as, during the negotiations he was ruinously unaware that he was speaking to someone continuously smoking the highly-addictive and very rare 'Tears of the Moon' opium, mistaking its grey-white smoke and bitter scent for tobacco.

Busla and Eko are both issued into Madja's glitzy chamber and given strange substances to chew and drink. Busla wishes to use her vision to find the location of the jade Monkey of Pan Cun Mei, Eko wishes to find the location of Rashel Vore.

As the drugs take effect the room around them seems to decay and in their minds-eye they rush towards the isle of Tian-Phrang, witnessing the jade citadels of the snake man sorcerers, the ruined Dimmu Borgir of the Black path and one of the war parties of that group. Then Eko's influence takes over and their point of view is swept way way out into the Nightmare Sea, they see beaches of bone and iron eyed tribes, the glowing undersea filigree of the legendary library of dreams and the horrible heaving bulk of one of the Leviathan minds.

They are interrupted by a psychic whale of the Nightmare sea which senses them and freezes Eko in time with the strength of its mental powers, Bula picks up the form of his mental projection, instead of taking control of the vision and turning it back to Tien-Phrang, Busla nobly continues with Ekos quest to find Rashel Vore.

Eventually they come upon a ship of Nox, dredging the ocean floor (quite a dangerous thing to do in the Nightmare Sea), the dredgers pull up the ruined body of Balthesar Vore, former captain of the Falling Star. From his neck hangs a shining jewel of some kind. The ghost of Rashel Vore hovers nearby.

As their perspective changes, Eko and Busla see not one, but an armada of well-armed ships from Nox and a Quorum of Navigators. Wind fills the ships sails and the armada seems to be heading towards the isles of the Imprisoned Moon.

As they come back to awareness, they find Aloysius Lele Madja shaking and throwing up in the corner. The bet is won.

by Ian Reilly

Monday, 17 October 2016

In comes I

Just to prove, again, that the Wirral is an insane time machine and clotted gorge or history, here is something take from one of the appendices to Normal Ellison's 'The Wirral Peninsula'

"The Mummer's Play is a Christmas-time activity, and I am indebted to Mr Sidney Wilson of Frankby for the following words I wrote down at his dictation, as spoke by the team he used to take round farm kitchens, inn parlours and the houses of the gentry, up to the year 1937. He has learnt the words from his father, who, in his turn, had received them from his father .... He called this performance "Beezebubbing"..


LITTLE WIT - Red pants and tails: top-hat and big bow-tie.

KING GEORGE - Old red military tunic: blue pants with red stripe down side: wooden sword: helmet of some kind.

BOLD SLASHER - Khaki uniform with wooden sword. Helmet.

DOCTOR BROWN - Tails, top-hat, large portmanteau full of bottles, etc.

BEELZEBUB - Old man with beard and hump on back: old hat: carrying dripping-tin. Long tail of plaited straw stiffened with a wire.

All have blackened faces.



In comes I that's never been yet,
With my big head and little wit.
Although my wit is very small,
I'll do my best to please you all.
Stir up that fire and give us a light,
For in this house there'll be a fight.
If you don;t believe in what I say,
Step in King George and clear the way.


In comes I, King George, the noble champion bold.
It was me that fought the fiery dragon and won ten thousand in gold.
It was me that followed the fair lady to the giant's gate.
The giant he almost struck me dead;
I drew my broad and trusty sword
And nearly cut off his head.

BOLD SLASHER shouts from outside: Ha! Ha!! and enters:

The valiant soldier, Bold Slasher is my name,
If I was to draw my broad and trusty sword, I'd surely win the game.

KING GEORGE: How can'st thou win the game
When my head is made of iron;
My body's made of steel;
My hands and feet are made of knuckle-bone?
I'll challenge thee to fight.

BOLD SLASHER: Pull out thy purse and pay.

KING GEORGE: Pull out thy sword and slay,
Or else we'll have a recompense before we go away.


Both start to fight. KING GEORGE stabs BOLD SLASHER, who falls.

LITTLE WIT: (shouts) Doctor! Doctor!

DOCTOR BROWN:  (shouts from outside) No doctor to be found.

LITTLE WIT: Ten pounds for a doctor.


In comes I, Doctor Brown.
The best old doctor in the town.

LITTLE WIT: How came you to be a doctor?

DOCTOR: By my travels.

LITTLE WIT: Where did you travel?

DOCTOR: Hickity, Dickity, France and Spain.
Back to old England to cure the man that lives in the lane.

LITTLE WIT: How much will you cure this man for?

DOCTOR: Ten pounds.

LITTLE WIT: No less?

DOCTOR: (feeling BOLD SLASHER'S pulse) Nine, and a bottle of wine.

LITTLE WIT: Cure him.

DOCTOR opens portmanteau, takes out several bottles and mixes a concoction:

Now, Jack, open thy throttle,
Take three drops from this bottle.
Rise up Bold Slasher and fight a battle.

BOLD SLASHER rises up and starts to fight KING GEORGE.

LITTLE WIT: Put up thy swords and be at rest,
For peace and quietness is the best.


In comes I, old Beezlebub.
On my back I carry a knob,
Under my arm I've a dripping pan;
I think myself a jolly old man.
I court the lassies plenty,
One by one, two by two;
But there's none to come up to my fancy.
I've a little tin under my arm,
A copper or two will do it no harm;
A shilling or two will do it some good,
Please ladies and gentlemen, put something in good."

Ellison is pretty sure that 'Bold Slasher' is Summer and that 'King George' is winter. I think I agree. If any of you have any ideas on who the rest of the characters are, or were, what the words might signify or how old the pattern of the mummery is, then I would be interested to hear it.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Wapentake of Wirral

No-one knows where the practice of governing England as 'Hundreds' came from, but it was around in the 800's (that's the 800's, not the 1800's) before the Norman conquest and to some degree it just kind of stuck around.

(Few things in British law are ever fully thrown away, they just kind-of, compile.)

The 'Hundred' might at one point have been an actual one-hundred households, but by the beginning of the medieval era its pretty much an area of geography. It's also a court, and an area of administration.

It probably begins as a meeting of local landowners where they get together to deal with legal matters, arguments, debts and so on. Then becomes a form of organisation, a way for the king to summon people to fight and to exert his authority.

Later on, over a thousand years of different kings, other forms of administration are added and they just kind of overlay the old hundreds, eventually making them effectively irrelevant.

But not revoked.

And in parts of England where the Danes had once ruled, the 'hundred' was sometimes called the 'Wapentake', hence 'The Wapentake of Wirral'.

In medieval times, the right to hold a court could be 'farmed out' to various people, they would do the administration and then pay the King his share if any money was claimed, and 'ownership' or right to hold the court could be traded and passed down like land or property.

And that brings us to the 19th century. Specifically, November 16 1819, when the Wapentake of Wirral is advertised for sale by Messrs Potts & Co of Chester. Since they don't expect anyone to be very interested in it, they throw in the rights to " wreck," to "royal fish," and to " treasure trove".

And this means that in 1854 the Wapentake of Wirral falls into the hands of Samual Holland Moreton, and his sinister compatriot Mr Robert Grace.

And Moreton is an intelligent, avaricious, eccentric, evil-minded motherfucker, and he actually reads the stack of ancient crumbling documents that make up 'The Wapentake of Wirral' and he works out what he can do with them, which is a lot.

In fact, "when in 'sociable mood' Moreton would sometimes confess an ignorance of where his own power was limited." The Wapentake is ancient. It's older than any other law on the book.

"Crimes and misdemeanors, felonies or civil actions, trespass, treason, all that was wicked of weak came within his jurisdiction."

He could summon a Court of Wapentake, call a jury, compel attendance of witnesses, try cases civil and criminal.

This means that in the middle of the 19th century, a crazy-ass motherfucker with an ancient document can effectively run his own, private law court in the Wirral and that no-one can stop him. He's legal. He's more legal than legal.

And this means that if you're going past the Tranmere Ferry Hotel some time in 1850-something, and a large man comes towards you and summons you to court, you better go. And if inside you find a drunk-as-fuck Samual Moreton who tells you that you are a juror, or a witness, or any other member of the court, then you are.

Moreton sat off in a fucking pub, running drunken courts, compelling attendance from whomever he wanted, taking cases based simply on spite or just revenge.

In 1855, Thomas Smith of Birkenhead, was pulled, seemingly at random, into the workings of the court. "one day when he was at work in his garden, a man called to him to come at once to the Wapentake Court sitting at the Inn known as the Shrewsbury Arms, Hinderton. He treated the summons as a joke, whereupon  two men were sent and Smith was haled to the Court in his shirt-sleeves. On his arrival he found Moreton, Grace, and others seated at a table spread with food and drink. Grace informed him they were about to fine him 20 for not coming at once, and that it was no joking matter. Smith was appointed one of the "affeerors" to the Court (an honour which he shared with Shakespeare, who held that post at Stratford-on-Avon)."

Moreton and Grace would ride out with the rest of their court in a packed  Omnibus dressed in "shabby black tail or frock coats" and just accost wealthy-looking people, summoning them "to sit as jurors at the nearest public-house, in company with the riff-raff of the neighborhood." A refusal was met by a a fine, which if not paid, lead to the seizure and sale of property.

"In one case a neighbor built a wall for safety round a pond on his property next to the road. He was summoned for encroaching upon the road, and the Court proposed a fine of 20. Smith, as affeeror, objected that this was excessive, to which Grace, the steward, replied, " Nonsense, who is to pay for all this ?" pointing to the spread upon the table."

In 1856 a major embezzler is tried and sent for transportation. As the judgement comes down, Moreton and Grace  take a cab to one of the houses he bought with his stolen money, kick the guys wife out into the road and stay there. The company the man stole from take them to court. In 1860, the court finds for Moreton, because he's Lord of the fucking Wapentake and he has the legal right to a felons goods. He gets not only the house he is squatting in, but most of the other properties bought with the stolen money as well.

Eventually Moreton dies and Grace gets his hands on the Secret Documents. He performs one useful action for Birkenhead, the train lines over the pavement at the Green Bank station are leaking terribly, leaving the road a mess for people to walk through. Grace goes to the owning company and threatens to repossess the train line as Lord of the Wapentake, not willing to test this threat, they fix the leak.

Ultimately, the mad rule of the Wapentake is brought to an end by an act of parliament. Moreton still retains the title of the Lordship of Wirral until his death.

What happened to the ill-gotten (but legally attained) fortune of the 'Lord of Wirral'?

Apparently Moreton falls ill and....

"After the medical man left, the Very Rev. Canon Fisher, a well-known Roman Catholic dignitary, with whom Mr. Moreton had been in frequent communication, was sent for. Upon his arrival he found the old man in extremis ... the rev. gentleman produced a form of will already drawn out, raised Mr. Moreton up in the bed, put on his spectacles, placed a pen in his hand, and, without reading the will over to him, got hold of his hand and guided the fingers of the dying and insensible man to form his signature at the foot of the will .... By this will the whole of Mr. Moreton's property ....  is bequeathed to the Right Rev. Alexander Goss, Bishop of Liverpool, for the benefit of religion as taught by the Roman Catholic Church."

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Imprisoned Moon Six - Red Tears of Rust

Busla Rant, the iron-eyed widow and Abolitionist compatriot of the recently deceased White Ape, is victim of an indeterminate flux and Mental Shadow. In the fugue of this distemper she can be nourished only on sweet tea and madelines and, though she can be guided back and forth through use of her automatic functions, she is, effectively, a  mental blank.

She emerges from these fugues at times unpredictable to all, and the point of her emergence is now.

Luckily for the group at hand as, shocked into depression by her own execution of the Ape and the failure of her schemes, Captain Jepta Crunt is about to dive into a melancholic opium-fulled somnolence from which she will not emerge for some time.

Busla wakes in the midst of the harvest festival of Sula Phrang to find her friend, the White Ape, dead. She weeps red tears from her Iron Eyes.

Bastian Blank, the incorrigible thieving orphan, sidles up to the mercenary guards of Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O in an attempt to get close enough to steal something from him. The guards are utterly unimpressed by his childish guile and give him the butt of a Brown Bess to the head, leaving him sprawled in the muck.

On the other side of the crowd, the horribly-scarred and violently-hallucinating Barlang Rift prepares to ride his Mantis Shrimp in the key event of the festival. A mock battle in which two sides will ride towards each other at full-pelt, turn their shrimp at the last moment and hurl blunt spears at each other.

He is distracted from this by the blue tentacles spilling from the mouths of his compatriots and the manifold textures of his own hand but is eventually persuaded to mount up.

In the absence of her Captain and the death of her friend, Busla takes the young Scamp Bastian Blank and the fire Dervish Karvash Bloom under her wing and seeks out a merchant with which to trade. She is approached by one 'Megawati' who consoles her on her loss and attempts to buy the body of the Ape. Busla is shocked by this approach but, aware of her ships impecunious situation, does not fully discount the possibility.

The negotiations are put on hold as all heads turn to watch the opening bout of the mock battle.

Though besieged by visions, Barlang Rift does manage to control his Mantis Shrimp. He charges with the rest of his group to the center of the field where they are faced by young men from the stoic village of Mamboto. Both sides let fly their spears.

Barlang lets fly a little too well. His carved ivory harpoon pierces the jugular of a young man, pinning him to the ground like a collected bug. He must have been well liked as the usually-stoic riders from Mamboto ignore the shouted instructions of their own elders and charge their shrimp towards Barlang's side.

Guided by the demon tattooed on someones shoulder, the sight of a boy who turns into a moth and back and by the moon itself which seems to raise twin columns of burning light like two approving thumbs, Barlang haloos and drives his riders headlong into a now-real combat.

Observing this from the nearby hill, Megawati urges Busla to retreat with him to Gapu where they will be safe from what looks to be a nascent riot. Busla remains for a moment to watch the result of the combat.

In a shower of blood and horror, Barlang Rift leads his side to horrid victory. Screaming praises to the moon he caves in the faces of brave young men left and right, leaving their limp bodies hanging from the saddles of their maddened shrimp. The pistol cracks of shrimp claws ring out like gunshots. Sugiharto Ivan Gunawan runs towards the melee to protect his son. The festival disperses in shock. The mock combat intended to channel and assuage differences between villages has instead broken out into open war. Long buried or occluded rivalries have been remembered and the old headhunters hold their parang closer. There will be violence tonight.

Busla and Bastian accompany Megawati, they follow the dispersing crowd to Gapu.

Ultimately, the village of Maboto breaks and flees before the drug-addled beserkery of Barlang Rift. Only the village of Melolo remains. Sugiharto grasps his son Eko, weeping in relief he tells Barlang that he cannot be blamed for the Mombotons losing control, and this is technically true, accidents are expected to happen during the festival and it is the job of each side to exercise restraint, Mamboto did charge first.

Blood-splattered and delirious, Barlang seems a little too happy about the chaotic and frightening result. His shrimp is lead away with him waving madly and cackling. The ordinary people of Sula-Phrang have fled, just before he passes out he hears the dim wheezing laughter of the dead ancestors. The only people happy at this bloodshed, they are pleased that the blood spilt will go to feed the earth for the next harvest, as it did in times of old. Sugiharto's Grandfather speaks to him, the old horror is finally impressed with his descendant.


In Gapu, Busla Rant, Bastian Blank and the Dervish Karvash Bloom meet with the merchant Megawati in his cheaply attired grotto in order to discuss business.

Grinning, Megawati puffs on his opium Hookha and exhales a cloud of purple smoke. Exercising either hospitality or low cunning, he offers the pipe to each of his guests. Busla, Bastian and Karvash all partake and they seem to manage its mild high relatively well. Bastian tries to blow a gandalfian smoke shape but produces only a shapeless plume.

Busla asks whether the corpse of her friend will be accorded a place of honor. Megawati assures her that, once pickled and transported to the Yaag-Sien, it will certainly be the cornerstone of the collection of some cultivated slug, and what could be more honorable than that?

Busla reluctantly agrees and they settle on the price of 75 Shillings before proceeding to the primary trade. Busla needs food for her crew and cash to pay her sailors. Megawati drives a hard bargain and , in the midst of negotiations, he requests a pipe of a different, more 'unique' opium.

He blows out a cloud of pure white smoke and again offers the pipe. The Dervish, Karvash Bloom ties it and breaks down crying, asking "why did I do it?" before grabbing Bastian Blank and insisting that he say no to drugs from this moment on.

Busla tries the White Opium and find that it has a remarkable sharpening effect on her memory. By piecing together fragments of knowledge gained or overheard throughout the whole of her journey, she is able to make a surprisingly accurate estimation of the value of her cargo and the best terms for sale.

Unfortunately she also becomes utterly addicted to the Opium and wants nothing more than continual access to the drug.

Megawati and Busla argue back and forth. He offers her 15 Guilders (including that paid for the white ape) and 400 days worth of food for half a crate of silk and all her small cargoes.

She seems unwilling to accept this trade until Megawati offers her a large supply of the White Opium 'Tears of the Moon' as part of the bargain. She accepts immediately and guarded by a detachment of her sailors and his men, the proceed to the harbor to begin the exchange.

As they move through Gapu they see signs of incipient violence, windows are boarded, the streets are empty, a strange hum fills the air and Kingfisher House is well guarded. In the harbor the Borobudurs and Phinis are setting sail, the wind is counter-clockwise, leading out into the Phrang Sea and more than one visitor has decided that this is a good time to leave Sula-Phrang.


Barlang is slapped awake by Eko who demands to know why the Falling Star is making ready to leave. As they look down into the harbor of Gapu Barlang, blasted with horrible sobriety, cannot deny that this does seem to be the case. Eko leads the wrecked man down into the town.

On the edge of Gapu the group is accosted by some masked thugs wielding parangs. Barlang encourages Eko to start a fight, but, in the midst of a massive comedown, his charismatic powers are not what they should be and Eko is beginning to see through the deception to the shameless rogue beneath. He accuses Barlang of being a drug-addicted thief and murdering liar and orders his friends to grab the traveler.

Barlang joins forces with the thieves and together they attack the young men from Melolo, two are killed and the rest flee. Barlang pauses only to rob the corpse of another fallen young man. He finds a handmade game set, perhaps made by the boy's mother, and then sneaks off into the town, heading for the Falling Star.

He doesn't sneak well enough however. Passing Kingfisher house he is noticed by Lusanto Xia, a mercenary for Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O, who demands he come and explain his actions to the Lord.

Barlang runs away.

He reaches the Falling Star and is re-united with his comrades. As chaos engulfs Gapu and flames begin to lick the harbor buildings, they toast each other with rum on the quarterdeck. Their men are in the midst of transferring cargo between their ship and the Borobuder of Megawati (the only other ship remaining in the harbor) when Lusanto Xia emerges on the harbor wall, demanding that they send someone to speak to his Lord.

They pretend they can't hear him. Xia grabs a long canoe and takes it out to the Falling Star, he refuses to bring his men on deck and again demands that a representative be sent to Kingfisher House.

After stalling a little longer by pretending he can't read the proclamation, Barlang eventually agrees to send the ships Navigator of Nox. Will this satisfy Lord Ee-Way-Woo-O?

Xia agrees that it will.

Barlang grabs the former Vampire Slave 'Stampy' (Konepruske ken Goranan) and, alleging that Stampy has failed to distinguish himself by any useful action, forces him into a ruff and the simulation of high-status clothes. Barlang encourages 'Stampy' to take on the role of Navigator in order to fool Lord Ey-Way-Woo-O.

Again due to his harried mental state in the middle of a huge comedown, Barlangs usual charm and flair deserts him. Despite shameful assurances by Busla Rant, 'Stampy' rightly assumes that the PC's plan to abandon him on Sula-Phrang and refuses to go.

Barlang outright threatens to kill Konepruske and forces him over the side.

The ruse cannot have worked for very long but it lasts at least long enough for 90% of the cargo exchange to be made before two detachments of mercenaries arrive at the docks, holding 'Stampy' by the neck and dragging two small culverins with them.

The crew decide to make haste, they raise anchor and swing to pick up the last few sailors still transporting goods. Bastian fires on one of the cannon with his musket and Busla orders the ships catapult to suppress the second.

They are not quite successful and at least one of the cannon manages to fire on them as they sail out into the Phrang Sea, doing 4 points of damage to the Falling Star.

They have refreshed their supplies of cash and food and escaped into the open ocean. In doing so they have also fired upon employees of Kingfisher House, finally committing a verifiable, and witnessed, crime, but for now at least, they are free.

THE BLIND EYE by Santiago Caruso

Friday, 7 October 2016

d6 Encounters by Louise Bogan


I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,- a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.


I burned my life that I might find
A passion wholly of the mind,
Thought divorced from eye and bone,
Ecstasy come to breath alone.
I broke my life, to seek relief
From the flawed light of love and grief.

With mounting beat the utter fire
Charred existence and desire.
It died low, ceased its sudden thresh.
I had found unmysterious flesh-
Not the mind's avid substance-still
Passionate beyond the will.


O see what I have made!
A delicate precious ruse
By which death is betrayed
And all time given use.

See this fine body, joined
More cleanly than a thorn.
What man, though lusty-loined,
What woman from woman born,

Shaped a slight thing, so strong,
Or a wise thing, so young?
This mouth will yet know song
And words move on this tongue.

It lacks but life: some scent,
Some kernel of hot endeavor,
Some dust of dead content
Will make it live forever.


O embittered joy,
You fiend in fair weather,
Foul winds from secret quarters
Howl here together.

They yell without sleet
And freeze without snow;
Through them the broken Pleiades
And the Brothers show,

And Orion's steel,
And the iron of the Plough.
This is your night, my worthy fiend,
You can triumph now.

In this wind to wrench the eye
And curdle the ear,
The church steeple rises purely to the heavens;
The sky is clear.

And even to-morrow
Stones without disguise
In true-colored fields
Will glitter for your eyes.


Must I tell again
In the words I know
For the ears of men
The flesh, the blow?

Must I show outright
The bruise in the side,
The halt in the night,
And how death cried?

Must I speak to the lot
Who little bore?
It said why not?
it said Once more.


The young mage said:
Make free, make free,
With the wild eagles planing in the mountains
And the serpent in the sea.

The young mage said:
Delight, delight,
In the vine's triumph over marble
And the wind at night.

And he said: Hold
Fast to the leave's silver
And the flower's gold.

And he said: Beware
Of the round web swinging from the angle
Of the steep stair,
And of the comet's hair.